Friday, 31 August 2007


Its quite something when you go to do your usual bit of village pub evangelism and some one else is sitting in your seat. That's almost as bad as someone sitting in your seat in church! Anyway, that was the scenario tonight. Lots of new folk, who don't know the rules. And the place was really noisy. What on earth is the world coming to when the pub and its occupants mirrors the church and its occupants? Spooky or what?

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Speaking quickly

As I've mentioned before, being adventurous and creative in worship is something that feeds my soul and re-energises. Its not that I don't value the traditional and see its place, especially in the community I serve. But I relish the idea of offering alternatives that speak to different people in different places at different times.Currently in Inverkip, there is trad Sunday morning in its usual, for us, 11am slot. There's also an early morning healing service as well as mid week evening prayer and a Taize service. Or the late night contemporary youth experience or a Saturday morning bacon roll service for guys in their 30s and 40s. Some of these happen only monthly, so its not as frenetic as it seems. But, over the summer I've been exploring and hatching other ideas: A Sunday night contemporary service, and an opportunity to explore spirituality, prayer and meditation.
I knew that when I mentioned these, folk would raise their eyes heavenward, so I spoke really quickly, promised I would keep folk posted ( and rope in folk where and when necessary) and moved swiftly on. I think it worked. Does worship create community or do communities create worship?

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Paradise lost

This is not a view of some tropical island but of Tighnabruaich in the early morning light. In the West coast of Scotland we are simply spoiled with the beauty of creation all around us. The thought of that beauty disappearing is too awful to contemplate. I can't bear to watch pictures of Greece being ravaged with those terrible fires. The dreadful loss of human life and the laying to waste of the lush vegetation is unfathomable. Can this really be caused by human greed and incomprehensible evil?

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Hail Holy Queen

Is this the Inverkip church of the future? I wish!!!
Thanks to Rachey pie for pointing me in the right direction.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Removing the bricks

One of today's nexus seminars was a conversation on emerging church. John Drane, the speaker offered loads of wisdom that comes from real experience of the nature of the beast. But a dialogue I had with another participant helped me to articulate something that's been floating about in my head for a while: Emerging Church is not about novelty. Its about creativity. Its not about introducing lots of new things just to appear trendy but more about using the threads of history and tradition to weave a new way of being church. There was also, for me, some affirmation that emerging church can develop out of and alongside traditional church - it doesn't have to be a reaction to or in opposition to what already exists. Intentionally creating space for folk to explore the activity of God in the everyday recognises Christ incarnate - not what would Jesus do but what is Jesus doing. God is active in our communities despite us.
I've wondered for a while what it is that so re energises me about emerging church when, in fact, it demands lots of time and preparation on my part. Today, something really hit a nerve and may explain the energy giving force for me: Its much easier to speak to folk who are not traditional church about faith than it is about folk inside the walls. That is not to say that we shouldn't keep trying. Church folk need to find salvation too, but folk new to the discussion aren't so hung up and buttoned up.
Another interesting question was on maturity in the church. That, too is something that needs not to be sought from the past, its not dependant on age and experience and a proven record but, rather, about vision for the future, a vision that sees the big picture and that unique yet integral part that is emerging church.

Reflections on Energy Boost

Spent today at a conference aimed at re- energising the church to reach out beyond the walls, out of comfort zones and into the kingdom. Great wisdom and insight. But even on the homeward journey, my spirits were beginning to sag.
In times of inspiration and aspiration, there is a real need to let go. But sometimes that feels very much like abandoning or giving up on the hope that has spawned dreams and vision.
Its hard to spend time in the high places and somehow keep hold of the enthusiasm when reality kicks in. How to stop the balloon bursting and drifting groundwards?
Its good to spend time with high fliers but it makes journeying with folk scrabbling in the dirt that much more difficult.
Or does it?
Surely when it feels like this is as good as it gets, to be surrounded by folk who haven't settled for mediocrity is one way of keeping motivation and the assurance that there is a way. And that because that way is God's way, it can't be trampled forever.
Releasing doesn't have to mean relinquishing.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

A presbyterian heron?

Will it always feel this isolated?
Will it always be about sticking the neck out while up to the knees in water?
Must there always be an invisibility - a blending in, not ruffling feathers or causing waves?
I know there is majesty there, its just become covered in greyness.
I know there is grace, its just got bogged down in the sludge.
Oh for the freedom of flight, undoing the shackles 0f conformity, abandoning the institution.
Oh to stand tall, not bowed down, to know dreams can come true and change is just around the corner.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Seeing God in the interruptions

Not sure if its a hazard of parish ministry or a hazard of village life, maybe a combination of both. But sometimes, straightforward tasks take much longer than they should. Why? Because there are so many interruptions. A walk from Inverkip to Gourock the other day, probably achievable in less than an hour took two and a half hours. I managed to miss three ferries. I just kept meeting folk and spent an hour just trying to get out of the village. But I've come to realise that there's important things going on in those interruptions. That's often where ministry is at. And a huge bonus when I eventually did make the ferry was capturing this image of the sun silhouetting traffic on the Clyde.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

A wash out

Inverkip Gala Day went ahead in spite of relentless rain. There was lots to do - even within the confines of the church hall and grounds - and folk seemed to keep on smiling. Awards should go to the Guides and Scouts in the village who had to be outdoors with their coconut shy and barbecue respectively. However I think they won the sympathy vote and folk did brave the weather to support their efforts. Well done to the Rural for keeping everyone topped up with hot drinks and beautiful home baking. Its good to see a community getting together and making the best of circumstances.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Bears overhead

What do you see in the cloud formation in the picture? I took the shot because the sky was such a pretty colour. It was only later that a pink fluffy bear emerged for me.
Today has provided some space for reflection. Only problem is, sometimes reflecting on things leads to unnnecessary complication.
Conversations taken at face value, when revisited, become fraught with different nuances. Straightforward communication becomes sinister.
While I generally crave space for reflection there are days when I am best kept busy so that my mind can't torture me with my perceived inadequacy and failings.
Oh to see pink fluffy bears overhead instead of charging rhinos.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007


Took a cruise on this old paddle steamer yesterday, from Tighnabruaich to Tarbert, Loch Fyne, both tiny, character filled places on the West coast of Scotland. Walking down the main street in Tarbert, we ran into a friend whom we haven't seen for around 20 years and who is now living in Los Angeles. It was wonderful to catch up with him and his family, albeit briefly. We never can tell what is just around the corner for us or who we might encounter on our journey. Life is such an adventure.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Chilling with the starfish

Our schools return this Thursday. So we're grabbing a couple of days just to enjoy family time together before routine kicks in again. Scottish weather abysmal right now but that means we can cosy up, go for walks, come home, dry off, cosy up some more, do jigsaws, read books, watch films, cosy up even more. Not exactly summer activities but good chilling activities nonetheless. And we'll be down at the pier where the starfish hang out. What more can we ask for? The best things in life are free...

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Those wellies

Had a blast at church this morning, doing all our Wastewatchers holiday club stuff. It was good to see the adults joining in the aerobics work out (scaled down to accommodate all ages). Certainly a very different service from our norm but, hey, once a year doing crazy things has to be OK. Lots of folk were asking though about the designer wellies that I wore to the wedding, so thought I'd post a pic. They went a treat with my heather coloured cassock, not that I was caring. There are all sorts of discussions about the theological justifications and ramifications of clerical attire. I'm going to confess my shallowness and admit that, for me, what I wear in the pulpit is nothing more than a fashion statement. And a cassock covers a multitude of sins - so that has to be good.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Designer wellies

I was priveleged to conduct a very special wedding ceremony today - in the woods. Lynne and Stuart tied the knot on a very dreich Scottish day in a beautiful setting. The rain went off just long enough to allow us to stand under the trees and appreciate the Firth of Clyde as our backdrop while vows were made. The ground was fairly wet as you might imagine and certainly not suitable for designer shoes so I chose to wear my designer wellies. Everyone was very good natured and we celebrated in style.
Thanks Lynne and Stuart for creating unusual memories.
And at least the rain kept the midgies away! A silver lining in every cloud.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007


Three girls out walking. Sharing the stresses and strains of the day. Then we round a corner and see this. Somehow everything seems so much better. If only we could bottle some of this for those dark winter days when we get bogged down. Maybe if we soak up enough in the next few weeks, it'll carry us through. Its worth a try.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Knowing the story

Went to see Evan Almighty today. A delightful way to spend 90 minutes on a showery afternoon. I loved Bruce Almighty too. I wondered what it would be like if you didn't know the biblical flood story. As I raised that question on the way home, one of the young folk who was with me assured me that there couldn't be many folk who didn't know that story - refreshing optimism!
Morgan Freeman, who plays God is just so perfect in that role. He has a presence and a depth that attracts.
This has been a good summer for movies.

Sunday, 5 August 2007


Apologies to those of you who suffer from arachnophobia and were traumatised by last posting.
Made another mistake in church this morning: I thought it would be fun for folks of all ages to play with modelling clay. I wanted to introduce our holiday club theme which is about God's love transforming the world. We're using SU's Wastewatchers material. The idea was to make different models from the clay. This worked well and folk showed their varying degrees of artistic skill. Just one snag. I got the modelling clay from the £ shop - like the $ stores - so it was a fairly cheap variety. This showed in the way everyone left with stained and sticky hands. Still, they also left with smiles - very forgiving they are in Inverkip!

Wednesday, 1 August 2007


Just found this on the bedroom ceiling. Is this another result of climate change? Not content with wimping out and handing over removal to a man, I have to wonder where it came from, how it got there, etc. It will be some time before I get to sleep tonight!

The Source

Most of the winter, I rarely have an evening at home. There's always a meeting or a visit to be attended. That eases considerably in the summer. This summer, we've had some beautiful evenings and I've taken the opprtunity to walk. There are lots of beautiful, isolated walks around the parish. The sheer majesty of the scenery surrounding me has reminded me how lucky I am to serve in such a place and has fanned the flames of a love for this place and its people that has slowly been rekindling over the past few months.
Today, in a mentoring session I also made another, perhaps basic, but nonetheless revealing and useful discovery: The reason I've experienced growth and a return to health this past wee while is because I have taken the time to attend to me. I've attended study programmes, gone on retreats, things that, previously, I dismissed as too time consuming. And so I have learned the hard way but, hopefully in good time, that time out is essential. Nurturing oneself is a necessary part of nurturing others. As I said pretty basic stuff but stuff that its taken me quite a while to get a hold on. Here's hoping that now I've grasped it I won't let it go easily.

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