Friday, 30 January 2009

Drawing the eye

I love to see herons all ruffled - like this one. I showed someone this photo and all they noticed was the litter by the riverbank.
Isn't that often the way. Folk miss out on the important things because their attention has been drawn by unimportant distractions. Folk miss out on beauty because they focus on ugliness. And folk can't get switched on to what can be done because they are too tied up in what can't or isn't. The trouble with that kind of negativity is that it gets more airing than the positive. How can we find ways to draw the eye back to the important before everyone is so caught up in trivia that there's no way forward?

Thursday, 29 January 2009

The only constant

They say that the only constant in life is change. But how to get folk to accept that? How to bridge the gap between what is past its sell by date - for very good reason - and the exploration of what might be a new way forward? How to convince people that its worth taking a risk. Or maybe its a case of rewinding. Before the risk will be ventured there has to be an acceptance that the old ways will no longer do. It seems to me that that's where the real work lies. Until reality is faced then there is no perception of that yawning chasm that lies before us. And so there is no  desire to find a way across. And the tried and tested and dreadfully wanting ways will continue to be pursued. And the gap widens. Does this sound like the church to you? So far removed from the good news that we are called to share. So far removed from the unpredictable, itinerant, bizzare person of Jesus whose way we claim to follow. How to find a way back?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009


We held our monthly Taize service tonight - last Wednesday of the month, 7pm at Castlehill parish church. An oasis of calm in the busyness of life. It struck me that our next Taize service falls on 25th February - Ash Wednesday. I know its not considered terribly Presbyterian but I'd love to do a service of imposition of ashes. I usually call in on some of my RC or Episcopalian colleagues on Ash Wednesday and always find the ceremony very moving. It would be good to offer that to others.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Forward together

It was a real privelege tonight to share in the service of ordination and induction of Stephen Ogston to Ballantrae and St Colmon's. I'd forgotten how special it felt to join with colleagues and lay hands on a new ordinand. Although I'm not so comfortable with much of the formal presbytery proceedings there was, at Ballantrae, a feeling of warmth and welcome. And Stephen and Barbara's little girl, Chelsea certainly lightened things. I look forward to seeing how this new chapter of ministry in these places unfolds as minister and congregation together develop their gifts for the Kingdom.

Monday, 26 January 2009

The times, they are a-changing

Lots of signs of change in the air this morning. These buds looked good in the early morning winter sunshine. But when I returned from my refreshing, cleansing walk, I heard about the controversy of the BBC and Sky News refusing to broadcast the DEC's appeal for Gaza, claiming they don't want to compromise their impartiality. Since when has journalism and impartiality been even remotely related? However I'm sure the outcry over their refusal to host the appeal has created more publicity than a straightforward acquiescence would have done. Can it be that there is method in their madness? I very much doubt it but its an ill wind that blows no good.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Happy birthday, Rabbie

At church this morning, we were exploring why the words of someone, born 250 years ago, who only lived for 37 years should have made such an impact, not just on his home shores, but all around the world. The poetry of Robert Burns is timeless, his social critique as relevant today as it was in the 18th century. And he particularly railed at the hypocrisy that was rife in the pillars of the kirk. Now, why is that sounding just a bit familiar?
(Burns Cottage, Alloway)

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Iconic Burns

We've just attended one of the many events to celebrate Homecoming 2009 and the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns, our national poet. This was a torchlit procession re-enacting "Tam O'Shanter" through the streets of Alloway and culminating in an incredible firework display at the Brig O Doon. The weather was kind, clear and cold, the event was well organised and folk were friendly. So glad to be living and working in Ayr.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


Just finished watching the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States, a ceremony in which I've never been especially interested. There's just such a sense of history being made and of the "audacity of hope". Barack Obama, as we've come to expect, made a stirring speech but even he was trumped today by the words of the benediction spoken by Rev Joseph Lowery. "Black will not be told: Get back, brown will get around, red will get ahead, yellow will be mellow and white will do what's right..." He caught the humour and justice of God and cast it freely around the world. Thanks be to God.

Monday, 12 January 2009


I'm currently attending a conference encouraging churches to be involved in Scotland's year of homecoming. Celebrating all that is Scottish and welcoming not just the huge Scottish diaspora but all those who feel they have an affinity with Scotland. The year of homecoming is timed to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns and, now that I'm ministering in Ayrshire, it seemed important to get onboard. 
The spiritual heritage of Scotland is an integral part of Scotland's history. Castlehill church does not have a long history like many other churches in Ayr, being a mere 56 years old but the story of the founding and building of the church here is nonetheless a fascinating story - and, what's more, it is still alive in folks' memories. And as a community we are adding to that story every day as we celebrate our faith and spirituality. We continue to extend a warm welcome to all to be at home in our midst.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Beloved of God

Today, in worship, we were focussing on the fact that each of us is a beloved child of God. I thought it would be fun for the children to splash around in the font and invited any adults who wanted to do so too.  I know that to some folks that won't seem like much of a big deal but we are Scottish presbyterians who don't do much moving about in worship. Well! The response was overwhelming. It was so moving to see so many youngsters and adults come to the font, put their hand in the water and be assured that they are beloved of God. God loves you - and I love you.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Streets ahead

All the others are just green shoots but, for some reason, this bulb has blossomed in splendid isolation heralding the beauty to come. There are so many shoots, all over the borders in the garden and, it being our first season here, there's a new excitement in anticipating what the blooms will bring. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of the beauty that we will behold as time marches on. This week in church we read of John the Baptist heralding the one who was to come and then actually baptising Jesus. This week, nature illustrates the lectionary message. We look forward with hope.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Clergy self care

Took some time out around lunch time today to take a walk down to the river. Health inducing physically, mentally and spiritually. Caring for myself is something I've been much better at in this charge than in my last. Because of, rather than in spite of, the fact that this charge is much bigger, I need to ensure that there's time to clear some space, time for reflection. And I try not to feel too guilty when I meet folk who ask me - are you having a day off? Its amazing what can be achieved and how much can be processed with an hour walking alongside water! Hopefully then I won't be too much like this swan, graceful above water, paddling like fury beneath the surface.

One of the Story People pictures that graces my study has these words of wisdom:

"There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling rain and remember it is enough to be taken care of by myself."

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

New beginnings

The sun setting in the Kyles of Bute on New Year's day was stunning.
But now its back to the fray. I decided I'd better get on to the texts for Sunday and was delighted to find that we're looking at Jesus' baptism.
Looking forward to exploring new beginnings and responsibilities.
Would love to do something a wee bit creative though like get everyone to come to the font and be renewed for mission. No problem in smaller less formal settings but in formal Sunday worship? Time to push the boat out? You bet! Off to work through the logistics.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Making it last

We finally got around to making our Christmas cookies today. Well, some folk have to work over the holidays! There was something special, though, about taking some time to do things that normal folk do in the lead up to Christmas. Things are already rushing on into a new activity filled year and its good, as that begins, to fill in some of the bits that were missed out in the busy-ness of church at Christmas. A reminder that God is for life - not just for Christmas or, as they say, God is dog spelt backwards.

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