Sunday, 30 May 2010

Holy Fair

Smoking kippers was just one of the strange sites in Mauchline yesterday as they celebrated their connection with Scotland's bard, Robert Burns. The streets were full of activity and, in the church, there was an entertaining pageant recalling some of Burns friends and companions on the way, all wonderfully accompanied by music from Borealis. I'm off to the parish church this morning, where Burns regularly appeared before Session to account for the vagaries of his lifestyle. I'm sure today will be just as exciting!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The big picture

Another General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has come and gone. For me, one of the highlights of this year's bash was the discussion and adherence to the Third Article Declaratory which is, in simple terms, a commitment to bring the ordinances of religion to the whole of Scotland. In these days of economic recession it would be all too easy to give up on that principle and cease to be a church that exists to serve those not in its membership.
It seems to me that many congregations would be happy to monopolise the services of their minister and not share with the rest of the parish who also take up a significant proportion of a minister's time. But that would reduce ministry to a petty survival of the fittest or wealthiest and lose sight of the mission of the church to serve all God's people. It would also, I'm sure, reduce the task of ministry to keeping a few folks happy in their narrow, limited vision rather than reaching out to our neighbours, the poor and needy on our own doorsteps. Perhaps this General Assembly affirmation is a chance to remind our congregations of our calling to serve beyond the walls of our church buildings even when and perhaps especially when there is little likelihood of return on our investment. Of such is the Kingdom of God.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Receiving the Spirit

Was reminded in preparing to celebrate Pentecost this week, that what is important today is not so much God giving the Spirit- that Spirit was always there - brooding on the waters. But, more important is our receiving the Holy spirit and allowing her to wreak havoc in our lives and in our worship. She certainly caused chaos in worship this morning as we placed all the elements of the service in balloons and, by bursting the balloons, allowed the Spirit to determine our order. Fun and revealing. There were lots of visitors present and, at one point I thought: I hope they won't think it's this chaotic every week - before catching myself and realising that that's exactly what we are inviting by receiving the Spirit - our carefully ordered offering turned on its head. Come, Holy Spirit, come.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Ne'er cast a cloot

All month folk have been muttering: "ne'er cast a cloot til May is oot". And plummeting temperatures have affirmed the wisdom in that. Today, however, it's warm enough to have breakfast outside - bacon, waffles and maple syrup. Mmm. Later on I have a wedding - what a beautiful day to celebrate. Cloots cast can always be put back on!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Simply the best

Some of the highlights of this week:
  • 3 school assemblies
  • watching the school football team win 4:1
  • nursing home visits
  • nurturing a friendship
  • providing a foot rub for a hospital patient
  • introducing 6 year olds to church
  • not having to attend General Assembly
  • discovering the message for Kindle
All in a week's parish ministry - is this the best job in the world?

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Changing perspective

I've been reflecting with teenagers this week on the need to sometimes look at things from a different angle - particularly when things don't go according to plan. We can either become totally disorientated or we can make the best of different opportunities presented.
I've also spent time this week with couples in the autumn of their lives whose plans have changed beyond imagining but who, in love and with grace, are re-negotiating a way through the chaos that life has thrown at them, discovering resilience and demonstrating the reality of love that bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things and endures all things.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


A bunch of Primary 2 children came to visit the church this morning. It was great to see the excitement of those 6 and 7 year olds. They asked loads of questions and thoroughly explored the sanctuary with no inhibitions. Now why can't the Sunday congregation be like that?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Time to stop and stare... and listen

This guy was busking in Buchanan Street in Glasgow today. His rendition of Hallelujah was pretty good - better than the X-factor winner. It was good to stop for a moment to listen and appreciate instead of rushing on by. Today was a day all about taking time to nurture and savour connections. Sometimes it's worth the effort. Giving thanks for easy but sustaining friendship.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Prescribing faith

I've spent a couple of sessions this week leading folk through discussions on the issue of same sex relationships and church leadership. There are always folk who would wish the Church of Scotland to be more prescriptive - dictating how we should interpret Scripture and how that interpretation affects church leadership.
Thankfully, that is not a common trait in the Church of Scotland and that is why I am a member. I value belonging to a broad church and, above all, it is that broadness that I would want to maintain. A place where all are welcome, where there is tolerance and acceptance and where, together, we can continue to work out faith in the living God and how that affects our everyday. That, I believe, is grace.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

O Happy Day

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them."Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.
Acts 1 v 10,11

As this Day of Ascension dawns, the Coalition government in the UK begins to take shape and emerge from the mist of confusion. Perhaps a good time for all of us to shake off our astonishment and look, with hope, to the future. If it is not what we envisaged or even wished for, it is what we have and what we must work with for the foreseeable future. I'm sure there are surprises to come and there is certainly work for us to do to ensure that the folk around us, the folk to whom we are called to witness and to love do not become lost or marginalised by the jostling for position in the bright new kingdom. Wonder and mystery give way, inevitably to the reality of working together wherever and however we can to be the people God calls us to be.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Rocky Ground

I expressed reservations when Gordon Brown was elected. Those fears were not particularly allayed during his tenure. Now that he's standing down, though, the prospective candidates do not fill me with confidence. What a mess. An unhung parliament (none at all) and no leader. Will we have Proportional Representation in time for another election and will it help us out of this dilemma? And will folk still be interested?

Sunday, 9 May 2010


Tonight, the colour of the sky as the sun went down was a perfect match for the flowering cherry trees.
In Washington DC a few weeks ago, the cherry trees had already finished flowering. In this colder climate, they are at their best just about now. The wonders of nature.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Is it over yet?

The polls have just closed in the UK General Election. I think it's vital that everyone uses their vote, given the freedom we enjoy and the costly campaigns that folk fought to win the right to vote.
However, I've grown really tired of this election and the tactics employed by all parties, exacerbated by modern technology and methods of communication. And I'm not convinced that it makes much difference which of the three major parties takes or shares power. It is becoming more and more difficult to see distinctions in their policies and practice.
It's hard to get excited about something that seems to make so little difference.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Fence sitting

Why is it, as Christians, we often hold back from saying what we really think? Instead of telling it like it is, we hold back. We don't want to hurt folks' feelings. And so those with no such scruples wound without being called to account.
I've often heard the phrase: "speaking the truth in love" being used to justify caustic outbursts but perhaps there is a need for more truth to be uttered by those on the receiving end so that patterns are not repeated and bad behaviour does not go unchallenged. Jesus called a spade a shovel and was not loved by all. Why is our need to be universally loved the stumbling block that keeps us from speaking up - for ourselves and for others. Grab your hard hats. This just might become a plain speaking blog!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Volatile situations

The volcanic ash cloud seems to be causing havoc for air passengers again - and some folk haven't even managed to get home after the earlier chaos caused by cancelled flights. For some, the disruption has been catastrophic. For others, there have been positive elements in delay. Any kind of fall out inevitably produces different reactions and results, some entirely unpredictable. In the long term, it's how we handle that volatility that matters.

Monday, 3 May 2010


Survived a long weekend at Guide camp. Great bunch of girls and leaders. But who would've thought that we'd be knocking ice off the tents on May 3rd?

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