Friday, 27 May 2011

A vintage tour

This picture, taken in Edinburgh this morning, reminded me of that skit that Rikki Fulton used to do of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
This year's Assembly certainly took a real tour of the Church of Scotland, tackling huge issues and taking decisions that will radically reform the church. There were many roundabouts and wrong turns and even a few dead ends. But the tour did finish and commissioners were dispatched to their various parishes to enact the decisions taken and to given further thought to unfinished business.
And, if it seems that all the talking and deliberating, the amendments and counter motions and the points of order make little real difference to the work we undertake in our communities. If it seems that the mission of God in the world, in which we are invited to participate, carries on regardless, then that is a good thing. Institutions must have processes and order. But none of these should hinder our sharing of God's love for the world. As the moderator reminded us in worship: gathered around tables, we should continue to tell the stories of faith and, in that faithful sharing, will communities be changed by the gospel of love.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Sacred cows and genius humour

Today, at General Assembly, we spent hours debating whether the cattle population in Ayrshire rendered the area urban or rural when the simple admission that a mistake had been made would have saved everyone a lot of trouble. And then, surprise, surprise, we ran out of time to discuss Ordained Local Ministry, the proposed new non-stipendiary ministry.
Fortunately. the day ended with the Committee Anent Assembly Review, a light hearted look at events of the past week. Yet again Alec Shuttleworth and Robin Hill came up trumps. They are both so talented at poking fun at all the pomposity of the Assembly's business without being in any way cruel or derogatory. If only other commissioners would take themselves less seriously.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Where is hope to be found?

It seems as though the shock of the debate and momentous decisions taken by the General Assembly on Monday are just settling in today - for me at least. As I entered the hall this morning, there were tense huddles of people and I experienced a melancholy settling in. That feeling did not improve as the morning wore on and then, in the afternoon, a report which would have entailed radical change was dismissed. Quite apart from the implications for the church as it chooses to remain in its present chaos, I could only imagine what the convenor who has lived and breathed the formation of this report for the last few years was going through.
The Church of Scotland seems a fickle place to be this week, signaling a huge shift one day and then resisting change two days later. I know that God is to be found in all of this, just not sure where at present. However, I do know that in that confusion I am in good company and follow in the footsteps of many who have through the ages been totally perplexed by the foibles of the church of Christ.
And I am also assured, in faith, that God holds out hope in all things.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Technology at the GA

Although the entrance still looks as imposing as ever, with John Knox, (aka Dumbledore), looking menacing in the courtyard, the assembly hall has been extensively remodeled and fitted with all sorts of mod cons. Voting is done electronically as are requests to speak. The moderator and clerks are supplied in an instant with any information they might need via computer screens (albeit thanks to the efforts of a lot of skilled folk behind the scenes) and there is wonderful audio visual technology. I was reminiscing with a friend how, in the old days, to arrange to catch up with a friend for coffee during the assembly, it was necessary to leave a note in a commissioner's box. Nowadays, a mobile phone text message provokes an instant response and it is also possible to be socially networking whilst engaged in the business of the General Assembly.
In today's business, among other things, we were encouraged to consider renewable energy and to take a look at the ethics of the Internet. The Church and Society council's report was wide ranging, considering issues from the plight of Gypsies to the war in Afghanistan, from Homelessness in Scotland to securing the place of young folk in the church, from Mental Health issues to Domestic abuse.
The technology may be vastly different but the breadth and depth of issues under consideration does not diminish. The wonders of technology increases our awareness of the scale of local and global issues but the way forward in all these matters is entirely in the hands of flawed human beings. May God help us all to make a difference.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Identity Crisis

We all now know who the premier division footballer was who sought an injunction to prevent his identity being revealed in affair allegations - thanks to Twitter - and the House of Commons. A review of privacy laws and regulation of social networking is being mooted.
However, this weekend, at the General Assembly, I've had so much fun talking to folk I've never met, yet feel I know intimately through the wonders of Facebook!
And, earlier this year, I was able to meet up with some wonderful women bloggers in America, whose stories I've been party to and whose journeys I've shared through the wonders of the internet community.
It can be truly transformative to discover that our journey is shared by caring pilgrims with whom we have yet to meet.
May we continue to hold the Christ light for each other as we travel on in our social networking pathways.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Roll Away the Stone

A wonderful act of witness and worship was created today in the midst of the Church of Scotland's General Assembly. The beautiful setting of Princes Street Gardens, overlooked by the castle played host to many types of music, laughter, food, fun and fellowship. There was even a moment of quiet in the hubbub.
I couldn't help wondering - Is this the calm before the storm? Tomorrow we move on to debate thorny issues. Will the breadth and togetherness of the church displayed today be quickly forgotten as boundary lines are drawn? Or will we remember that the one who rolled away the stone breaks down every barrier and accepts us all as beloved children of God?
Praying, tonight, for peace and unity.

Friday, 20 May 2011

A paradox

Often, as we plough our lonely furrow, the "big picture" becomes more and more remote. And, as someone who functions best when my imagination is being fired by the outlines and horizons of that big picture, I need regular affirmation and stimulation outwith the confines of day to day routine. These past few days, involved in facilitating training, my reserves have been topped up for a time. Although I am exhausted, I am, at the same time, energised. And, although thankful to be home and back with loved ones, I miss the company of those with whom I travelled these last few days.
How can exhaustion be at the same time exhilirating?
And how does a longing for the familiar co-exist with the need to be involved in something new and different.
How often it appears that creativity is dredged from the depths of tiredness and so the cycle continues. Sustenance is found in unexpected places and moments but is welcome nonetheless.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

From funerals to weddings

Today, the chat between sessions moved on from funerals to weddings - and the latest gimmicks. Many ministers become quite jaded by weddings, sacred though they are. But, often, the sacredness is overshadowed by all the trappings. In so much of life we lose sight of what is important in the distractions that crowd in and overwhelm us. De-cluttering is a good and helpful exercise in lots of areas of life.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The sublime and the ridiculous

When a bunch of ministers get together, it is seldom very long before funeral stories are being exchanged. Some of the most bizarre incidents happen at funerals, and some of our most profound pastoral encounters happen then too. I am reminded of the words of Kahlil Gibran: Your joy is your sorrow unmasked and the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
In today's society it is an even bigger deal than it has ever been to be invited to travel alongside folk and accompany them in rites of passage, an invitation that we never take for granted and that, even in the most unconventional settings, we attempt to infuse with dignity and with respect, sharing the love of God with all God's people as we were commissioned so to do by the Risen Christ.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Coffee bean prayers

We gave everyone at church a coffee bean this morning to serve as a reminder to pray this week for the work of Christian Aid - just one of their partner projects is helping coffee growers in Nicaragua.
We also played a game that involved mimicking different types of beans - jelly, jumping, broad, runner, baked, coffee. We did, however, as a number of folk pointed out as they left, forget about the has beens! That's because we simply do not have any of those at Castlehill.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Stealth preaching

I read an interesting comment on the Revgals preacher party today about the early church as described in Acts - that it wasn't a community where everything was great but rather a Christian response to difficult times. That idea of the church pulling together in response to hardship is one that is particularly haunting me. Locally we seem content to immerse ourselves in what is negative and dispiriting, often overlooking all that is positive and affirming. And, nationally, rather than allow the love of Christ to triumph and to have the final say, we worry away at threads until we've got an unravelled mess to contend with.
The example of the Christian church in Acts, a church under persecution is a picture of folk, in love, doing what they could, occupying themselves with what was, and is, important - clothing the poor, feeding the hungry, loving one another. Creating God's kingdom on earth. Living the gospel instead of merely alluding to it now and again.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Rich and roast

Preparing to celebrate the start of Christian Aid Week in worship this Sunday, I've been reflecting on coffee beans and learning about communities transformed by coffee. The work of Christian Aid is transforming coffee growing communities in Nicaragua, and, in worship, we'll be reflecting on the values that create and transform communities.
At our Cosy Cafe today, a drop in lunchtime facility for local secondary school pupils, the young folks were forming community and, unprompted, began to create community rules - deciding that a song containing bad language was inappropriate for the setting. It's amazing what can be encountered, achieved and worked through over a humble cup of coffee.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Reflections and gateways

Another piece of great theology from Dr Who tonight: When two parallel worlds collided, the Doctor declared: "All the reflections have now become gateways."
Jesus came to earth to reveal God, in whose image we are all created. To see God, we can look at each other. And, when we look in the mirror, God, in infinite love, looks back at us, beloved children.
Heaven came to earth and we are afforded a glimpse of all that God, in love, bequeaths to us. God's gift of love is not something for which we must strive or work to attain - it is ours already.
Look in the mirror. Look at each other. And see God, even in the most distorted image - a gateway to heaven, here on earth.

Monday, 2 May 2011

God weeps tonight

I awoke, as did much of the world this morning, to the news that Osama bin laden had been killed in the early hours. All through the day, the news has carried further details of the killing operation and reported on the celebrations ensuing on the part of many of those directly affected by acts of terrorism perpetrated by bin laden's regime. I know that I would feel differently if one of my loved ones had been a victim. Instead, I feel sad that those of us who condemn violence are yet celebrating violence. And I abhor the message that such actions pass on to our children who are our only hope for a peaceful future. One who practiced evil has been eliminated but, in his elimination, what further evil has been set in motion? And how do we break the cycle of violence that prevails?
These words of a hymn by Shirley Erena Murray keep going through my head.
God weeps at love withheld, at strength misused,
at children's innocence abused
and till we change the way we love, God weeps.

FEEDJIT Live Traffic Feed