Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Seasons of the parish

For some time now, I've been conscious of a cyclical nature accompanying the tasks of the parish. Whilst there is always an element of unpredictability, things do tend to come along in seasons. Funerals, visiting, schools work, meetings, admin. I could become jaded, like the writer of Ecclesiastes, who declared: "What has been is what will be and what has been done is what will be done. There is nothing new under the sun." But the wonderful thing about ministry is that, constantly, ministers have the privilege of working with so many different people in a fascinating variety of roles and context. Pausing for a moment, as the church revs up again after the summer, to take stock of the open access afforded to parish ministers, is a sobering exercise accompanied by a tremendous sense of responsibility. A task only achievable when empowered and accompanied by the spirit of God, Ministry is certainly not a comfortable place for loners or for the weary or for those who don't like surprises. God leads us collaboratively into the most unlikely situations and infuses energy and, thankfully, lots of humour along the way.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Bird's eye view

What do you see from your lofty perch
as you gaze with haughty disdain?
What is captured in your bird's eye view?
alert for the smallest grain
or crumb of comfort
carelessly dropped
by the ant like humans below
whose lives are a drudge
that they carry around
as the seasons come and go.
The rich pickings of summer
are swept into autumn
like leaves that are shriveled and dry
Yet still you keep watch
from your cloud covered throne
not yet ready to fly
from the drama unfolding
new every day
with connections not yet understood
and a tear forms at the corner
of your little bead eye
as you recall another who perched
with a view much like yours
and who wept at the sight
of the lost and the lonely and weary souls
with no hope in their hearts to bring light.
One who could see, as you're seeing now
that it's not the way it should be
if they'd only look up
all would be changed
by the love that sets prisoners free
and drab, weary lives
would be transformed by joy
and colour would steal through the gray
and the rainbow reflected
in the puddles of life
would herald the dawn of a new day.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Take time to play

What struck me about this photo - apart from the obvious danger of planking on a railway line - albeit one used only by steam engines- was the fact that it's the adults who are playing while the children look on in bemusement. Adults don't often take time out to play. Responsibility and the pressures of time weigh us down and keep us from many things that might bring some relief and some balance into our lives.
Ask yourself: When was the last time you played?
How could you create time and space for a healthy balance of work and play in your life?
Then go do it.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Picturing the word

Had another wonderfully creative day with the spill the beans team today. There is lots of midnight oil to be burned in putting advent and epiphany to bed but what a wonderfully stimulating session of just looking at the word, seeing it and hearing it from so many angles and with so many nuances. Today I also became aware of something very obvious - there is no reason that we can't have that sort of tussle with the text with folk in our congregations on a regular basis. No preparation needed - just a willingness to let the text speak for itself!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Who do you say I am?

There were lots of interesting answers to Jesus' question at church this morning.
Who do you say I am?:
My guide and my friend...
My everything...
My Lord and my God...
The one we aspire to emulate...
My Saviour...
Son of God...

What do you say?

Friday, 19 August 2011

Energy in distractions

I've always maintained that parish ministry is sustained by work outside the parish. And this week has borne that out. Several meetings I've been involved in over the last few days have addressed issues affecting the wider church. Concentrating on these for a time helps give new perspective to the everyday tasks of serving this local community. And stimulating discussion with colleagues brings renewed energy and enthusiasm, an energy and enthusiasm that filters back into parish work. Serving the wider church does not diminish parish ministry but enriches it.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

What now?

I am conscious that, living in Scotland, unaffected personally, by rioting and looting in England, distance provides a degree of luxury. But I am dismayed at the angry and vengeful tone of a government who, let's face it, are also, on the whole, not personally affected - unless, of course, you count loss of votes and loss of confidence of constituents.
To think that plans were in place to use torture such as plastic bullets and water canons is horrific. And this without any plans to address the underlying issues that have undoubtedly escalated to boiling point, erupting in the violence we have witnessed this week.
If, as someone suggested, Scotland was unaffected because we have a different culture and a different perspective on community, shouldn't we try to identify the values on which these are based? However you want to brand rioters and looters, surely we desperately want to examine how we as a society have failed people to such a degree that they resort to such means of protest.
There were a number of Facebook discussions this week on the role of the church in contributing to the brokenness of society. Of course the church must always be prepared to examine its shortcomings. However addressing those shortcomings will not involve the church becoming more hard line and uncompromising (like our government seems to be set on). Responding to such a broken society requires love and acceptance and understanding and, above all, grace - supposedly the forte of the church.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Fire of the Spirit

This morning, I had one of the most intense spiritual conversations I have had for some time - with one of the fire fighters who visited our Holiday Club. We talked of good and evil, of love and death, of angst and expression, of the dark side and edgy music, of the pursuit of happiness and inner contentment...
Conversations like that used to be more frequent when I served as a hospital chaplain but, now that I am a parish minister and, in many ways, more identified with the institutional church, it is, for some reason - probably many reasons - hard to get beyond the religious and denominational pleasantries.
This morning, it was good to be able to affirm once more that I am "right off religion" and not experience a shocked reaction.
A brief encounter - but a breath of fresh air. Thanks be to God.

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