Friday, 23 November 2012

Dinosaur alert

I constantly encounter people who struggle, not so much with faith, though that's not easy but more with the ordinances and institution of religion. Countless folk who claim to be Spiritual rather than Religious. I have always been able to empathise with such people. Lets face it - the institutional church does not acquit itself well when given the opportunity to be open and affirming, contemporary or relevant. Indeed it seems pretty populated at present by defenders of the institution who would claim that it has no business being any of those things! It is difficult to maintain a sense of vocation to such an institution. And even more difficult when my call and the way I live out that call is dismissed not just by the institutional hierarchy (patriarchy) but by those embracing the next bright new shiny wave of trendy ministry. If it were not for that sense of vocation and the conviction that God is far removed from the restrictive narrow minded ness that seems to inhabit the institution at present I would be taking to the hills.
Thankfully the liberating, many hued, unfettered Spirit of God cannot be confined or boxed in by the pronouncements of institutions. That Spirit is still offered freely and graciously by a God surely swithering about whether to laugh or cry right now at the antics of "church". "Behold I freely give", proclaims God. Regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, rules and regulations.
Of course each vocation demands rigorous discernment and testing. But the life giving Spirit of God shows up in surprising ways and rarely within a closed and fettered institution, and the Spirit conferred in baptism is not a gift to be snatched back by an institution when it dreams up another set of rules that seek to confine and control.
Thankfully that whimsical, life giving Spirit keeps on showing up to provide encouragement and affirmation that the institution seeks to destroy.
In spite of the dinosaurs!
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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Twilight Zone

During the summer I "discovered" Twilight and loved reading the books and watching the DVDs. So I'm delighted at the release of Breaking Dawn part 2.
This morning, reflecting on ministry, it occurred to me that a lot of ministry happens in liminal space or what might be termed "the twilight zone". And that can often be a scary place to be with no clear sense of direction or of outcome but, rather, the tenacity to hang in there with the uncertainty. Not only does this aptly describe the place of most ministry encounters but it might also be a metaphor for the Church of Scotland at present. Although that in between space or threshold does hold an element of fear, it is also a place that invites novelty and creativity and that stimulates excitement and potential. It is not a place or a time to long for the past but to hope for the future and celebrate the opportunity of the present. Looking forward to being immersed in all things Twilight!
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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Holding in tension

When I was training for ministry and subsequently at various National and local gatherings aimed to equip and refresh, there was a perception abroad that, if one wasn't involved in ministry in a Priority Area, then one wasn't involved in real ministry. I and other colleagues went home to our middle class or affluent parishes feeling guilty and discouraged.
Now I appreciate that that was a perception rather than any agreed agenda driven by the institution but I have reflected on this with others and was not alone in that perception.
My fear for the church (one of my fears) is that, today, Emerging Ministry is becoming the new stick with which to beat an army of conscientious, community involved parish ministers - ministers who are effectively providing the ordinances of religion in their parish and doing that well, responding to the needs and desires of their community and without which many of our communities would be bereft.
While I am very creative in devising worship and in providing opportunities for people to come together in community to explore discipleship, none of the things I do can be considered "Emerging".
I am anxious that traditional ministries, where they are still working and, indeed, being sought, are not undervalued.
The Church of Scotland does not seem to do "mixed economy" terribly well so that we can affirm and support each other in the mission that is God's.
My hope and prayer is that the Emerging Church in all its different hues will embrace all varieties of ministry that engages with community.
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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Receiving graciously

I've been reflecting recently on Creativity, a gift from God. What must it feel like for God when we stifle or underplay a gift. It's probably something, especially in our Scottish culture to which we are all prone to a greater or lesser extent.
Hard on the heels of trying to process this, I find myself at an Emerging Ministries Conference. I'm here, not because I'm working at the coal face as many of the practitioners here are but because I'm on a working group set up to support and resource Emerging Ministries. But over dinner,where all the real learning happens at conferences, someone helpfully and encouragingly spoke of Fresh Expression of church consisting not only in new things or the edgy things but in the forming of communities that allow folk who otherwise wouldn't have opportunity to meet together, even if what they do together seems pretty traditional. It's not new versus old. Or edgy versus trad but relationships being nurtured. I think I've discovered another gift that I've overlooked.
Just as well God doesn't snatch back the gifts that we fail to appreciate. Still,it might be an idea to be more grateful and more gracious at God's abundance.

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Saturday, 10 November 2012

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

With our church Christmas Fayre this morning and a wedding this afternoon- where the bridesmaid (and the father of the bride in yeomanry uniform) was in a rich scarlet colour, there are signs of Christmas all around.
But what is really exciting is that the latest issue of Spill the Beans has been released. This is an all age lectionary based worship resource with a distinctly Scottish flavour. It is full to bursting with ideas for Advent, Christmas, Epiphany,right through to Transfiguration, just before Lent begins. As one of the contributors, it is great to see the fruits of some sleepless nights in print.
We're already working on the Lent and Easter edition. But I'm looking forward to angels, shepherds, stables and and kings inhabiting the pews over the next wee while.
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Thursday, 1 November 2012

All Saints

For all saints 
Really, God? 
We're all in that communion of saints? 
All belonging to that unbroken line? 
All bound together? 
So, my great grandfather, with his collarless shirts 
and starched collars that he wore on a Sunday 
and my great Uncle Charlie with the brylcreamed hair  
who wore braces on his trousers 
and my great aunt Nancy with the brown lace ups 
who always smelled of mothballs 
and wee auntie Annie who always wore a pinny 
with a duster in the pocket 
and a hairnet over her curlers 
except on a Sunday 
they're all saints 
along with old Mrs Brown 
who sits at the back now 
always with a wee sweetie  
to keep the wee ones quiet 
and young Kylie who takes the youth group 
and is the height of fashion 
and even old grumpy Bob who's always complaining 
and that wee devil Ross 
who winds up all the other kids 
you're telling me that they 
are all saints? 
How can we ever worship you 
when this sanctuary must be filled  
with such a babble 
of voices 
all worshipping you through the ages 
And even more scary 
you're telling me 
that I have to love them 
because they're all part 
of your one, big, happy family? 
Come on, God - give us break. 

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