Thursday, 30 May 2013

Fighting a way out of the darkness

I spent a good part of today at a meeting of the Scottish Dementia Working Group. This group comprises people who have a diagnosis of dementia in varying forms and who are involved in campaigning to raise awareness and acceptance in community and to change local and national government policy. They are also involved in changing the practice of health and social care services not just in Scotland and the UK but in Europe and the rest of the world.
They are people of great humour, compassion, energy and wisdom. None of them are "sufferers" as they are all too often described. Rather, they are living with a diagnosis or awaiting diagnosis and re-orienting themselves in life.
Members spoke articulately and movingly of some of the struggles they had faced and of the progress they had made in educating others in their different social and community settings about their needs and challenges and achievements. All of this was done with incredible humour.
One man described the excruciating darkness through which he journeyed in the first year of diagnosis, the isolation and fear he experienced, and then had everyone laughing as he regaled us with tales of how he can now go into the local newsagents, pick up his daily newspapers and leave without paying because the local shopkeeper knows which papers he likes and that his wife will pay for them next time she is there. He has a similar arrangement with the local barbers.
None of the folk there today would consider themselves exceptional and yet each is making a vast difference in their own way and in their own community and, in turn, making a difference for others living with a diagnosis of dementia as well as giving others the opportunity to be more inclusive and aware.
There are few families untouched by dementia today so it is incumbent on all of us to transform our communities into places of safety by listening to those who are living with a diagnosis.
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Wednesday, 29 May 2013


There are days
when these tired introvert bones
weary from constantly being out there
simply want to retreat
to curl up in some bright sunny spot
and soak up some warmth
or even wrap up warmly
and wage a solitary battle
against the wind and the rain
For the facade of bonhomie
wears thin after a while
and is too exhausting to maintain
So, before it shatters or dissolves
it needs to be nurtured and replenished
Topped up from the well of silence
in which it finds renewal
Then, brand new
those bones can once again
be out there
doing the work
to which they are called
but which comes at a price.

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Tuesday, 28 May 2013


I imagine the Spirit
as a winged creature-
Some days her wings are strong and brave
like those of a heron
flapping gracefully over water
not climbing too steeply
but showing clear evidence of potential
coming to rest
with passion and with poise.
Some days her wings are papery and fragile
like those of an earwig
demanding careful measuring
before being unfurled
For being open to such vulnerability
comes at a price.
Some days her wings are swift and beating
like those of a dove
their flapping takes energy
but covers the distance
and reaches her goal
And some days her wings soar on the currents
like fulmars or eagles
their noiseless whisper
carrying them on
to lofty places
The wings of the Spirit
accommodating all kinds of bodies
accomplishing all kinds of tasks
bearing in all shapes and sizes
the gracious love of God.

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Sunday, 26 May 2013

Faith journey

It’s a funny old journey,
the journey of faith.
Does faith change or do we?
Those things that seemed so important when we started out
have given way to other issues. The deal breakers
become the room makers,
the passions we held
become mellowed
by the passage of time
as we learn and grow,
as our hearts swell with love.
And, as we begin to understand better the God who lives beside us,
the God who will not be fettered
by any limits
that we place
on compassion.
The God who calls us
to ignore the limits too.
The God who promises that, one day it will all become clear.
But, until then,
we should carry on loving
along the way.
It’s a funny old journey.

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Thursday, 23 May 2013

Touched by violence

As you might expect, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland remembered in prayer this morning those touched by the violence in Woolwich yesterday. An apparent act of terrorism on a serving officer on the streets of South East London.
Today we also heard the report of our Armed Forces Chaplains and the assembly hall was populated by men and women in uniform.
There is no doubt that a call to serve in chaplaincy to our armed forces exposes those who respond to be a part of the most harrowing stories that, quite frankly, most of us would rather not imagine.
But imagine those stories we must if we are to have any hope of changing the stories and of writing the next chapter that is not filled with such violence.
Daily we are all touched by violence. The shocking violence that makes the news headlines. The violence that has long since faded out of the news, replaced by fresh atrocity. Or the violence that didn't ever register on our limited radar. We live in a world filled with violence and we are ALL touched by it. How do we prevent ourselves from becoming inured to it yet survive the constant attacks that assault us daily? How do we remain open to be compassionate and empathetic while, at the same time, not become overwhelmed by all that we see and hear and encounter?
And how do we begin to be part of a completely different story - a story in which people are not driven to ask:"Where is God in this?" because the love of God is very evident?
We are all called to that ministry of writing the next chapter, changing the end of the story and achieving vastly different outcomes.
Perhaps it begins with us listening closely to the voice of God calling us all to distinguished service wherever we are, the service of countering violence with the more powerful love of God.

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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

In real life

GA Update:
Today was a long day, full of words - some more helpful than others.
Lots of the debates referenced, in one way or another, digital communication. And, while there was a lot of social networking going on among commissioners in the hall and with those watching the webcast, there seemed to be little encouragement for such interaction and more concern about the dangers.
There were also great face to face networking opportunities over lunch and dinner.
While we must never neglect fostering real life connections, social networking fairly livens up a long business session.
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No rest for the wicked - or the young

General Assembly finished the business of the day at 6:30 this evening. It was a full and encouraging day, with lots that made me feel proud to be a part of the Church of Scotland so involved in world mission and in social care - enfleshing the love and compassion of God.
Some of the young people found their voice today and contributed helpfully and thoughtfully to the debates.
Tonight, after the close of business I shared a quick meal with colleagues from Presbytery and then had to rush back to the conference centre.
For it is in the evenings that the real work begins for the Youth Delegates and the staff working with them. We prepare for the next days' debates and share worship together, usually going on until well after 10pm.
Exhausted - but loving every minute!
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Monday, 20 May 2013

I hate fudge!

I don't like fudge. Occasionally I may be tempted by fudge covered in Cadbury's chocolate. Or, on a recent trip across the pond, I enjoyed some Maple and walnut flavoured fudge- but that was more like Scottish tablet which I love.
Anyway, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland today became embroiled in a major fudge. Afforded the opportunity to make a decision on whether or not men and women in same sex relationships may be ordained to the ministry of word and sacrament, the Assembly became embroiled in a huge fudge - with another last minute option being thrown into the mix and accepted as an alternative to deciding one way or the other.
And so the issue rolls on and will come back to a future Assembly, having been further discussed by Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions.
I am trying desperately to find some patience and optimism - to focus on the fact that there has been some movement and that this is going to be a painstaking incremental process. But I am also wondering whether colleagues will feel equally loved and valued and affirmed - or whether this comes across as one rejection too many?
In this Pentecost season, have we embroiled the enigmatic Spirit of God in a sticky gooey mess or have we allowed her gentle wings to unfurl, heralding another step in the process of change? Still we wait....
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Sunday, 19 May 2013

Heart and Soul

Once again, Heart and Soul, proved refreshing and inspiring. Celebrating Pentecost in Princes Street Gardens, the castle a fitting backdrop, the Kirk proved, in the words of the moderator, Right Rev Lorna Hood, that it is not dead - but on life support - the life giving breath of the risen Lord.
There were displays and stories from parishes all over Scotland and Europe proclaiming good news, care and compassion and celebrating the Spirit blowing through Gods people and bringing all manner of gifts.
Lets hope that amazing Spirit continues to make her presence known as we grasp the nettle tomorrow and tackle thorny issues. May the unity we experienced in worship continue into the business of General Assembly, wreaking havoc and bringing peace. So may it be.
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Saturday, 18 May 2013

Speech and sight

How refreshing it is to hear the youth delegates' take on the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Especially on this the first day of proceedings so full of pomp and circumstance.
Already they have discerned that when a Convenor uses the word "briefly" it bears no relation to their concept of brevity! And how much shorter the Lord High Commissioner's speech would be if he left out all the whys and wheretofores with which his speech, presented on a scroll, no less, is so liberally peppered.
Tonight, in worship, we considered speech and sight, two senses that we all use so differently. We gave thanks for the gift of voice and for those whose skill is eloquence in speech. We prayed for the discernment to hear the message and not be simply carried along by rhetoric.
And we acknowledged how, even when engaged in seeing the same things and reading the same texts, we may yet come to interpret things differently. We prayed for authenticity in our interpretation and love and tolerance for others whose interpretation, although different, is authentic for them.
Looking forward to seeing and hearing God at work in General Assembly this week.

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