Saturday, 30 June 2007

No innocent bystander

My blog earlier in the week wasn't too kind to our new Prime Minister. But there's nothing like a bit of conflict to get people pulling together. Gordon's baptism of fire in his new role caused by the very present terrorist threat apparent in the UK this weekend makes us want to trust him. We want our Prime Minister to utter words of reassurance and encourage us to feel that security is a priority that, as a nation of individuals we can feel safe. But I'm also left pondering tonight: What kind of society creates and nurtures folk who get so desparate that they consider their only options are to kill, that only by creating carnage and death will their voices be heard and their opinions honoured? And what is my culpability in being a part of that society that sets standards and calls for conformity, that stifles the ability to be different and fails to value diversity and individuals? I have no answers, only loads of questions.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Starfish quest

Tighnabruaich. Our place of escape.
Its been some weeks since our schedules allowed a free Friday evening when we could head for the hills and for calm.
Its not that I'm any better organised this weekend but I can write my Sunday service as easily over there as I can in the study and benefit from the purer air and the wonderful absence of phones. And still have time to look for starfish. Such bliss.

Always the last to know

I've had quite a few weddings cancelled this year. I always feel its better that a couple change their minds before the big day than after they have taken solemn vows. However this year has seen a spate of cancellations and a few postponements. Sadly, the minister is often the last party to be informed that "the do is aff". And there have been a few occasions where I have not been advised of a change of plans. One such gaff was a wedding brunch tomorrow. When I couldn't get a hold of the couple this week, I contacted the venue where the reception was due to be held, only to find out that the wedding has been cancelled for some time.

Considering that the solemnisation and blessing of a marriage is the only vital part of the day, it is strange that couples forget to let the church know of a change of plan. Especially in a community such as ours where news spreads like wildfire.
In Scotland, ministers do not charge a fee for conducting weddings. However, maybe its time we asked for a deposit that is returnable except for those who give no thought to the minister scheduling other commitments around their wedding and who fail to keep the minister informed when plans change.

Thankfully there are many other couples who do grasp the importance of Christian marriage and do not treat it lightly.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Waving goodbye and hello to what?

Tony Blair has finally gone. Roll on 2008 when Dubya goes too. Maybe then we will have peace seeking world leaders. But even as I think it, I'm aware of my idealism and, even more concerning, the pronouncements from Britain's new PM, Gordon Brown are not encouraging so far. A Scot trying to prove himself wholly British, selling his Scottish Presbyterian soul for acceptance in middle England, saying yes to Trident and no to nuclear disarmament. Very early days but the signs are not good.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Worth a caption

Just what are these guys up to? Making a meal of something. I thought it might make a good caption competition. Something along the lines of:
Danny and Archie hadn't quite grasped the concept of sharing their toys at the Sunday School picnic.
How about a few more suggestions?

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Rained off

We held our parish picnic today. Instead of the calf field where we planned to be, (cleaned up after the recent agricultural show) rain forced us into the church hall. But some people still put on the style. We enjoyed comparing lunch boxes and, right when we should have been lying back for a spot of sun gazing, the kids entertained us with their antics.
I blame the Sunday School for singing God told Noah in worship this morning. In my experience, that always brings a flood.
Last night I almost had a small wager with a friend about the weather today. I had spoken to God and I was so confident that it would be a good day. And it was. Right up until the moment we piled out of church. Then the rain started and just got heavier and heavier. That'll teach me.
I met that friend this evening when I was out and, rather than scorn my misplaced confidence, he commiserated with me on the weather. It was good to know he had remembered us and our hopes for the day. It takes more than a little rain to dampen British spirits - as Glastonbury is certainly proving this weekend! At least we don't have mud to contend with in Inverkip. I just hope I'm not speaking too soon again.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Turning the tables

Tonight I was out again - at another celebration and recognition of achievements. This "slip of a girl" is Carrie Gibson who conquered Everest last month, the 5th Scottish woman to hold that distinction. Carrie is a leader in our local Scout group so its been wonderful celebrating with her in lots of different ways since she returned from Nepal.
Tonight, at the opening of a Scout centenary exhibition she was presented with a silver acorn, a prestigious Scouting award.
However, I was surprised and delighted to be presented, at the same ceremony, with a Scouts thanks badge, thanking me for the district services of celebration I have helped to put together. I shall wear it with pride.

The longest day

21st June - the longest day on these shores. And what a day its been. Managed to attend two end of term award ceremonies in the schools I chaplain (is chaplain a verb?). The afternoon spent in the special needs school - or school for exceptional children as I discovered on my trip to the States last year - was by far the most enjoyable. The enthusiasm of the youngsters and the encouragement from their peers was uplifting.
In between these "duties", I managed to fit in some hospital and home visiting.
Then, about 10pm, it was time for some pub evangelism. But, as I passed the church, I had to stop for a photo. The sun, still shining brightly had turned the stonework of the church a beautiful pink colour. I love midsummers and feel its time we reclaimed some sort of pagan rite to celebrate the day properly. I'm sure its the sort of folk liturgy that would appeal to contemporary culture. Maybe next year.
Meantime, I don't even want to think that from here on in the days get shorter. OOPS!

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Its a twin thing!

My latest reading material has been "the pastor's notebook" by John Hughes. I had the incredible privelege of meeting the author just a couple of months back at a leader's retreat. I knew that I had to learn more from this gentle, gifted man of God. The book did not disappoint and I am sure it will be a well used resource in days to come as well as an inspiring read for now.
Like John, I too have a twin brother. That has brought some interesting dynamics at times. John shares this fact very briefly in the passing but I'm sure there is much to tell. Being a twin adds another dimension to life. One night, at our church youth group we showed off baby pics to see if folk could guess which babies were now their leaders. Since all my baby pics have my brother in them too, it gave the game away. There's also the curious fact that every time the local press publish something about Inverkip church, when they mention my age, I'm a good 5 years younger than my twin - but that's just a girl thing!
Not sure whether to read Max Lucado's "Facing your giants" or a book on creating contagious communities as my next foray into learning. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Endings...and new beginnings

We finished off our Y course tonight. We've been meeting at the local coffee shop which has proved an excellent venue. We weren't too impressed with the overall content and presentation of the course but had such a good bunch of folk that it didn't really matter - they just got stuck into discussing matters of faith. The fellowship was really goood. So much so that we're hoping to get together again for a few weeks in the autumn. We're thinking of hosting a Christian book club, starting with Philip Yancey's "What's so amazing about grace?"
Its been so encouraging to take our discussion group outside the walls of the church and be reminded anew that anywhere can become for us sacred space.

Monday, 18 June 2007

My kind of church

Yesterday's gospel was about forgiveness. As an illustration, I shared the story of Tony Campolo in Hawaii, hosting a birthday party for a prostitute and her friends. When asked what kind of church he belonged to he said: "The kind that throws parties for hookers."
I want to belong to that kind of church too but so often my church is like the one in the picture - doors firmly closed to most possibilities.
I know that most of us who strive to be accepting and welcoming would struggle when actually faced with opportunity. But sometimes I dream of breaking out of the strait jackets imposed by tradition and actually being of some use - actually managing to be Christ-like now and then.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

In the quiet

Can you make out the beautiful moth I encountered on the kitchen window the other night? My photo does not do it justice, a beautiful specimen lighting up the darkness around.
I love that time in the wee small hours when the rest of the house is fast asleep, and I get peace to work and reflect and notice the sounds and sights of the night.
I love to go into the kitchen, tidy from the usual chaos of the day, bright and welcoming when even the mess of the jungle that is our garden seems benign yet filled with vitality.
No one around to demand anything or make a mess. No ringing telephone or even background music. Just peace and space and warmth. And God, keeping me company, in the dead, or should that be the living, of night.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Scrubbing up

Another perk of school chaplaincy is to celebrate the end of term. This year its the end of an era with the high school I work in being merged with another. Thursday night saw an outstanding music concert and tonight saw the S6 prom. Boys and girls looked stunning and were having a ball.
This is the first group I've journeyed with right through their high school days. Its almost overwhelming to see the emergence of young adults about to embark on college and career paths. Confident, gifted individuals sharing special times together before they all go their separate ways. An exciting and emotional time. And such a privelege to share on the periphery of that. World look out - there's talent on its way.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

au revoir

Our youth worker is moving on to pastures new. After 6 weeks voluntary teaching in Malawi, he moves to Dumfries and Galloway to begin his teaching career. Tonight we had a night out to celebrate. Not celebrate that he is leaving, you understand, but celebrate all that he has achieved in the last 4 years working with young folks and with other youth leaders. This picture was taken on a residential weekend with around 40 ten to twelve year olds. Hence the exhausted looks. We were snowed in that weekend and had to stay on an extra day - exciting stuff.
Douglas is bright, impetuous, sharp, good to wind up, sometimes gullible, often hilarious and loves fires. We will miss his enthusiasm and his innovation. But other folks will gain all those qualities. And Inverkip will still be the place he calls home, largely because it is. So we'll see him loads I hope and start to enjoy a whole new kind of relationship with him.
Douglas we celebrate you and wish you every blessing as you journey on with us and with others.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Any excuse...

Our schools finish up for summer in two weeks time. Being chaplain to 3 schools means that the last couple of weeks before end of term are really busy, being involved in end of term services, award ceremonies and other celebrations. Fun - but busy.
At our local secondary school, I help out with the junior orchestra. I like to find other ways of being involved in the schools so that youngsters don't just see me as the person who is rolled out 3 times a year at end of term services! In the high school orchestra, I've never made it beyond second violin and, in fact, this year I'm playing 3rd. This morning, with my desk piled high with paperwork, I went to the school and spent a delightful morning at rehearsals because the concert is later this week. Since the school is amalgamating with another secondary, this will be the last ever summer concert at Greenock High. Timetables are virtually suspended so that all the different music groups can fit in extra rehearsal time for what will be a wonderful concert. It seemed only right that I too should abandon my desk and hang out with the musicians - all in the name of chaplaincy of course.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Proud mum

Thought you might like to see these guys too from the Agricultural Show. How cute are they? Not sure what the deal was but when mum was being shown, her baby went with her. She was the only one with a calf. Was it separation anxiety? Or just to show how clever she was?
Later on, as I checked out the pics I had taken, being the sad person that I am and always on the lookout for a wee illustration, I thought about how the loving God sticks close by us. And parades us with pride. More of us need to hear that - and believe it.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Last minute touches

Yesterday saw the local agricultural show being held in our village. Always a spectacle whatever the weather but enhanced greatly by the wall to wall sunshine of Saturday. This little fellow was just having a last minute makeover. I love the highland cattle classes. I know nothing about what makes a winner, about girth, stance, gait, or anything else, but this guy certainly got my cuteness vote - and the handler wasn't bad either!
We're planning a parish picnic in this field in a few weeks time. I hope all traces of its previous occupants are well removed. And some more of that sunshine would be very welcome.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Something for the weekend

Discovered a good website specialising in T shirt designs - Their products are fun, competitively priced and good quality. And they are a really nice bunch of folks to deal with.
Inspired by a friend, I ordered a couple of T shirts that say: Grow your own dope - plant a man.
My beloved just rolls his eyes every time I wear it.
Men are wonderful. I couldn't live without them. But even the best trained and most domesticated clearly come from a different planet to us girls.
We can either moan our heads off about that or accept the differences and love them anyway!
I choose the path of love.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Rushing headlong

What is this life if, full of care
We have no time to stop and stare
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night
No time to turn at Beauty's glance
And watch her feet, how they can dance
No time to wait till her mouth can
enrich that smile her eyes began
A poor life this if, full of care
We have no time to stand and stare.
W H Davies

These words have been flitting through my mind this week as I dash from encounter to encounter. Its been a very pleasant week, lots of stimulating work, but it has gone at 100 miles an hour. As I've rushed from one thing to the next, there's been little time to process or savour anything. And in the weeks ahead, what with all the upcoming end of term activities I cannot see any possibility of respite. So I'm practising visualising space. This, one of my favourite views down the Kyles of Bute, serves to remind me of calm and tranquillity. It will have to do for now - a virtual space, a virtual calm in the midst of the turbulence.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

No smoke without fire?

On our retreat at the weekend, I had to leave for part of Sunday to officiate at a District Scout service - well, it was the centenary! It was lots of fun despite parading in pouring rain to get to the venue.

We were promised there would be barbecued food on our return to Dunblane - and there was - scrumptious. Almost as soon as we turned off the A9, smoke signals led us back to our weekend abode.
However as we all tucked into our feast, our appetities were somewhat subdued by the arrival of two fire engines in Cathedral square - right opposite where we were. There were a few anxious moments before we ascertained that in fact what had happened was that an alarm had gone off in the Tappit Hen. Nothing to do with us. Not this time anyway. Phew!

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Launching the lifeboat

Was involved in an interesting discussion about emerging church today. Hope other participants won't mind me rehearsing some of that here in an attempt to provoke more discussion and comment, advice or suggestion.
Most of us were slightly uncomfortable with the label "emerging" church - what we're doing is responding to needs in our communities and taking "church" out there. Has anyone really defined or differentiated emerging church, fresh expressions or alternative worship?
We saw what we were doing not necessarily as a means to an end - getting folk ready for "traditional" church, but recognised that it was probably very temporary, partly because it addresses what's needed in a particular time and place and partly because there is still in many folks' minds an image of traditional church to which they aspire to belong after having walked the alternative path for a time - almost using the "new thing" as a rite of passage. While doing church differently is energising for us as leaders, we were concerned that it comes down to a particular leaders gifting and energy. That too gives a temporary feel.
Thanks to Mike Peatman for posting a link to some of the Deep Church Discussion. That was useful as are some of his links to fellow bloggers who struggle with these issues in a "specialist" capacity.
Having shared all this however, I also have to share how re-energising I find the whole concept of "doing church differently". As well as the paradox of loving traditional church most of the time too. Both have so much to offer. As leaders, we are blessed to be able to mix and match, to be moulded and to conform as well as to have the freedom to be creative and revolutionary. We're not just launching the life boat, we're taking the steamer and cruising waters rich with tradition - and innovation. Isn't that a gift?

Monday, 4 June 2007


Just back from a superb retreat in Cathedral town of Dunblane. Enjoyed chilling with friends. Even though I was responsible for organisation and for programme I was fairly laid back over the weekend. I think I'm finally learning that other folks' enjoyment is not my responsibility. What people give and receive on these activities isn't down to me. As with so much else in life it is about presenting challenges and opportunities and allowing folks to make of them what they will.
Dunblane is a beautiful place to be with refreshing river walks and the impressive spectre of the cathedral looming over the town.
Just one problem though. Last time I was there we spent a fair bit of time in a hostelry called The Chimes. I though this would be a good navigation aid when directing my friends how to find Scottish Churches House. But nothing is sacred and The Chimes is now The Tappit Hen! So much for good spiritual direction.

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