Thursday, 29 May 2008

Jazzed up

I've just spent 24 hours looking at possibilities for facilitating congregations on a journey of discovery. From guaging the health of a church to delivering dreams. Its an exciting programme, made all the more challenging for us by the devisor and presenter who is both intuitive and incisive as well as having such a heart for the church in Scotland and a beautiful spirit filled nature.
As we studied the material I just couldn't help but get fired up about its potential in my new situation. It seems to me that incorporating this voyage of discovery would be an ideal way to get to know folks, to listen to their stories and, together, to envision a way forward. What a tool. And, as I've dealt a lot with folks' disappointment at my leaving this week, the overnight gave me the boost I need to look forward and not back. Looking forward in the words of Matthew 10 in the Message to "spreading the kingdom news and finding those harvest hands" What a difference a day makes!

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Moving on

My new congregation voted overwhelmingly to call me last Sunday - a huge relief. But like every time of change, no matter how exciting, there is a tinge of sadness and, in this case a lot of sadness as I have to say goodbye to folk whom I've grown to love. When you share some of the most precious moments that life brings, from the joy of new birth to the sadness of bereavement relationships are forged that cannot easily be laid aside. 
However, it is time to move on difficult though that might be, time to follow God's call and use the energy and the gifts that God has given in a new place with a new people whom God has prepared.  Who knows what marks will be left behind, what scars will be carried into the future? Only God knows the seeds that have been sown, the harvest that will be reaped and the healing that lies ahead. We are called, simply, to be faithful, no matter how hard that might be, to know that God's timing is always right. 
Right now its difficult to look forward to the adventure that is waiting. There will be a right time for that. But first, there's a need to let the sun set on the work here and to know that in every ending is a new beginning.

Friday, 23 May 2008


What memories are evoked by one whiff of a fragrance. Years fall away and the mind is transported back to sunny days on the long walk home from school(children would be bussed that distance now). Opening up the bright yellow blossoms, looking for "caterpillars".

Or youth group trips to Cumbrae and cycling around the island accompanied by that fragrance at every turn.

It seemed then, and still does, quite oriental. Like coconut. But now it can be bought encaptured in a candle. No need to walk or to cycle. Simply strike a match, release the fragrance of wild gorse and all those memories come flooding back.

The whole of life can be played out in our living rooms, from global disasters on our TV screens to scents of childhood. We can have it all without moving from the sofa.

Can we ever recapture the idealism we once had? The desire to change the world, to make a difference? Or has that too been domesticated and sanitised and dulled by familiarity?

When the world becomes so small and so intimate we forget that it still needs changed so that every child's memories are of nature's scents and not the stench of war and poverty.

We have a responsibilty to be creators of memories that sustain and that give life and enhance the future for others.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

A slow dawning

Have you ever had something staring you in the face? And everyone around you can see it - but you can't? Or simply don't want to?
I feel as though I've spent months and months, avoiding the glaringly obvious, denying it even, hoping it would simply go away.
But now it is so transparent, so "in my face" that I cannot shield my eyes any longer.
It has to be faced down, confronted.
Not all at once, the glare is too bright.
But a little at a time, settling in, getting used to the idea.
Gradually allowing the creativity, the innovation, all those essential parts of me that have been suppressed for so long to re-emerge. To see the daylight once more.
And I'm not beating myself up either about being zipped up and stifled for so long.
It was necessary for the time and place and piece of work I had to do and the learning I had to undertake.
But now, it feels as if a roaring lion has been released.
And the energy needs channelled before it does real damage.
That's not a fearful prospect.
ITs one filled with gratitude and wonder and excitement and renewing.
Just don't stand too close - I feel the need to ROOOAAAAR!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Lying in wait

My morning walks this past wee while have been accompanied by the odour of wild garlic. A bit overpowering before 7am but the glen is quite overtaken at present by its white flowers and its pungency.

I wasn't aware of its presence over the winter, hidden in the ground, ready to burst into profusion when the time was just right and yet now it has completely taken over.

Many things lie in wait like that, ready to surprise us - when the time is right. If only we can recognise such gifts and appreciate them in their season, secure in the knowledge that, in time, we will be surprised again, maybe in a different way but always, when the time is just right.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Laying down

Yesterday I conducted a service of remembrance for babies who have died, whether in pregnancy or shortly after birth. Over the years I have been offering this memorial I have met many amazing families. Some of them I have accompanied through their loss and grieving. And that has been an immense privelege. Yesterday I was battling with the sense that this is the last time I will be involved in this ceremony as I shall shortly be serving elsewhere. Those mums and dads have given me so much in letting me be a part of some tangible expression of their bereavement. Its hard to move on from such generous people.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Ruby milestone

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the decision of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to admit women to the ministry of word and sacrament.

Yesterday saw the launch of a book brimming with liturgy and reflections, sermons and stories all written by women ministers, published to celebrate this momentous milestone.

The grand old lady who petitioned the assembly 45 years ago - it took 5 years for the petition to be granted - was at the launch, still as feisty as ever and giving thanks that at least on this visit to the Assembly she didn't have to wear a hat as she did 45 years ago.

What fun to be a part of and to contribute to such an occasion.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008


I was involved today in facilitating a seminar on "assisting in the search for meaning" with palliative care practitioners. There was some powerful and thought provoking discussion.
This evening I was on Largs seafront watching this beautiful sunset that could have occurred somewhere much more exotic than North Ayrshire. It struck me, as I watched the scene become more and more beautiful that, for me, appreciating nature in all its awesome glory and giving thanks to the Creator adds so much meaning to my everyday.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Freeing Spirit

I told my congregation this morning that I was moving on to pastures new. It was difficult. I've lost a lot of sleep over it. But now, it feels as though a burden has been lifted. I can look forward to the move. I can release the excitement that is in me about the challenge that lies ahead. 
We have a funny system in the Church of Scotland: Congregations appoint a nominating committee to find a new minister and that committee eventually returns with a nomination. However the candidate so nominated has to preach at sunday worship and be voted on by the whole congregation. That event is two weeks away but notice was given of that this morning to the new congregation which is why I had to tell my folks rather than let them hear on the ever efficient church grapevine.
So its still too early to plan colour schemes and the like. But I can begin to look ahead and set about what remains for me to do here. The Spirit of Pentecost that brought the church to birth encourages it to grow and sets it free. May that freedom and growth take us to places we never dreamed of.

Saturday, 10 May 2008


This has been for me and for folk whom I love a really mixed up week of bubbling mirth and gut wrenching sorrow.
And so I offer these beautiful words of John O'Donohue:

Beannacht (John O'Donohue)

On the day when the weight deadens on your shoulders and you stumble,
may the clay dance to balance you.
And when your eyes freeze behind the grey window and the ghost of loss gets in to you, may a flock of colours, indigo, red, green and azure blue come to awaken in you a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays in the curach of thought and a stain of ocean blackens beneath you, may there come across the waters a path of yellow moonlight to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you,
an invisible cloak to mind your life.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

An offering for Pentecost


drying out

cut off from its life giving roots

rotting and decaying

soon it will be carried by the wind

lifted and laid

bearing little resemblance to the vibrant, organic plant it once was.

with no purpose

no future

dead without hope of resurrection.

A symbol of today's church?

Blow, Spirit, Blow.

Clear out the stench of death.

And bring life in all its fulness.

Monday, 5 May 2008

All you can't leave behind

Enjoyed spending time at our National Gathering at the weekend.
Especially enjoyed the Fischy Music concert with my 9 year old daughter.
The theme of the gathering All You Can't Leave Behind was especially timely for me and I'm still mulling that over. What is it that really matters in faith and worship? What are the essential bits and what are the bits that we're just attached to and that really bog us down and inhibit the great freedom, spontaneity and excitement of faith?
What are the things you'd like to ditch and what can you simply not leave behind? I'd love to know.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Rock chick vicar

Thought I might change the name of my blog for this accolade I was paid recently. I donned my leather trousers and hooker boots (I'll spare you a pic - imagination is more than enough!) and compered a gig in which talented local bands performed. This High School band, called Morning After, led the way. The evening finished with an outstanding U2 Tribute band - the lead singer had middle aged - and older- women rocking in the aisles. A wonderful night although I lost more sleep over the thought of compering this gig than I have for many years.
At the end of the night, over £3,000 pounds had been raised for a school meals project in Malawi. Which made it all worthwhile.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

In the clouds

This is the season of Ascension for many Christians. When we celebrate Jesus being "taken up into the clouds". All the physical and historical arguments have never bothered me in relation to faith. I love a good story. And I love mystery. None of that stops me believing in a loving God whose call is to human beings to love and care for each other - the essence of being christian. In biblical stories, lots of important events were shrouded in cloud imagery. And often, in those clouds, the most amazing things happened, folk were changed beyond recognition. Many christians today still operate swathed in clouds but these are clouds that they are happy to hide in so that their actions which aren't faithful to God's call can be obscured. What would it take today for the clouds to be parted and for the sun to shine through and for us to live in the light of love rather than hide behind the clouds?

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