Thursday, 29 October 2015

The next step

I thought those of you who occasionally drop in on this blog, through a sense of morbid curiosity, because you've found my trials and tribulations interesting or as you've supported me through parts of the process of discernment and training through your comments here, would like to know how things are going.

Well, I completed my probation at the brilliant, amazing Airside Kirk a the end of September. I still can't believe it's a month since that finished. The people there are extraordinary (though I may be a smidge bias!) and I learnt so much, and truly accepted I am a minister. My wonderful Boss helped with that a lot (am I am struggling to get out of the habit of calling her The Boss, as she's not anymore...).

As a leaving gift, they gave me this ark:

My Ark
All hand knitted with great love and affection. Even the rainbow's knitted, which is especially cool. They also gave me a quite large cheque, to spend how I wish. Though I've not thought of anything yet, I am going to get something keepy (like a good bit of furniture or something like that).

It's odd not seeing that church family. They became my church family really quite quickly after landing there and I know I will always be part of that family - will be welcomed back with open arms (perhaps a little too literally!) anytime I do visit.

But I have to go away. No really, I will be moving, because earlier this month I preached as sole nominee for linked charge in a a beautiful area of the north of Scotland, with amazing, wonderful people whom I just know I will be able to work with. They voted in my favour and I am their Minister Elect. Exciting times ahead.

When I look back 4 years ago, when I started training, I can hardly believe the journey I've taken. Looking even further back, and as some people who I know have pointed out, it's been a long and not especially straightforward journey for me. But, who wants a straightforward journey? The more circuitous routes may be harder to get to, but they've more often than not worth it, for the views, for the new experiences, for the self learning. That happens in road trips and cycles and walks, and, I think, in life in general. Looking back, though there have been tough bits (and I did make some things tough for myself), the journey's been a great one.

And now I am about to head off to begin the next bit of that journey. A journey, a road, a way I will never stop travelling, as I follow the path God leads me on, knowing that Jesus walks at my side.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Letting go

In 1 week's time, I will be unemployed. No, I won't sign on, for a variety of reasons, though it may be a useful bit of research into how those on benefits are treated. Over the course of probation, I've been setting aside a bit every week, so there's something to keep Spot and I going until I an 'in charge.' And I know we are very fortunate to be in this position.

Next month, I'll be preaching as sole nominee for a charge. After the service, the congregation will vote as th whether or not they want to call me as their minister. So, it's not a done deal quite yet. It does feel like the 'right' place, even though I go through waves of 'what have I done' and excitement. The excitement waves are longer and higher than the doubts, you'll be pleased to know!

But, at the moment I'm doing lasts. Last visits to people I've offered regular pastoral care too over the last 15 months; last meetings; last coffee mornings; last service (where I'm wondering if it was a good idea agreeing to take the service - done now, though!). Etc, etc.

Then, there's trying to visit people who have supported me, in many ways, through this placement, but who won't be there on Sunday to wish me well (I could, at this stage, have a bit of a rant in saying if they wanted to, they could come to me...but I won't too much!).

Then, there's trying to convince people I will not be around after 30 September. While I won't have anything church-wise to do, they need to let me go and know I am not part of Airside anymore. Or, maybe it's me who needs to go. I have a (possibly very bad) habit of going, preferring clean breaks to long, lingering goodbyes. Sooner or later, I will be (God willing - the congregation I am preaching as sole nominee for may still vote against me) over 150 miles away.

Yes, I know some will come to my ordination, and it will be lovely to have them there with me. 150 miles, I do think, is a great filter, as nosey people won't make that sort of journey just for the nebbiness factor.

It's hard this, harder than I thought it would be. But, as Spot said last night, I am a big softie, who doesn't like people knowing that I care. I need the clean break so I can let go.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015


I am getting somewhat neglectful of this blog, aren't I? A combination of time and inclination. It's not that there's nothing happening, it's what/when to post on and, increasingly, I am using other platforms to post (not so anonymously on those).

Since I last posted (goodness, over 2 months ago), working out where I may serve has been an 'interesting' time. I'm not entirely sure when I decided it, but I realised with all the other things I thought about call, it occurred to me that part of it was a congregation had to 'make the first move,' on some way. That could be by email, phone or in writing, but they had to be one of the churches who bothered to get in touch - who bothered to call me. I know that isn't the norm, but I never said I was normal, did I?

The scary thing is, of the almost 180 charges currently advertised, I think I've heard from around 30. Yes, I accept there's been summer holidays and some charges may not want a probationer, but when I've heard tales of those who've recently gone before me getting 70+ profiles through their inboxes/letterboxes in the first few days of being granted permission to look for their 'own' charge, it seems not very many.

But, so far, I have had 3 Nom Coms come to hear me. Which is really encouraging. I also preached away from Airside, so another Nom Com could hear me.

I have also had 2 interviews. Both were good congregations, with plenty scope for my gifts, but 1 felt 'right.' It's hard to fully explain why, but I really do think the one which felt more 'right' certainly seems to be the place God is calling me to minister. The exciting thing is, they seem to think so too.

So, it may have not been quick, though a couple of months isn't really that long. I do think the various visits to Airside Nom Coms have made, and which I have made, have helped prepare me for when I preach as sole nominee.

It's exciting, a but scary and really quite wonderful too. Much like love, this call can't be fully explained, but I know it's there.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The assumptions people make

Over the last couple of weeks, it has been my privilege to be at the ordination of a couple of friends as priests in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Though merely a member of the congregation, on both occasions, I was there to offer my support in events which marked important stepping stones in their journeys of faith and calling.

Being a service in the SEC, there was communion. As I watched those gathered going up to receive the elements, virtually everyone kneeled. I struggle to kneel, though I don't look like someone who would. Though I know I don't have to kneel, I did not want to look disrespectful, so made the decision I wouldn't go to receive communion.

Which is where others, who don't realise I am attempting to be respectful, may draw the wrong conclusions, and I suppose I have to live with that, keeping a focus on thinking I was trying to do the right thing. I wonder if they maybe thought it wasn't communion or I was being disrespectful? Oh, the maze of trying to be sensitive to others, while realising there's sometimes I won't win, whatever I do. These were among those times.

Among those gathered were some who obviously couldn't go up the the altar to receive communion - those in wheelchairs, with walking frames etc. The stewards asked each one of those if they would like communion brought to them. While I am delighted this happened, it was interesting this offer was only made to those with outward signs of infirmary. Which makes me wonder, how many others did not look as though they would struggle to go up to the altar to receive communion, but would struggle and, due to conclusions made, were not asked if they wished communion brought to them.

Just for the record, I was more interested in the judgement calls which were made by the stewards, rather than anything else. I suppose I am concerned there are those who feel they aren't allowed to go up to receive communion (and may need gentle encouragement) or have a unseen reason that going up to receive communion at the altar is difficult.

I know we all make assumptions about things, this has been a learning process for me, to consider how we make assumptions in the church, and how to allow all to worship, without being pushy or patronising.

Friday, 26 June 2015

The last year

I can hardly believe this time last year, I was about to begin a journey which would take me to visit Airside's twinned congregation in Malawi. It was an exciting opportunity and real privilege, which I know has lived with me since.

It was while in Malawi I began probation. I'm glad I was able to take the risk of going there - not only to an unknown place, but with an unknown group of people (and that was just those from Airside. Maybe I hadn't really thought about the fact if things hadn't gone well (with people being tired and not in their 'own' places, we can all be a little more grumpy than normal), especially as I was sharing a room with The Boss, probation may have been pretty awkward, to say the least!

But it was a great start and it's been a great year. Yes, there have been, especially in the early few weeks, a sense of me wondering 'should I really be here?' and me (stupidly and unfairly) comparing myself to The Boss. Once I got my head round I am who I am (oh, maybe I should rephrase that...) and I can only be the person God has called me, and to accept I am a minister, things started to fit into place. Consequently, I have become the minister I am now. And it's great.

I know I wouldn't be here without the support of many people. Spot, obviously; those who left positive and honest comments here over the years, especially during my struggles of enquiry - it was good to not have that sense of isolation I know some have during that; various supervisors and congregations. The biggest help this year has been The Boss, though she'll not take nearly as much credit for it as she should.

So here I am, 1 year on since the beginning of a journey at Airside. I can honestly say I have loved 99% of it and the other 1% was still good. God has certainly blessed me this year,

Which lead to a very positive final review the other day. The panel were broadly the same as those I met with at the half way point, so not an unknown quantity. I'm not sure how long these interviews are supposed to take - most people I've spoken to say 25 minutes or so. Then the probationer is invited to go outside, while the panel make their decision. I'm sure my interview only lasted 15 minutes maximum. The panel felt my and The Boss' reports were excellent (and I think they mean in terms of who I am as well as content). They asked a couple of questions, which were very specific to a couple of things I've been involved with and that was about it.

They didn't deliberate for long, a minute at most, and invited me back in to the good news that they are delighted with where I am and I may now begin the process of applying for my 'own' charge.

At the time, I was simply relieved. Not euphoric, not elated, just relieved that what I've done this year has been acknowledged and I was affirmed in my God given calling. It's only beginning to sink in.

Now, where is calling me to be their minister? Watch this space.