Tuesday, 23 December 2008


I had my first personal development interview (PDI - same initials as pre-delivery inspection for cars, I wonder if there's a connection?!) yesterday. I wasn't too nervous, but had no idea what to expect. I just went with an open mind and hoped for the best.

What a positive experience it was. The interviewer was really lovely. He asked a little about my background, university and jobs. Nothing too major. He did ask a little about being brought up by a single parent, but I was sort of expecting that. Okay, by upbringing is unusual, but everyone has their own normality. Basically I suppose those questions were to see what I'd say rather than why I'd made the choices I had.

One question I wasn't expecting was what I would do if a gay couple asked me to bless their union. I gave my argument as to why I would do it. He seemed okay with what I said. In fact, he even told me that question was to test how I would react to difficult questions and whether I could give a reasonable argument, when the question was unexpected and I needed to answer quickly. I think because he was so open about the reason for the question that he was satisfied with it. I hope so...

He asked me about the frequency of meetings with my supervisor. I told him they were around every 3-4 weeks. He wasn't too impressed with this. I did tell him my supervisor has a reader in training too, but he didn't see that as an excuse. As far as he was concerned I have needs and they are his priority. If my supervisor didn't have time for meetings with both the reader and I he shouldn't have taken us both on. On the back of this, I have contacted my supervisor about the frequency of our meetings. My next one has been brought forward and we already have the one after that booked. That's progress then.

His other concern was that I have never done a sermon. His argument for doing at least one during the co-ordinated field assessment was he felt it's important to know if you can stand in front of a congregation and talk for 10 minutes. I can see where he's coming from and, given I have done a lot of things in services in my home church, I think it would be good for me. That said, I know it isn't an expected element of the enquiry process. After all, there will be people called to ministry who, for a variety of reasons, haven't had the opportunity to even read a lesson. I've let my supervisor know about this one too, but won't be too concerned if he doesn't feel it's necessary at the moment.

I know I get a copy of his report. I hope it's as positive as the meeting. Otherwise, I will have read the situation completely wrong. Fingers crossed I haven't.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Christmas begins

What is the one thing that starts Christmas for you? For me it's the four Sunday in Advent, when the children perform their nativity play.

I was back in my home church for the first Sunday since September. It was nice to be back; the young church invited me. One lady even said "welcome home". It was odd, though, I am a young church leader there, so I am usually heavily involved in the rehearsals. This year all I did was help my husband make one of the props.

The young church at my home church always take over the whole service with their nativity play, not the usual 20-30 minutes. Also, I can't remember the last time they did a "traditional" children's nativity. There's usually something different. One year, it was a take on the Grinch at Christmas.

This year was the best yet. Back at the National Gathering, one of the tents had a Tardis. As soon I saw it I knew the young church had to do a nativity play which involved a Tardis - the children love Doctor Who and as for me...I have the potential to be a Doctor nerd!

The leaders were a little concerned about getting a script. One of the leaders was in the Scottish Story Telling centre and found a nativity script which involved people from the future travelling through time collecting others in their quest to find the King of Kings. Perfect or what?!

My husband and I built a Tardis. IMHO it looked really good. The children loved it and that's the most important opinion, as far as I am concerned. I never thought I would get Tardis blue paint for fences and sheds. Yes, that's what we used!

The play was brilliant. The children obviously really loved the time travel theme. But, most importantly, the heart of the message was people from throughout the ages going to meet with the King of Kings born in a stable to save the world.

Jesus was born for us all. No matter where we're from, what we have, who we are. We can still meet with Him.

Now, Christmas has begun for me.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Signs from God

My office has been running a promotion campain. I was very reluctant to apply, but did in the end. I applied as I thought if God really wants me to be a minister, there's no way I'll get promoted. Weird logic, but that's me!

Well, looks like I'm right about my call to ministry. I was unsuccessful. For most who applied, there was a lot of disappointment, naturally. For me, is was a great feeling of release. Quiet cathartic, really. God has other plans for my gifts. I'm definitely taking this as one of the strongest signs, so far, that I am on the right path.

In other news, I've decided my blog looks a little bare, so I intend to attempt to put a photo up with most posts. This post's photo was taken in Ta Papa, New Zealand's national museum. I just happened to look down and notice the lights. Something beautiful in an unexpected place. God's like that too, isn't He?

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Scary stuff

Ministries council at Church of Scotland HQ (aka 121) have sent me a pile of paperwork.

Some is to do with my personal development interview (PDI) on Monday. That I was expecting, though I do not know what to expect (that sounds completely contradictory, doesn't it!). I will post how I got on after the event. I'm going with an open mind (and heart).

No, the scary stuff is:

  • A form asking which of the assessment conferences I am able to attend. One step at a time guys; I'm only 1 month into my co-ordinated field assessment.
  • An information leaflet about training for full-time ministry, containing advice to write to the Deans of Divinity at the various universities to apply for a place, if I wish to begin studies in 2009. Err, even if I get through my local review, that doesn't mean I'll get through the assessment conference.

It's not that I don't feel called. In fact, the deeper into this process I get, the more my sense of call grows. I feel I am pleasing God and He is supporting me at the moment, even when I don't think I can handle this.

My heart tells me I will get through all the hoops and will need a place at uni next year. My head tells me, be patient. You've waited this long another little while won't make any difference.

God might have other ideas, though...

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

A Gift fom God?

Through my home church I have met someone who has recently come from a damaging relationship. I can't go into great detail about them, for obvious confidential reasons.

For some reason - which are totally beyond me - he has really taken to me (they're young; they'll learn!). He have been asking me a lot of big questions such as why does God allow bad people to do bad things. I try to explain about freewill etc, but they still ask why. My only answer is "I don't know; I really don't know".

The other day he was asking me questions about forgiveness - why bother? I explained hate is like a cancerous growth within you. It only causes you pain and the more you feed it the bigger it will grow. At the end of the day, though, it only hurts yourself, not the person the hate is aimed at. Forgiveness allows you to let go of the hurt and move on with life.

I know this person finds it difficult to forgive. He has a very raw open wound on his soul. He also knows I have been "damaged" by people, so what I say isn't hollow words, but from real experience. I've also told him I forgive because God forgave my sins first.

I think he thinks he needs me as someone he can trust and talk to, which he can. But, the questions he asks really have put me on the spot and have made me really think about what I believe. In many respects, I see his questioning as a gift from God. God sees I need this as I explore my calling. I also feel the answers are coming in a way that can only be described as coming through the holy spirit.

I hope this is a gift I can nurture and use throughout my journey. I never knew I had it before. God has given me exactly what I need to help this person exactly when I needed His help. If He can do that for me, He can give me the gifts to be a good minister.

Monday, 15 December 2008

It's a Wonderful Life

I was watching this again last night. Well, it is Christmas! I love this film. I find it so life re-affirming. It doesn't matter how insignificant you think you are, you are important to those whose your life touches.

And, as Clarence wrote, "No one is a failure who has friends".

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Good deed of the day.

The local school was singing at my placement church today. The sung really well and there were a few proud parents in the congregation. I love churches when people come to them, even for something as simple as this. If we show God's love through being hospitable and welcoming hopefully they will take that away with them.

Last week the children didn't light any of the advent candles. I mentioned that at my meeting on Tuesday; quite casually along the lines of "I thought it quite unusual the children not being asked to help light the candles". Today, they did. Perhaps my supervisor is taking on board some of my thoughts?

Thanks to those of you who commented on my last post (especially crabbit besom). It's re-assuring to know others have had similar frustrations. It is also re-assuring to know it's part of the process. I hope I can use my feelings following on from Tuesday's meeting positively as I explore my call.

In other news, as I was heading out of the church one of the parent's of the school group were trying to pump up a tyre. I took one look and knew it had a puncture, so my good deed for the day was changing their tyre. That made me think - what is a better demonstration of God's love? Helping a stranger or singing from the pews? I think it depends on the circumstances. I also think praising God and worship is a fundamental need. I also know I can't walk away when I see someone who needs help, even if I do land up minging!!!

Friday, 12 December 2008


Warning - this a long one...

My meeting on Tuesday night didn't go especially well. Badly probably isn't the correct expression, but it wasn't uplifting, positive or even especially challenging for me. After the meeting I had lost some of the respect I had for my supervisor. I think you may understand why once I've finished this post…

Something happned to a family of my supervisor's family at the start of our meeting. This mad me feel really awkward and uncomfortable - I was in the way when, as far as I was concerned, he was needed by his family. I told my supervisor I was happy to re-schedule our meeting. He didn't accept my offer, so I assumed he'd want to have a very quick meeting to discuss what I would be doing over the coming weeks and leave any other issues to another meeting. No, the meeting lasted an hour and three-quarters.

I have now discovered my supervisor doesn't listen either. He has asked me several times how busy my work is and the answer has always been the same, as the work I do relates to the property market. Also, he contradicts himself. At our first meeting my participation in worship his feedback was positive - I am a clear confident speaker. On Tuesday, he was telling me I was very quiet when I started, but my speaking has improved. One version is incorrect. It would be nice to know which on. That said, he (or members of the congregation) should have given my feedback about my quietness at the time. To me feedback should be given as soon as possible, not 3 months down the line.

Among the various forms I had to fill out at the beginning of my co-ordinated field assessment was a background form. Basically, a little bit of personal information about me. I'm not sure of the question, but my answer was "God can use me to serve other despite my flaws". None of us are perfect and sometimes I think God uses the most "flawed" characters for His glory.

My supervisor brought this up and asked me what I thought those flaws were. Okay, I suffer from foot-in-mouth disease, also known as speak first, think second. I was brought up to be honest, but as Thumper said in Bambi "if you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all". I know there are times when I've said something that maybe should not have been said or been a little too up front. Oh, you'd think I was from the west coast!

My supervisor then went onto tell me how I had said things that may have been better unsaid (remember this is the church that likes to lock doors…), but without giving a specific example. He then lectured me (yes, I do mean that as I had very little opportunity to say anything) about how people expect ministers to be. Perhaps that's part of the problem with the Church of Scotland. Congregations and the general public perceive ministers as being above them; better people, but out of touch and talking a different language to ordinary Joe Public. I didn't say that to my supervisor as I know it would have been taken totally the wrong way - as a criticism of him.

He then went on about my sense of humour. He asked if I hid behind it. Perhaps sometimes, I agreed, but not that often. I like making jokes (usually involving myself) and having a laugh. I also think humour can be a great leveller.

Next on his list of criticisms was that I tend to fill silences with talking. Err, doesn’t everyone? Has he not heard of uncomfortable silences, where everyone in a group is trying to think of something to say? I admitted I do. Then another question - if you were visiting someone who was dying and unconscious, would you fill the silence? No, not if it felt inappropriate. It would depend on the circumstances; my relationship with the person, their friends, relative and carers. Pretty obvious if you ask me, even for someone who likes to talk.

Throughout this discussion, it felt that if I contradicted him or tried to get a word in edgeways, it would have confirmed his opinion of me. I decided that was a moment when saying nothing was the better course of action. After all, some things are better left unsaid, according to my supervisor!

I was also criticised for making comments/suggestions about how my placement church does things. Okay, initially I did mention my home church a little too often, but I don't anymore. My supervisor seems to think because I have only been a member of one church that my opinion is formed from what they do and nothing else. This despite me telling him I attended other churches at university (although not as much as I should have) and while on holiday. I get the impression he thinks I have no ideas of my own. I now feel I cannot say anything which may be taken as a negative comment about my placement church as he will think I am comparing it to what I am used to. This is not the case. Now I am going to keep quiet about it, just to keep the peace.

I am well aware of my flaws; probably more so than my gifts. Although I did say to my supervisor I don't mind people telling me when I've put my foot in it (in the right way, I think he didn't need to go on about is as much. It may have been diferent if I wasn't aware of this flaw.

Also, I must admit, I'm not feeling especially streched or challenged by my placement. So far apart from 1 children's address, I have only done readings and prayers during services. This is something I hav done numerous times before. Giving this process is supposed to be exploring my call to ministry, I thought the meetings with my supervisor would also be disussing the implications of my call; looking at different challenges the call may bring and whether I felt I could deal with it; what I would do in certain situations. So far, there has been none of this.

I am also supposed to meet with my supervisor once a forthnight. I'm lucky if it's once a month. I will mention this at my next meeting (which isn't until half way through next month).

Well, that's the rant over. I was really down when I got home as it felt he'd told me nothing positive. Also, the way he treated his family made me less interested in his criticism.

Maybe this is all part of my testing? I know I was discussing with my husband at the weekend whether I should pursue this process, as I didn’t want it to interfere with our relationship. After Tuesday's meeting, I am more determined than ever…

Monday, 8 December 2008

Christmas by committee

I'm just back from my second worship group meeting at my placement church. Now, at my home church, the worship group will be asked by one of the ministers to do the service on a certain day as they are on hoilday or need that Sunday off. That's what I would expect a worship group to do - lead worship. Not at my placement church.

The first meeting was an hour and a half discussion over which carols to have over advent. That's all the meeting did, I kid you not! Perhaps it's just me (and my husband), but I thought an advantage of being a minister is you get to choose the hymns.

Tonight's meeting was my supervisor getting volunteers to take part in the service (e.g. do the readings/meditations) and a discussion of the activity for the children's watchnight service. A few things occurred to me about this:
  1. If you're looking for volunteers for readings/meditations you as the minister have already selected, why do you need a meeting? Surely you approach the individual(s) and ask them.
  2. The group was not the ideal forum for deciding the activity for the children's watchnight service -in my experience, input about children in services is carried out at young church (Sunday School) meetings. The leaders of the young church can be involved in the activity and know the children and what will work with the childresn.
  3. Why have a children's watchnight service? For a start, the whole point of a watchnight service is the keeping watch until the arrival of Christmas. The children can do that at 8pm. Also, why can;t the activity my supervisor is planning be used at on of the advent services (the last Sunday of advent seems most appropriate IMHO).
I told my husband what had gone on at the meeting and he said "were the members of he group committee types, you know, need a committee and formal meeting to get something organised?" I think he's right as I know I'm not weird with this one - I think my placement church it weird...

I having a meeting with my supervisor tomorrow. The meetings aren't supposed to last much more than an hour, but I've loads to discuss...wish me luck! I hope I don;t look totally negative.

Sunday, 7 December 2008


Today, I was asked to do the ACTS prayer (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication). It being the second Sunday in advent I knew the teaching of John the Baptist in Mark would almost certainly be one of the bible texts. With that in mind, I thought I'd theme my prayer around us preparing for the coming for Christ.

In my prayer I mentioned we (as individuals and a church) often get so tied up with the present buying, food preparation etc that Christ gets sidelined. I know I try not to do that and make the Christ central to Christmas, but it can be easier said than done.

The sermon was after my prayer and I had no idea what the reader-in-training was going to preach. His theme was preparing for Christ's coming and focusing on that. Also, acknowledging that it can be difficult with presents to buy etc. As he was preaching I was thinking - wow, this service has really come together and with no collaboration!

Spookily enough, this isn't the first time that's happened to me and I know of many people who have been involved in collaborating services that it has happened to. Well, I don't believe in coincidence, so it must have been the Holy Spirit guiding us.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

The real Christmas

I was invited, by my supervisor, to attend last night's fellowship group's meeting at my placement church. I thought this was a committee - the people that organise the coffee mornings, Burns suppers etc in a church. No, turns out it is a group of members of the congregation who get together to discuss a topic. Well, I hope that's what they are, as that's what happened last night.

The topic was "The Real Christmas". Partly, what evidence do we have and what does it mean to us. My supervisor began by asking the group to tell the Christmas story. I began, then we went round the table, adding details.

One of the ground described the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem - on a donkey, of course. Err, well, there's no evidence for this in the scriptures. Besides, a heavily pregnant woman would not have been able to ride a donkey. Personally, I think the donkey's come into the story (when I don't know) to link Jesus arriving in the world (in Mary's womb, riding a donkey) with Him entering Jerusalem riding a donkey on Palm Sunday.

Next - how many wise men were there? Most of the group (except my supervisor and me) said 3. The bible only states there were 3 gifts, not how many wise men there were. That's fair enough, but in that society (as with many societies today), when a King was born, noble men from neighbouring countries would visit and present gifts. It would have been pretty bad form if more than 3 wise men had turned up without some kind of gift for the new King.

Right, we're getting towards the end of the main story. "How long after Jesus' birth did the wise men turn up?" asked my supervisor. I suggested up to 2 years, given Herod ordered all first born boys under 2 to be killed. That is apparently 1 of many theories (I was so pleased I wasn't talking total nonsense - that wouldn't be unusual, believe me!).

It may have been the wise men appeared shortly after the birth and Herod wanted to make sure any rival King was exterminated. Okay but the census, the reason why Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem, wouldn't have been a 5 minute job. It would have taken a while for Caesar Augustus' order to be issued and for Quirinius to do anything about it. Then, there's Mary and Joseph's travelling time and the time to actually count the number of people in Bethlehem.

After the biblical facts had been established, we inevitably got onto the festival of Christmas. That's what it's supposed to be. As I said in an earlier post (here), the fact God chose to become human and to be born, not just appear an adult human, the most amazing thing about Christmas.

Of course, I do wonder why Christmas is so important. That's not to say I don't love it, but Easter is the most important part of the Christian calendar.Without the resurrection at Easter God's promise to His people wouldn't have been fulfilled. Death would not have been overcome. The oppression of sin would still hang over us.

Oh, and I wouldn't be writing this blog...

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Stepping out of the boat

As part of my co-ordinated field assessment I have been asked to do some reading of Christian literature. I don't know about a lot of people, but I must admit this fills me a little with dread. I remember when I was 15 or 16 reading some Christian based books, at a time when my Mum was really ill and God felt very distant. I was reading those books for a little bit of guidance and encouragement. The tone of many of them was - the Lord will provide (how?); oh yeah of little faith, do not doubt the plans of the Lord etc - they just made me feel inadequate and that pretty much put me off.

One of the authors I was recommended is John Ortberg. Online, I had read reviews of his books and all the reviews seemed very good (but not happy-clappy). I borrowed "If you want to walk on water, you've got to get out of the boat". A bit of a long title, but never mind.

The premise of the book was everyone has a calling. It may be small (such as having a healthy relationship with your spouse) or big (like head of the UN). But, in order to reach that calling and reach out for God you have to get over whatever is holding you back. Like Peter during the storm, it was all about asking for a command to get out of the boat and walk on the water with Jesus.

What a great writer Ortberg is. He spoke in terms I understand and in a totally could relate to and understand. He likened the boat that Peter stepped out of to the fear that holds back everyone from stepping out in faith to follow God's path for them. Basically, their comfort zone. It may be fear of leaving a bad relationship in case you become lonely; fear of leaving a job in case you can't pay the mortgage; fear of trying in case you're mocked or aren't good enough. For me, I'd say my boat has been getting my calling totally wrong and the financial security I've finally achieved.

The other thing I really liked about Ortberg's style was he'd give examples from his own life when he didn't walk on water or tried to avoid it. I could relate to that and didn't feel he was a "prefect" Christian and I would feel there was no way I could live up to him.

I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone thinking what God's call is for them. It doesn't have all the answers, but is a great place to start. I found it reassuring - fear and doubt are all part of the calling. What I have felt (do feel) is normal - oh so unusual for me!!!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Killing 2 birds with 1 stone

As part of my co-ordinated field assessment I am to visit 4 or 5 other churches (other than my home or placement church) to get an idea of different worship styles etc. So, today I visited the new church in Bankfoot. I chose there as both my husband and I wanted to see the new building as its been built on very sustainable principles and is probably one of the most green building in Scotland.

On arrival, although a modern building, it was still obvious it was a church. There's a 3D celtic cross on the roof and crosses on the windows. There was a welcoming aura to the building. That said, there was a bit of a gaggle of people at the door. They didn't really welcome us or give us an order of service and let us know we didn't need a hymn book - that could have put a lot of people off.

The worship area has no pews (which would be awful in a new church), but comfy chairs and no hymn books or bibles - everything is on PowerPoint. There are 2 screens for PowerPoint type presentations integrated into the design, so everyone can see.

Today is the first Sunday in advent, so that was the theme - the hope of Christ's coming. The hope the prophets had that God would send a Messiah and the hope we have that Jesus will keep his promise to return. I must admit there was part of me thinking of the t-shirt that says "Look busy Jesus is coming".

The basic format of the service was pretty much the usual CofS service. The use of PowerPoint was good - not overkill, but appropriate (hymns, the bible readings and church notices).

During the children's address the minister didn't invite them to the front. This despite them all sitting scattered over the worship area. Thus, the talk was more a short sermon aimed at all, rather than a children's specific talk. The talk was good, but I think the children were less willing to answer the minister's questions whilst they were sitting beside their parents.

There were no bibles available during the service, but the readings were displayed on the screens. I can see the advantage with this, as the most appropriate translation can be used. I only saw 1 bible during the service. It was brought in at the start and placed on the communion table. This is something I hadn't seen in my home church as the bible stays in the worship area, but does happen at my placement church. I can understand the symbolism - the word of God brought into the church to be central to the act of worship. Personally, I think if a church is going to do that for the symbolism, they could at least open the bible. At Bankfoot, the bible was placed closed on the communion table and never opened - I didn't like that.

After the service, there were teas and coffees served. This seemed to be a very social occasion, with the majority of the worshipers staying. I know I sometimes I have gained more from the fellowship of the teas after the service than the sermon!

In terms of ages, there was a reasonable mix. There were around 15-20 children aged from a few months to about 13. There weren't many teenagers, though. This is a common problem in the CofS. The parents of the children were the next age group and almost all ages were present up to late 70s/early 80s. In total there were around 80 worshipers.This despite below freezing temperatures outside.

On balance, I did enjoy the service and if I lived locally would probably attend regularly. If I was in the area again, I would go back.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Why I love Christmas

I know I've stated in an earlier post (here) how much I hate Christmas, but that's only the commercial keeping up with the Jones' bit that I hate. The truth be told I love Christmas and here's why:

God - I AM - creator of all things. The being who set the universe in motion at the big bang; creator and overseer of all things. He chose to take human form but He didn't appear suddenly among us. He was born of Mary and human woman. And that (in my opinion) wasn't the most amazing thing about it. He could have chosen to be born from the wife of a King or Pharaoh. No, He was born the son of an unmarried couple, far from home in an enemy occupied country; there was on room in the inns, so the baby - God - had to be placed in a manger.

There was no fanfare. If He'd been born to a King, everyone in the country would have know about it. Shepherds - at the time not the most favourably looked on of professions - were the first to hear the Messiah was born. How amazing was that?

That's why I love Christmas. Because God became flesh and blood like you and me. He really know what His greatest treasure felt - our pain, joy, love, sorrow, passion - and through that could minister and preach in ways that ordinary people would understand and listen to.

Christmas is also amazing as it shows God keeps His promises. It was foretold God would send the Messiah to save His people from oppression. And He did. Through Jesus the prophecies of the Messiah's coming were fulfilled and, through His death on the cross and resurrection, He freed us from the oppression of our sins.

I love Christmas.

Friday, 28 November 2008


I had to fill out a form for the Church of Scotland called a Background Information form. How this will be used, I do not know, but it's done now.

One of the questions was what thing in your life do you regret the most. I'm lucky; I do not have one big regret. I know I have made some poor decisions and done some dubious things, but there's nothing that I truly regret.

But, that got me thinking about poor choices I've made. A few years ago, before I met my husband, I was very lonely. I couldn't see and phone my friends as often as I used to, for a variety of reasons. As a consequence, I said things that actually pushed them away further. Looking back, I think I was justifying their loss. It may have been a little like a bereavement, as crazy as that sounds.

For a while, I didn't hear from one of my closest friends (who was the one I pushed the furthest) for a very long time. Another kept in touch. I think she realised I was lonely and that I needed the support. Another walked away and I can’t say I blame her.

Fortunately, when my husband came into my life, he helped me grow and showed me I am worthy of friends and love. This allowed me to re-build my friendships I thought I had lost.
On reflection, though, I have never properly apologised to my friends for the way I treated them. I know they must have forgiven me, as in some ways we are closer. But everytime I am with them, a little bit in the back of my mind thinks of the hurt I caused them. I need to apologise and thank them for their support in order that I may finally forgive myself

Sunday, 23 November 2008


A friend of mine sent me this story. I don't know if it's true, but I really was touched by it. Looking back on my life so far, I see that's what God has given me - enough - love, friends, joy, pain to fully appreciate His world.
Recently I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments
together at the airport. They had announced the departure.
Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the mother said, 'I love you
and I wish you enough'.
The daughter replied, 'Mom, our life together has been more than enough. Your
love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Mom'.
They kissed and the daughter left.

The mother walked over to the window where
I was seated. Standing there I could see she wanted and needed to cry. I tried
not to intrude on her privacy but she welcomed me in by asking, 'Did you ever
say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?'.
Yes, I have,' I replied. 'Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever

'I am old and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality
is, the next trip back will be for my funeral,' she said.

'When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, 'I wish you enough'.
May I ask what that means?'.

She began to smile. 'That's a wish that has been handed down from other
generations. My parents used to say it to everyone'. She paused a moment and
looked up as if trying to remember it in detail and she smiled even more.
'When we said , 'I wish you enough', we were wanting the other person to
have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them'.

Then turning toward me, she shared the following as if she were reciting
it from memory:
I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day
may appear.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.
She then began to cry and walked away.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them
a day to love them but then an entire life to forget them.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Why I hate Christmas

I know that seems totally bizarre for someone exploring their call to ministry, but here's my bah humbug rant:
  1. The Christmas tunes.You know the stuff - Do you know it's Christmas?, I wish it could be Christmas every day, Last Christmas...the list goes on. I don't know of anyone who really likes them. Okay, I could handle them for about 1 or 2 weeks before the big day, but when some shops have been playing them since mid-October (I kid you not) - the less said about that the better. And why, oh why, oh why has there never been a new Christmas song since the mid-Eighties? Because we can't stand them!!!
  2. Food. Turkey with all the trimmings. Come on, can we have a little imagination here? Please? But it's traditional, I hear you cry. No it's not. Christmas as a holiday in Scotland is a very new thing. Only in the last 35 years have most businesses closed. We take New Year. Also, turkey is from North America. Goose is more traditional in Britain. I haven't had turkey for Christmas dinner for years (20+ at least) and I can think of very little I'd want less for Christmas. Even last year, I was ill (I do dinner for the family) so my husband do stovies and we postponed Christmas dinner until boxing day (it was venison wellington - made by my own fair hand).
  3. Christmas nights out. Why put yourself through it? I like having a night out with my friends like the best of us, but when the service is appalling; the food overpriced (and you have to settle your bill before you even get in the restaurant!); it's noisy and you can't get booked anywhere for your husband's birthday for it, unless he wants turkey. Then there's night out with people you work with. Okay, if you are friend with your colleagues, but you know you'll land up sitting next to the person you'd never normally acknowledge the presence of for the duration of dinner. Why not wait until after Christmas? Everything's cheaper and the staff are falling over themselves to help, as they need the money.
  4. Money. I was shocked to learn the average spend for Christmas this year (and were in the middle of a financial meltdown!) is expected to be £720!!! Down from £800 last year, you'll be pleased to know. I was even more taken aback when I established that was per adult, not household. How? I don't play into the argument of all the presents that have to be bought. I buy for those I love. I don't feel I have to buy for my boss. It's not I don't like them, but I wouldn't know them if I don't work where I work and wouldn't socialise with them. Right, so the money's to include nights out and outfits etc. How many nights out?! I know, you're thinking what about families with children? One big present between them (X Box etc) and a token thing for each of them, not 1 each. Why can't they share? The most content, sensible interesting children I know don't get very much and don't have any games consoles. Perhaps kids getting all the time is why they are perceived as selfish (not my experience, I hasten to add). Personally, I think there's a lot of parents who spoil their kids to make up for not being there. Here's an idea be there. Money doesn't make up for it.
  5. Silly clothes. I was in a major supermarket last night. Santa baby grows - it that for the child you hate. No, it doesn't look cute and they'll hate you for it when they're older.
  6. Visiting relatives. You never see them all year and for good reason, you can't stand the sight of each other. So why put yourself through it? Okay blood might be thicker than water, but you can choose your friends.
  7. Getting drunk. Why can't people in Scotland have a night out without getting drunk, especially at Christmas? Then they think it's okay to drive the morning after - just don't get me started on that one!
  8. Christmas lights. When did they start getting switched on in early November? Also, what about the people who be-deck their entire house with lights, snowmen and reindeer. There's nothing much more tacky IMHO.
  9. Christmas cards. I enjoy receiving them as much as the next person, but why do people send so many? I also get annoyed with people who only send a card once they've received one. They're definitely totally missing the point of the card and Christmas.
  10. Santa's Grottos. Okay, so you take your child to see Santa. You have to pay at least £3. This entitles you to stand in a queue for up to 3/4 of an hour for the privilege of your child (or children) spending 30 seconds if they are lucky with the big man. Then, as if to add insult to injury, they are given a tacky present of something they totally don't like, so you have to spend the rest of the day explaining why they aren't a bad girl or boy and why Santa has managed to get the gift so wrong.
Rant over. I'm glad I got that off my chest. I do like Christmas, honest. But the real Christmas, The celebration of our Lord and Saviour becoming incarnate.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

A bit more about me.

My placement church has a quarterly magazine. I have been asked to do a wee piece for it. You the kind of thing - where your from, interests, job etc. I asked my husband to ghost write it for me as I'm terrible at writing about myself and I knew he'd come up with something off the wall, but totally true. So, here it is:

Greetings, I’m Mrs Gerbil. I've been a visitor to this fine church since late September as I explore my call to ministry. I am employed as a Civil Servant but in the past have been a surveyor and can give explanations of ortho-linear rectification. I like reading, cooking and dogs, or a combination of the above. I own a unicycle. I can't juggle, but I can spin plates. Occasionally I light fires. I don't know the way to Amarillo, but I do know the way to San Jose, and I never shot the sheriff or the deputy. I once drove an old car from Kirkcaldy to Italy and back just to prove the car could manage it. On the way I explored an area 200 feet up Salisbury Cathedral for no other reason than Canterbury Cathedral was shut. I enjoy rock climbing and rock music, often at the same time.

In my spare time I devote my energies to the promotion of world peace. I have studied Latin and have taught myself to divide by zero. Ask me to tell you the difference between a buffalo and a bison. I am building a Tardis as it was too expensive to build a Delorean. I have taken part in church services wearing, amongst other vestments, the rear half of a pantomime cow costume as I danced to the tune of "wish me luck as you wave me good-bye." I have met a First Minister, Church Ministers, Moderators and an Archbishop. And they were all introduced to Bob the Bible.

And I couldn't make this up if I tried…

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Getting Serious now

Last night I had a meeting with my supervisor and the presbytery rep, in order that I could start the Co-ordinated Field Assessment. Basically, it was a form filling evening. There's a Field Assessment agreement we had to draw up. This sets out the aims and objectives (for want of a better phrase) for the next 6 months. Some are already on the form - all enquirers are expected do do them, such as participate and observe worship - and others were agreed following discussion - such as engaging with organisations associated with my placement church and meeting their leaders.

Even now, although I feel strongly this is the right course I am pursuing, I still am waiting for someone turning round and say nah, we don't think you should be a minister. That said, every minister I have spoken to says when they went to selection school (prior to this long process) and got the letter saying yes, we want you to become a minister, they were pretty surprised. I know God calls the most unlikely people and I definitely am one of those!

Tonight I have been doing some of the other paperwork I need to send off to church HQ (aka 121). One form is a background form. This asks questions such as "which person, event or place has had the most influence in your life so far?" and "What in life has brought you most regret?". Pretty probing, eh? The worst thing is, I really don't know what they are looking for, but I suppose that's the point...

If you were wondering, my answers to those questions were my Mum (she's hate me saying that) and nothing. I chose my Mum as so much of who I am and what I have done has been influenced by her. She is a single parent which was definitely not the done thing in the mid-70s. She did have a lot of support from her Mum and brothers, but ultimately it was her choice. As you can imagine, that had a big influence on how I was treated throughout my childhood, which in turn has made me the person I am today.

Also, when I was 3, I asked my Mum if I could go to church. She did (she had always wanted an excuse to go again). Luckily, the minister and congregation at the church she went to didn't judge her badly for being a single parent. In fact, the minister told her we all make mistakes, it is how we deal with them that matters. He was a brilliant man, as you may have gathered!

As for regrets - well, I've had a few, but too few to mention (!) - I said I didn't had 1 thing that I would change. Yes, there have been wrong decisions I have made, but I believe I won't be in the position I am in if I had never made wrong choices. The experiences I have as a result of those choices have also influenced me and have shaped me in a way which will allow me to serve God - everything happens for a reason, so it shouldn't be regretted, but learned from.

This stage in my enquiry fills me with excitement, trepidation, nervousness. With God's blessing I will grow and develop in my relationship with Him and everything else will fall into place.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Love Shared

One of the questions asked during the bible study was to think of someone you find hard to love. I thought of a person at work who seems very self-centred and opinionated. He is also a smoker and one day was mouthing off to me about someone complaining about him smoking. I am very anti-smoking. I lost a non-smoking great-uncle to lung cancer almost certainly caused through passive smoking. This did not endear me to him.

The next question in the bible study notes was how can you show love to this person. At the time, neither I nor the other bible studiers could come up with anything. The following day, at work, I felt pulled to ask him how his new daughter (2 months old) was doing and how her brothers (8 year old twins) were dealing with it. That was the answer - show love through compassion. Even those we find the most difficult to love can be reached out to through us showing compassion for them. After all, this is what Jesus would do.

Monday, 10 November 2008


Tonight my male minister re-started bible study at my home church. The passage was 1st John 4 7-16. Basically, this is all about those who know love knowing God, as God is love.

The resource we used is a Scripture Union booklet called Fruits of the Spirit. This has a series of questions based on the readings to help stimulate group discussion. As the group know each other quite well, we are comfortable talking about fairly personal stuff. My husband thought the session was pretty deep. The reading defines God as Love; those who know love know God; God's love knows no bounds as He even sacrificed His son to save us from ourselves.

Personally, I find this amazing, wonderful and awesome. I also think this is a major tenet of my relationship with God and therefore my faith. Yes, it is deep, but not nearly as deep as God's love for us.

I know I have never physically seen God, but I see Him all around me. In the smile of a child; the warmth of friendship; the standing up to injustice; when lovers hold hands. I also know the most important thing I can do is try to pass on God's love to those who don't know it. I pray that by my life, word, thoughts and actions others will see the deep joy and reassurance I have from God's love and will come to know it too.


Yesterday I attended the first Remembrance Sunday service outwith any of the home churches (two) I've had over the years. Also, my placement church is only 40 years old, so there is no war memorial at it; my home church has 4!

The general service was very like what I am used to and expected. No poppy wreath was brought in, which I thought a little strange. Although my home church has 4 memorials, the wreath is placed at the front of the church. I feel it gives a little bit of ceremony and focus to proceedings, but that's just me.

I firmly believe the act of remembrance is very important. Throughout school I wore my poppy with pride and was very much in the minority. I also remember the white pacifist poppy becoming popular in the early nineties. I felt at the time, and still do, that I can be a pacifist and still wear a poppy and remember the people who sacrificed their lives in order that we may enjoy the freedoms we have today.

At the time of the white poppy movement, there was a great debate going on as the whether the act of remembrance should still take place. It was 45+ years since the end of WWII and 70+ since the end of WWI. There were fewer and fewer survivors of those conflict still alive. Shouldn't we stop looking back to a time of war and look forward to a time of peace (this was also around the time of the iron curtain coming down)?

Despite those arguments, I still believed remembrance is an important part of moving to peace. We can reflect on why conflicts happen; commemorate the dead; support the survivors; try to stop things getting out of control...

In particular, I feel I must commemorate those who fought during WWII. I dread to think the type of country I would be living in (if I had been allowed to be born) if fascism had won. As much as I firmly believe war is never ideal, sometimes it is necessary to overcome a greater enemy. Ultimately, though, when we stop remembering those who died and what they fought for, history has a tendency to repeat itself.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

In Praise of Positivity and other musings on my call

On Sunday, I felt totally different about going to my placement church. Gone was the feeling of emptiness and wanting to be at my home church. I felt positive. I had a positive attitude - this is to be my church for the remainder of the enquiry process - I think that made a huge difference to how I reacted to the church in general.

If you've been following this blog, you'll know I've felt it wasn't as friendly as it appeared. I take that back. The people were welcoming to me on the door; the congregation in the nearby pews chatted with me; I saw members of the congregation helping others; the minister thanked me for my contribution to the service...the list goes on.

Now, I think as I wasn't being positive (and, I must admit, possibly prejudges against my placement church) that made me see the negatives. No church is perfect. There are going to be things I don't like (I still have serious problems with the door locking thing), but the essence of the church is a community. My placement church is a community; a family caring for and supporting each other. They are letting me into that family and I am beginning to feel very privileged by that.

In other news, I have been looking at some of the paperwork I'll have to fill in when I go into the next stage of the process - the Co-ordinated field assessment (who ever came up with that name needs shot). They are all colour coded for ease of confusion! This stage of the enquiry process seems more structured. There are definite things that I have to do - take part in worship, engage with the congregation, do some reflective reading and keep a journal (that'll be this blog, then).

Near the beginning of the co-ordinated field assessment I have to meet with the Presbytery representative and a personal development interviewer (a psychologist of sorts). As my husband brilliantly put it, "does that mean that if you want to be a minister, you need your head read". I'm not 100% clear on what will happen at those meetings, but I'll blog on them once they happen

I know presbytery is meeting tonight. Somehow I think I may be mentioned at some point. I had considered visiting as some point, to see what it's like (if I become a minister, I will have to attend), but the Moderator is one of my ministers, the presbytery clerk is a leader at the
youth club I also lead at and the depute clerk is a member of my church. Basically, the entire front row of presbytery knows me well. I'd feel I was being watched all night. That said, I'd probably try to make at least on of them laugh at some point during proceedings!!! (I'm such a mature grown-up!)

Today my husband and I were chatting about me becoming a minister. He keeps saying when, whereas I say if. He thinks I'll make a good minister (he's bias). I feel my call is true. I have been aware of it and ignoring (reflecting and arguing against it) for a few years now. I also know I have been through a lot of things in my life which have really challenged and tested my faith. No matter what those things have been, and how much I have argued and fought God over them, I have never turned away - I know during those times He carried me. I have always know things happen for a reason. I also know there are plenty of biblical references to people with the greatest faith being tested the most.

Reflecting on my life experience, I know think this is the right time for me to pursue this call. I have been tested and loved. I have pain and loss. I have gifts from God and love for and from Him. I know when He is with me and I am with Him I will not fail. I pray God is with me during this enquiry. I want to serve His people through His call. I pray through His call, I may show His love to all I encounter through this journey, where ever it may lead me.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Everything Happens for a Reason

I had another meeting with my supervisor last night. It's strange, I was going to bring up the doors being closed during the service, but he's such a nice guy, it just didn't seem right. Also, something in the back of my mind told me not to mention it.

I did bring up my concerns about my supervisor having his day-to-day ministerial duties, training of the reader and my enquiry. Primarily, I am concerned he's going to have a lot to do. He didn't seem bothered at all. The roles (and learning process) the reader and I have to go through are very different, so he didn't feel that we'd be an issue. If anything, he thought it would be a benefit, as we can start doing more in the church, taking the burden off him. So, looks like God wants me to stay at my placement. I just hope I can do His call justice.

I have discovered, though, that no minister in the neighbouring presbytery to mine is taking anyone going with the enquiry process, so my presbytery is taking them. To be fair, the neighbouring presbytery has a lot of vacant charges (churches with no minister), so there isn't enough capacity for enquirers.

My supervisor asked me again about how long I'd felt called. I wasn't sure if he'd forgotten, was checking my "story" is consistent or to get more out of me. I did expand a little, but after my meeting I realised I'd held something back. When I first properly heard a call, I was 4th or 5th year at school (16 or 17). As I'd had hints in the past (people telling me I'd make a good minister - at that age!), somehow I knew this was what I should be doing and, I suppose, a little bit of me realised I would, one day.

I didn't know who to tell. Becoming a minister isn't something anyone does lightly. Although my Mum would be proud (aren't they all), I didn’t want to worry her. Also, she was very ill at the time and that would have just added to her stress. I decided to tell my best friend at school. Partly due to the (I thought) closeness of our relationship and partly as her Dad's a minister, so I thought she'd be understanding and would keep it confidential. I was wrong. She told one of my Ranger Guiders (it was during one of the meetings I told her). I can't remember what the both said when they , as I saw it, confronted me about it, but they weren't encouraging at all. They pretty much made fun of my call and told me never in a million years would I make a good one.

Now I think that's part of the reason I have waited so long to acknowledge and pursue my call. On the other hand, I doubt I'd be able to have gone through with this procedure and be a decent minister without the life experiences I now have. Yes, everything really does happen for a reason.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


Tonight I'm all alone...boo hoo! My husband is attending a local Alpha course. Not as a leader, but participant. Although I don't mind in the slightest him going, I find it very odd.

He does church with me and believes in the trinity of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. So, I don't quite know what he's going to get out of it. He said he's seen lots of information about Alpha for a while and it felt as though "someone" was giving him a hint. What that hint is, he doesn't know, but he though he'd better go and find out. Sounds a bit like my ministry call.

Hopefully we'll both be less confused why he had to go after tonight...

Thursday, 23 October 2008

If you can't be with the one you love; love the one your with.

I think the title of this post will become my philosophy for the remainder of my exploration. I can't be with my home church, so I must love the church (in the very local sense) of my placement.

I'm sure, even more now, that these issues I am having are all part of the exploration of my call. If I am not challenged and don't experience different styles of worship, I will never grow; I will never work out if ministry really is my call. I know that if I trust in the Lord, all will be revealed. Sometimes, though, I wish He'd make it a lot easier to work out, but don't we all?

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Torn between Two Lovers

I have to do this exploration at a church other than my own. Why, I'm not entirely clear on, but I suspect it's to give an unbiased assessment of my call.

The ministers and members of my home church know me very well and that is a double edged sword. However, the more I'm at my placement church, the more I miss my home church. It's not just the familiarity, but the true fellowship, that I feel lacking at my placement.

The call to ministry is very strong and, even at this early stage of exploration, lifts. But, I'm at my placement church not through a call, but necessity. Okay, it is part of the exploration, but (I'm using a lot of buts, don't you think) there's no choice. That seems to be the church in the presbytery where those exploring their call to ministry go.

I have some concerns about going onto my co-ordinated field assessment at my current placement church. Primarily, the ministry also has a trainee reader doing a placement with him. I can't work out how the minister there can do his parochial, preaching and ministerial duties while giving both the trainee reader and me the time we need. Also, if he doesn't give me feedback quickly for the things I've done in a service (see week four), I can't learn.

I just feel this placement might not allow me to explore my call fully and demonstrate to my supervisor and the presbytery rep that I am call to ministry in the Church of Scotland.

I will bring up my concerns about both the reader and me being with my supervisor at my next meeting, but I think I'll keep some of my other thoughts to myself. I am going to have a discussion about locking doors during the service, though!

My husband did point out that the "issues" I'm having with my placement could be part of the call. I think he's right as it's letting me think about the type of minister I want to be and the type of church I'd want to serve.

I called this blog entry Torn between Two Lovers as I have to be at my placement (a bit like an unfulfilled marriage), but want to be at my home church although I know that's not possible at the moment. I pray, with God's grace and support His plan during this period will become clearer.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Knock and the door won't be open unto you

As I said in last weeks post, there's something about my placement church I can't put my finger on. Like they go through the motions of Christianity, without the personal relationship which changes how you treat the world and others.

I had forgotten to mention my husband was locked-out a couple of weeks ago. My home church were having their Harvest Thanksgiving service. At it local produce (whether home made or bought) is donated. It's then sold after the service in aid of a nominated charity. I had a couple of jars of chutney to get to them, so my husband dropped them off and came to meet me at my placement church.

Meanwhile, at the placement church I'm sitting there thinking where is he. We'd both traveled on our bikes, so I was starting to think he'd had an accident. Unbeknown to me, he was outside trying to get in.

He was only let in when a member of the baptismal party wanted to leave early as their child was crying. A member of the congregation let her out and found my husband outside.

Their excuse for locking the door was there used to be trouble with items being stolen. Okay, I can understand wanting to tackle the thefts, but is locking a church during the service really the way ahead? To me, that send out the signal that you can only worship if you're on time. I didn't think God worked that way.

Also, I wonder if there's ever been anyone who's felt they really want to go to church immediately (for whatever reason). They want God's forgiveness, grace and presence and feel that being in church is the best (or only) way to be in church. They make the effort, which may be very difficult for them - they have not been to church for a very long time; they live a life of sin (don't we all); they feel inadequate - whatever the reason, they have come. But the church is locked to them. Does that mean the things they want from God are also locked out? I know if I was in that position, that's probably exactly what I'd think.

I know at my home church at least twice someone has come to church very late in the service. Both were homeless and felt something tell them they would find shelter in my church. They did. Through various contacts the church found them some temporary accommodation. We also gave them contacts for finding jobs, getting benefits etc.

About 6 months after one of those people came to my church, they returned. They had a council flat, a job and a local church they attended regularly. They came back to say thank you. The door being open to him had turned his life around. He has just been released from prison and the temporary accommodation had ended. He'd slept rough the night before. He even said himself he was very close to re-offending to get money and accommodation; no-one wanted to give him a chance. The door being unlocked gave him the opportunity to turn away from his old lifestyle for good. God really was in action.

There are ways of letting people in and still protecting property, but at the end of the day you never know when having the door unlocked can allow God in. As Jesus said, "when you help the least of these, you did it for me". I wonder how many times someone has gone to my placement church to be turned away?

As you will have worked out, I feel very strongly about this. I'm going to discuss it with my supervisor at our next meeting. If I get the arguments my husband got, I'll just ask "What would Jesus do - he came for the outcast and sinner, didn't he?". I think it might be interesting the reaction I receive.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Week Four

Yesterday, I did my first children's address at my placement church and must admit I was a little nervous. Yes, I've done a few at my home church, but I know the children and they know me. On the other hand, I chose an address I'd used before in a variety of situations (youth club with 60 P7s being 1) and it had always gone down well with both the kids and grown-ups.

It didn't go too well, but not awful either. It was very difficult getting anything out of the children. I know they don't know me and at my home church the children are quiet with a visiting minister, but this lot barely speak - even to the "normal" minister (my supervisor). I don't know, but I have the impression they aren't used to very interactive children's addresses and are expected to "sit there and be quiet. I suppose I'm used to children that aren't afraid to speak. I'll have to work on them. They'll come round.

I was a little disappointed that my supervisor didn't discuss the address with me. He's going on holiday, so or next meeting isn't for over 2 weeks. A little late for constructive criticism. Also, he did kind of thank me, but in a sort of half shout across a hall. He may have thought I was leaving (I was only nipping to the loo), but he could have come across to speak to me. I'm not sure if I'll bring that up at our meeting or let it drop. Possibly let it drop.

During my last 3 Sundays, there has been something I've thought odd about my placement church, but couldn't put my finger on it. Everyone is welcoming etc, but there's something missing. Yesterday, I think I worked out the little things that make a difference.

  1. I've been trying to sit in a different area of the church every week, so I can "get to know" a variety of people. I'd got there early yesterday, so no-one was near where I was sitting when I took my pew. A woman sat behind me and only acknowledged my presence when I said Good Morning to her. I tried to make a little small talk (nice weather type of thing), but it was pretty clear she didn't want to talk. Fair enough, I don't know her, so there could have been something in her life that meant she didn't want to do small talk. Then her friend sat beside her and they chatted like no-one's business. Some of their chat was "examining" the worthiness of people locally.
  2. As I was leaving the worship area after the service, I noticed a lady struggling with a glass of water, her hymn books, walking stick and handbag. About 5 people had walked past her struggling and not one of them offered help. I asked if she wanted some help and she was really pleased of the assistance.
  3. Two members received long service certificates during the service. I think I talked to those ladies more than the minister or most of the congregation afterwards.
  4. There are teas and coffees after the service and the minister and family always sit at the same table. No-one else will sit at that table until they are there. Very strange and I don't like it. I will bring that up at my next meeting, but will have to find a diplomatic way of putting it...

As you can see, there's a few things that don't seem right. There's outward friendliness, but no notice of people needing help. I know I notice things other people don't, but not offering someone help with their stuff when they are obviously struggling is bang out of order, if you ask me.

I had said to my husband that I thought my placement church need shaken-up, but I didn't realise how much. I wonder how much of an impact I can have on their attitudes in 7 months? Watch this space...

Monday, 29 September 2008

Small world

They say anyone can connect with anyone else in the world through no more than 7 other people - 7 degrees of separation. I've found at my placement church I don't need nearly as many degrees to make connections with some of the members there:

The minister is the son of my husband's former minister.
The depute session clerk and his wife are Scout leaders and I used to be a cub leader.
On of the members is a former colleague of mine.

Given yesterday was only my second Sunday with my placement church, I don't think that's bad going in establishing connections. It'll be even more interesting when I go to the next stage of this enquiry process - the Co-ordinated field assessment (I know, sounds like a management buzz phrase). I have to liaise with both my supervisor and a representative from presbytery. The minister who is the presbytery rep did her probation (the final bit of training for the ministry before ordination) with my home church. I'm starting to feel I know everyone!!!

Hopefully, familiarity has not bred contempt and people don't assume things about me on the basis of the little I know. Interestingly, the member who I used to work with was really pleased with why I was at his church. I worked as a Land Surveyor with him, so not the type of job you'd expect to glean an insight into a persons ministry potential. At least I must have left a good impression on him, especially as I hadn't worked with him for eight years!

I have a meeting with my supervisor on Thursday. I'm not sure what for, as we've already discussed my role in the services for the next couple of weeks. I shall see what the meeting brings.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Coffee Mornings

This morning I was at my home church, helping with a coffee morning in aid of Riders for Health, the charity the young church is raising money for this year. Anyway, there were a few of the leaders, the ministers and some of the children there helping. This was also the first time I'd been at my church since telling them I was going on placement.

During the course of the morning, I got the impression the leaders were up to something. One of them came up to me and said "We're having to go to the young church cupboard". The tone was "and you're not to come". Now, if nothing had been said, I'd have thought nothing of it. They're getting something to prepare for tomorrow's lesson. Coming out with a line like that just rouses my suspicions. Also, the same leader went up to my female minister and (I can lip-read a bit) said "sign Mrs Gerbil's card". The minister made eye contact with me and the leader then moved round to block my view of proceedings!!! I had to pretend I was going to the toilet, as I needed to go somewhere for a good laugh. As my husband would put it, (and apparently did, to their faces) they were as subtle as a kick in the nuts!

I don't like a fuss, so they gave me a small gift in the kitchen, where I was on my own (thankfully). Unfortunately, I don't know the full contents of the gift, as we'd taken our motorbikes to the church and didn't have enough room to bring it home. My husband will get it tomorrow.

Touchingly, two of the young church came to give me the present. That's what I do these hings for, the appreciation of the children. I did tell them I wasn't away yet, but they told me they wanted to give me their good wishes.

This is where exploring my call is going to be toughest and I suppose a reason why I've run away from it for so long. I love the children (and the grown-ups too) of my home church. I feel I'm letting them down by not being there. Not being able to help them grow, learn about God and discuss trains and lego (amongst many other things). I know if this is part of God's plan for me, and I am called be a minister, He will also provide them with another leader who will lead them on the next part of their journey with Him. I hope I will remain in contact with a few of them, as I also regard their parents as good friends.

Getting back to more mundane things, though, the coffee morning raised just under £200. This sets the project well on target to raising enough money for a motorbike, training and tools for a health care worker and mechanic. You can learn more about Riders by clicking here, or on the Riders for Health at the start of this post.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

20(ish) thing you've always wanted to ask a minister

Following on from Monday's post, this is the list if questions I cam up with. Some were silly, some serious and some I knew the answer already. All of them were to discover the type of minister my supervisor is and to see it I'd be able to work with them over the new few months.

Why is the dog collar worn?
Historically - don't know. Now, a sort of uniform.
Can auxiliary Ministers take the sacraments?
Why can only Ministers perform the sacraments?
What sets a reader apart from someone else who may lead worship?
They've undergone selection and are officially set apart as a reader.
How, apart from performing the sacraments, does the role of Deacon differ from Minister?
They don't "lead" the congregation and are support for both the minister and the parish.
How do you deal with strained silence when asked what you do for a living by someone who's just met you?
Doesn't happen very often, as most people know what I do
When first following your call, how did those around you react?
Not that surprised, as I'm the son-of-the-manse. Some friends did drift away, though.
Who ministers to the ministers?
Officially, no-one. Unofficially; their family, friends and congregation
Should creationism be taught in science classes?
What do you say to people that ask "If your God is so loving and powerful, why does He let so many bad things happen"?
God gave people free-will.
How do you get the local parish to care about the church?
Make it a hub for the community - it's where guides, scouts, mothers and toddlers etc meet.
How do explain ministry isn't a choice, but a call?
You can't, but with free-will, it can be ignored.
How do you deal with a congregation which will not be involved in services, outreach work etc- they are quite happy to sit and let the minister do everything?
Work on them and chip away over the years.
Do you get time off for good behaviour?
How does ministry affect your relationships?
It's harder to stay in touch with friends, as ministry is very tying at weekends and evenings, but other relationships come from it.
How do you ensure you have time for yourself, interests, friends and family?
Have an answering machine. Make sure the office is "closed" sometimes.
How do you restore your soul, especially after a bad day?
Spending time with family and friends.
What's your take on people who say Harry Potter is the work of Satan?

The bold is my questions; plain text the synopsis of my supervisor's answers. I like his attitude and know I'll be able to work well with him now.

Monday, 22 September 2008

The "Big" Questions

For discussion, I'd complied a list of 20(ish) questions I'd always wanted to ask a minister, but was afraid to ask. That was the title of the list. Anyone who knows me knows I've never been afraid to ask.

This lead to an interesting discussion tonight about ministry, in it's various guises, up to and including the ministry of word and sacrament (to use the full Church of Scotland phraseology). I'll publish the list at a later date, with my views. From this discussion I see even more clearly that I do know what I'm letting myself in for and just how rewarding and challenging a call it is. I fel very lucky to be working with the supervisor I have, as it seems to be developing into a give and take relationship already.

I'm also feeling very privileged that God wants me (yes, me!!!!!) to minister to his people for Him. The more I reach out to this call, the more it fits. I pray I can serve the Lord in the way he wishes me to.

Over the next couple of weeks, I'm doing a prayer and leading the children's address. Personally, I think children's addresses are the hardest thing to do in a service. You've to sum up the theme for the service to children aged 2-15 and this is the bit that most of the grown-ups are really paying attention. Get this right, you've won over everyone. Get it wrong and you've lost everyone. Also, you have to be prepare for children asking the "big" questions. My main concern if they'll be very quiet, for the new girl!

I have impressed my supervisor's sons, though. I turned my on my motorbike tonight and let them try on my helmet. Hopefully word will get round their junior church and the other children will be relaxed with me fairly soon. I think, if you win the children, everything else is a little easier. I hope my theory proves to be correct!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

The First Sunday

Today was my first day at my placement church. The main thing was I got there without getting lost!

I arrived fairly early, to make sure my supervisor wouldn't panic and to get changed from my biker trousers into jeans. It gets really hot. My supervisor, to be fair, did say that it didn't matter what I wore. I'll remember that when it's cold!

I did the readings (at least there was a reason for me to be there). Not many comments on them, other than 1 guy saying "aye, you did a'right wi' the readings lass". I took that as a complement.

Everyone at my placement church seemed really welcoming and friendly. After the service, there was a soup and pudding lunch, so that gave me the chance to chat to some of the members (a couple of whom I know though my former life as a cub scouter) and to my supervisor and his wife. My husband came up to join us for that. He's currently asking every ministers' spouse what the impact is for them. Personally, I think it's easier for a husband than a wife. Wives are traditionally expected to help with the Guild and Sunday School. Husbands weren't traditionally the spouses of ministers, so there isn't a "traditional" role for them. Probably not a bad thing.

Today there was also an induction in my home church. My minister's husband is also a minister, but in the 8 years they've been at our church he's been the house-husband; looking after their sons. Now the boys are all at school, it was natural he found something ministerial to do. My home church is also a linked charge - 2 churches, 2 lots of ministerial work. To cut a long story short, today was the induction of my minister and her husband as the joint ministers of the 2 churches. They're now both part-time. Most people think it's great. My "original" minister gets more time for herself and to spend with her sons and my "new" minister gets to use his calling.

Before the service, I managed to tell in person the individual I wanted to tell last week about my calling. I went up to her and said "I've something to tell you". Smiling, she replied "You're going to have a baby". "No, unless you know something I don't!" I then told her I wouldn't be at my home church very often as I feel called to ministry and that was part of the process to explore my call. To say she was thrilled was an understatement. She's a wonderful lady and has always been very interested with what I'm up to. I told her my husband would keep her up-to-date.

The service was good humoured, despite the formality of the occasion. After the service, there was refreshments. One of my home church's members came up to me and said "I've heard your news, that's brilliant. If you hurry up, you can bury me". Brilliant! So, I now have a booking!!! I did also point out to her that anyone can preside over a funeral.

I went to my female minister to offer my congratulations. She gave me a knowing look of "it'll be you one day". I told her about my "booking"; she laughed.

So far, everything is very positive. Even my husband is excited about what I'm up to and thinks I'll be good at ministry. As long as God is with me, I'm sure I can do anything he calls me to do.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Coming out

As yesterday was the last Sunday I'd be at my home church for a few months, I knew I'd have to come out. Both my minister and husband had told me that I'd have to at least tell the other young church leaders.

I decided to go the whole hog and tell the whole of the young church (if you hadn't worked it out, I'm a young church leader at my home church). I firmly believe you tell children the truth and definitely don't BS them. I remember how much it bugged me when I was a kid. Besides, if I didn't tell them the truth, it would put those I had told in a terrible position and the children would worry I was ill (or worse).

I simply told them I wasn't going to be around very often for a while as I felt I was supposed to be a minister and would be visiting another church to see if this was right. One of the children asked if I wanted to do that. I told them that I felt it was part of God's plan for me. That was about all the children said. I was really worried about telling them, in case they either thought I was being really funny (they know my strange sense of humour), or did the children's equivalent of "WTF, you a minister, you must be joking".

I know tt's quite a big thing for them to take in. Fortunately, my husband will be around to answer some of their questions and keep them up-to-date with how I am. Also, I've assured the superintendent (chief leader) of the young church that I will research ideas for them.

I also mentioned to one other person in the church in person. She's a little older (not necessarily more mature) than the young church. She wasn't fully listening at the time (there were about 3 conversations going on at the one time). A little later on, she came to me and asked "Were you saying you were considering entering the ministry?". I told her yes and she said "That's great news". Coming from her, I don't think she knows how important that was to me.

There was one other person I wanted to tell in person, but they were either not at church or I just missed them. My husband was going to come to my placement church for moral support and to introduce himself, but I've asked him to tell this person. I didn't have to ask him twice as I know she'll be thrilled. She get excited enough when I do something really simple in church.

I think next Sunday's going to be pretty intensive for my husband, as a lot of people will be asking about this. My Mum will also be at my home church. She can't go every week as she works in an old folks home. In some respects, I think she'll need my husband next week more than I will, as she doesn't know as much as he does and will be getting bombarded with questions. I hope everyone at my home church doesn't go overboard. I hate a fuss and they should know that by now!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

The first meeting

I met up with the minister who will be my co-ordinator for at least the next 8 weeks for my extended enquiry on Thursday. He was really friendly and put me totally at my ease, which was handy as I was quite nervous; not so much about meeting him, but the implications of the meeting.

We discussed some of our backgrounds. He's a son of the Manse (a Manse is a Scottish word for the house that a minister lives in), so I would have thought that would have put him off for life. We also discussed what would happen during this part of the enquiry process. We also discussed things I could attend, help out with etc.

Personally, I think this part is really vague (it must last at least 8 weeks, but can continue for up to 6 months). I also very much get the impression this part of the process is aimed at people exploring their call who really have absolutely no idea what a minister does, except 1 service a week on a Sunday. I think if it was that easy, there would be people applying to be ministers right, left and centre. I've never been that naive, even when I was a child. As I said to my co-ordinator, Sunday's will often be a minister's quieter day! He agreed.

So, giving I'm pretty sure I know what I'm letting myself in for (which has been backed up by my minister - she knows that I know how busy she is), I'm treating this part of the process as partly tick box, as I have to do it, and partly an opportunity to get to know the people and organisations of the church my placement is with.

I start my extended enquiry next Sunday and my co-ordinator is warning the congregation I'll be turning up today. Ill be doing the reading there. I could have done nothing, but I'd rather do something, as that gives me (and the congregation) an opening.

There's a couple of people in my church who know I am taking part in this process. As today will be the last Sunday I can go to my church for a while (as least regularly), I need to let word trickle out a bit. I am one of the young church leaders and I think the most important people I need to tell are the members of the young church. They will wonder where I am. Besides, I remember I used to hate it when I was a child and knew something important was happening, but grown-ups wouldn't tell you. Ever since then, I've always tried to answer children's questions and tell them the truth, if I can. I have to admit, telling them will probably be the hardest thing I've had to do so far, in this process.

I'm also a biker. I regularly turn up at my church either in my bike or on the back of my husband's bike. I haven't warned my co-ordinator about this, yet. I prefer to see people's reaction when they don't know me especially. I like to challenge stereotypes and get people thinking about their prejudges. Hopefully, if and when I turn up at my placement church on my motorbike, I don't get too much negativity. I will keep you posted about how it all went.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The Process

In order to discover if I am really "called" to be a minister in the Church of Scotland, there is an Enquirers' process I have to go through.

So far, I have attended an Enquirers' Conference in Dundee. This lasted 24 hours, from a Friday late afternoon. There were about 100 enquirers and during the time we attended talks and semiars about the various jobs within the Church of Scotland; from full-time ordained Ministry to care worker in one of the Crossreach's (the social care provider branch of the Church of Scotland) care homes for the elderly. There are many ways to serve God, not just through ordained Ministry.

We also had some (not a lot) social time, where we could discuss our feelings with other enquirers. From my perspective, that was the most rewarded part of the event, as I realised I felt the same as many of the other enquirers who felt they are called to ordained Ministry - fear, excitement, nervousness, denial, "why me" etc. What a relief, I wasn't alone!

At the end of the Enquirers' Conference we were given details of the rest of the enquiry process, for those of us who wanted to become either ministers, deacons or readers. Firstly, we have a period of extended enquiry, for usually around 6-8 weeks, but it can be as long as 6 months. This, I think, is to let us see what we're letting ourselves in for like I don't know). On completion of this, we can then enter a field assessment, which last 6 months. I'm not entirely sure what this involves, but I will be working with a minister (or minister) and doing services, pastoral work etc. Pretty much showing my potential to minister.

If my co-ordinator is happy with me at the end of the field assessment, I can then attend selection school, where my call will be tested to the limit (I'd imagine) during another 24 (I think) assessment. If that goes well, I would be selected as a suitable candidate to become a minister within the Church of Scotland.

If that is my call, and I am selected, I would have to go to university to study theology or divinity. While studying, I would also have some placements with churches to learn the non-academic part of the role. After uni, I would then have a 15 month placement with a church to learn all the part of the role, including the legal things, such as weddings. At least I'm aware the role of a minister is a lot more than 1 hour a week on a Sunday. I think many people don't realise that.

As you can see, there's quite a lot. I have a meeting with a minister who will be my co-ordinator on Thursday for my extended enquiry and will, hopefully, know more what's going on after that!!!