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 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...