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.