Tuesday, 29 December 2009

How long to stay?

My placement began when I mae contact with my assessor. That was back at the beginning of July, so my 6 months are up on Satuarday. So, in theory, I am back at my home church as of Sunday.

I supposed I could just sneak away. I'm not one for a fuss or stuff like that anyway, but I've built up good relations with many in the congregation and it would seem rude not to say goodbye. Also, what is the social norm?

I'll definitely be in touch with my placement church - a week on Thursday I have my local review and, naturally, my local assessor will be there. Once I hear the outcome of that, I'll let the congregation know.

There's nothing to stop me visiting. I know that. But, if I am selected as a candidate for ministry, I will have to get used to constantly moving on. Building up new relationships, getting used to new customs and practices. Whatever happens, at least God will be going ahead of me, preparing the way for me.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Quick discussion

I had a quick meeting with my assessor just after morning worship. She was a little concerned about a line in my PDI report. The interviewer had written "Because she is so intelligent and can often see clearly where she wishes to lead the group - how can she achieve this without conflict!"(Punctuation is the interviewer's).

I must admit, that was the one line in the report where I thought, hang on, where did that come from? Most of the interview I thought I showed little experience of leading groups, as I do have little experience of this.

My assessor brought it to my attention so I could think about how to respond if that line is picked up on at my local review. I was glad she did - at least I won't be too thrown if one does. It also shows how much she thinks of me, which is very humbling.

I don't want to focus on this too much, but just need to keep this in mind. I'd hate to have started to mature and grow in ways I never envisioned, following God's call for me, and let this get in the way of following the path He has prepared ahead of me.

Updated

I'd been looking over my answer to John's challenge to describe the bible in 5 statements. I wasn't happy with the statements, so I've edited it. The updated version can be found here.

Friday, 25 December 2009

A child is born

Merry Christmas to everyone. May the Lord Jesus Christ be born in you afresh this Christmas.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Skiving work!

The snow has resulted in my hubbie and I taking the day off work. When finding the front path is a problem, we don't go to work. It's not as though our work is of the essential kind.

Our office only closes for the public holidays and my hubbie and I would rather have holidays when there's more interesting things to do! I normally take Christmas eve off, so I can have a long lie (usually 'till 7:30 - far out or what!!!), prepare Christmas dinner and get things ready for Christmas in the Gerbil household. Given the unexpected day off, I've now done my Christmas eve duties. At least today's been productive.

As for tomorrow, I'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.

The bible in 5 statements

John has challenged me to:

"Summarise the Bible in five statements, the first one word long, the second two, the third three, the fourth four and the last five words long. Or possibly you could do this in descending order. Tag five people."

So, here goes...

In the beginning was God
God loved all creation
Creation turned away
Jesus Christ
Saved

I tag:

Danny
Nik
Wanderer
Anne Droid
Crabbit Besom

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Nearly finished

Last night I spent the evening filling in the applicant's report form for the end of the co-ordinated field assessment. I've been at this placement since early July, so the new year will also be an end of it too.

I was surprised how long filling in the form took me - 2.5-3 hours - but I have done and learnt so much during this time with my assessor. I actually feel I could have written more, but it was perhaps getting excessive as it was!

Now, I'll wait and see what my PDI and local assessor's reports say. Hopefully, I don't disagree with then too much, particularly my assessor.

I'm much more aware of where I am, with my call and my self, following this placement. I've also been much more reflective and open to learning than I was at my last placement, though my assessor there didn't make that easy - late or no feedback, irregular meetings etc. That said, I was probably breezing through, not really engaging with the process and he was ill too.

I'm be sad to leave my current placement, but I know I'll have to get used to this if I'm accepted for training. I also know it's going to be stage going back to my home church and just sitting in the pews, though I think I'll make the most of it while I still can!

I may be nearly finished this part of my journey, but God alone knows where the rest of my journey will lead.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Slow down - breathe

I lead the whole of worship this morning and, to be frank, I was wetting myself. Really wetting myself. While I have lead the whole of a service of worship before, that was at my home church. Although I was nervous there, I wasn't nearly as nervous as today. Yes, I have built up good relationships with many in the congregation, but I'm not as comfortable as I am at home.

Overall, I feel my delivery was good. I know I have a clear voice and ever those with hearing difficulties can hear me well. The service came together quite well, though I'm sure I could have selected more appropriate hymns and probably cut down the readings. I followed the lectionary and used the whole of 3 of the readings for today. On reflection, the first reading was too long. I needed to only use the part of that scripture I then talked about in my sermon.

I know I was more nervous during the second service as in the second from front row there was my hubbie, Mum, mother- and sister-in-law. It was great to have their support, but it still made me nervous.

My placement church has a rota of people who lead the bible readings. At the second service the person doing this managed to jump onto another part of the page, just after finishing the passage. I did notice and gently whispered in her ear. After the service I thanked her for the readings and told her not to worry about it. Not many people where following the readings and no-one else would notice.

My sermon seemed to go down well. I had a couple of jokes in it and they both, thankfully, got a laugh. I have timed my sermon to 13-14 minutes. During the second service I apparently had it done with in under 11! This despite the little voice at the back of my head saying "slow down - breathe". That's something I can learn from and, as I get more practice, become more aware and confident in.

And, do you think I could pronounce Zephaniah? Normally, I can pronounce it no problem. Not today. No. When I got to that in my sermon (5 times - I changed them when I could during the sermon, so I didn't have to say it as often!) I just couldn't get my mouth to do what my brain told it to do! Again, I think this comes back to I need to relax, slow down and breathe.

After the service many people thanked me for a good service. While I know that's not particularly constructive, I still feel it's nice they bothered. In my experience, if people dislike what's been said they usually don't comment at all.

Again, there's much to learn and ponder over on the back of today's services. The main thing I need to remember, though, is I have much more time than I think I do, so I need to take it.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Sunday coming

As I mentioned here, I'm leading the whole service on Sunday. Everything, bar the children's address, is prepared. I let my assessor have a look at my early drafts for advice/feedback and have taken her advice on board. There wasn't much which needed changed - I'd even made some changes along the lines of the ones she suggested prior to her getting back to me. The biggest changes I made were to my opening prayer, which was far too "wordy". My assessor didn't think it needed changed, but when I re-read it I thought, that just doesn't sound like me at all.

I hope the service comes together okay and I get God's message of love to the congregation.

Now, I've to wrap empty boxes for the children's address.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Third pre-delivery inspection

I had my third PDI yesterday. Officially it's called a personal development interview, but given the letters are the same as the letter for a pre-delivery inspection on a new car, my hubbie (and now I) refer to it as such. In some ways, I suppose it is - a mental inspection before the local review. But, that's neither here nor there...

The interviewer was the same as my last 2 PDIs. So at least I knew the person I was going to see, if not the questions he'd put to me. Firstly he asked why I'd had an extension on my placement.

I told him it was as I'd not had a chance to look at some aspects of ministry and to show my last assessor how I'd learnt from various issues which had come to light at my last placement. Given my current placement is a full 6 month one and at a new place, it has been being treated by my new assessor as a clean slate, so to speak.

My PDI interviewer asked how I dealt with criticism. I gave an example which he said could be regarded more as my assessor teaching me. Although that is partly true, I told the PDI interviewer how I view all feedback - either positive or negative - as criticism. I listen to it and, most of the time, use that feedback for the next time I'm in a similar situation. If there's something which has been pointed out to me that I don't agree with the other person's stand point I'll explain why I've done something a certain way. I'm not sure ff that was the answer either ministries council, my local review team etc will like, but it was honest.

My interviewer asked how I dealt with conflict. Unfortunately, that hasn't been something I've had to deal with in my current placement and I recall was something which my last local review stated I needed to look at. I did say I've had situations at work where a group of my colleagues have been discussing a big news item. Although I agreed the crime was appalling I thought the full condemnation of the criminal was excessive. I suggested to my colleagues to think about possibly why the criminal would be like that. My interviewer liked the idea of me using the example of getting people to look at situations from others' prospectives.

I was also asked what style of decision making I would have in ministry. Autocratic of democratic? Democratic. Getting as many people, from the congregation (and wider community), as possible on board strikes me as the best way to go. I did say I was aware sometimes I would have to make decision which may be unpopular with everyone. That said, I would still try to get as many people as possible on board and, hopefully, they would see why the difficult decision had to be made.

So, I wait to see what my latest PDI report says. Perhaps I'm being negative, but I don't think it's going to be as favourable as my last one! Oh well, if God's really calling me, I'll get exactly what I need.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Nerves

I'm leading the whole service on Sunday coming. It's all prepared, though I do need to go over it and maybe change it a touch. All the key ingredients are there. I just need, as my assessor puts it, to let it "stew down". Make the ingredients palatable, so to speak.

No, that's not why I'm nervous. So far, my mother and hubbie are coming to the service. As is possibly my mother-in-law. Then, if my mother-in-law comes, my sister-in-law and her hubbie might come too. At this point I'd like to state my mother- and sister-in-law are regular church goers. Every Christmas eve you'll find them at a watchnight service!

So, no pressure, then!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

What's love got to do with it?

As the hymn says "He came down that we may have love", yet in the run up to Christmas - the day we celebrate that love made flesh in Jesus - I don't see that much love. I see buying for the sake of buying, drinking for the sake of drinking. And, if you don't go along with it, if you don't buy (pardon the pun) into this consumer spend, spend, spend mentality you're either a bah-humbug person or terribly, terribly religious. I have had both reactions from my colleagues recently.

I posting my rants about why I both love and hate Christmas (here and here). Over on Nik's blog she's posted a video which pretty much sums up my thoughts and, I'm sure, many Christians at the moment.

I pray love will be at the centre of all celebrations this year. Maybe one day...

Monday, 30 November 2009

Random thoughts from yesterday

Yesterday was, from my prospective, quite an interesting day in terms of what I did and observed and others reactions to me.

One of the ladies I visited the other week was at my placement church. It was great to see her, but that wasn't why seeing her was special - no, it was her genuinely being pleased to see me. We hugged (which isn't like me at all) and, although not much more than the pleasantries were exchanged verbally, much more went on in our exchange which could be put into words.

During the service I was leading the children's address. It was pretty much me telling a story and linking it to the message - bad things happen that can't be explained, but whatever is happening in your life try to do good things. I wasn't sure how well it had went down as it was quite a "big" topic and pretty deep theology even for me (because I'm just soo experienced!). I knew my delivery was okay, but I wasn't too sure how it had gone, in terms of the message. After the service 2 people commented how much they'd enjoyed my address. That gave me a real lift and reassured me I was on the right track.

After the service I had a brief meeting with my assessor to go over my order of service. She told me the themes for Advent and apologised for not giving me them before - I told her I should have asked. She gave me some advice for the children's hymn. It's one I'm not familiar with, but the children at my placement church apparently really like it and, given the words, it ties in with the theme of my children's address. On the back of the meeting I've changed a couple of the hymns and chosen a couple of backups, in case.

My placement church holds an annual bereavement service and that was yesterday afternoon. All families and friends of those of the church and parish which my assessor has conducted their funeral service over the last year are invited. It's a short service with 3 hymns, a couple of readings, prayers and a reflection. During the service the bereaved are invited to place a tag (which they were given when they came in) with a message or the name of their loved one on budded branches which will be kept in the church until mid-January. I thought this was a great bit of symbolism, especially as apparently the buds usually are in leave by the time the display is removed.

After the act of worship, light refreshments were served. I noticed the bereaved person I had visited. I sat with them and another couple after the service. I was really nice to see the person I had visited and see how he was getting on, now the shock was wearing off.

So, what did yesterday show me? What I hope it's shown me is my nature allows me the privilege of being able to be there for people when they really need someone. To, through my actions and words, show God's love to those who need it most and, hopefully, draw them nearer to God. That is what I am called to do and why God has called me.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Service preperation

I'm currently preparing for the third Sunday in Advent, as I am leading the whole service. I've chosen the hymns and readings. I thought that would be quite straightforward, but my assessor has knocked back 2 hymns as they are being used on other Sunday's in advent.

I amended the order of service to take this into account let my assessor have a copy. Not a hassle, that's part of the reason I let her have a look at my order of service so early. But, I was annoyed today when the substituted hymn was also rejected for similar reasons. I'm not telepathic. I think when I go over the order of service with my assessor on Sunday I'll diplomatically say something along the lines of "do you have a list of which hymns/carols are being used over the advent/Christmas period, so my choices don't clash?".

At least there's still plenty time to make amendments, though I have to admit, it feels more like I'm fitting into my assessor's way of doing things. that said, this is only my second ever complete service and I'm only in my CFA. I know I'll have to get used to this and it sounds as though I'm making a mountain out of a mole hill, but I just needed to get it off my chest. It's still a privilege to be working with my assessor and learning from her.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Hospital visits follow-up

Following on from Monday's hospital visits, with my assessor, I visited the people we had visited on my own during the week.

The first lady I had spoken to at my placement church, so I had met her. She was the lady who told me I had a good voice and put feeling into what I say (here). She looked much better than Monday and we chatted well - actually, mainly she chatted and I listened. Her husband turned up once I'd bee there for 20 minutes or so. I tired to make my leave then, to give them space, but they insisted I stay. I seemed they really appreciated my visit and company.

The other lady I hadn't met before Monday, as she's been very ill. Again, my visit with her went well. Although she was tired, she was positive and chatty (again, her chatting and me listening). I made my leave when her meal came round. She thanked me for coming and I think she really appreciated my visit.

So, things I have learnt from these visits:
  • I can interact (I use that word because I was listened more than talking - an important distinction) with a range of people in a range of situations.
  • I get on with people.
  • I have a reasonable range of life experience I can bring to conversations. Also, with that experience I can empathise with people more.
  • I need to learn how to "get away". I'm not meaning this negatively, I really enjoyed visiting the people I visited over the week. When I visited I gave myself plenty time. Sometimes, I will need to get away and I need to make sure I do it appropriately. I'm sure I did during these visits, but I need to be aware of this.
All in all, I feel really positive about this. It has affirmed what I think about myself - my ability to engage with almost everyone, no matter their age, background or health. I know I will need this skill in ministry. I also feel God has chosen me because my life experience allows me to empathise with others in a way I couldn't if I hadn't had it. Isn't God great?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Pastoral care

I didn't know what to expect, but the pastoral care meeting last night wasn't it. The pastoral care visitors met my assessor, 3-4 times per year to tell her how the people they visit are. My assessor reads down the list of those visited and asks the appropriate visitor for information. Not all the visitors verbally pass on information, as during the meeting index cards for all those visited are filled in by their respective visitors, from little note books the visitors have. This appears to be the record of visits.

During the meeting, it became clear the elders still have district and visit members within that. So, that left me wondering, why have pastoral visitors, if the elders are performing that duty too. Surely that's double handling? I'm not saying the church shouldn't visit - far from it - but perhaps handing over the pastoral visits wholly to the care team would free up the elders for other duties. I also think I was expecting to hear a bit more about other pastoral care, for example post-funeral visits. This didn't come up at all during the meeting.

Just some of my random thoughts, as I'm confused where the pastoral care teams duties end and the elders begin.

After the meeting my assessor and I headed up to visit a couple of members of the congregation in hospital. I went along with her this time, as I hadn't met (or didn't think I had met) either of them. Later this week I'll visit them on my own.

The visits went well, though my assessor did most of the talking. I just watched and chipped in when appropriate. At least the two people now know who I am and it won't be as daunting when I visit myself.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Reflection on worship

It was a Sunday in the pews for me yesterday. This gave me an opportunity to reflect on worship, as this is part of the CFA my assessor and I haven't touched on too much yet.

So, what did I notice?

Well, why does my assessor start the service (call to worship, opening hymn and prayer) from the pulpit? This only happens for the 11am service, not the 9:30. I would have thought there should be consistency.

Prior the call to worship to quote my assessor "the choir sing while we prepare ourselves for worship. Why is this necessary? Again, the choir is only there for the 11am service. Also, it has to be said the choir can't sing...really, there's only one who can. I found this actually quite distracting - it felt as though the choir didn't really care about the words they were singing. This did not prepare me for worship...

If all the intimations are on the printed order of service, why read them all out? Also, where should they be. There's a bit of me thinks intimations, although necessary for a whole load of reasons, aren't part of worshiping God. Why not have them prior to the "official" start of worship (i.e. call to worship).

If there's anyone ill or recently bereaved in the congregation (or maybe parish too - I'll need to check), their names are read out prior to the intercession prayer, for thoughtful inclusion. Is this really appropriate? My assessor (and I'd agree with her, broadly) feels intercession prayers should be worded to be inclusive, rather than exclusive. That way the prayer can speak to all - the leader of prayer will not know the troubles of an individual and, having an inclusive prayer will support them in their troubles, rather than them thinking "what about me?". Given that, does reading out the list of ill and bereaved just before the intercession contradict that philosophy? I think there is a place for those who are ill and bereaved to be included, but not necessarily just before the intercession (and as an introduction to it).

I've mentioned it before, (here) and I'll mention it again. Where should prayer be? My assessor explained she has all prayers before the sermon as it disburdens the congregation before the breaking of the word. I had mentioned about the theme of the sermon - the congregation may empathise with the intercession more once they're heard the sermon. Her rational was the whole service leads to the sermon (which, to be fair, it does), so the theme should come across via the hymns and bible readings (to an extent the children's address, but there isn't one during the 9:30 service). With that in mind I was looking out for the theme - love always with us, I think - so I'd be aware of it for the intercession prayer. Well, I didn't really hear the theme reflected in the prayer, but perhaps I'd got the theme wrong?

Why does the pulpit have to be used for preaching?

At the close of the service, after the benediction, there is a recessional hymn. Why? I think that may be custom and practice at my placement as I've never experienced it anywhere else.

And, following on from last week's post, I hadn't really noticed how little my assessor doesn't change her voice at all. I know it's difficult to put the right balance of inflection into the voice, but I feel it's necessary so it doesn't sound like reading off a message line. I hate to say this, as my assessor is lovely, but there was certain point where I really didn't care what she was saying as some of what she was saying sounded as though she didn't really care. I know, from working with her, that's not the case, but how presentation can make a huge difference to the same words.

So, lots to think about and discuss at my next meeting. Tonight, I'm attending the pastoral care meeting then, if there's time, doing a hospital visit.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Expanding my vision

The Church of Scotland took a group of children to Malawi during the summer. One of the members of the group is a member of the congregation at my placement church.

Members of the group gave a presentation at the church last night. It was a great testament to my placement church that their member was comfortable telling 100 people of her experience. It was also a testament to the vision of the child support person from 121 to take children to Malawi - to invest in the future and present of the church.

But, that isn't the reason for this post. During the presentation more of my vision (literally) flashed before me. I couldn't concentrate on anything else as the vision wouldn't go away. I think the Holy spirit was making sure I wrote it down, so I use God's words...

My vision is one where I minister to a church where
  1. Everyone has ownership - it's their church, whether they're 1 month old or 90 years old.
  2. There is investment in future - if the children and young people do not feel integral to the church, the church will die.
  3. Honour of the old and the contribution they have and still make - I think there is a danger of investing so much in children and youth that the old people in the church are marginalised. That's a great waste of skills, knowledge and experience, which could (and should) be used to fulfil 2.
  4. Where old learn from young as well as young learning from old.
  5. Where seeds of faith are sown, watered and nurtured. The investment may not bear fruit for the congregation I minister to, but God will reap the fruit. That's the important part of the investment - we are investing for God.
  6. Where God's love through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ, is the basis of of the faith of my church.
  7. Where that Christian faith defines the way the church serves the parish, wider community and world.
  8. Where all are truly welcome and feel at home in the church, no matter their background, circumstances or need. We all need God's love, forgiveness and redemption through Jesus Christ.
Not much of a vision, but it's mine. Personally, as I look at this list I see an ordinary parish minister doing ordinary ministerial things to spread God's love to that parish, the wider community and world.

Friday, 13 November 2009

While I slept...

I'd gone to bed last night and was just nodding off when an image of where God is calling me came to me. In it a very young (read teenage) mother was coming to my church. That's when I realised what my call is. To build a community of God's people where everyone is welcome. Truly welcome - where the "pillar of the community" sits beside the "reject of society. Where they all know how much they are valued, loved and supported by God as we all, no matter our background and circumstances, are made in God's image.

Today I see one of the most maligned groups in our society as the teenage mother. Church, too, doesn't know what to do...but what would Jesus do?

That is my vision. I knew God would show me if I believed and trusted Him.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Finding the words

At my regular CFA meeting last night, my assessor and I went over my CFA agreement. I'm 4 months into this placement (leaving only 2 months left) and we were going over how I was getting on, what I still needed to do/look at and my feelings about my call.

Most of what we discussed was okay. But, I'm still struggling to find the words to express why I'm called to the ministry of word and sacrament. My assessor asked me to tell her of my vision of my call...I wasn't sure what she meant, and I said so. So she put it another way. How do you see you fulfilling you call?

I hadn't had it put to me like that before, so really struggled. I'm following God and His vision is what I should be perusing. Should I have said that? I did mention after visiting Prospects, I felt very drawn to that and could see myself serving the community I was ministering in through that. Co-incidentally, my assessor had just found out yesterday that the first probationers' conference would include a presentation about prospects. I think every town should have such a group and letting probationers know about it, hopefully, will lead to that becoming a reality.

So, now I have to really find the words to express my call. I know I have them, but I struggle to put then together at the right time, especially when I'm put on the spot. I'm going to get that at my local review and, if I go forward to it, selection conference.

Now, I'll put my trust in God to give me the words and follow His vision for my life.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

We will remember them

I always find Remembrance Sunday a tough line to walk for the church, even though this is the first time I've ever been involved in worship during it. Jesus taught of peace, yet we commemorate and remember those who have (and are) fighting. I do feel we need to acknowledge their sacrifice, but, as Christians, work for peace.

As I mentioned here, I led the all prayers today - opening, thanksgiving and intercession, dedication and benediction. I was more nervous than I have been since I first started at my current placement. I know ever act of worship is special, but Remembrance Sunday is particularly poignant for many. There are members of the congregation who lost loved ones on WWII or even fought during it. Also, there were more visitors than normal at the second service - the service with the laying of the wreath and two minute silence. With all that in mind, and the news this morning of another British serviceman having died in Afghanistan, I knew emotions would be heightened and I wanted to ensure God's peace and love spoke to all who were worshiping, no matter their motives.

I think my prayers hit the right balance. I also have to admit I did my research (research being borrowing from many resources - plagiarism from one). Most of my prayers were adapted from the Book of common order and I adapted the intercession prayer available on the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland website. I didn't use the response during the intercession prayer, as I didn't feel it was appropriate for the setting.

I always try when leading worship to put some feeling into my voice, so it doesn't sound as though I'm reading off a shopping list and today was no different. I feel this can be helpful to emphasise a point or just inject a little care and concern into what I am saying. I haven't been too sure if that was actually coming across to the congregation, but after the service a member of the congregation mentioned how good a voice I have and how she appreciated how I "put a bit of feeling into what you say". That was a real boast, as it is being picked up by others.

As a little aside, I usually wear jeans and a top to church, even when leading worship. Today I wrote my suit jacket - partly out of respect for the gravitas of the service and partly to give me somewhere to wear my poppy. My assessor didn't wear a poppy. I didn't mention this, but was a little surprised. For me the poppy is a symbol of honouring the dead on all sides and hoping for peace. Peace which lasts forever and bring love, compassion and justice to the whole world. The peace which comes from God and Jesus calls me to help bring to others through my words, deeds and actions.

Friday, 6 November 2009

My first...Presbytery meeting

I always had the impression presbytery was a dry, businesslike, meeting. My views haven't changed that much from last night, but the meeting wasn't as boring as I had imagined it would be.

After a short welcome and act of worship lead by the presbytery moderator, it was down to business. I must admit there were TLAs (three letter abbreviations) and the like which were right over my head, but I could follow most of what went on.

About half way through proceedings the matter of the future of tenure for ministry was brought to the floor for discussion. A small booklet for this has been produced and it is summed up with 8 key points. We were broken into 8 groups for 10 minutes to discuss one point each - the potential advantages, disadvantages, further comments and whether ministries council should prepare a full report for next year's General Assembly.

My group's point was, in effect, continual assessment of ministers. I think we all saw the merits of this - dealing with problems at an early stage, ministers having more support after the initial 5 years from ordination etc - but how would it be implemented? A minister is answerable to presbytery, not their elders or congregation. Also, it could, if implemented wrongly, lead to resentment and a feeling a minister was restrained from preaching the word properly.

It was a good discussion and all members of the group contributed. I even made a couple of observations which were noted and I am not a member of presbytery!

I liked the idea of breaking a large group into smaller groups to discuss parts of a topic. There's more chance people will put their views forward. Without presbytery's views going to the appropriate councils at 121, 121 will do what they think is best on the feedback they've had. More feedback and better ways of getting it is no bad thing as far as I'm concerned.

One other thing I noted from last night - how many ministers were wearing their dog collars. I was a little surprised by that, in this day and age. I suppose it could have been the attitude of "I'm at work - work equals dog collar". Whatever rings your bell, I suppose, but I don't think it matters what we wear, even in the business of the church, but what we do and say.

And, I think last night may be the first time ever someone has arrived on a Honda Goldwing!!! The gerbils' car is sick and Mr Gerbil was my chauffeur for the evening.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Remembrance Prayers

I've been asked to led all the prayers for next Sunday. I wouldn't normally be too daunted by this. I know I still have much to learn about leading prayer in public worship, but I'll only learn through practice. That's not the problem - this coming Sunday is Remembrance Sunday. I have to find the right balance between acknowledging the fallen, but looking for peace.

Having had a look on-line, I've managed to find and adapt a thanksgiving and intercession prayer. That type of prayer for Sunday is a little "easier". There are plenty of examples which could be used.

The prayer which is scunnering me is the opening prayer, which in my placement church, is approach, adoration and confession. Normally, I find those types of prayers easier than thanksgiving and intercession, but not fir Sunday.

There's also the responsibility of leading the prayers during a Remembrance service. Again, this is all about getting the balance right. I am all too aware there are members of the congregation who may have served during WWII or lost loved ones to it. I also need to ensure all in the congregation feel part of the worship and the sacrifice is still relevant to all. No pressure then.

At my last meeting my assessor let me borrow the Book of Common order. I'm going to look there for inspiration too. If that fails, I think I'll be asking my assessor for help!

More to follow as I figure out how to approach this!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Self-assessment of today's sermon

My sermon went well today. After both services many of the congregation thanked me for my sermon. Particularly I appreciated the comments of the worship teams at my placement church as they know how nerve wracking it can be.

To get my voice warmed up, my assessor asked if I'd led the bible readings too. I was happy to do so, after all, I had been over them a few times while preparing for today.

To be critical of myself, as I know I must.

Positives:
  1. My point was clear.
  2. I covered the subject matter well.
  3. I paced the sermon more or less right
  4. I have a good clear voice.
  5. I knew my opening well enough I could present the beginning with minimum use of my notes. This way I could make eye contact with the congregation and, hopefully, engage them with God's message.
Negatives:
  1. I didn't modulate my voice enough. This may have helped emphasise a point.
  2. At some points during the sermon, particularly during very theological comments, I was really reading from my notes, rather than using them for reference. I'm sure this will improve with experience, but it's something to look out for.
  3. Occasionally I could feel the nerves surface again and seemed to stutter a little. I'm not sure if many of the congregation picked up on this. Again, worth noting and being aware of.
On balance, I feel it went well. I know, from the congregation's feedback, they took something away from it. Whether they took the message I thought I was preaching or not, it doesn't matter. What does matter is God uses me through the breaking of His word to speak to His children.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Visiting Ministers

As usual, last night I was helping aat my home church's youth club. One of my ministers was also helping and asked "how was the baptism last week?". I had no idea what he was talking about. I didn't think my placement church had one last Sunday and knew, with my ministers being on holiday, my home church wouldn't have had one.

Confused, I answered "what baptism?". "Oh, the wedding, then" he replied.

I still had no idea what he was talking about.

Turns out my ministers, as they were still on leave had decided to visit my placement church to see how I was getting on. Pity I wasn't there, though I know they would have been made most welcome.

No doubt tomorrow I'll get told all about it from those at my placement congregation. Honest, I didn't know!

Monday, 26 October 2009

My next sermon

I'm preaching in my placement church on Sunday. I'm following the lectionary, as that is what my placement church does and the rest of the service will (hopefully) tie in with what I have to say.

I'm quite well organised, which I'm surprised at. I've chosen the readings and 2 of the hymns for Sunday. I've also written a draft, which I've e-mailed to my assessor for her comments.

I'm looking forward to it, yet I'm nervous at the same time. Preaching a sermon is so very different from all the other parts of worship, for so many reasons. I know my assessor and placement church will be very supportive and encouraging of me, which does make it easier.

Hopefully my message comes from God and speaks to the hearts in the congregation.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Well, I didn't get that!

It's a long story, but my hubbie and I were invited to a church in the neighbouring parish to my home church today. The style of the service was such I'm still not sure what the theme of the service or point of the sermon was.

The service set-up on the surface appears quite modern. Many people have role in the service, there is no pulpit at all and a praise band leads part of the worship. However, there are some very traditional elements which did not sit well with the general style, in my opinion. For example, the bible in formally processed in and the congregation stands for this and the congregation are invited to stand during the Lord's prayer.

There didn't appear to be a coherent theme running through the service. The children's talk was the story of Ruth, the opening prayer was in relation to harvest, the sermon was based on this reading and the prayer of intercession (I think, given it's position and the themes in the other prayers) was for the congregation.

While some of the elements were well presented, the message from them was not clear. Just after the children left for young church 2 mediations were read, apparently in relation to harvest. I think meditations can be a very good way of expressing biblical truth simply, when they are either self-explanatory or are explained. The ones used in the service may have been self-explanatory, but I didn't get how they related to harvest. Also, the sermon was an excellent presentation. The minister worked without notes at all (which is the norm apparently), he had many anecdotes and a good style of presentation, but there was no conclusion, just a series of scenarios - an interpretation of what would Jesus have said to a possessive parent, for example. While the examples were helpful for the congregation to relate to the passage, they were used as the conclusion, leaving me wondering eh, have I missed something?

Overall, there were 10 people involved in worship. The minister, two people leading the prayers, one reading the meditation, one reading the bible passage, one doing the welcome and intimations and four in the praise band. While I applaud those others than the minister being involved in the service, I felt this was a bit excessive. They all appeared from their seats during the service, rather than sitting at the front or together. I found this very distracting.

I know this all sounds very negative, but I really didn't get anything from the service and felt there was a lot of (to quote part of one of the hymns) "we want to worship you" going on. Well, stop wanting to and actually get on with it! I know I don't always get the point the minister may have been trying to get across, but I like to come away with something - challenged, empowered, uplifted - I don't mind, as long as I come away with something. With this service I was left empty.

I know I am noticing things because I am analysing things at the moment, but even my hubbie was picking up on some of it. The thing I find funny is I know many people in that church think their service is the way to do it and can't understand why other churches do it differently or other people don't necessarily like their style of worship. Fortunately, the Kirk is a broad church and their is room for a broad range of people and worship styles, as today's experience prove.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Last Monday

As I left the house to make the post-funeral visit I was a bag of nerves. My hubbie, being the total star he is, told me I'd be fine as I'm a people person. Not that he's bias - oh no, not at all!

As I was driving along there was a little part of me was wishing no-one would be at home and I wouldn't need to do it. The majority of me felt very privileged to be in this position and, as I drew up outside the house I asked God for guidance and the right words. As ever, He didn't fail me.

The bereaved recognised me from when I shadowed my assessor at the pre-funeral visit. That was a relief - I didn't need to explain who I was. He invited me in and I chatted with him for about 1/2 hour.

The bereaved was a lovely person with many friends and good neighbours; plenty of people to look out for him. I'm not saying the church shouldn't do that, but it definitely made my job easier.

I hope my small act showed God's love for the bereaved. That is all. If I sow the seeds of God's love, others may reap, but God's love will grow and grow. The harvest will be God's kingdom on earth.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Tomorrow

As I mentioned here, my assessor has asked me to do a post-funeral visit for the bereaved where I sat in during the pre-funeral visit. This is an enormous privilege and I'm all too aware I am representing the church during the visit.

I must admit, I'm pretty nervous about this and I know it'll be worse tomorrow when I knock on the person I'm visiting's door. What do I say? How will they react? Will I be made welcome, or has the kirk done it's job?

The bereaved person I'll be visiting struck me as a lovely person when I met them last. My assessor has also let them know I will be visiting, so at least it won't be a total surprise.

I'm sure it'll be okay but, like anything which is new, it is nerve wracking. Also, my assessor has shown great trust giving me the opportunity to carry out this visit and I don't want to let her down either. Most of all, though, I don't want to let God down.

I will pray for guidance and I know God, though His Holy Spirit, will give me the words I need during this important task.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Oops

I'd sent my assessor drafts of the prayers I'd written for tomorrow, for her comments and advice. I must admit, I wasn't very happy with the intercession prayer, as it didn't seem long enough. Intercession prayers, in particular, I have always toiled with. I find it difficult to get the balance right of, hopefully, speaking to the whole congregation, yet not singling out a particular group, news item or (most heinous of all) having a personal prayer.

It was unfortunate my assessor hadn't a chance to get back to me until last night. Such is the nature of the job of ministry. It's unfortunate as I tend to do all my printing at work (with their authorisation, if you were wondering). She hadn't made too many changes, but enough I needed to reprint what I had. Okay, not a problem, just print them again once I get in from being out for the day.

That's when disaster struck. Plug PC into printer, try to print and nothing happens. Why? Because we're out of ink! So, off my hubbie and I toddle to buy some more ink (thank goodness for 24 hour stores!). This is made slightly farcical as about an hour earlier we'd been in the same shop for butteries ingredients!

Ne'er mind. At least the store had the ink we need in stock and I managed to get prints run off. Now, I'm having a shop around for spare ink. Perhaps I should have thought of that before. Oh well, hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Bible for the digital generation

I came across this in the Guardian today. Perhaps it's the way ahead. Perhaps not. I don't really mind. If this get people thinking and reading the bible, in whatever format suits them, I can't see it as being a bad thing.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Where should prayer be?

In my home church (and I believe this is the more "normal" way) the opening prayer is just that - the approach to God or, more formally, adoration and supplication. The positioning is the same in my placement church and I can see the merit of that. The church is opening itself to worship and God, so that prayer should be at the beginning of the service.

During the service at my placement church all the prayers (adoration and supplication; thanksgiving and intercession) are prayed prior to the sermon. At my home church and my previous placement the intercessionary prayer came after the sermon.

My assessor had briefly touched on why she has all the prayers before the sermon a while back - so all the congregations approach to God is done, their confession is done and any worries they may have are handed over to God. Thus, they will (hopefully) not have any distractions during the sermon - everything has been handed over to God.

So, until I came to prepare the prayers for Sunday, the significance of this way of praying during a service hadn't really occurred to me. In my placement there is a focus on the entire service centring around a theme. I appreciate the merits of this and really don't understand when services aren't like this. So, if the intercessionary prayer is before the sermon, how have the congregation's hearts been opened up to the issues or people in the intercession prayer? Having the intercession prayer after the sermon shows the link between the issues in the sermon and the prayer. I'd imagine that potentially makes the congregation more receptive(?) to that prayer?

I'm not sure if I'm missing something or I'm just questioning it because the order is a little different from what I am used to. I must remember to discuss this at my next meeting with my assessor.

And another thing, which again only occurred to me today. There are only 2 formal prayers in the service at my placement church. My assessor says a dedication of the offering prayer, but it's ad-libbed and not listed on the order of service. I'm used to 3 prayers, but I don't feel I'm missing out on prayer having fewer during the service. Perhaps quality is better than quantity?

So, again, more learning going on. Is this a sign of openness to learning that I enquire about how things are done rather than just accept it "because it's always been done like that", or I'm a pain in the proverbial? Time will tell!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

How to leave?

I was checking my diary the night before last and, since I began this enquiry process, it contained an unusual sight. Nothing. Yes, nothing to do this week.

That's good. I'm tired for no apparent reason other than it's getting darker. A week of no meetings/visits etc is just what I need. I know it'll be much busier in ministry, but I work full-time with an hour commute each way on top of my working day.

That said, I enjoy leading worship. I've starting to feel "wrong" sitting in the pews, not being involved. Well, not all the time, not on holiday, but definitely in my placement church. So, I contacted my assessor offering to help lead worship - specifically write and lead the prayers.

She's happy for me to do so, but in her reply mentioned she didn't get a chance to speak to me on Sunday. I always stay for coffee (well, in my case tea) and try to speak to new people (a lot of them are new to me, but never mind) or those on their own. Sunday was no different. Many people wanted to see my assessor and, when I was leaving, I couldn't get a hold of her to let her know. She mentioned I should even if she's busy.

I feel really rude interrupting someone. I also know people want to speak to ministers in confidence after a service, so I don't want to intrude on that. So, how do I politely let her know I have to leave without appearing rude to those speaking to her?

I can't stand the whole "sorry to interrupt, but" statement. If you're so sorry, don't do it. It's up thee with "no offence, but" and then goes onto be offensive. Maybe it's just me. Or should I try "excuse me, I'm just leaving now"? I must remember to ask about this at my next meeting.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Children's addresses, Tea and Coffee

My first children's address at my placement was an experience. I was pretty nervous as, although I'm settling in well to my placement, it was something new there.

After my introduction of thought a few weeks ago, my assessor had suggested to just have notes for the message I want to make and ad-lib, rather than read the whole thing out. I took this bit of advice on board, though I'm not sure how well it went!

The Living Stones recourses my placement used are pretty comprehensive, to the point where I wouldn't have needed to do anything but gather some items and turn up. For children's addresses in particular that doesn't fit in with my style. Also, yesterday's address suggestion involved setting up a treasure hunt and I had been warned the children at my placement don't do "audience participation", so to speak.

The first question I asked of the children got me blank looks. I was sort of prepared for this, so I asked the congregation…blankness. Okay, that's the way it is. So, my questions became rhetorical. I'm not used to this, but if needs must and all that. I found out later it's like that with everyone. Good, it wasn't just me.

I think I broadly got the message across, but I'm not sure how my ending was. It seemed a little abrupt as I just finished my sentence and announced the next hymn. I think I need to work on that.

Rather than sit through the rest of the service, I went out with the children to see church from their perspective. All the children appear around the same age (apart from the teenagers, but they help), so the lesson was the same for everyone. This fitted on well with the children's address and, I assume, the rest of the service. Strangely, all of the Sunday School are girls, which is a pity, but without a critical mass of boys a new boy probably wouldn't want to go. That's just the way boys and girls of a certain age are, unfortunately.

The Sunday School's annual forum was on during the lesson. This involved 3 elders being quizzed by the children. I liked this idea, but felt the lesson and the forum shouldn't be going on simultaneously. Concentrate on one thing at a time.

As usual, I stayed for tea after the service. I noticed one member, who is also blind, was sitting alone. I got his coffee and sat with him until his carer can to collect him. We didn't chat too much - he's painfully quiet - but we exchanged the usual weather etc. I also checked he was happy for me to sit with him, which he was. I think even though he wasn't saying much, he appreciated someone just being there. I hope so.

So, that's it for yesterday. Not much to do this week. Somehow I'm not even involved in worship next week. Not entirely sure how that happened, but I've contacted my assessor to volunteer.

Friday, 9 October 2009

What a nice man!

As I mentioned here, my assessor passed me the details of a member of the ministries support team. I suppose a way to describe him is a minister to ministers.

He's a hard guy to get in touch with; it's the nature of his job. I finally spoke to him on Monday and arranged a meeting this afternoon. It was a good open, friendly and productive chat. It was also a bit challenging, but in a supportive and non-judgemental way.

My assessor hadn't told him anything about me, except I am currently an enquirer. He didn't even know which type of ministry I feel called to. So, a clean slate for me.

I told him of the healing service and my reaction to it, as the conversation I had later with my assessor regarding it was the trigger for our meeting. I also spoke of the bad reaction I had back at my last placement (see here).

I'm fairly sure I know the triggers for both instances. With the healing service, my personal experience with someone close to me suffering from depression. With the other meeting, the effects of bullying when younger.

I also explained I feel these experiences are all mirrors being held up before me. That God is holding up those mirror to allow me to really know myself and, through that knowledge, minister for Him.

He thought that was a really good way of looking at it (no pun intended there). He also told me many people in the enquiry process think the kirk is looking for full-formed minsters etc with total self-awareness and no growth necessary. I didn't think that for a minute, but it is reassuring to actually be told that.

He made a few suggestions for dealing with situations, such as the classic counting to ten before speaking, and reminded me there is often more than we see, both in situations and our reaction to them. The main tool I need to use for this journey is my journal. I need to write, read, reflect and learn through its use more.

Apparently he can recommend counselling and arrange it if he feels the person he's talking to needs it. He didn't feel I did. It's funny, there's a time when I would have baulked at the thought of counselling. Now, if I needed to do it in order to follow God's calling, I would do it if recommended.

At the end of meeting he told me if I needed any advice or to talk again just to get in touch with him. What a lovely man!

And, I have so much to learn and growth to do. Only by God's grace can I.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Thoughts, reflections and questions

I've realised I've been a little neglectful of my blog of late. It's not that I've not been up to much nor have little to say; I've been thinking and talking more than writing and reflecting.

Sunday past, like many churches, was my placement's Harvest Festival. They have a traditional one where the congregation bring a variety food items for later distribution to the sick and needy in the parish. This was driven by the congregation who wanted the traditional harvest back. The only "flaw" I came across with this plan was my assessor's comment she makes up the distribution list, as if she doesn't do it it wouldn't get done. From what I have seen and encountered in my placement I'm not sure if that is necessarily the case. Besides, the way I see it is if the congregation want to have a traditional harvest they can be responsible for drawing up the list. Ministers have enough to do.

What a generous congregation my placement seems to be. The variety and quantity of donations was amazing. Between services I helped my assessor receive donations and I also accepted the children's gifts they brought in during the opening hymn. I really enjoyed this - engaging with young and old and, as a representative of the church, accepting their gifts to God.

After the service was a soup lunch. This was a great bit of fellowship and I had the opportunity to chat to someone I hadn't had to before. It's not that I hadn't spoken to them before, but we really talked, it wasn't just an exchange of pleasantries. I was even invited to the Panto (oh no I wasn't; oh yes I was), but unfortunately I can't be there.

On Monday I met with my assessor for our regular meeting. We discussed the service at the sheltered housing complex and the funeral visit. I asked about her not offering to pray with the bereaved and she confirmed my thoughts. During the visit it was clear the deceased had the church connection. She was taught during her probation not to offer prayers unless there is a strong church connection with the bereaved, not just the deceased. I can got with that. It save the awkward situation of being rebuffed and shows you have acknowledged the bereaved beliefs, if that makes sense.

One thing that my assessor discussed during our meeting was issues with her car. Now, this was obviously something troubling her, but it went on a little longer than perhaps necessary. I'm not sure, but a part of me gets the impression, with reflection, she may have been doing it on purpose. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but it did get me thinking, What if, in ministry, I need to meet with someone about a particular matter. During the initial pleasantries the person tells me about something else troubling them. They may not even put it like that, but it becomes apparent. I need to deal with the first issue without running roughshod over them. How do I do this?

I've been trying to come up with scenarios, but I just go round in circles. My hubbie thinks I'm aware of the soft skills I need for ministry, but I need to be better or learn the hard time management skills I'll need to be effective. As I said to him, it's a very fine line to walk, as I was to be approachable while still dealing with what needs to be dealt with. I must remember to ask my assessor about this at out next meeting.

I did go over and discuss important issues during the meeting, it's just it could have been ½ hour quicker. Never mind, it's all part of the learning curve.

My assessor has asked me to do the post-funeral visit of the bereaved I attended the funeral visit for. I am happy to be asked. It's an important and privileged position to be in, but I must admit I did have a wee panic to myself when she asked and I'm sure I'll be wetting myself on the night I do it. But, by God's grace I know I will have the words I need at the time I need them

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Visits

I shadowed my assessor yesterday afternoon. This was something I have been keen to do since I started the enquiry process, but haven't had the opportunity to do.

Fortnightly she leads worship at the sheltered housing complex in her parish. This is held in the residents' lounge and is open to all. There were 5 ladies there and that's about the norm.

I said hello to all of the ladies and sat next to one and started chatting about the weather - well, I am Scottish! I didn't introduce myself, but I'm a little old-fashioned with those things. I was there at the invite of my assessor, so I see it as polite for the inviter to introduce the invitee.

Chatting to the ladies was fairly natural for me, once I got going. I've worked with the elderly in the past and have taken services in sheltered housing complexes too. At the end of the day, people are people irrespective of age and background.

I was pretty impressed my assessor ad-libbed the service. She'd obviously looked at a theme (harvest), as the service broadly followed it. She didn't use notes and the only thing she read from was the bible!

The service was a reasonably informal affair, given the relaxed setting. It also felt the type of service where those with most denominations could feel part of. I think in that setting that is important.

For the hymns there was no music available. That threw me. I'm not musical, but tend to remember a lot of hymns in relation to their tunes! This, I think, is something I'll need to bare in mind for the future.

For the hymns, the first was fairly well known, but the others less so. Even my assessor was toiling to remember the tune of one of them. I would have thought, if music isn't available, that's where the "old favourites" should be used?

After the service, we went to a pre-funeral visit. My assessor had checked with the bereaved they were happy with this. My assessor pretty much went through a list of questions about the deceased - where they where born, where they went to school, marriage, children, work, interests etc. This I was expecting. This gives a focus for the discussion and, I'd imagine, ensures the key facts of the life of the deceased are covered. During the one funeral I'd been involved in organising the celebrant did the same thing and I know my minister does this.

During the questioning my assessor occasionally went over what she'd noted. This, I believe, would have been to check she'd written it down right and/or the bereaved had told her correctly. I'm sure with grief and shock the bereaved can get confused a bit.

Given the nature of the visit, it only lasted just over 30 minutes. As my assessor was taking me to my car she mentioned visits can last anything between 30 minutes and an hour and a half. I can understand this. It depends on the types of people involved, number of family and friends there and the deceased (how much or little there is to say about them).

She also mentioned she always ensures she's no meetings after the visit to take the timings into account. That again was obvious to me. Funeral visits aren't something which should ever be rushed. I wouldn't appreciate it, so I wouldn't do it to others.

At the end of the questioning, my assessor asked if there was to be a collection. The bereaved said no as he didn't like them. My assessor said she too didn't like them - I wasn't sure if she was just saying that to "help" the bereaved or she did agree with him. Not a major thing, just my little observation. Personally, if people want to have a collection, let them have one. If they don't, that's their choice. I don't think it's important.

One thing my assessor didn't do, which I was a bit surprised with, was offer to pray with the bereaved. From the comments they made they didn't come across as religious, and that may have been why she didn't offer.

So, much to think, reflect on and learn from. I think I'll be coming back to this again.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Causeway Prospects

My placement hold a Causeway Prospects once a month and I went along to one yesterday.

What a warm, welcoming, inclusive service. I really loved being part of it an worshiping God with all those there.

There were around 30 people with varying degrees of learning disabilities, plus their carers and the team in my placement church which helps with the service.

Tea and coffee is served to begin with. Once guy was sitting alone, so I asked if it was okay if I joined him. He didn't. I introduced myself and that was about it. I just sat with him and he seemed happy and comfortable with that.

After tea there was a short act of worship. This, for want of a better phrase, was a bit like the beginning of a "normal" service, while the children are there. In the middle a craft, in keeping with the theme, is done. This allows everyone to be involved, no matter their need or ability. I loved this attitude. I helped during this and really got a lot out of it. Everyone, and I do mean everyone - from the minister to the least able person - was involved, taking in the message and enjoying it.

To end the service, the whole congregation lines up and the start of the line snake to the end and shares the peace with everyone. Although most people there didn't know me, I was still very much included. No one if left out. It's that exactly what church is about?

I wish I'd been warned of the lunch after the service! If I had I would have had a much smaller lunch. This was a time of fellowship for all. It seemed, and my assessor confirmed this today, the carers get as much from the service and fellowship as their dependants.

From what I saw I now this all presbyteries should have something lie this. My assessor has been trying to persuade 121 to let her talk to ministry trainees about this ministry for a while and finally had that opportunity in Friday. I know there is much for them to take on board, but if only a small number do something about it, so many more people with learning disabilities, and their families, can be involved in worship.

It this a good sign?

Following on from Monday's meeting, my assessor mentioned me to someone from Ministries Support. Not in many details, but knowing it would be beneficial me being to work through my hurts and pains with someone in the job, yet neutral.

She asked me today if I would like to get his details. I am. I know my hurts and pain made me who I am. I also know I need to be aware of how they affect my reactions to people.

It would be good to chat to someone who is a minister, as they know the job. Also, it'll be good to chat about my pain and hurt with someone totally neutral.

I know once I've talked to this person, I will know myself better and be better placed to serve God where He calls me.

Oh, and I see my assessor's actions as very positive. Perhaps if she didn't feel I was called to ministry she wouldn't have sought out this help for me.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

The power of prayer

I believe in the power of prayer - to heal, form community, restore lives. I also believe the recipient need not be "open" to the prayer nor be aware others are praying for them for it to work.

My hubbie and I have, by all accounts, made remarkable recoveries from our injuries we sustained in February. A medical report we had to obtain for legal reasons stated the time we had off work was actually shorter than would be expected given our injuries.

Prior to the crash, we were very active people and reasonably fit and healthy. I think that did stand us in very good stead. However, I don't believe that is the whole picture.

Many, many people prayed for us. People we know really well, some not so well and others we've never met. All taking time to remember us to God and giving our care over to Him.

We didn't need to be aware of this (though we were). We didn't need to be "open to the holy spirit", as my assessor would probably put it. No, I don't think that's how healing through prayer works. I don't actually know how it does work, but I do know it can work in spite of our openness to it and the holy spirit.

So, although I can see the healing service which my assessment church performs being of benefit for some, I don't agree with my assessor that in order to be healed a person has to be open to the healing and holy spirit. I think of the healing of the paralysed man in Mark 2. He was taken there by his friends. He didn't have a choice but go along with it. It was the faith of his friends which brought him before Jesus and Jesus healed him.

I believe that is how prayer works when we intercede for others. They are the paralysed man and don't have a choice. We bring those we are praying for before God, before Jesus. And they heal and empower them, even though they may never have know us.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Learning more

My regular meeting with my supervisor was last night. Our main discussion was around Sunday's service (I was just there for the ride - a bum on the pews, so to speak) and the healing service from 2 weeks ago.

Not too much came out of the discussion about the service. There wasn't anything too different from what I've experienced elsewhere that I could discuss.

Sunday was the first service I've attended where there has been a children's address and it was led by one of the Sunday school teachers. I did mention that was unusual - I've only experienced the minister doing it, where they are involved in the service. I wondered why it had come about. There had been a long discussion with the Sunday school leaders and it was agreed to do it that way. I can see the benefit - the children get to hear more from there leaders, the minister gets a break and the leaders potentially go into the theme for the service more deeply. All in all, though, not especially different.

At the end of the service, two people joined the church and tow members re-affirmed their vows. Again, this more or less followed what I was expecting, even though I have not attended a re-affirming before.

Personally, I do think re-affirming vows can be useful, both to the church and the individuals. I can see there could be churches where this wouldn't be allowed, as it is, in effect, re-making a promise.

So from Sunday's service to the healing service. I told my assessor how I felt from the experience, pretty much re-iterating some of what I'd said here. My assessor explained some of the background of the first person and why the healing group had advised on prayer as they had. From that I could see why they had done what they did, but I'm not entirely sure if I'm convinced it was the right thing, no matter any frustration they may have.

During our discussion I happened to mention about my Mum's ill-health and how it may have affected how I reacted to the first person. Later in our discussion, my assessor brought this up. She told me I should address this, as it could affect how I deal with people in ministry or led to my burn out. I know what she means. There is a hurt there which hasn't really been dealt with. The only thing is, I'm not entirely sure how to deal with it (I did ask, but that's not my assessor's role). A bit of my thinks she was hinting I should discuss it with my minister, but I know how busy minsters are and they don't need this too.

So, that got me thinking. How much of what I do and react is based on my own hurts? Probably more that I'd like to admit. I suppose a good thing is I was aware to an extent my hurts were clouding my judgement a little. How do I distinguish between "normal" reactions and reactions based on those past hurts and/or prejudices?

Is this a potential stumbling block for me or, if I hand it over to God, He will help me when these things manifest themselves? I believe He will, especially as He calls me to ministry and I will need that gift to carry out His work. He will give me the gifts I need. If He doesn't, perhaps I am in the wrong direction?

I haven't asked before,(not directly anyway) but some advice from those of you who read this blog think I should do? Also, I'd appreciate your prayers.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Holidays

A week ago I got home after a week travelling through Skye, Harris and Lewis. I've been to Skye (briefly) twice, but I've always wanted to visit the Outer Hebrides and, until now, hadn't. At the beginning of the year, prior to the crash, my hubbie and I had talked going in May. Okay, so circumstances meant we couldn't holiday in May, nor could we camp our way around the islands (that is how we like to spend our main holiday - 1-2 weeks under canvas!).

Skye was stunning. The weather was awful, but it didn't detract from the beauty of the place...

The old man of Stor:


A view from the B&B window in Dunvegan:

Unfortunately, we had to leave Skye and head across the Little Minch to Harris. While waiting in Uig on Skye for the ferry I fulfilled one of my ambitions - I saw a sea eagle! No photos, as it was far away enough. Amazing to see and to add to the coolness factor, 2 golden eagles appeared. Wow.

The sailing was fairly calm. Just as well for him in doors - he comes from a line of sailors and farmers. All I can say is he didn't inherit sea legs! Some wildlife was about - the coolest was a pod of three striped dolphins. Again, no photos - I was too taken up in the wonder of just watching these amazing animals.

Our first full day on Harris was so windy there were no ferry sailings on or off the island. In many ways that just added to the beauty of the island - huge waves crashing over rocks. Much of the exposed rock on the island is Lewisian gneiss, some of the oldest rock in the world. This rock was created before life. Before the grass which surrounds it, the animals which live on it. Before the creation of the men (and women) who study it. It sort of blows my mind to think these rocks were among the first things God said was good.


Both in Lewis and Harris there are beaches which seem to go on forever, with huge sand dunes.




The Calanais Stones are among the oldest standing stones in the world. I've always been interested to see them. They are amazing, but I couldn't help but be a little disappointed - I was expecting them to be tall, much like the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney. I'm 5'5"ish and some of the stones were barley taller than I am. Still pretty cool, though.

So, after our trip, we started planning next years holiday. We're planning doing the whole of the outer Hebrides. We must have really enjoyed Harris and Lewis. The last time we planned a holiday nearly a year in advance was to visit New Zealand. Usually we decide where we're going about a week before we go!!!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Healing?

I've been a little silent as I've been on holiday - the hubbie and I managed a few days on Harris and Lewis, but that's for another post. This one is to reflect on a healing service I attended just before we headed off.

My placement church holds a healing service once a month. It's a pretty informal service - beginning with a prayer and meditation and the congregation sing hymns accompanied by a praise-type band in the main worship area while the "healing" takes place in a side room. The healing takes the form of laying of hands and anointing with oil those of the congregation who have come seeking healing.

This was all very much outwith my comfort zone - I'm not touchy feelly at the best of times and why do we need laying of hands etc? Is that not why we now have medical professionals, councillors etc? But I was really keen to see something different and to have my boundaries stretched. Also, done right through the community being "with" the person (if that makes sense?) and supporting them, could be a very positive effect on all involved. With this in mind, rather than stay in the main worship area and sing, I observed 2 acts of healing.

3-4 of the healing team take the person requiring healing aside from the main group and into a quiet room. They ask the person the healing they are seeking. So far, I was okay with this. Then, they began offering advice. It wasn't "have you seen your doctor about this" type advice. Actually, calling it advice is, as I saw it, too polite - they told the person to hand their issues over to God and trust God. I could see where the healing team were coming from, but I don't feel it was appropriate for the person they were talking too. It felt to me the person seeking healing would have felt they were belittling them and their faith.

During this time I wanted to scream - "Stop - this isn't right; can't you see you're making it worse?" - or walk out. All the healing team asked questions and offered advice - perhaps it was expected of me? - but I just listened and observed. That is my role at the moment, fortunately.

A hand-held cross passed throughout the healing group (both "healers" and "healees") to pray for the person seeking healing. I kept my prayer simple as I felt this was most appropriate for the situation. I was also quietly crying and had to keep the prayer short! I'm not a crying sort of person normally either.

Finally, one of the healing team anointed the person seeking healing with oil on their forehead and palms of hands and we all laid hands on them for what seemed an eternity (probably 3-4 minutes). I didn't want to lay hands on them - I wanted to give them a big hug!!! Another prayer was said, we removed our hands and re-joined the main worship group.

The second seeker of healing wasn't so bad, but no advice was dispensed. It was a very different type of person and situation. It was emotionally exhausting, though.

Half way through the service, there is a break where the congregation could chat over tea. I sat back for a couple of minutes to see how this went. As I watched I saw the person from the first act of healing with no-one taking to them, so I did. I could almost feel their spirit lift a little as as was chatted. I didn't get to talk to them for long, but I really know I made a small difference to how they felt.

During the remainder of the service I joined in with the singing (poor people - I can't hold a tune in a bucket!). Partly to see the other side of the service, partly as the healing was so emotionally draining. I couldn't sit beside the first "healee", but whenever I made eye contact with them I smiled - they returned the gesture and their face lit up. It was a full-face smile, not a put on "the mouth's smiling, but nothing else is"-type smile.

The service ends with hugs all round. Again, outwith my comfort zone. Hugs are for those I love, not just for the sake of it. I know, as a Christian I should love everyone, but you know what I mean! I specifically went to hug the first healee though. They wished me the best for my future (they knew I was their as an enquirer to ministry) and thanked me for talking to them. I was really touched and moved by that.

So, this type of worship is still outwith my comfort zone. Personally, I believe biblical laying of hands was an initial gesture to welcome the ill - who would have been unclean - into the community. It's amazing how being part of a community can aid healing - be it physical, emotional or spiritual. I'm also sure the laying of hands wasn't the end - there, we've laid hands, anointed and prayed for you - no. It was merely the start of the process. A process which needs the community - the church, God's people - to totally fulfil together. Only as a body of Christ can healing take place.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Very productive

My regular meeting with my assessor was last night. I'm much more relaxed than I was at our last meeting - perhaps because I was honest with how I was feeling and was in a better frame of mind going there. Either way, it was a productive meeting. Oh, I know it looks a while since I met one-on-one with my assessor, but she's been on holiday and then there was my CFA agreement meeting 2 weeks ago. I know the meetings are going to be pretty much fortnightly as our next one's booked and was before yesterday's, but I digress!


We discussed how I felt about leading the "introduction of thought" on Sunday. I said I felt it went well, but I was pretty nervous. She said she had noticed my nervousness, but wanted to hear my comments on it before giving hers. She re-assured me by saying she picked up on the nervousness as she's been there and it's her role as my local assessor to pick up on these things. She gave me a few hints to help with children's addresses (as the introduction of thought pretty much is one). In particular, she suggested I just make bullet point notes rather than write the whole thing, that way it might flow better. I did mention I was more worried because it was an adult "audience". They could well know more than I do!!!


We also went through my CFA agreement to pick out things I can do and be involved with. As part of the agreement I asked to do 2 sermons and 1 whole service. Obviously, one of the sermons will be during the whole service. The dates when I'm doing those have been set. 1st November for the sermon (where I'll also select 2 hymns) and 13th December for the whole service.


As I mentioned in my last post, my placement church uses Living Stones. There are books for different ages and whole congregation worship, so the whole service will come together for both the adults and the children. That's what I'm used to and I firmly believe it's how it should be done. That way the children's address leads into Sunday School and the sermon. With that in mind, my assessor gave me a copy of the resources from the current Living Stones book for my sermon on 1st November. Once they have the materials for 13th December, she'll give me that too.


As part of my CFA agreement, I asked under "special interests" to talk with others about their call. My assessor didn't think that was necessary, in terms of talking to ministers, deacons etc. How did she put it? Something along the lines of "you're following you're call". Perhaps talking to others about their call made her think I was doubting my own? So, on my form it says "explore various ministries" or similar. Last night my assessor asked why I'd asked for that. On reflection from the CFA agreement meeting, I think the spirit was moving me to ask for that as every Christian is called by God in some way and, as a minister it's important to tell everyone that and encourage them to use their call, if that makes sense? I explained this to my assessor and, although a little puzzled, seemed okay with that.

So, it's going to be a busy while. That said, my assessor did mention she needs to make sure I don't exceed my 8 hours per week. I did tell her I don't mind, but she said "OH, we don't want to overload you at this stage". Which is nice.

I asked my assessor some of the questions I've had. I mentioned about my last local review and the part of the decision which stated I need to address how I deal with expressing my opinions. She explained she didn't want to bring that up until 3 months (argh, half way!!!) into this CFA, as she wanted to she the "real" me. She feels if I concentrated on that too soon she'd not see who I really am and that wouldn't be good. It will be addressed though - at my next local review she'll need to tell the panel how it was dealt with apparently. I was happy with that as I now know why it hadn't been brought up yet.

At my placement church, the children don't go into worship during school holidays. That's why the children's address becomes the refection of thought. I asked about this, as I think children shouldn't be excluded from worship, but the system at my placement seems to work. Apparently, the children are welcome in worship, but want to have their own space during the holidays- doing crafts, going to the park and such like stuff. Completely their choice. Fair enough. If that makes the kids happy, why not?!

So, lots to do and reflect on. I'm really looking forward to it all...

Sunday, 30 August 2009

New experiences

A couple of new experiences today. Firstly, I presented what my placement church calls the reflection of thought. This takes the position of the children's address when the Sunday School isn't on. Their Sunday School starts next week.

My assessor sent me the material for it. They are using Living Stones materials, which follows the 3 year lectionary cycle. The material I was given I could have pretty much just read verbatum, but I re-wrote it to make it a little more "adult", if that makes sense?

I was actually quite nervous doing it. It's different to anything I've done before, yet the same. I've done sermons (two) and children's addresses. This seems to sit somewhere in the middle and I'm still a little confused by it. That's another thing I need to discuss with my assessor, just to find out the rational, as it seems to really work in her congregation.

Anyway, I'm slightly digressing. It seemed to go well. Even though I was nervous, I managed to crack a joke. After the service one of the worship team told me they'd really enjoyed it and I managed to get the message over clearly. That was really re-assuring, especially coming from someone who's had to do it too.

The other new thing was a meeting with the Sunday School leaders. My assessor gets them to do the children's address and the meeting was to discuss who would do which weeks and select the children's hymn for each week. Well, generally I don't do Sunday afternoons. Anything after 1:30 I regard as my time. This is a rule my hubbie and I started when we first moved in together so even if we had a really busy week and Saturday, there would be at least 1 afternoon a week where we could do something nice together. That said, my assessor told me the meeting starts at 12:30 and generally last no more than an hour. Okay, I can handle that - still finished by 1:30.

But, it didn't start until nearer to 1:10. At 2 I had to make my apologises and go. Harsh I know, but I can't let it slip.

However, the meeting went well. I've been signed up to do 1 address before Advent. I also made a couple of suggestions for hymns - one of which I didn't know, but the words really tied in with the theme. No-one else knew it, but it was selected on the basis of the words. I felt I coped well in the meeting - I listened to others and shared my opinion where appropriate. Just a normal meeting, really.

So, that's about it for now. More will follow soon, I'm sure!

Saturday, 29 August 2009

That was nice

I bumped into a member of the church I had my last placement in this morning. We chatted for a little while and she was really happy to see me and interested in where I am now.

I told her where I was and I was still in the middle of the selection process. "Oh, I really enjoyed hearing you during your time with us" she told me "I would be surprised if you weren't selected".

I was really quite touched by her sincerity, warmth and genuine interest in how I am. My encounter with her really lifted me and has shown me my time at my last placement did leave a positive impression.

Thank God for that!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

No need to be nervous

Last night's meeting went really well. Both my ministers where at home (both are part-time) and I had a really good chat with them


My female minister has volunteered to start being a local assessor for the CFA, so I pulled her leg saying she only wanted to talk to me to see what she was getting into! She was really interested to here what it involved and how I felt about the whole process.


She asked how things had gone at my last placement. At the time, I hadn't been very open about how it was going, as she would have tried to help and my then supervisor may have taken it as interference. I told her I didn't get fortnightly meetings and I only found out about how some things had went in my supervisor's final report. She was really shocked by this. I actually defended my supervisor, saying "he was off sick, so probably was ill before that, but might not have really realised how it was affecting his work".


I mentioned my ministers how my supervisor had written in his report he could see no evidence for my opinion that I felt I get on with most people. Also, he said I was really opinionated, talked over others and didn't listen to others opinions. Well, the expressions on my ministers' face was a picture of, well, shock. Both of them affirmed I don't do that - yes, I have opinions and am not afraid to share them, but I don't do any of the things my supervisor said I do. They have worked with me in a variety of situations where working and communicating as a group is essential. They are also very honest and would be the first to say if I was how my supervisor portrayed me. That said, I know they would have had a quiet word in my ear about my behaviour if I did dominated discussions etc well before now.


It's funny. I have been thinking about this so much since my local review. Deep down I knew my supervisor was wrong and the meeting where he formed that opinion was really out of character for me, but when you kept getting told you're no good at something, or do something wrong and inappropriate, you start to believe it. My hubbie had told me I wasn't like that and, yes he's honest, I still wasn't convinced. This has convinced me. That doesn't make me perfect and I know I'm much more aware of how my style an affect others and be taken the wrong way.

I still see my last placement as useful, even thought it wasn't that positive. I told my ministers that last night and my male minister said "yeah, how not to do things!". I have sort of thought that at times, but that isn't all. My last placement really placed a mirror in front of me to make me look properly at myself. I am convinced that would not have happened if I'd had my current assessor to begin with. I'm also more accepting of my call and discussing it. I wasn't before.

It never ceases to amaze me how God uses all experiences to help us follow Him.