Friday, 31 July 2009


Following on from yesterday's post, I'm going to post questions about ministry, call etc as and when they come to me. They may be random, silly or exceptionally deep, but they are questions I need answered. I don't expect anyone who reads my blog to answer them, though your thoughts and comments are always appreciated. No, as this is my journal I need to write these questions down here so, when I have my next meeting with my assessor, I can ask them.

So, to beginning with:

  • How do you make sure ministry doesn't dominate your life? I don't mean that in a negative way, but it would be very easy to be "on call" 24/7. Some of the best ministers I've met make sure they have time for themselves, their family and friends every week.
  • How do I learn how I deal with conflict? If I don't deal with it that well, how do I learn to deal with it more appropriately?
  • How do you get used to other people's tea? I like mine like my men - hot, strong and with a wee splash of milk.
  • How did my assessor and other ministers/deacons/readers feel their call and know where their call was leading them? I think this would really help me find the words I need to express my call.
That's all that come to mind now. It's not until mid-August I met with my assessor as she's on holiday. At least if I've written them down there's more chance I'll ask. Oh, and at our next meeting, I'll be honest about how I am.

Thursday, 30 July 2009


A lot's been happening over the last couple of weeks and I've not really had a chance to write about them.

On the Sunday immediately following my last meeting with my local assessor, I led the prayers of intersession and dedication. Once I'd written my drafts I forwarded copies to my assessor for her feedback - this is something she encourages from her worship groups. She gave me a little bit of a pointer on my intersession prayer, as it didn't fully tie into the theme of the service. Not too much advice, but enough that I know I was coming from the right direction.

The prayers seemed to go well. My delivery was okay - I both felt that and my assessor and some of the congregation also commented on this. After the service my assessor thanked me of my contribution to the service. This is something she always does and it makes me feel appreciated and acknowledged. I also know if things hadn't gone well she would let me know, in order that I would learn from my mistakes. All in all, very positive.

Last Friday, there was a games night at my placement church. I didn't really know what this would involve, but I went along partly out of morbid curiosity and partly to reassure myself I do get on with a range of people in different circumstances. My last local assessor stated he had seen no evidence for this and that had worried me and since I read that I have possibly been overanalysing every encounter. Not great for my self esteem!

The night was a good laugh and great bit of fellowship. About 25-30 people were there during the course of the evening, ranging in age from 3 - 80s. Many different board games were played. It didn’t matter what age you were everyone mixed and interacted in a loving and kindly manner.

Over last weekend I wasn't expected at my placement church, as I had a busy weekend. My assessor was perfectly okay with this and emphasised there was no obligation for me to attend every Sunday. That said, I still wanted to attend worship at my placement church, as I could observe their worship and be part of their fellowship. I find when things are most hectic that's when I need worship and fellowship the most.

Always over last weekend I was at one of my closest friend's hen nights (just a meal with the girls). Her wedding rehearsal was on the Sunday afternoon. I attended that as she'd asked me to do one of the readings and my hubbie and I were official photographers and we wanted to recce the church and discuss with the priest what photos would be appropriate during the ceremony.

The wedding itself (on Monday) was a really good, if tiring day. My hubbie took me to the bride's house so I could take getting ready photos. He then headed to the venue to get shorts of some of the guests turning up and the groom with his best man etc.

We were on our feet most of the day and it was really intensive (it was my first "official" wedding and my last!). That said, I did enjoy the photography pat of the day and, as I don't like getting my photo taken, I find carrying a decent SLR with big lens around stops people wanting to take me picture. Besides, if we hadn't done the photos I have no idea what we would have got the couple as wedding gifts!

Again, the wedding showed me I do get on with a mix of people. Although I've known the groom for a few years now, I hadn't met his close friends or family (he's from Englandhshire!). My hubbie and I share a table at dinner with one of the ushers and his family - we chatted throughout the meal in a relaxed informal matter. I was on my own for a bit of the meal as my hubbie was doing fill in pictures and backing up the memory cards onto our netbook, just in case.

So I need to put behind me the comments my last supervisor made about my communication skills. His assessment of that was based on one meeting where I erred. I have arranged over the coming weeks with my new assessor to be at small groups. I know this isn't the be all and end all and I think my assessor may be a little concerned I am concentrating on this too much. I just need to prove to myself the way I reacted was not the norm. That I have learned from my mistakes and have grown as a result of them. We only learn from what we do wrong not what we do right. That's my experience anyway.

The things I need to find out are:

When my assessor asks how I am what's wrong with me saying "fine"? That's my stock phrase, especially being an uptight east coaster. My assessor at my meeting last night said she wants to see my eyes smiling when I say that. I was really tired last night. Yes I could have told her that, but she's got enough to deal with.
When my assessor asks "is there anything you'd like to ask", what do I say? When ever I'm put on the spot like that I tend to go blank. Should I take a least 1 question written down about things that have occurred to me since our last meeting, no matter how trivial it is?
How will my assessor see the growth in me?

I'm sure these questions will be answered over time and added to. God will guide me through the Holy Spirit as I know He will give me what I ask for in his name.

Monday, 20 July 2009


I was having a conversation with my assessor yesterday about my family's experiences with a life long illness. Overnight, I felt I'd more talked at her than talked with her, so e-mailed to apologise.

She sent a lovely reply telling me I hadn't talked to her but shared my experience. She also said she'd always be honest with me when I was talking at her (or others, for that matter).

So, it looks like something I have to learn is where the line is. I know I can, though not often, be guilty of being a little too knowledgeable about stuff (I do mean stuff - I seem to just know a lot about a lot) and thinking people want to hear. So, I'm self-aware enough to know I can talk at other on occasion, but I need to learn when I'm doing it. From what my assessor said, it doesn't look as though I do it when I think I am. Mmh, I think I'm paranoid after my last placement, where when I shared my experiences, I was accused of filling silences.

Good, another thing to learn, reflect on and grow in during these 6 months. I'm looking forward to learning more about myself and being more comfortable with myself. I know my new assessor won't judge me for things I share with her. I always felt my last assessor did. This can only be positive for me and discerning my call. I really think God has given me the best opportunity I could have with this new placement. I pray I am worthy of the opportunity.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Prayers for everyone

I wrote and led the intersession prayers at both services at my placement church this morning (they have a 9:30 and 11:00 service every Sunday). I don't have much experience writing intersession prayers - at my last placement I only once was allowed to led the intersession prayer and that was by the locum. With that in mind, I e-mailed my local assessor copies of it for her feedback. Her comments were great. Good constructive criticism, taking my style into account, but helping me with content.

At the first service, I merely said "let us pray", or words to that effect prior to beginning prayer. I was a little nervous and that is what I have been used to. Although my assessor and I didn't get much chance to chat before the next service, she did comment I perhaps should say more than that, so the service can be followed by all, not just those who attend every Sunday, thereby making the service more inclusive rather than exclusive. Also, we are leading the service, guiding the congregation through it. Properly introducing the prayers is part of that process.

With that in mind, at the next service I properly introduced the prayer along the lines of "we now bring our prayers for others and the world before God". It was different from what I'm used to, but I prefer that. Someone could have just come into church for what ever reason when they've never been before. Properly introducing the elements, but not patronising those who "know" what to expect is a fine line, but I feel it's important to also make sure everyone in the congregation follows what's going on. I will remember this lesson and remember it.

As for the prayer itself. I felt a bit nervous. Yes, it's not the first time I've led prayers, but not in this church. Also, would people hear me, would my words speak to them, would the feel closer to God through listening to my words? I hope so. I received a lot of positive comments from both congregations, which is encouraging. Some asked how I'd felt about it and I told them I had been a little nervous. They said it didn't come over in my voice. I'm please of that as they may have concentrated on that rather than my words. Also, everyone could hear me.

During the prayer, although I was nervous, I felt I was being supported by the Holy spirit. I believe that is why my nervousness didn't come across. I felt the holy spirit more today than I have felt during services I have been involved with as my CFA, even at my former placement. This may be after Friday's prayer, but I think it is also my assessor prayer with me prior to the services that God would be with and guide us through them. It's amazing the difference handing things over to God can make.

I'm not involved in worship next week as a very good friend of mine is getting married and it's shaping up to be a very hectic weekend. That said, I would still like to be part of the worship at my placement church, ever though there is no obligation to be there. Although I've only been there 2 weeks, I really feel part of the church there. It really is a pleasure being there and worshiping with them. Even in a busy weekend, I will always find time for worship of and to be with God.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

The right direction (2)?

Since Thursday's meeting, I've been praying and reflecting much more on my call. Why word and sacrament, why full-time ministry? Why me? I know I've gone over these things before many, many times, but this time seems more real, more deep and guided by God.

I feel I have placed myself in His hands in a way I hadn't before. I came across this prayer on a Church of England booklet I found online:

I abandon myself into your hands.
Do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you.
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me
and all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, oh Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul.
I offer it to you with all the love in my heart.
For I love you Lord and so need to give myself
surrender myself into your hands
without reserve and with boundless
confidence you are my Father

Charles De Foucaul (1856-1916)

While I was praying it, I felt God was pouring His Holy Spirit into me in a way I've never felt before. It filled me with comfort and assurance I am on the right path and all I am doing I am doing in the name of the Father.

Also, I've had a look at one of the readings for tomorrow's services - 2 Samuel 7 1-14. Verse 8 just leaped off the page at me. David came from very humble beginnings to become King of Israel. I came from very humble beginnings too and God has called me to minister to His people. David made mistakes, but God chose him because of his heart. I feel that is why God chose me. I pray my heart is acceptable in His sight.

Friday, 17 July 2009

The right direction?

I had my first proper formal meeting with my new local assessor last night. I feel I learnt more in 1½ hours with her about the assessment process - what it means for me and what the church requires from it - than I did during my time with my last supervisor.

She told me why the Church of Scotland has this process for selecting candidates for ministry - because unless the call really is from God and guided in the holy spirit, it can destroy the individual, the church or both. That makes sense. I wish that had been explained to me at my last placement. If I'd known, I wouldn't have been as resentful (looking back that's what I was) of having to go through the process. I need to show change and growth in the placement; to learn my strengths and weaknesses. Through this knowledge I will learn more about myself, my gifts, my call.

She asked me to tell her about my call. How it came and how I felt about it. I explained it was something that I'd been aware of for around 20 years, but it always seemed to come from other people - "you'd make a good minister", "have you ever thought of becoming a minister" etc. I felt that was others opinions. I did other things, but it kept rearing its head. I'd look for other jobs and again others would suggest ministry. I'd feel a voice inside me saying "no, that's not what I want you to do, you know what it is", so to speak. Then, at the National Gathering last year, when the Archbishop of York called people forward I felt I had to go forward and say "here I am God, use me".

It all seemed okay to me, but my assessor challenged me about it. The church has to be sure the call is God's, not mine or those around me. I hadn't really mentioned God during my spiel (I thought that was implicit, but hay, that's part of the learning I need to do during this placement) and there was a word she'd like to hear I didn't use. I can't think what it was - spirit, submit, minister - and she didn't enlighten me, which is fair enough as I need to find my words to express something that is very difficult to put into words.

I like the way she challenged me. It was a "there are the facts, this is what the church needs, this is what you need to do". Not judgemental or critical. Very positive, helpful and supportive. She even emphasised she wasn't detracting from my call - she wasn't saying I am not called, but make sure you are. That's what my time at my placement is for.

So, at the moment, I'm having a period of doubt. It has been over a year since I made my first steps of exploring my call by attending the enquirers' conference. I had felt God's call for several years, but kept ignoring it, suppressing it, running away from it. The spirit moved me to step forward at the National Gathering and commit myself more fully to God, that He may act through me and I can serve Him in the way He has been calling me for so long. But, after last night, and this is by no means a criticism of my assessor, I don't know any more. Why ministry of word and sacrament? Why not youth ministry, or parish assistant, or deacon?

I don't know (well, I do about youth ministry, but as for the rest?). Perhaps, as I said in another post (here) I am at the fork in the road in my travels with God. Now I must discern which path He wants me to take. I also need to tread the very fine line between knowing my calling and being open to a change in direction.
I feel, in this placement, I will be able to really follow God's calling. I pray He gives me the words to express the calling He has given me. The cross I must carry.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Home Made

I was very domestic this afternoon. I made strawberry jam from the strawberries which have taken over our front garden - great weed suppressant, though. I even used fair trade sugar and some of the jars are years old. Talk about reducing our food miles and carbon footprint

I've been making my own jam, marmalade and chutney since the last recession. Then, I was in my mid teens, money was tight with both my Mum and Uncle being either unemployed or in very low income jobs. It was also when interest rates went through the roof and those with a mortgage really felt the pinch. Anyway, I worked out how much cheaper making jam was verses shop bought and I've never looked back. Nothing compares with home made jam and there's something quite wonderful about the smell of the jam wafting through the house - it's one of the smells of summer for me.

Before the crash back in February, I didn't need help doing things like this. In fact I was probably too independent. Today, I had to get my hubbie to help me out, as I can't safely lift the big pot when it has jam in it. It's partly strength, but mainly the pain I get lifting heavy things. Not a good idea with all that boiling sugar!

Yes, so I've lost a little Independence, but I've gained the knowledge of my limitations and the humility to ask for help. I so often find it amazing how everything works out and comes good in the end. Change is constant, but it is how we deal with it that matters. I pray I can accept change more freely and embrace it, even when it is imposed.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Formal introductions

Today I was formally introduced to the congregation where I am doing the remainder of my CFA. The experience was totally different to my first placement. The minister showed me exactly where everything was, gave me information on how the mics work and explained how the service would go.

I went into the church with the minister and sat with her during the whole service. During the intimations she introduced me to the congregation and wished me the best and hoped I would enjoy my time with the church. This allowed everyone to get a good look at the new girl and me used to sitting at the front of a congregation during a whole service. This was a bit more what I expected during my last placement, as a minister will normally sit up front for the whole service and that's very different to taking part in worship, but being in the congregation and only stepping up for you part.

The readings seemed to go well. I felt I delivered them well and would be heard. After the service many of the congregation commented that they enjoyed my reading and I have a good clear voice.

As an aside, the first reading (Amos 7:7-17) really spoke to me. I suppose in some ways it could be said I was sent back to my home town (or, in my case church). Also, I am a civil servant and colour in for a living, but God is sending me to spread his message, just as Amos was a herdsman.

At the end of the service, I left the worship area with the minister and stood with her while the congregation left. This allowed me to individually meet them and get used to that part of ministry. Again, that was something I didn't get the chance to do at my previous placement. When I tried I was told it wasn't necessary.

I have a meeting with my local assessor on Thursday and, if my presbytery rep can make it, my formal CFA agreement will be drawn up. If not, it can wait. Again, arranging that meeting was very different from my last experience. Here, I was given 3 evenings this week we could meet. At my last placement, I was told when we would meet and it didn't go down too well when I couldn't make it. I understand how busy ministers are (I've seen enough of their diaries!), but I too have things to do. My new assessor seems to understand much better.

I feel much more with the assessment this time. I know I am being watched and assessed with all I say and do. I am much happier with that and feel I will get the guidance and support I need during this period of growth and exploration which I didn't receive last time. All in all, today was a very positive experience and I hope it continues to be.

Friday, 10 July 2009


I was away when the letter from Ministries council finally arrived with the details on my next CFA placement, so there was about a week and a half delay between the letter being sent and me being able to contact my local assessor. Given the time of year, not too bad I thought. Besides, it had been nearly 3 months since my last local review, so ministries council weren't exactly quick off the mark.

Well, today ministries council were in touch chasing-up my CFA agreement. I explained I had been away and had only briefly met with my local assessor after last Sunday's service to make introductions. The person at ministries council seemed a little surprised by that. Err, you keep me waiting for 3 months then chase me up after 2 weeks...patience is a virtue.

I'm doing to readings on Sunday at my new placement and rather looking forward to it. My local assessor wants me to enter the church with me, so she can introduce me to the congregation. That's very different from my last one were I was to sit in the pews and I was pointed out. I think I prefer the new local assessor's way of doing.

Now, I'm going to hang out the washing and pick some strawberries. What a thrilling way to spend a Friday evening. If there's enough strawberries I might make jam...

Monday, 6 July 2009

Written for me?

Parts of yesterday's sermon spoke to me so well, it could have been written with me in mind.

The theme of the sermon was "The sacrament of failure" - where during our journey with God, as His disciples spreading His message, we will sometimes fail. People won't listen to what we are saying, we aren't saying the right thing for the people we're giving God's message to etc. But, the important thing about the failure is the get up, dust yourself down and move on. Move onto other places, to tell other people the message of God. And, hopefully they will hear you and listen.

Well, it just felt like my CFA journey. I failed at my last placement. I made mistakes. Hence me now starting another 6 months placement at another church. But, although I failed, I have dusted myself down and moved on. Even move to another town which isn't my home town. Wow. Okay, so I'm not directly spreading the message to my new placement church - I'm there to learn, grow and discern my calling. But the other things rung so true for me it was uncanny.

This isn't the first time I've been at churches or read a bible passage since the start of my journey of my calling to God last year, but every time the message I'm hearing feels as though it's specifically for me. Like the minister knew I was going to be there (which wasn't always the case) and their message was what I needed to hear.

I find this really quite amazing. God is with me in this journey. Helping me get back of the ground when I fall, dusting me down and leading me where He needs me to go. And where He needs me to go seems to provide what I need too!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Chalk and cheese?

I attended the church where I'll be doing my next 6 months of CFA today. It's a fairly new building, but that's a replacement to another which went on fire.

It was a really friendly welcome with everyone on the door even shaking hand with us. That's something I've never experienced at any church I've ever visited! Prior to the service starting, there was a lively buzz about the place, with the congregation chatting in fellowhsip with one another. Where my hubbie and I sat all those around us said "hello" or "good morning". Quite a change from my last placement!

The service was Church of Scotland, but with elements I hadn't encountered before, but I really liked. At the start of the service the minister invites the congregation to say "hello" to those around them. A good bit of inclusion and fellowship, I thought. Also, it took a couple of minutes, so that'll pad out the service!!! The other element I've never encountered before was the whole congregation joins hands during the short song they sing post-benediction. Those around us ensure we were included. I really liked that and think more churches should do it, though I knew at the time (and he later confirmed it) that it was outwith my hubbie's comfort zone!

Post service, I met with the minister briefly. I've already learnt more about why CFA is used than I did in my time at my previous placement. The minister was really down-to-earth and open. I'd hold fire getting too enthused with how wonderful she is now (I've only been to 1 service and met her for 1/2 hour), but I really feel this placement is going to be poles apart from my prior one.

Interesting times ahead, I feel.

Friday, 3 July 2009

New placement

Finally, I've received a letter from Ministries council regarding my next placement. This is to be another 6 months of co-ordinated field assessment.

The only information ministries councils gives is the name, address and telephone number of the minister who's to be my local assessor. A bit of googling allowed me to find the church they are minister of.

I called the minister last night and left a message in their answerphone. Now, I just have to wait to hear from them. Given the time of year, they may well be on holiday.

So, another day in my journey of discerning God's call for me is dawning.