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


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


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...