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


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


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


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.