Sunday, 27 June 2010

Passing on gifts

My first minister was a great minister and a humble and caring human being. Of all the past ministers my current ministers hear people talking about, he is the one who is spoken about with the most affection. His wife was a similarly wonderful person. She, it has to be said, as a "traditional" minister's wife, but together they were a team.

I learnt a lot from them both. How to serve, how to be loved, how we're all important and loved by God, no matter our backgrounds. This, when I was little, was unusual. My Mum wasn't married (and never had been) and had a little girl. Many other places and people judged my Mum and I on this. My first minister and his wife didn't. One of the best things he ever said to my Mum was "we all make mistakes, it's how you deal with them that matters". I believe this was when she thought she wouldn't be able to join the church. It was the 1970s.

Unfortunately, they both died some time ago. Their memories and teachings live on, though. I know the seeds they sowed have lead me to where I am in faith now.

Today, a member of my home church needed to talk to me. A fellow member of the congregation has had to move into a care home - the mind's willing, but the body isn't. Due to the move, she's is having to get rid of many of the things in her home. There's a crystal bowl she wants me to have. I was so touched by this. This woman was another one of the people sowing the seeds when I was little. I became even more touched when I was told why she wanted me to have it.

The bowl was given to her by my first minister's wife. Apparently I was always her favourite (I never realised this, as she treated everyone the same) and because I am going to be a minister. I was so touched I could have cried. Such a generous and loving gift. I will treasure it.

Be careful what you say

My mother-in-law sent me this and I just had to share!.

One Sunday morning, the pastor noticed little Alex standing in the foyer of the church staring up at a large plaque. It was covered with names and small American flags mounted on either side of it. The six-year old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside the little boy, and said quietly, 'Good morning Alex.' 'Good morning Pastor,' he replied, still focused on the plaque. 'Pastor, what is this? ' The pastor said, 'Well son, it's a memorial to all the young men and women who died in the service.'

Soberly, they just stood together, staring at the large plaque. Finally, little Alex's voice, barely audible and trembling with fear asked,

'Which service, the 8:15 or the 10:30?'

Friday, 25 June 2010

Find a penny, pick it up

The other night when Spot and I were out for a walk, I picked up a discarded 2p. It was in the middle of a pile of gravel thrown to the side of the road by the wheels of the cars travelling along the street.

The coin was badly tarnished and abraded around the edge – it had obviously been on the road for some time.

Unnoticed. Its lustre gone. Its value unappreciated.

Thrown away because it lacked value – “what can you buy with 2p”?

I say thrown away as I know there are people who throw 2p, 1p and even 5ps away, for that reason. What can you buy with that? They have no value; no worth.

Spot is often impressed at my ability to spot a discarded coin, especially one in the condition of this one. It’s a talent I’ve had for years. I picked it up from my uncle. Though back then, small denomination coins were valued more highly and usually had fallen from someone’s pocket or purse; not thrown away and discarded.

It saddens me to see people throw away money, even such small denomination coins, due to their perceived lack of worth. Stick them in a jar and see just how quickly the money adds up. As Andrew Carnegie is supposed to have said "look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves".  The coins I find in my travels and get in my change I place in an old money box and at the end of the year it often as not adds up to £15. Not bad for mainly 1p and 2p coins. Seemingly worthless coins.

And picking up that coin the other night got me thinking. What about people? Who does society "throw away", seeing them as worthless; of no value? I'm not going to list off examples here, but they are all around us. In the margins, among the dirt, unloved, unnoticed and unvalued.

The very people I, as a Christian, should be noticing. Seeing their worth where others see none. Speaking up for them, helping them, loving them.

Giving them worth and value and self-esteem where others don't.

Because only then can I really call myself a Christian, a follower of Christ, as that is what he calls me to do. To love others as I love myself.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


Last night was the presbytery meeting where the ministries council's decision to accept me as a candidate in training for ministry was ratified. It was good news for presbytery - two members of churches in presbytery have been accepted for ministry training and a reader had just completed his training.

Having sat through most of the meeting (ministries report was last up) we were presented to presbytery. I at least thought we'd have to go forward and be "welcomed" by the moderator. No - we just were asked to stand up. That was it. No questions, no fan fair, nothing.

I knew this was a procedural thing and it was unlikely the ministries council's decision would be questioned, but I thought there would be a little more "excitement". I suppose that's what comes when the item is near the end and everyone just wants to go home.

I had to leg it pretty sharpish after the meeting. It didn't finish till after nine and if I'm not home by 9:30 I turn into a pumpkin! A couple of members of presbytery did congratulate me as I left, which was nice.

So, looks like I am now, officially, a candidate in training for the ministry of word and sacrament. It's just a pity the training probably won't begin until next year, due to the lack of a uni place. Ne'er mind, these things are all meant. It's all part of God's plan for me, that I am sure of.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Can't sing, won't sing

When I was little, my terrible singing was legendary. I'd like to have thought I was a bit like Eric Morecambe in the classic Morecambe and Wise with Andre Previn sketch "all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order, but that would have implied some right notes. Holding a tune in a bucket would have been a major achievement!!!

I always learnt all the words for the sings (or hymns) that the Sunday school, school class or drama group were preforming. And I had (and still do) have the voice to ensure those at the back of the hall or church can hear me. But, I'm sure they rather I wouldn't have!!!

It got to the stage, where the class was to preform a song for end of term, say, the teacher would ask me to mime. As I knew the words, I was also to prompt those who'd forgotten. My quiet wasn't that quiet, I have to admit!!!

Even at uni, my singing was still appalling. Some good friends of mine would kill "Caravan of Love" by the House Martins. Others living in the block must have thought we were strangling a cat, or something!!!

Yet, latterly, somethings odds stated. As I recall, it first happened 4 years ago, at a good friend's wedding (incidentally, a fellow caravan of lover). Another one of the "Caravan of Love" chorus turned to me after the service and said "when did you learn to sing like that?" - harking back to the cat's choir. I didn't think things had changed, and also put it down to hymns I'd known since I was wee.

Then, when I first visited the church where I did my second period of co-ordinated field assessment, a member of the congregation told me "What a braw voice you have". When I told my Mum this she laughed and said "they must be tone deaf".

Then, yesterday, I was helping the older group at young church. Initially, they were practicing the hymn they will be singing at next Sunday's service. I commented I'd better not join in, as I'd distract them. My minister, who'd come out to play for us (her husband, the other minister, was leading worship) and who had also been sitting in front of me during the start of the service said "why do you always say things like that. I was listening to you during the hymns and you have a really nice voice".

Good grief, if that's the case, where has it come from. I could probably get signed affidavits from multiple people countering my minister's claims. I suspect, with enough years of practice anyone can become good (or at least reasonable) at almost anything. Or maybe, just maybe, this is another gift from God. Now, that would be amazing.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

In training

Okay, we've got a mic stand, a chair, a person standing, a cuddly toy and...a dog. Yes, that is a dog in church!

A member of my home church is a puppy walker for guide dogs. The dog is a wee smasher and loved by the congregation - young and old. Certainly an unusual sight in a church, but as part of the training, the dog has to be exposed to as many environments as possible. Why not church?

I think she realised she was being watched when Spot snapped this one, though:

After the service, one of the congregation,, who has learning difficulties, tried to give the dog a biscuit and I explained she couldn't get human biscuits - only dog ones. He then gave the biscuit to Spot...I wonder what that says???!!!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Feeling a little drained

I've been giving blood tonight. According to the Scottish Blood Transfusion Service (SBTS), it was my 63rd donation.

When you give blood in the UK, you don't get paid. It's illegal and, I would say, a little immortal. That's just by-the-by, though. As a little thank you, SBTS gives donors little pin badges after 10, 25, 50 and 100 donations.

I should have received my award for 50 donations a while ago now, but the nurses at the donor sessions hadn't mentioned it and I wasn't that fussed. I don't give for awards. I give because I can and have the attitude of  I'd expect there to be blood products available should my friends, family or myself ever needed it. Also, my cousin had to have a blood transfusion at birth, due to the rhesus factor problem. If it weren't for blood donors I wouldn't have a cousin.

As I was registering, the nurse brought up that fact I hadn't had my 50 donations award and that I deserve it. So, I accepted. Then I was invited to put off receiving my award until October, where I could go to Edinburgh city chambers for a cheese and wine reception. No thanks, that's not why I donate. She was a little surprised initially. I think she though I was being modest. When it became apparent I was serious I got a "good on ya"!

So, that got me to thinking, how many times do people do things for recognition of their peers, rather than be totally altruistic? There are several people I work with have entered the Race for life in Edinburgh on Sunday. Now, I am in no way taking away from people entering organised events to raise funds for such a good cause. After all 1 in 3 people will develop cancer at some point in their lives, but the way some people go o about it, it strikes me as more a social gathering with their pals and no one in the social circle wants to say "no, I don't want to do it", as it will make them look bad

And there's Cancer Research's decision last year to put out of "smaller" Race for life events, such as in Dumfries, because "We owe it to our participants and supporters to ensure that we raise as much money as possible in the most cost-efficient way. For this reason we have taken the difficult decision to reduce the number of smaller Race for Life events across the UK, including Race for Life at Dumfries, and increase the number of places available at bigger events". So, Dumfries doesn't make enough money for Cancer research - one of the biggest and best funded charities in the country! Yet the local Rotary Club now organises a similar event (which men can enter - shock horror!). (That's just my wee rant, though).

I used to get a hard time at my work for being a "Sunday" Christian, as I didn't brag about the things I did outwith work for my church and other. If could have been so easy to put those people straight, but I would have lost some of my integrity. After all, it's God who judges what I do, not people (just as well, really!). A lot of people don't understand this, but I'm just doing what Jesus taught. Or I at least try to. I don't always get it right.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Steps towards being "official"

Although I have had the nod from ministries council, regarding my call to ministry, in order to officially become a candidate in training for the ministry of word and sacrament my local presbytery has to approve it (there's probably lots of official language and a proper legal term, I know). So, I let the presbytery clerk know I had been accepted and she passed my details onto the convener of ministries committee in my presbytery.

It is his responsibility to bring the matter regarding my candidacy to presbytery and, with that in mind, we met for a cuppa last night. The discussion was just a "get to know you" session, as neither of us have met before. I also learnt there is another person in the presbytery who has also been recently accepted for ministry training. It'll be good to meet them too, though they will be starting training this year as they have a uni place.

One interesting thing the convener asked was if I had sufficient pastoral support. I mentioned my ministers, but apparently it's better if it's not them. I also mentioned my last local assessor, who has already said she'd be really happy to meet me to chat, if I needed. If I needed more, I'll just shout. I've gotten over my slight reticence to ask for help - I can be a little too independent!

So, in 2 weeks time presbytery should be "rubber stamping" 121's decision. I hope so anyway. As Spot says, they'd need a very good reason over my life and doctrine to knock me back.

Monday, 7 June 2010

A bit disappointing

Two Sundays in a row now, the male half of my home church's ministry team had led worship, but I'm not convinced a proper act of worship on either occasion. Yes, we had all the components - hymns, prayers, bible readings, children's address, a "sermon" - yet I didn't feel I was worshiping God, but listening to reports and rants. Let me explain...

Last Sunday, the minister told us of things which had happened at General Assembly. Yes, it's good congregations are told what goes on there and made aware of the (potential) impact on them, whether short or long term. But there are much better and more appropriate channels to do that. A post on the church website and an article for the magazine, for example.

Yesterday, he talked about the Israeli attack on the aid flotilla. It almost felt as though he "twisted" the lectionary to talk about this issue. Again, I feel passionately about this subject, so it's not apathy or lack of understanding which may have clouded my view. With this matter, I just don't feel he approached the matter very well, which made the service seem disjointed. Usually the children's address is a good opener and link into the rest of the service. Yesterday, that was not the case.

Tellingly, Spot asked what I'd got out of the service. I told him the hymns were good, but nothing really. Not a good sign. Worse, though, Spot actually fell asleep during the service. That's really not like him, especially as he was also running the projector.

Now, I wonder if I should approach the minister about this? I know there's got to be a way where he can challenge and inform the congregation about important matters, locally, nationally and internationally, but still led worship rather than just rant or inform. Maybe I should persuade him to set up a blog for matters like this, with a link from the church website? One thing I do know is he likes constructive criticism and will listen to it. I just hope it's not just Spot and I who feel like this and, if I do talk to the minister about this, I am speaking for the congregation.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Good Times

I had a lovely afternoon on Monday chatting with my ministers. Mainly, the visit had been arranged to talk over my success at assessment conference, but we spoke about so much else.

I did let them read my report from the conference - they were very impressed. That's good; imagine if they read it and thought "they let people in with a report like that!".

One of my ministers had been in touch with a friend of hers who works closely with Prof. David Fergusson of Edinburgh uni, who had given her advice to contact him for help. Although I'd already persuaded that avenue unsuccessfully, I was touched she'd gone to the effort for me. At the moment, I'm going for the attitude of try clearing, but I won't get my hopes up too much. I suppose I'm fairly resigned to the fact I might not be able to begin training until next year. I've said it before and I'll say it again - it's all meant.

So, what to do with myself. I'm already involved in the closing service for the church organisations at the end of June. My ministers and I were bouncing ideas around on Monday and I even came up with the "title" of the service - Growing Stones. No doubt, I'll get roped into various other services etc. It would be good if I could get a chance at other churches in my presbytery. Just need to see what comes up.

So, that's about it for now. I'm sure I'll have plenty to talk about soon enough!!!