Sunday, 31 October 2010

Do you believe in angels?

There's the angel who asked if I'd visited the lady who gave me her crystal bowl

So yesterday, I finally got round to it. I know, it's been months and I don't really have an excuse. Just not making the effort, quite frankly.

The crystal bowl lady is very ill and scared by her illness. It's understandable given it's nature.

I arrived and was shown through to her. She was taken aback to see me - not because she didn't know me, but she wasn't expecting me!

I stayed and chatted for 2 and a half hours. It didn't feel that long at all. During that time, 3 or 4 members of staff commented how she looked much better, as did her friend who'd arrived as I was leaving.

So, does that also make me an angel? For spending time with someone I care for, brightening her day and making her feel better?

I believe in angels, as messengers from God. Sent in various disguises. Sent when we need comfort or guidance or affirmation. Yesterday, through different people, I experienced all of those angels.

And God was there with us.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Phone Etiquette

Call me old-fashioned (Mrs G, you're old fashioned), but I was brought up there is a window when it's socially acceptable to phone someone. In my family, it is 6-7:30pm for people you didn't know very well and up to 8:30, 8:45 tops for close friends and family. Only then, that was for brief calls which would be finished before 9.

Part of the reason for the no later than 7:30 was, if I didn't know the person that well, I wouldn't necessarily know if they had young children who may be in, or about to go to, bed.

Any call after 9pm was either pre-arranged as the person it was for was out until then, or an urgent call of the "so and so has taken very ill/been rushed to hospital". You get the idea.

Last night the phone went at 9:30pm. I had text a friend of mine to arrange going for a pint tonight, so answered as I thought it would be them. No, it was the session clerk for the church I am leading worship at tomorrow! To make matters worse, there was nothing he asked me which couldn't wait until today or even tomorrow to establish. To say I was a little annoyed was an understatement!

So, from now on, unless we're expecting a phone call late on, Spot and I will let the answer machine pick it up. If it's urgent enough to warrant being answered, we will. If it can wait till the next day, it will.

I know some will say, once I am in full-time ministry, I will have to get used to receiving calls at all times. I accept that and, if I was really needed at 2am, I would be available at 2am (that is, of course, if I heard the phone at all). But if it can wait, it will wait. Questions over pulpit supply payments/travelling expenses are not included.

Ah, I'm glad I got that off my chest!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

I'm not an old man!

This Sunday I am providing pulpit supply at a local vacant charge. One of my ministers is their interim moderator and asked me as "they need someone who isn't an old man". My expression when she said this was a picture

I've decided to preach the same service as Sunday just there. I now have had a double "dress rehearsal" at my home churches, so I know it's well received and comes together well. I have to admit to being a little nervous. This is my first "going in cold" to lead worship at a church. All other services I have led have either been at my home churches or during placements.

I am sure God will be with me on Sunday. I'll just trust him. The holy spirit will do the rest.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Only mentioned it once (or twice), think I got away with it!

The services I led today went very well. The feedback I received was very positive. I know many people are more likely to make positive comments than give negative ones, but some of the individuals from whom I received praise only do so when something is really worth praising. It was very humbling to think I could invoke such a reaction. The holy spirit moved through me today, that I am sure of.

Comments I received included:
  • Excellent service - truly excellent (vague I know, but to get that from this individual...I must have done something right!).
  • I really enjoyed that.
  • I love the way you cut to the chase and tell it like it is.
  • Mrs Gerbil, that was excellent [referring to the sermon]. You said something that needed to be said. Thank you.
  • Wonderful. Keep that service. The church which gets you will be blessed. (Humbling words indeed).
  • That was a very good service. We old fuddy-duddies like how you manage to had a good balance of old and new.
  • Your service was excellent. You also have a very good presentation voice. Your pronunciation is clear and you pace things just right. It's important people hear what you are saying and we heard every word. Thank you.
I'm amazed how well it went.  In terms of my delivery, I did feel I paced it right and I was clear. It was good to have that affirmed. As this service was touching on a local issue, I thought it may not have been so positively received. I did feel moved by the holy spirit to say what I had to say, but even Jesus' words were rejected by some, especially in his home town.

This has reassured me to trust the holy spirit. It will give me the words God needs me to speak. Today I trusted and God spoke.

God's words, I pray.

Yet again, I am preaching at my home churches, while the minsters are on holiday. I still get nervous. Will I come over as a leader of worship, rather than "Wee Mrs Gerbil"? Will what I have to say be listened to an appreciated? Mostly, is what I am saying the words the holy spirit is moving me to say, rather than my own. I pray God is in my words and deeds.

Part of this today is my sermon will touch on churches in decline, closing and unions taking place. Locally, that is a sore topic as some unions are more positive than others, I shall say. The sermon does tie in to the lectionary readings, so this isn't a one woman rant (I pray). I do feel guided by the spirit to say what I have to say. Then maybe, maybe just maybe, some in the congregation will look beyond the local issue and see how concentrating on that is negative for the church and isn't what God wants of us.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

My Rangers are 40!

Many years ago, I was a Ranger Guide (now known as senior section). The unit celebrated its 40 anniversary today.

The founder invited all the former members she could contact to a drop-in celebration afternoon. As I am have a lot of time for her, I popped along.

There were a couple of photos featuring yours truely. Spot realised he hasn't seen photos of me, or many, he hasn't taken. I reminded him he had seen my graduation one, but that was taken 6 years after I left rangers!

I didn't stay for long. The people who had turned up, other than the founder, I didn't know. I think they were before or after my time.

One thing I found very odd was there were no current members there. I would have thought they would have been involved in the organising and setting up. It wasn't the case. The event seemed geared up for the past - not including the present. Very strange. I thought it was just me who thought that odd, but Spot commented too. I would have liked to have met some of the current members. To hear of their adventures and experiences.

It's funny. I have fond memories of Rangers and the then guider. I went to many of their activities while I was a member. Yet, I didn't feel connected with the event or the people, other than the founder. But then it has been 17 years. Anything can and probably will in that time. Since then, I've been to two universities, had 4 jobs, got married, travelled Europe and New Zealand and followed my call to ministry.

3 weeks in

It’s now almost 3 weeks since I started distance learning and I am rather enjoying it. I more or less mastered the Greek alphabet in the first week of classes, though doing as our tutor recommended and writing it out daily, combined with testing myself with flash cards Spot downloaded to my phone definitely helped.

My first essay for Mark has now been completed. The system at Aberdeen is the first two essays are formative and, as such, do not count towards the final mark; they are there to check we students have the right end of the stick. My problem wasn’t writing 500 words, but only writing 500 words.

Sometimes I get concerned whether or not I’ll be good enough for studentdom; I wasn’t that studious first time round and it has been 11 years. So, distance learning will certainty break me in. I’m also concerned I don’t get a high enough grading for these courses and Edinburgh uni won’t give me a place. I’m sure it won’t come to that, as I am putting a reasonable amount of effort into my studies (maybe too much). I suppose I’d be happier if I had a letter from Edinburgh Uni confirming my unconditional place for starting divinity next year. But, I’ll just have to be patient for that. It also helps to have applied...

I am doing some of my study during breaks at work. I see my colleagues looking at the various books I have on my desk (the bible, Elements of New Testament Greek and a commentary on Mark). None of them ask why I’m reading them. I haven’t told my colleagues why I've applied for voluntary severance (VS). There are some who'd be thrilled and supportive. Unfortunately, they are in the majority. I know anytime I said or did something they felt was inappropriate for "someone who's going to be a minister"I won't hear the end of it. Given I have been bullied for my faith in this office in the past, I don't want to give them ammunition. Besides, if they knew I was leaving anyway, why accept my VS application when I will be natural wastage soon enough.

As for study, I also need to remind myself it is also first year standard. I think I am still very much in fourth year mode. On Thursday I, along with the rest of Mark's gospel's class, will receive feedback from my essay. Once that comes back, I know I'll feel more comfortable as I will then know what is expected of me. Hopefully it's positive!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Presbytery retreat

I was invited to my presbytery’s retreat day on Tuesday. All involved in ministry in the presbytery were invited – so this included a couple of readers, associate and assistant ministers, myself as a candidate and full-timer ministers. I don’t think there are any Deacons in my presbytery, as I would have expected them to be there.

After the “icebreaker” (which I hate), we had communion. The facilitator of the day asked if anyone had a bible. Of the 30ish there, only 3 did (myself included). That confirmed it was a Church of Scotland retreat day. We will be more likely to turn up with a hymn book than a bible!

But I digress. The strange thing about communion was Sherry was used…that’ll be a white fortified wine. Sorry, but was it bulk blessed before the day by a vicar from the back of an artic? Once I had that “Only Fools and Horses - Miami Twice” reference in my head, I didn’t take communion as seriously as I should. Sometimes I have to remind myself I am not 8 years old anymore...

The day focused on prayer. After communion, we were given some thoughts on prayer by the facilitators, then invited to spend 20 minutes in prayer and reflecting on what prayer meant to us. The group broke up and headed in different directions. Some went for a walk; some stayed in the meeting room and found a quiet corner; others sat in their car. As the venue for the day is set in a park I know very well, I headed straight for the swings. I could see for miles – all the way to the Pentland Hills. Closing my eyes, while swinging backward and forward was very relaxing and meditative. With the bird song and view I really felt God with and all around me. It was probably a little irreverent, but it worked for me.

The rest of the day was a discussion on prayer, what works as individuals and as leaders of worship, what doesn’t work etc. The main thing I gained from those discussions was these things vary depending on individuals, group dynamic, circumstances etc. Frankly, I could have figured that out on my own, but maybe I'm being a little too blunt and not appreciating other may not see things quite the way I do.

At the end of the day, we were led int prayer by one of the facilitators. She invited us to sit comfortably and in our minds visit the various areas of our body and get them to relax. This instantly put me off. I did yoga many years ago and this technique was used at the end of a session. I enjoyed it in that context, but not in prayer. As we went on, it felt more and more as though it was yoga meditation than prayer. We were invited to concentrate on our breathing. Not God. Again, this is a yoga technique! Eventually, in our breathing we were invited to say Yahweh with each breath. Sorry, that just didn't do it for me. I'd rather be on the swings, if that's all the same?

Again, this re-enforced what works for one person may not work for another. As I discussed this with Spot, he commented "It strikes me the people leading this day have their ways of prayer and want to tell everyone about it. It's not based on finding out what other really think, but almost imposing their way and ideas on others". Personally, I think he hit the nail on the head.

As for the day itself. I enjoyed meeting most of the ministers from my presbytery. I enjoyed talking with them and exchanging views with them. I enjoyed the Christian fellowship. I was also in a position to talk with some of the ministers who may be my supervisors during my training. Networking – isn’t it great! So, if that's the one thing I gleaned from the day, it was definitely worth it.