Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Candidates' conference day 5

Yesterday, I felt weighed down by the enormity of what I was taking on. I know I am called to ministry. I know I am following God's path for me, but is much has gone on over the course of the conference I am wondering if I have really got what it takes.

It really struck home to me when the moderator spoke to us. Different people took different things from that session. I took the importance of good leadership, of building up relationships, of enabling and encouraging others, in and outside the church. It really resonated with me, but I don't know if I have the gifts to do it.

The challenge of compassionate leadership was echoed throughout the day's presentations. The importance of walking with those we will encounter. Of being non judgemental. Of showing God's love in the worst situations humanly imaginable. To say it is an enormous task is an understatement.

I know it is not possible without God with me. I know he leads me where I may not want to go. Yesterday, I felt that's exactly where I am begin led. And it scares me. And that makes me feel inadequate to undertake that task. I just have to remember God will carry me when I am lowest. When I think I can't do it, he will walk beside me.

I just have to keep focusing on what I know. I am on this journey because I trusted God. I must keep trusting and recalling his promise to me. "Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you" (Deuteronomy 31:8).Since I first heard that passage speaking to me, I have held onto the faith God is preparing the way for me and I should not, I will not give up.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Candidates' conference day 4

The things I got most from, yet found most challenging yesterday, were the presentations from Richard Frazer about the work Greyfrairs church in Edinburgh are doing and that of world mission.

It's amazing to see and think how making links with people in a city and around the world can have such life changing effects. All this through the kirk, both locally and nationally, looking beyond itself. Looking at the bigger picture and showing God's love in action to those who may never come to church. The very types of people who Christ sought out.

I know community based work is something I am increasing feeling called to lead and facilitate. I don't know how that will manifest itself, but I am passionate about the church, and I mean that as the body of Christ, reaching beyond itself. Yet, I find that prospect daunting. I am a very small insignificant person in the life of the church. How can I make a difference? How can I make this part of the church I minister to (if it isn't already part of their mission)?

So many questions. So much to think and reflect on. So I have prayerfully left it in God's hands.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Candidates' conference day 3

The pace of the conference eased off temporarily yesterday, what with it being a Sunday and all that. We began with a service of communion. It was fairly formal and traditional in style. At least it was nice bread. Very good bread, maybe even from Fishers and Donaldson! I often wonder if it's a terrible thing, while taking communion to have "Oh, rustic seeded bread. This is delicious.". That said, I believe Jesus wants to give us the best, so perhaps communion really should be a symbol of that.

Mission and evangelism was an interesting session. Most people I discussed evangelism with recognised there is a lot of baggage with that word. At it's basic meaning it is the Good News. Such a shame it doesn't feel that way for many, even within the church.

Inter-faith issues. The main thing I took away from that, from the Rabbi who spoke to us, was to know my faith during any dialogue. That will be respected by most of other faiths. From a time I spent in the Edinburgh Central mosque a few years back, I have experienced that to be the case. As the Rabbi was pointing out, he struggles to have these dialogues when those he is speaking with do not seem to adhere to some of the basic tenets of their faith, such as a Church of England priest who didn't believe in life after death. As he put it, that's a pretty important thing for Christianity. If we (of any faith) do not know what we believe, we cannot use that to help others and break down barriers. A very challenging and inspiring session.

The rest of the day was free time. A walk to the beach in the rain with a couple of the candidates was refreshing. I needed to get out and it was good to chat with those in similar situations. I like that sort of sociability.

After dinner, the group got together to be social. That's when I remembered why I think of myself as anti-social. "Please miss, can we not have the piano played so loud you can't have a conversation?"  Yes, you are a very good player, but shut the lid. Maybe it's just me, but sociability is being together but not bringing about a situation where everyone does the same thing.

So, too loud music when some people were trying to talk. Then someone produced song sheets. Yes, song sheets. I wondered why this was necessary. "So someone doesn't request a song and we all forget the words". Great, so this is descending into a sing-a-long and it's an all or nothing attitude. It's not I object to a wee bit of a sing-a-long, but don't do it in such a way that the group can't do anything else. It's not anti-social some singing while others listen and//or chat and feel they can join in if and when they feel comfortable. It is anti-social when that is what is happening.

What made it worse was the choice of songs. "I will survive" being regarded as an uplifting one. When I commented "Sitting at the dock of the bay" was a bit morose, I was told I was wrong. HAVE YOU NOT ACTUALLY LISTENED TO THE WORDS? "Feel like I've got nothing to live for and nothings going to bring me back home". Yes, that's really,. really uplifting. Grrr.

It's while "I will survive" was being sung I recalled when at uni the first time round, I would get royally drunk to give my confidence when I was in larger groups and it was the group mentality. Really, I was shy and uncomfortable there, but didn't have the knowledge of myself or confidence to walk away. Last night I finished my pint and headed for bed. And I feel much better for the rest, though I'm not looking forward to tomorrow night's "social night" if yesterday was anything to go by. Each to their own, but I don't go with the herd anymore.

It looks like it's going to be a beautiful day today. Now, I'm going to get ready for breakfast.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Candidates' conference day 2

Yesterday was an intensive day. With safeguarding training all morning and reflections/talks on justice, peace and liberation theology. Fortunately, while the non-newbie candidates were arriving, there was an afternoon break. I headed for a walk and a trip around the McTaggart exhibition at the St Andrews' museum.

There was a lot to take in yesterday and I know it will take a long time to process. It's interesting and exciting getting to know my fellow candidates and learn their varying theologies. I know I am just forming some of them and I will change and grow in them over time. Who knows where that may lead.

I also went for a 6:30am walk/run yesterday morning. That was a shock on 2 levels. Out for a walk that early in the morning AND running. I need to do something to burn off the energy.

Candidate conference day 1

Spot had been on holiday all week, so drove me to my first conference. That was handy, as I did turn up with more than I would have if I'd travelled with public transport. I was almost late, as we couldn't find his house keys.

The first day was pretty intensive. Lots of new people to meet and get to know; many things to learn. It's little wonder candidates have fallen asleep during sessions, given the intensity of things here.

I realised I'm maybe not as uncomfortable with new people as I used to be. Maybe I've never been too bad, or perhaps this is a gift which is growing in me. Or t may be the simple fact we are all in this together. We may have different backgrounds and experiences, but we are all starting on our ministries to which God has called us.

I had heard cliques can form. I understand groups of individuals will be drawn together for reasons including the university they will be studying at, their ministry (diaconal, word and sacrament, ordained local ministry). I have tried to avoid being drawn, though that will become more difficult as I get to know my colleagues. As part of this, I've been trying to sit with different people at the sessions and meals. Okay, it's only the first day, but others stories and experiences are amazing and encouraging. I pray mine are too.

The speech training was interesting. Maybe I have a strange sense of humour, but there were some jokes the session leader made I just didn't find funny; the rest of the group were ending themselves. I think I've been noticed for that, but I'm not one to go with the crowd.

During that session, we were to practice using or diaphragms. That was okay until we were made, sorry, asked to face the wall. I felt 5, 6 years old and remembered vividly the humiliation of a teacher doing that to me, just because she didn't like me. So, the laughing-it-off defence mechanism kicked in. I kept corpsing. Eventually, I was almost getting it together when someone suggested we sounded like bagpipes. That was me, I lost it. Lesson, don't face the wall and go to your own place with no one around to practice.

Following the last session and prayers, I was chatting with two of my diaconal colleagues. One kept glancing at my scar on my shoulder. I didn't know whether to say something or wait to see it she asked. I waited. I'm still waiting. I have got over my self consciousness about it. I'm quite proud of it, as it is part of me. But please, please ask me. I think it was bothering you more than me. And remember, or think, just think, how you may make a parishioner feel if you did that to them.

At the end of the day, I didn't just head to bed. Big mistake. I chatted with some colleagues for an hour or so and that woke me up a bit much. Consequently, I haven't slept very well. Today is going to be tough, even with the afternoon break.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

He's back

At 19:10 tonight. And I am at candidates' conference. There's always iplayer.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Industrial revolutions

I saw this on Stewart Culter's blog and had to share here. That riding is just like bow ties and fezzes...

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

What a nice bunch...

the candidates I met the other night are. It was so good to meet with them, exchange experiences and generally blether.

It's a relief hearing there are others who feel the same I do ("They picked me. Of all the people at assessment conference, me?!"). Of discovering others who have been blessed by apparent delays since first starting on their road to ministry. Of learning the tricks of the trade from those more experienced.

Generally, I was amazed at our deep sense that no matter how ridiculous our calls may seem, even to ourselves, it is exactly where we should be. God knows why he has chosen every one of us. Looking at the group, I think the Kirk is in safe hands for the future (she says, polishing halo!).

Onwards to conference at the weekend. I'm looking forward to meeting more of my colleagues and fellow candidates. Despite all the things I have heard about conference, I'm going to enjoy it. It will be the beginning of becoming the minister I am called to be and that is cool, like bow ties!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Saying goodbye

Potentially, yesterday was the last Sunday in my home church for a long time. Next week I am off to my first candidates' conference and, who knows.

I didn't want a fuss, but just knew they wouldn't just let Spot and I waltz off into the sunset without something. All through the service, I had this feeling parts were aimed at me, though that could have been coincidence.

It was Spot's last week on the projector. He had said last year he'd give up, so he could follow me. I don't think he really thought that would involve more than supporting me by attending the occasional service or fellowship event with me! So, when the minster started mentioning it, I thought I may have got away with just remaining sitting at the back. How wrong was I!

We were both invited forward and the minster said nice things about us (and here was I thinking they knew us better!). Funny, I can't really recall what they said. All I was thinking was I don't want to be the centre of attention and don't turn on the waterworks! I nearly lost it when the congregation sang "The Lord bless you and keep you" to us. I was looking around the congregation, but desperately trying not to make eye contact, as I just knew half were in tears. The choir were behind us and they were all in bits. Some of them were even surprised by their own reactions, by all accounts.

It isn't easy leaving. I have been gradually attending my home church less and less, as I have been all too aware this day was coming. They are my family in Christ and I love them all dearly. The faith they shared with me formed mine and the rest, as they say, is history. They have always been a big part of my life and they will always be in my heart, as I know I am in theirs.

God lead me to ask Mum to take me to church. God has lead me through bad times and good. God has called me and I am following. None of that would have been possible without the love I have had from my home church. Saying goodbye was always going to be hard. We hurt because we love.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Climb every mountain

where does the path lead?
I have now heard my first choice of placement can't take me, as they are going to be supervising another candidate. I must admit being a little disappointed, as I know I would have learnt a lot there.

So, my second choice of placement supervisor is going to be approached. I must admit to not knowing much about this minister or church, but I don't see that as a bad thing. Wherever I go, I will learn.

If they can't take me, then I may consider the placement church I have been resisting. The supervisor himself is a decent person, but...yes, that word. A closed mind and heart isn't going to get me far in my training.

I have this feeling God will ensure I go exactly where he needs me to go. So far on this journey, I have not been led on the straight, easy path. There have been delays and disappointments. Yet they have been turned into blessings and opportunities. I look at the photo at the top of this post and an reminded I need to climb that mountain. It will be a hard path. But with God at my side, I will get there. And the view from the top will be amazing.

Then I'll have to come back down, but one step at a time.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Blame the parents

Following on from the riots last week, some of the right wing press has turned on the parents. Particularly single parents. Looking at the articles, the writers don't substantiate their statements with facts and figures. Well, show us exactly how many of the rioters came from single parent homes, as a percentage of the number of convicted rioters.

It's very easy to blame the marginalised and overlooked. They do not have a voice. They aren't listened to, by some, because of their situation.

As a daughter of a single parent, this hurts me. This hurts my family. It's difficult for me to disassociate myself from my experienced of growing up with the judging my Mum and I had because of this.

She taught me right from wrong and gave me a very good moral head. She worked to provide for me and give me the best she could. Yet for the first years of my life there was always someone who'd not see the intelligent, funny, generous child I was, just I was illegitimate.

When I wanted to go to church, Mum took me. Being a single parent, along with her experiences of church growing up, she thought she would be judged. Luckily for both of us, she went to the best church she could have. As the minister wisely told Mum "We all make mistakes, it's how we deal with them which makes the difference".

Once, at communion, Mum went into the balcony as she didn't think she could take it. The session clerk went looking for her. She knew she was there as he'd heard my voice. He brought her into the body of the kirk and reassured her Christ died for her too.

At church I learnt I was loved for who I was. I am a child of God. I am created in his image (though, not perfect by any means!). Mum did too. There I was Mrs Gerbil (well, I suppose Miss Hamster). Mum was a member of the board and a guider.We were loved for who we were. They really did live out the "love the sinner, not the sin" churches talk of.

Single parents are not to blame for the riots. Bad parenting may be a factor, though I think even that is too simplistic. It's easy to blame single parents. They often do not have a voice. The church should give them one, as it should with all the marginalised in society. After all, that's the types of people Jesus sought out.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Learn from my fail

I decided to be all arty yesterday. Shoot some photos in RAW with the wide angle lens (Sigma f4-5.6 10-20mm), with a view to rendering them into black and white.

After taking 30ish photos I realised the camera was on manual focus. Oops.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

It all came together

Spot and I were visiting friends at the weekend. Not that noteworthy, I know, but we were very aware it was one of the last weekends we'll have free for a while. Not that we're bothered. It's an occupational hazard for me (and potentially Spot). Also, even before beginning the process which has got me to this point, weekends were often committed to church-related things.

A couple of weeks earlier, they had been visiting her parents and were in the congregation as I led worship. At the weekend they were commenting how the service "was just so you". They found it amusing I pointed out it would be surprising all these people following Jesus around the lake and not taking their pieces with them (for viewers outwith Scotland, that's sandwiches). They also loved how the whole service fitted so well together. Cool, that's what I'm trying for, though I don't always know if others get that.

It is a major bugbear of mine when that doesn't seem to happen. I know sometimes my services have had a tenuous link, but there's some sort of theme I try to carry through the whole service. What I hate is the readings not appearing to relate to the childrens' address and neither of them relate to the sermon. (Sigh, glad I got that off my chest).

The feedback I get from services always seems to be positive. I know this night sound a little odd, but a wee but of negative feedback could be good. I might get a big head and that would not be good, though with friends and family like mine, it's probably not going to happen! Also, I wonder if it's because I'm the trainee minister and they know I'm just learning. It's great to think that's the case, but I'll never learn if no one tells me what I've done wrong or could do better.

Hopefully, that will all change come placement. I know I will have to adapt my style if I get my first choice. That's good. Knowing how to lead worship in different contexts and with different types of people will benefit me long term. Doing placements at churches like those I know will not achieve that and will not give me the good grounding I'll need once I get released on my own! A wee while yet, but it'll be quick enough coming.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

In the right direction

As it turns out, placements should have been discussed at my ministries council meeting in a bit more detail than they were (i.e. just that I would do 4, including probation, in total). It wasn't on the agenda, so was missed. Oops.

I've managed to find out who does take candidates in my area, finally. There is one which may be a possibility for probation, so I've deliberately not went with it. Better to keep my powder dry on that one.

My first choice for placement is about as "High Kirk" as I can get in my area. There are also other "issues" I am aware of (which I cannot mention here) at that church which will make it a good place to learn, even if I would never want to minister there!

My second choice I don't know as well. I believe it's a wee bit more happy clappy than I am used to and has a praise band (which I am not, generally, a fan of). As it's a bit of an unknown entity, I would be going there with a very open mind. I know I would learn there (I know I would at any placement), but feel the other church would be much more beneficial for my future ministry.

Now, I just need to wait to see if my first choice would be prepared to take me. I understand having a student is a lot of work and they may not be in a position to.

I also know, if they can't take me and I go to my second choice, God is sending me there for a reason. Everything happens for a reason.

On a selfish note, Spot and I will not need to head in different directions on a Sunday morning. That's not to say that wasn't insurmountable, but it's a lot more convenient. I don't want to make a rod for my back between placements and study.

Hopefully, I'll know where I am going by the end of this week, beginning of next. One less thing to cover at conference. Yeah!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Facebook free zone

I am not on Facebook. There are many reasons I am not, mainly I do not want to be found. It may sound, but I do not want to share every minute part of my life with everyone I knew from school circa 1990, thanks very much. If we were friends and drifted apart over time, there must have been a reason for it. I have moved on with my life, so why haven't you???!!!

Sometimes, I wonder if I should join. It might make keeping in touch with my friends easier. Then I read articles like this.

Then there are the stories of people being put out because someone ignored or turned down a friend's request. Are they really your friend or are you just getting your numbers up? Have you ever interacted with them, ever? Or are they on the friend's list of someone on your friends' list who you wouldn't know from Adam and you are only wanted to add to your friend's list to have more friends than anyone else? Really, get a life.

So, going off to uni, where everything seems to be relying on FB and you're seen as weird for not following the crowd, is going to be interesting without it. Am I going to join? No. I am very stubborn when I want to be. When FB gets something vaguely approaching ethics and I don't loose all rights to any data I would want to post there, I might change my mind.

In the meantime, I'll keep an eye on Google+ and see how that develops.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

More thoughts on placements

I know I may not get a choice where I go for my first placement. It seems from speaking to members of my presbytery, most of the ministers who take candidates are full-booked.

One of the places which takes candidates I don't think I would go into with an open mind. I have been told candidates who have gone there learnt a lot. The trouble, and I know it is my problem, is lack of open-mindedness. A similar church I wasn't familiar with would be a great learning experience for me, but I would be going there with no pre-conceived ideas of what it would be like. Moreover, nor would some members of the congregation have them of me.

I have also been looking at churches outwith my presbytery. Not so much as knowing whether they take candidates, but more to get an idea for other types of church. Through looking at these, I think I have more of an idea what areas of parish ministry I'd like to experience and learn from. They almost certainly will be outwith my comfort zones. Great. That's where I need to go, so I can increase my "ministry fitness". Only by stretching myself will I really find out what type of minister I will be and will I learn who I truly am.

One thing I have been reflecting on recently was my first co-ordinated field assessment placement. Although there where issues there, I didn't start off with the right mind set. I initially went in with the attitude of having to endure the placement. That is until that attitude blew up in my face. Consequently, I had to undergo another period of co-ordinated field assessment.

So, why am I mentioning this now? Well, I realise two things from that experience:
  1. Placements aren't there to be endured. They are learning experiences. Whether good or bad experiences, there should be something to learn, even if it's knowing how not to do something.
  2. Where a call is truly from God, as much as I may have (initially) wanted to fail, he will not allow it.
So, as with this journey so far, God is guiding me. He is sending me where I need to go to grow into the type of minister he needs me to be. Now, that's pretty cool.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Church without walls

I found this video via the Dunfermline Presbytery site. As I (embarrassingly) put it at selection conference, "it's not about the steeple, it's about the people". Don't get me wrong, buildings can be a great focal point and community centre, but are there other ways of doing church?

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Starting to get real

A number of people have mentioned I must be getting excited about starting my training. In some ways, I am. After all this waiting, I'll be taking the next step in my journey with God. But, I don't know if excited is really the right word.

I suppose latterly, things have hit me. It's not that I didn't expect the changes I will go through, I'm not that naive, it's just they are happening and I am experiencing them.

There's the members of my home church starting to wish me the best, in case they don't see me before I head off.

There's my minister being concerned they won't see me. Although for a while during the selection process I wasn't at my home church for the Sunday service, she saw me at youth club and Spot was around. That will no longer be the case. She's also a friend of mine, so I'll make the effort to keep in touch.

There's starting uni, again. All the new things I need to do and learn. The hope I'll be good enough. The hope that I'll "fit-in". The hope I won't overcompensate my introverted nature, as I sometime can.

The beginning of conference. I know it'll all be fine and I won't be the only nervous newbie. We're all in the same boat. I'm looking forward to meeting my fellow candidates and forging new friendships.

With all these things at the back of my mind, I'm all too aware this stuff is getting real. Backing out is not an option as I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. God knows me and knows this is exactly the right place for me.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Being self-centred?

I've been a bit "grrr" since my ministries council meeting, without any real excuse. I've been moaning about not knowing where I'm going to go, but that's rather narcissistic, self-centred and unfair on those who need to organise placements for all the candidates. As I have been reminded, it is a complex process and where I go isn't just based on my needs, but where would be able/prepared to take me.

Looking back at the meeting, my main bugbear was the ministry support officer (MSO) who chaired the meeting was not the MSO who will actually be my MSO. In the letter letting me know about the meeting, it was very much worded I was to make attendance my priority, as my presbytery rep and I did. Knowing the person I was talking to wasn't the person who would arrange my placement (necessarily), I didn't feel I could mention things outwith some vague learning outcomes I want to explore. The meeting didn't really lend itself to me coming out with "If possible, I would like to go to church X for Y reason".

I'm now starting to think it would be much easier for all concerned, especially at this stage, to just tell you where to go, as happened with extended enquiry/co-ordinated field assessment. As I said in my meeting, it's probably easier and quicker to list what I know than I don't, as I don't know much!

I suppose I just don't like this kind of uncertainty. Funny, I can decide to drive to Italy and back for a charity stunt and have no itinerary, route planned or any idea where I will stay. I think I need to adopt the same attitude with this as I did with that. And that was a lot of fun, but a story for another time.

Well, I pray I can just go with the flow. I can accept where I am sent with a open mind and happy heart. I know wherever I land up I will learn. I know from my 2 co-ordinated field assessments not all the experiences were positive, but I still have grown and learnt as a result of having been through them.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

No further forward

So there I was at the ministries council meeting. I mentioned areas I'd like to explore during my training and signed away my life on the yellow agreement form, which candidates, their presbytery rep and a member of ministries council also signs.

I sort of expected to discuss where I would go for my first placement. Chatting to my presbytery rep before and after the meeting, I think they thought that was the primary reason for the meeting.

So, it's been 15 months since I became a "candidate in training for the ministry of word and sacrament". And I still have no idea where I'll go for my first placement. So, I'm in no better a place than I was in that regard before the meeting.

Someone told me recently 121 is like the civil service. They weren't kidding. They both have their procedures and nothing, but nothing, will get in the way of them. Even when common sense (all too rare, IMHO) says it would be a good idea to maybe do things a different way.

I do find this a wee bit frustrating. You'd think being a former civil servant I'd be used to it, but no. I'm not one for procedures just for the sake of them. Besides, if this had been sorted for me a while ago, it would have taken pressure off my ministries support officer at a time which is especially busy.

So, more waiting. I should be used to it by now. I know it's all par for the course, but it does get a wee bit frustrating sometimes.

Friday, 5 August 2011

God is not a being at all...

...according to Rev Klaas Hendrikse of Exodus Church in Gorinchem, central Holland. He's a minister in the Dutch reformed church, but doesn't believe Jesus necessarily existed. The BBC article is interesting. He sounds like a open minded, intelligent man, but without believing Jesus was the son of God, who died and rose from death to free humanity from sin.

I cannot understand how this is an expression of Christianity when the critical element of the Christian faith is seen as a myth story. Maybe the Netherlands would make an interesting placement, if this is the way the mainstream church there is going. It would definitely be challenging, that's for sure.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Thinking where to go

Shortly, I'll be attending meetings to start the ball rolling in my training. As part of my training towards the ministry of word and sacrament, I will undertake four placements.
  • Two term-time placement from around the beginning October to end May. If I've got this right, they are a commitment of Sundays (so if the church does 2 service, I do two; if only 1, you get the picture) and two 3.5 hour sessions a week (why they can't say 7 hours is beyond me).
  • One full-time 10 week placement. This is usually in the summer between first and second year (for those doing a 3 year degree), but can be between second and third year.
  • Then, once study is finished with (is it ever?) there's a full-time 15 months probation period.
I do have a choice where I go for these placements, though there are practicalities over where they can be. Where I live, a term-time placement in the Glasgow area is not realistic. Or, a church I may have thought of may not be in a position to take trainees.

I know I  benefit from being gently stretched and taken out of my comfort zones. It helps me grow, stops me becoming stale and makes me think about things in a way I may not have. So, where to go?

For my first placement, I believe it's pretty much taken I do a "normal" parish placement (is there such a thing?). There's a church near where Spot will be doing his extended enquiry which takes trainees. From a practical point of view, this would be ideal, but is it a good choice for my learning? I don't know, as I don't really know the church anymore (I used to go to their youth club many, many moons ago).

As for summer placement. Well, if one person has mentioned going abroad to me, three or four have. Perhaps this is someone trying to say something. I must admit, to begin with wondering what all the fuss was about, but I'm coming round to the idea. The Church of Scotland outwith Scotland. That's an interesting conundrum.

As for language. Well, I know the Kirks in the presbytery of Europe conduct services in English. That's about all I have. I did French at school, but haven't used it for years. I have also studied Latin (which I have also forgotten) and New Testament Greek, but they aren't that helpful. There's also where to live and being away from Spot for 10 weeks.

I'm sure if these are experiences God wants me to have (and it's increasingly sounding like it) these things will all work out/be provided for. During my training I'm in the perfect situation to try things and go places I may never get to. How will that prepare me for ministry? I don't fully know, but I'm sure it'll all be useful.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

What's in a name?

Firstly, I'd like to apologise, I'm about to talk about the "other" royal wedding.

So, it has been widely reported Zara Phillips will not be taking her husband's surname, for professional reasons. This article has an interesting take on it. As it states, it was not the norm in Scotland until the 20th century. Why? Because women were not regarded as property in the same way as down south, say. Hence women never having had to "love, honour and obey" in the wedding vows up here.

I have to wonder how far we've come in women's rights when, where a women chooses not to take her husband's surname on marriage, has to justify herself. Zara Phillips has had to say it's for professional reasons. I have a friend who didn't take her husband's name for the same reasons. Can't we just not take our husband's names and not really have a reason? Not have to justify ourselves? Now, that would be progress.

Sometimes, men even take their wives names on marriage. Tam Dalyell's Dad took his wife's name. That's unusual, I know. Our names are personal. In many ways they define us. If someone chooses to change or not change their name in marriage, that should be okay. They shouldn't need to justify it as the women in the public eye who had kept their own names have done.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Encouragement in unusual places

I was paying a cheque (yes, I know) into the bank the other day. The teller was lovely and hinted at a "customer review". I mentioned I was going to uni, so would prefer to hold fire until the student accounts came out. Which lead to an amusing but uplifting conversation.

"Oh, what are you going to be studying?"
"That's interesting. What is that for?"
"It's what ministers study"
"Wow. How long is the course?"
"I need to do 3 years at uni and then there's 15 months probation"
"Oh, I thought it was 5 years. Where do you think you'll minister?"
"Don't know; but early to say"
"I suppose you need to see where you're lead? Well, good luck and all the best."

I never thought I'd get such a supportive and encouraging conversation about my call in the bank. You never can tell.

Monday, 1 August 2011

The God Experiment by Russell Stannard - review

The blurb for this book talks about an experiment which, at the time of writing, was underway. 1200 people undergoing heart surgery knew they were part of this experiment and may or not be prayed for. The experiment was to see whether there would be a difference in recovery between the tow groups. As this experiment was still ongoing at the time of writing, the book does not cover the results of the experiment. I did find this a bit misleading, but there was plenty of other evidence which the author discussed.

The object of this book was to use science, especially quantum and particle physics to prove the existence of God. The author himself is a nuclear physicist who used to work at Cern, so there is a strong understanding of the way the quantum world works.

Included within the book are descriptions of  the origins of time, space and humans (in different chapters). Using these, with the current scientific knowledge available, the author attempts to show this is not possible without an overseer and creator. Put another way, the world, time, space and the whole universe is only here because of God.

It's an interesting read and, as far as possible, the author has attempted to make this accessible to all. He has managed it to a certain degree, but some of what he was discussing is in the realms of theoretical physics that it's really difficult to get your head round. I must admit reading those bits thinking I should have had some aspirin first!

Generally, the arguments are good. I know the more I find out about the theories of how the universe was created and how much a "Goldilocks" planet Earth is, it adds more and more weight to what I already know - this is God's creation. However, I think anyone from the other side of the argument could just as easily take these pieces of evidence to show there is no God. At the end of the day, we know God through faith. Science may add weight to this knowledge, but without faith, where is God? He still is there, watching and being concerned for us, but is unknown to us. No amount of theorising can achieve a relationship with God, which is what he really wants with all his children and I am glad to have.

As an aside, it took me ages to figure out what the front cover of the book was. It's an X-ray of praying hands.