Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas

The final candle of the advent wreath is lit. God is with us.

Merry Christmas. May there be every blessing on all those you love.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Looking back

I've been looking back at this blog and reflecting on what I've done and learnt both on placement and uni and I can't believe how much I've covered. And I still feel a little squeaky, green and naive. Still, it's only the first placement and I need to remember there are 4 for a reason, yet not get complacent with that too.

Looking back, I see I am getting this integrated thing. I understand how everything (and I really do mean everything) interlinks. It's amazing how something I've just been taught at uni comes up at placement or vice versa. Then, on placement where does pastoral care end and mission begin, say. Again, it's all interconnected and I do find it a wee bit strange that there are some of the candidates which are concentrating on one aspect. Don't get me wrong, I know I have particular interests, gifts etc, but I wouldn't say I am going to have a pastoral ministry - I would argue by doing that well, mission and evangelism will arise without having to think about it.

I know I'm a wee bit naive with some things and I hope I retain that. Sometimes being too aware of things can be quite negative, as an open mind isn't necessarily there, if you get what I mean.

I am so pleased I decided to do my first placement at Eagleside, despite my initial reservations. My supervisor is extremely supportive and willing to let me try (and even fail), in order I grow, learn and understand. The congregation, too, have been very supportive and I am very grateful for that too. I think it helps they often have trainees and enquirers.

Well, I just can't believe how quickly this first semester and first half of the first placement has passed. And how much I am, overall, enjoying it, despite some of the challenges and feelings of wondering who I think I am doing this ministry thing. That's kinda cool, as it keeps me in check.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Two blue lines

St Matthew's church in Auckland, New Zealand, has a habit of putting offensive posters outside their church for Advent. This years one has been more controversial than usual and have invoked much anger, including vandalism.

Personally, I have no problem with it. Even though it was in faith Mary accepted her call to bear God's son, I suspect the reality of that would still have come at a surprise. What to tell Joseph and her parents? What would the community think? Will she survive pregnancy and childbirth?

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Do you feel undermined?

I wonder if there are full-time ministry candidates (or enquirers) out there who find those training for ordained local ministry (OLM) a threat which undermines their ministry. If there are, it makes me sad. Not just because Spot is undertaking the enquiry process for this, but there may be many, many reasons a person feels called to minister in the more flexible way the OLM allows. Also, there is currently an age limit on those beginning training for the full-time ministry, as they must be no more than 55 when they finish their training. As a call can come at any age, it doesn't seem right to me that those above (or close to) 55 would be excluded from undertaking a formal ministry in the Kirk. If it is God's call who are we to contradict that call?

I know there may be some (and I would very much believe they are a very small minority) of those entering OLM training (or enquiry) who want the Reverend title for self-satisfaction, but I'd imagine if there are people with that mindset in OLM training, there may be people entering full-time ministry with that mindset. Given how thorough the assessment program is, it will weed out almost all of the people doing it for the "wrong" reasons. I know there are those who may manipulate the system, but they will be found out at some point. God will sort them out, I'm sure. Again, though, who are we to undermine a person's call? Examine and test it, yes. Dismiss it because that person cannot be full-time for whatever reason - no.

I know if there was an OLM in whichever presbytery I go I would love to think I could use their skills and gifts for God's kingdom where I minister (if that was appropriate). I think that would complement my call, not undermine it. Personally, I think it would be great if every presbytery could have an OLM and was able to use them for the gift they have to share. If I can play a small part in helping that I would feel very privileged.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Christmas Songs

The other day, I was asked what my favourite Christmas song was. And here it is...

Just got to love the '80s big hair, baggy shirt and leggings...

But my favourite Christmas number one, from 1986, is this:

Featuring a young Fatboy Slim. The sentiment's what I like about this one. Wouldn't it be great if there was a Caravan of Love for all?

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


I don't do X Factor. I think it's exploitative and degrading for the contestants. Among other things. But, now there's Top of the Pops, it's the place where the big stars in pop perform as it's really the only showcase there is (pop doesn't seem to understand the net...).

So, to my dismay I read Leona Lewis (about the only X Factor winner who still has a career - Susan Boyle didn't win!) was covering Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt". Made worse by the fact it's not a new interpretation or re-hash of the original, but a cover of a cover. The cover being the one by Johnny Cash. A cover regarded as so good (and so moving) even Trent Reznor - the writer - regards as the definitive version and no loner his.

So, just because I can, I am a fan of the Man in Black and as two fingers to X factor I will be buying Johnny Cash's version as part of the campaign to get it to get it to number one (rather than the X factor winners or Leona Lewis' version).

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Please help me pass!

Today was the start of my exams. This morning was spent going over my revision. Initially there was the panic as I looked and thought I can't remember this, but as I went through it, it all came back to me and I became more happy I did actually have a clue. I know I've put in the work, but it's letting the examiner know I have that's the problem.

Before the exam I prayed "God, you called me to ministry. I need to get a degree to do this, so help me pass my exams. Thank you". I hope he was listening (I know he always does, but the answers aren't always the ones I want, though always what I need).

Sitting down for the exam was weird. I never thought I'd be back doing this. But I looked at the paper and saw questions that I not only understood, but knew I could answer reasonably well. And I think I have. Whatever happens, I'd be very surprised if I fail and everything else is a bonus.

Need to do some more study before the next exam.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Carols and readings

It was a bit of a busy old day yesterday. Well, not that busy, but busy enough.

I was asked to led the prayers of intercession for the main service. As I was in the middle of studying for my forthcoming exams, I adapted a prayer I found online, rather than write one from scratch. Can't remember where from, but it tied in with the theme (John the Baptist). I feel I delivered it well and I received positive feedback. So, it looks like it stuck a chord, which I suppose shows the Holy Spirit at work.

In the afternoon, there was a service of carols and readings - MC'd by yours truly. I was a wee bit daunted by this, as it's  not something I've ever been involved with and I'd received mixed information on the format. So, me being me, I made it up.

The readings were all from the bible and followed the incarnation narrative of the gospels. For Eagleside, I have now discovered, that was unusual, but they appreciated it and it was well received.

The carols. Well, some people had said to just come up with my idea of favourite carols, others said to ask the people coming to the service for their thoughts. In the end, the later method was adopted, from a shortlist (not my own, but one Eagleside had used before). With 5 minutes to go before the start, these were put into a rough order and passed to the organist.

Then, I winged the rest of the service. And, amazingly, it all came together and worked well. Which is pretty cool.

One thing I should have done was after the last carol have a sort of benediction or blessing-type thing, but my mind went blank. Oh well, nothing I can do about it now.

Reactions were very good from the feedback I've received. Interestingly, a couple of people mentioned how they admire my confidence - if only they could see the paddling under the water like a swan thing which was going on. Thank God for the power of the Holy Spirit. I think it's maybe the nerves which stops confidence becoming cockiness and I'd never want that to happen.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Switch the Christmas lights on!

I saw this on Fail Blog and, although probably highly inappropriate for a Christian blog, just had to share...

Now, that brings the real meaning of Christmas home, doesn't it ;-)

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Learning by my mistakes

I always used to think I was okay at children's addresses. Still a work in progress, but (looking to the plant world for inspiration) good stock on which to grow and graft things. Now, I'm not too sure.

I've now lead the children's address at Eagleside twice now. There the children are primarily quite young, with a few older children (though I think they are all primary school aged). As with many churches, the numbers vary Sunday by Sunday, with the most I've seen in my time there being around 10.

This makes it quite challenging, along with me going in quite cold, as far as those children are concerned. Although I have been involved in worship most Sundays since beginning my placement, it has generally been after the children have left, so I am the weird woman talking to them once in a blue moon.

I usually try to used a physical object or a video clip to get things going. Hopefully that gets and holds their attention. From the body language both times, that seems to be the case, so that's positive. My problem, though, has been transferring from that illustration to the "God message", so to speak. That I'm struggling with and I wish I could get to the bottom of why.

I think it's a combination of not having full notes (don't want to just read to the children, but need somewhere to go from) and although I have it clear in my head (or at least I think I do) when those wee faces look at me, but don't speak I get in a tizz and fluster myself and don't make my point very clear. Perhaps, too, I'm trying to go too deep and am relying on the children having knowledge from their young church time they don't actually seem to have.

I think I need to keep it more simple. Today was about John  the Baptist and I think I should have just told a story about him and left it at that, rather than trying to link it to a "be excellent to each other" message. But then I don't want to patronise the children either. Mmmh, more practice needed me thinks.

On a positive note, a member of the congregation (who I think was a visitor) was asking how long it was since I had started training. I explained it Eagleside was my first placement and I'd been there 10 weeks. He thought I was doing very well for someone who was less than 3 months into my training. I thanked him kindly. I hadn't thought of it like that, and I was getting a bit overawed by all the stuff I'll need to experience before I (God willing) get my own charge. That gentleman's comments certainly put things in perspective and reminded me of a comment a good friend had made to me a few weeks back - "Don't beat yourself up too much. It's a lot to take in and it will be challenging, but that's why it's years of training and you know it's the right path for you". How true. And I need to learn and take heed of my own advise that we learn from our mistakes.

I hope this weakness can grow into a strength. Then the failures will have been the most beneficial.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

More Sunday thoughts

So, I've now listened to the recording of my sermon from Sunday and discussed it with my supervisor.

My feelings were I spoke clearly and well, but I sounded really boring to begin with. I just sound so slow, but that's where the clarity comes from. I did think I picked up a wee bit towards the end, but not that much. There were a couple of bits where I'd lost my chain of thought and there was a pause as I looked at mu notes. When given my critique to my supervisor, I concentrated on the negatives, but I'm Scottish and Presbyterian, so there's little hope for me being positive!!!

He thought it was very good, generally. It was difficult concepts to get across (and I could have avoided the lectionary). I did mention I thought I hadn't explained myself too well, but he reassured me by explaining in a congregation where I was established I would be able to explain background and ideas over a period of time, so the congregation would know were I was coming from. It would have made for an inappropriately long sermon if I'd tried that!

The other main comment from my supervisor was to try to get a bit more tonal range in my preaching, though he did say an individual doesn't realise how little range they have. Definitely something I'll need to work on and remember to get the balance right on too - I don't want to speed up at certain point so much that the clarity people really appreciate is lost. I also have to remember I've not much preaching experience and not to beat myself up, yet be realistic. In many ways, I think the Kirk should send all trainee ministers (and deacons and readers too) for acting lessons. That would help with sermons, me thinks, so long as we don't have to pretend to be trees!