Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Work in a toy shop...?

When I was 8 or 9, I went to London with my family on holiday. It was mainly a museum fest (which even then I loved), but we also took a trip into Hamleys. Wow, as a child that was an amazing place. A whole floor of lego - just lego. I'd never seen anything like this before.

And I thought the grown-ups who worked there had the best job in the world...

Now I am a grown-up, I think they have one of the worst jobs in the world. Amazing how opinions change as we get older...

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Funerals (or lack thereof)

One thing I haven't experienced on this placement is funerals. I did observe one at the beginning of placement, but have had no further involvement. It's unfortunate that timing hasn't favoured me being avaliable. If I could have made the pre-funeral visit I wouldn't have made the funeral itself, what with uni classes. I did suggest to my supervisor I could miss a lecture if that would help, but (quite rightly) he dismissed this, as my studies come first.

It's unfortunate, but there's time yet. It is an important part of the parish ministry and I am all too aware there are some churches where the minister could just do funerals and have no time for anything else. It's also something which terrifies me. Although some may think I'm an emotional retard, I can get very touched at funerals (even the one I observed, where I didn't even know the deceased). I know it's part of being human and it's no bad thing for a minister to be seen to be human, but there's also the professional aspect of leading the funeral service. There, I need to have the balance of compassion and professionalism right, otherwise the service will not be a fitting tribute nor enable the family (sorry, not expressing this very well).

I'm sure it's all happening for a reason. I know I've experienced much more than I thought I would on this placement and not just worship stuff - management, leadership, team management, pastoral care, to name a few. I also know God gives me what I need rather than what I want. All in all, although it's unfortunate (have I said that already) that I haven't had this sort of experience, I'm stoical about it and well ware everything happens for a reason and it'll all pan out well in the end.

[Of course, famous last words and now there's going to be a run of funerals I can be involved with.]

Monday, 27 February 2012

Communion for all

As much as I may try to have a vision of inclusivity for my future ministry (and current) I am aware that no matter what I do there are some things which will not allow everyone to feel part of an act of worship I lead.

It may be my background, my age, my style, or even the fact I am a woman. I respect there are many factors which may make some feel excluded and I will strive to deal with those I can (sorry, can't do much about the breasts).

So, as much as I may make tongue-in-cheek statements that I will use home brew for communion wine, I really wouldn't. It contains alcohol and that would prevent some members of the congregation from participating in communion, be it for medical reasons, out of principle or an awareness they would be driving after the service and never drive and drive. I, for one, fall into the latter category and could not take alcoholic communion wine if I were going to drive at all. It is the Lord's supper and all should be included, as far as possible.

Further, having alcoholic wine precludes children from receiving communion and they are as much part of the body of Christ as any of the rest of us. While I accept children are not present at most communions, I feel it is important they can take part if they (and/or their parents) wish to. If it is common knowledge the communion drink is non-alcoholic allows all to participate whenever the sacrament is administered.

I'm not sure exactly how I would broach the subject of this in a church which uses alcoholic wine for the sacrament. But I know it is important enough to me that I would have to find a way. A compromise is having both alcoholic and non-alcoholic wine, but this does not help the alcoholic to be part of the sacrament,
and seems, to me at least, to take away from the fact that communion is a symbol of those participating being the body of Christ. By excluding some, are we saying they cannot be part of that body?

Sunday, 26 February 2012


Spot's shirts state they are non-iron. Non-iron my bottom. So, are you supposed to tumble-dry them to within an inch of their lives and take them out at exactly the right point that they are crease-free but not going to sit there getting rumpled???!!!

Besides, and this is a total bug bear of me is if a man's shirt is not ironed there is not the knife edge seem ironed onto the sleeve. Men's shirts should have this and they often not as shops have convinced us that their shirts do not need ironed. I say again, non-iron my bottom.

It's an attention to detail thing. Like polishing shoes (why does hardly anyone do that anymore?), it shows a wee bit of pride in the things we have and to care for them so they last longer.

So, on that note, I'm off to polish my shoes. And the letterbox too. Better just make sure this pride doesn't come before a fall.

And non-iron. My bottom. (Have I mentioned this before?!)

Friday, 24 February 2012

My refuge and my strength

I was preaching on Sunday. I felt it went well, though still plenty I need to learn, improve on etc. Feedback was very positive, which is reassuring (as it would be a bit bad of me if I wasn't) and humbling - exceptionally humbling.

I do feel I am projecting a much more confident self, in leading worship and in the various other aspects of ministry I have been involved in so far this placement. Yet, in other areas I can feel myself withdrawing into myself. Yes, the shy kid who could take to the stage is still here.

I'm not sure if this is a bad or good thing. Is it bad I can "turn it on" when necessary? If so, am I playing a part? I hope not and sincerely do not think it's the case. What I say and do are part of me and part of the call I have. It's tough getting the balance right, especially when I feel I am surrounded by confident people, much confident and competent than I am.

Yet this is who I am. The basic personality of who I am, without the rough edges (am I know there are quite a few) is shy. And for some reason, which I am still trying to figure out, is part of the reason I am called to minister. I suppose it does make me rely on him for confidence when I do any ministry task, in ways I just couldn't if I wasn't who I was. That's it, I must, I do rely on God and that is best summed up in Psalm 71.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Your heart will be also

No matter how tight things get financially, people will always find a wee bit for the things they enjoy. Be it foreign holidays, flashy cars, the occasional pint or a trip to the cinema, they will find the money somehow. It's the thing which breaks the monotony and the tedium. It, to a certain extent, defines who they are and breaks them away from the same old, same old.

When things are tight, the scope for spending on fripperies decreases. There may be some things which can no longer be afforded, as the belt is tightened, but some things will remain and will not be compromised on. The change in circumstances may even be seen as an opportunity to redress the balance in time over spending or re-examine where money it spent and that is it going to the best use. Where it is spent (beyond the basic keeping fed, clothed, warm and sheltered), I believe, in many ways shows where the heart is.

So, how much more does this apply to churches. If they spend lots of money shoring up the old, out-of-date and not fit for purpose buildings they have, what does that say about their priorities? If they bemoan the lack of children and young people using and attending church, but do not invest in those who do come, what does that say about a church? When the national living wage is currently around £7.60, but churches pay their staff minimum wage (or not much more), what does that say about the church?

I believe where and how the church, locally and nationally, spends its money says a lot about its priorities. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21.

Friday, 17 February 2012


I've been thinking about baptism a lot recently. Who is it for? What does it do? These sort of things.

While doing my co-ordinated field assessment, I read "Through the Waters" by David Hamilton. I learnt a lot from it (and maybe should re-read it) and it helped greatly with getting my head around the sacraments, even though it focused on baptism.

Now, I have a reasonably 'high' attitude towards the sacraments. I feel they are an important part of the Christan life and maybe aren't used enough, especially communion which, in most churches, happens just 4 times a year. But, in most churches, communion is open to all who are baptised and "love the Lord" (I know that isn't the universal case, as there are some churches where a person can only have communion if they are a member). So, if all can come to the Lord's table and participate in communion, why can't that be the case with baptism?

My rational for baptism (especially for infants) is it is a sign and symbol of God's grace in the world and love for that child. No matter what they do in their lives, even if they reject Christianity, that symbol will always be with them, as God is. If God loves everyone and God wants everyone to know and have a relationship with him, who am I to stand in the way of that?

Now, in infant baptism, it is the parent(s) who take the vows to bring up the child in the Christian faith. But if they seem sincere who am I to stand in the way of welcoming this child into the Christian family? Jesus wanted the children to come to him so the parents of a child brought for baptism can be as much children of God as the baby itself. They may fail in keeping their vows (who of us doesn't mess this up?), they may see baptism as an excuse for a party, but should I judge them; should I stand in the way and prevent God's grace from being freely extended? I don't think I should.

This, I know, is something I need to work on. On one hand, I believe vows taken in front of God should be done in all sincerity and humility. Otherwise, just don't bother. Yet, God's grace transcends these things. God's grace can seek in and get through when least expected. If baptism is a symbol and sign of God's grace, then let the children come, I think.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

From the suitcase?

"Can you unpack that, please?"

No, not a box or a suitcase, but a comment, an idea.

Sorry, but when did we start unpacking ideas? Do we neatly put them in cardboard boxes to be brought out when needed? What happened to "could you expand on that?" or "could you explain that, please".

Unpack? Only once I'm back from a trip away, if it's all the same with you, thanks.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Talking or listening?

I can't believe how quickly my first placement is passing. In many ways, it seems only yesterday I began. In others,it feels I've been there for years.

Only yesterday I managed to talk o a couple of ladies I haven't talked to before. I've seen them at church and said hello, but haven't talked really. And it was great - to hear their stories, to share their thoughts, to walk a tiny wee bit of this journey with them. And they seemed to really appreciate me taking the time to talk to them (well, actually, to listen to them). It's not a hardship, I enjoyed this. n these circumstances, it's something I'm good at. Don't know how or where I picked up this skill, or should I call it a gift from God? Of course I should, as that's what it is.

So, it strikes me that a lot of the minister's role is listening to people. Be it chatting over coffee after the service, a quick word on the way out the door, visiting a parishioner in hospital or preparing a funeral, it's all about listening to people's stories. Hearing what's said (and, is often the case) what's not said. It's taking the time to care and share in their lives. Wow - that's an amazingly brilliant, yet daunting prospect. And what a privilege to be allowed into people's lives. To be able to walk with them, in their happiness and pain, as Jesus would walk with them. I am his ears and legs and he needs me to do this walking for him.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

God cries

Matthew 18:15 is praying on my mind - “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offence. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.".

Isn't that so much easier said than done. It's easier to brood over a hurt, letting resentment build up and relationships break down. It's easier to say it "like water off a ducks back", when really it hurts. It's easier to assume the rational for another doing something and not giving them the right to reply or put things right.

And then relationships are broken rather than healed. People are not restored to one another. God cries as he sees his people suffer when he's told us the way. Have the balls to say to someone "I didn't like the way you said that." or "you really hurt me when you said...". Yes, it takes more balls to deal with the situation as Jesus taught than to keep hurt and pain and resentment to oneself. And God cries.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Church for all or some?

I was talking to a friend the other day about inclusiveness. Apparently there are churches where their focus is on the LGBT community (maybe I live in the wrong place, but is it?!) and we started talking about if you focus on one group, that stops being inclusive.

For me, inclusiveness is that. For all. No one singled out, whether for age, gender, sexual orientation, race, background (need I go on?) etc. It is about building up a community of people who are brought together to worship God and serve him. A group of people who are united in Christ. Everything else fades away.

Now, that is not easy. I appreciate that. I'm not even sure exactly how I'd achieve this, though I think trying to talk to a broad range of people as part of my ministry (in and out of placement and uni) helps. They get to see God values them through me being with them and listening to their hurts, laughter, joy and pain (well, I hope they do).

Yet, I look at many churches and what do I see? A group of people from the same backgrounds, with similar incomes, opinions, educational levels etc. I look at them and think if I was a seeker, someone looking for God (in the shed, definitely in the shed) and that was the church closest to me, but I did not fit into that social world, would I go? Probably not. But I have my own transport and can pick and choose where I worship. That is not an option for many. Then the church fails in its duty to welcome all and be the body of Christ.

Somehow, given this has been something which has bugged me as long as I can remember, I think this is something which will form part of my ministry. I pray for the gifts to make it a true reality.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Out of the mouths of babes

A genuine conversation I overheard to day:

Mum: "I think I'll just try this cardigan on".
Daughter (around 10 years old): "That would suit Gran"
Mum and I exchange looks, where Mum has an expression of "Well, I won't be buying it now".
It was all I could do to stop myself from laughing.
Needless to say, Mum did not buy the cardigan!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Unitary constitutions

There seems to be a lot of churches moving towards having unitary constitutions. While I understand the reasons for this (less meetings; reduction in duplication of work; church trustees dealing with decisions etc), I have been concerned about how the change will impact on non-elder Congregational Board members.

The unitary effectively does away with the board and any business which was their remit (such as finance, property, fellowship) becomes the responsibility of the Kirk Session (I am going for a really basic overview here, so bear with me). There will be members of the board who, for what ever reason, are not members and, as such, not on the Kirk Session. Thus, they could attend Session meetings - they are public after all - they do not have a voice and cannot vote. While on the board, they would have these privileges.

So, how does a church, especially the session and minister, ensure the board members feel valued once their role goes when a church moves to a unitary constitution? I know there is the option of asking them to become elders, but not everyone can or wants to do that.

Is the movement to less meetings really a benefit (and I am playing devil's advocate here) if those who contributed well and effectively in one way are no longer included in decisions they were before (and may have been for years).

I'd imagine there's the possibility of asking former board members to be on a session committee and there they can be a part of the decision making process. When the matters from that committee are to be brought to the session, they attend to support the motion (or whatever) and be there to answer questions if required, much like the people who helped draw up stuff for General Assembly being there when it's presented, yet not having a vote. If done in the right way, this could benefit the whole church; handled badly and...well, that's not a very good sign of a church.

I hope, when I eventually get to the stage of these meetings, I can ensure all can contribute with what they can give and feel that contribution is valued, no matter what type of constitution the church uses. Mmmh, I think I'm reiterating another post...

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

God loves my enemies

I recently read Desmond Tutu's "God has a dream". It's a lovely short book written by a man for whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration. [I remember, seeing a news report when I was 7 or 8 - yes, I watched the news and read the papers then, I was a strange child. Desmond Tutu was the spokesperson for the boycott of South African goods. When my Mum went shopping I wouldn't let her buy things from South Africa, because Desmond Tutu said so.]. There was so much I could take away from the book. It's a positive, affirming book. So remarkable given some of what Desmond Tutu lived through.

I was especially struck by the phrase "God loves your enemies too". It's so obvious, yet so startling too. Of course, if God loves everyone, he loves people I struggle to love, who have hurt me or my family and friends in the past. Why that hadn't fundamentally occurred to me before, I have no idea. I suppose it was there, at the back of my mind (or should I say heart) somewhere.

I also found the expression so liberating. It makes me look at those who are my "enemies" (I use the phrase guardedly as I'd like to think I don't have any real enemies, just people who I need to show grace too better) in a very different light. How can I not? God loves them in the same way as he loves me. It is only right I attempt in all I do to show the love God has for me to those I struggle to love, as I am doing it for God. They are my neighbour and, as Jesus taught, I should "love my neighbour as myself".

It's not easy putting past hurts and let downs away. Sometimes it's necessary to open up wounds again to really get rid of the festering mess within and no one wants to do that, as the short term pain could be too great. Yet, I will try in all the ways I can to bring healing where I can and where God calls me to be. I am not perfect, not by a long shot, but I do try to love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind and strength. Loving my enemy is just part of that, I believe.