Sunday, 24 June 2012

Preaching today

I preached for the first time today at Highland Cathedral. Before the service began and while I gathered my thoughts I was nervous, but tried to use that to my advantage.

I did use the personal anecdote I was swithering about using earlier in the week. I wasn't sure if it would be the right thing to do nor if I would manage to say what was needed to be said without coming across as either too emotional or inappropriate. In the end, I feel I found the right balance and I made the correct choice, though wouldn't do it every week.

To begin with I was a wee bit fast. I realised this and changed pace when I moved to from introductions to biblical reflection. I know this was because I was nervous, though feedback indicates most people did not pick up on this and my diction was very clear all the way through.

After the service I received almost universally good feedback. Constructive feedback told me I was clear in terms of content and diction. I was also told by a few people that they found it very thought provoking, sincere and reassuring. One person did say it was alright and would tell my why it was just alright later, though even my supervisor who heard the comment was confused by that and, pretty much, told me to disregard it, given the other feedback he'd heard.

So, I need to be aware  that I don't get off to too much of a rattling start, but that didn't impede even those with hearing difficulties. Over all, I feel this was a good, well presented sermon, which spoke to the congregation gathered today.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Speaking the right words

I'm not one to use personal anecdotes in sermons. It's a mixture of reasons, mainly, I don't like the idea of the congregation always hearing about my life and my family - I know I wouldn't like to hear that all the time and I'm a fairly private person, so talking about myself doesn't come easy. But this Sunday I am going to give an personal anecdote in the sermon which I feel will add to the sermon and, I hope, let the congregation see that the words of reassurance I want to give them come from hard won experience, rather than empty words.

I know, though, that it may be difficult for me saying what I feel called to say. But I know, in some deep down way, that it needs to be said. I don't know exactly how, but something is telling me there will be someone in the congregation who needs to hear this message from someone who really understands. I pray I am right and that my words are God's words and the words that the congregation at Highland Cathedral need to hear on Sunday.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Stating the Obvious?

One thing my supervisor keeps calling me is insightful. Hadn't really thought os myself like that before, but maybe I am. Most of the things I've discussed with him which he's seen as insightful, I've seen as stating the bleeding obvious. Yes, I've wondered, questioned and reflected on the matters appropriately. I've also approached potential controversial matters in a diplomatic and sympathetic manner, but still feel it's just the way it is or could be or should be.

That said, the Emperor's new clothes was pretty obvious, but no-one had the guts to say anything. Given my insightfulness keeps being commented and complemented on, I wonder how many people in church either accept the way things are or don't see how things are? Or maybe it's easier for me as I'm removed from the situation - in the situation it's all too easy to not see the wood for the trees and maybe that's the case with some of the things I've discussed with my supervisor, though the context and content of some of those discussions would not necessarily lean in that direction.

Now, this seems to be a gift I didn't know I had. I hope it's useful for the future. Somehow I think, especially given the way my supervisor is complementing me, that it will be.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Young families

At Highland Cathedral, there's a fairly good mix of ages and demographic. Their Sunday School is reasonably well attended, though they have commented it has had a bit of a dip in attendance. Yet, like many churches all over Scotland, there are few parents of young children.

As anyone who's had to deal with very young children knows, they need routine. Sundays can really mess up that routine, what with most services being at 11am. So, when couples become parents, they drift away from church, as it's not only difficult to get there (as getting a baby ready isn't quick!) and don't want to disrupt their child's routine.

So, they stop going to church. As time passes, it becomes more and more difficult to go back. And, potentially, both they and the child are 'lost' to the church.

That does make me wonder what the church can do to accommodate parents of young children, while still building up a community of people worshipping God. Too much one way or the other and either a church for just those young families is created (and is that really a church?) or it's a church just for the middle-aged and above. And how does the church keep the connection up with those families, in a friendly caring way? At the moment, I have lots of questions about this, though no solutions. Its definitely something I'd want to think and engage with, so even if parents drift away for the reasons I've looked at above, they still feel connected to and cared by the church, so they will come back.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Children's addresses ideas

I watched this and thought a few of them could be turned into children's addresses. So, I thought I'd share (and put it here so I would remember!).

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Over the door

I've been doing pastoral visits as part of this placement. That was something I didn't do on my last one, for a whole load of reasons, but which I was well aware I needed to gain experience in.

It's amazing how willingly people have opened their doors and lives to me. Some have not met me and even those who had, it was only in passing, yet all happily welcomed me into their homes and told me something of their lives.

I know privilege is used many times in ministry. Some would say too often. Yet I can think of no other profession I could have been training for where I could knock on someone's door out of the blue, be welcomed in and made to feel like I have known that person for years.

I know it helps that I am interested in people. I like people and, generally, get on and can relate to most people. In conversation with all of those I have visited I have been able to draw on personal knowledge or experience to help talk to them. Did make me think I have really been being trained for ministry my whole life - which is pretty cool, it has to be said! One lady told me I have a open friendly manner, which makes me easy to talk and open up to. That was very humbling, as I was just being me. But that's who God called, so maybe he has got it right after all ;-)

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Looking deeper

I've decided to look at the importance of the sacraments in the life of the church. It's something I'm interested in (which is just as well, given I am training for the ministry of word and sacrament) and I do believe they are important to the life of the church.

I haven't covered this in any especial depth at uni as yet. It's been more an overview, though I am doing a course in the ministry and sacraments next academic year. This investigation may help when I come to do that course. I also know it will be useful getting a handle on what I believe happens and what they do, yet being aware of where others are coming from.

So, the thinking, reading and investigation begins. Should be interesting - though I hope those long theological words that I struggle to understand, no matter how often they are explained to me, don't crop up too much!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Confidence boost

It was a long supervision today, but there was a lot to cover, especially last week being my first full week at Highland Cathedral. It was a good discussion and I'm finding my new supervisor much easier to talk to than my last one. He listens and seems very supportive, though I also know he will challenge me, but that's what I need to grow and become the minister I need to be. It also will allow me to get to know why I do certain things, rather than just doing them 'blindly'.

Feedback for the things I have been involved in has been very good. It's been constructive and supportive. I was especially concerned about feedback from yesterday's children's address, given I had lost a lot of confidence delivering them at my last placement. Here, my supervisor thought it was excellent - short, to the point and appropriate to the age of the children. Definitely the boost I was needing. I need to be less hard on myself, especially regarding this. Hopefully my standards for this will come up as I regain my confidence in this aspect of leading worship.

It's come at the right time as I will be taking a school assembly soon and that was a concern. In many ways an assembly is very like a large children's address, so if I prepare well, I'm sure I'll be fine. After all, God's got my back.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Missing the mark again

So there I was, leading the children's address. It was going okay until I  noticed that I was being projected onto the screens in Highland Cathedral. I didn't know that happened and wasn't exactly what you could call thrilled by that. The rest of the service wasn't projected, so I wonder why the address? If it's for the adults to see, well, they should move if they want is my philosophy.

Generally, it was okay, but just okay. I got nervous and a little repetitive. I don't know if the children usually start to ignore my supervisor or not, but that's the point where I knew I needed to draw it to a close and I did so. I hope they went away with something, though I'm not sure what that might be.

I'm not looking forward to my supervision over this. From last placement I have lost a lot of confidence leading children's addresses and the whole video thing did not help.I think I'm now so self-conscious about getting it all right I just miss the mark and beat myself up too much. Though I think my new supervisor may be a lot more supportive than my last one - just have to wait and see.

No one really commented on the way out of church, except one lady who was hugely supportive. Not sure if that's a good or bad thing, but that's human nature. Well, I'm going to take the attitude that no news is good news!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

So far, so good

Well, it's just about a week since I started at Highland Cathedral. There's a lot happening, though some of that is the usual sort of tidying up type stuff before the summer that many churches do, such as Kirk Sessions etc. That said, this church does seem to be very busy, so maybe the summer won't be that quiet. One particular program they run is on all year, so I'm looking forward to being involved with that.

I'm finding plenty to do and to keep myself occupied, though I'm trying to make sure I have time to reflect, think and get to know the area, as it's not one I am familiar with too well.

I have also begun pastoral visiting. This is something I did not do at my last placement for a variety of reasons. From comments from a couple of people I visited, it was clear my supervisor had asked if they were okay with this, and that's to be expected as it takes time to build up relationships and not everyone would be comfortable with taking to the student minister. I respect my supervisor for having the confidence to trust me to carry out this important task when he's only just met me.

There was a candidate here a short while ago and, unfortunately, some people have started comparing me with them. Okay, so it has been quite favourable for me, but though I am polite with their compliments I'm not sure how to address this. That said, there were some who thought from the little I did last Sunday that I was actually a probationer! Apparently I came across as confident and self-assured - if only they knew how much I was wetting myself underneath! But, I suppose getting on with it and being professional are necessary attributes I need to have, though I'm not going to get it right all the time.

On Sunday I'm doing the childrens' address and, from experience at Eagleside, I am really nervous about this. That was the one area of worship I covered there that I really struggled with. This is a different church with different children and way of delivering them, so I hope it goes well. I could do with a confidence boast for them that's for sure.

So, all go, but not too frenetic. I can see, though, that it could be all too easy to get caught up in doing things, admin, visits and prep that there's no time left for self. So, I'm being pretty strict about only working 2 out of 3 periods per day and my day off.

So, that's a summary for now. Much to learn, much to grow, much to do. Looking forward to it and seeing where this part of the path leads.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Ordination - what happens?

I am now at Highland Cathedral and am aware I need, to a certain extent, hit the ground running. Though full-time, rather than part-time as Eagleside was, it's only 10 weeks, so a totally different dynamic.

It's early days, but it's a friendly congregation, with many people involved in the running of the church and the outreach program they are involved in. It was good to have sincere welcome yesterday, with many leaving the church yesterday specifically welcoming me to Highland Cathedral.

Today my supervisor, who has a much, much different approach to my past one was asking what I ordination is. Well, I sort of mentioned something about a setting apart, but also there being some sort of mystery, but to be honest, I didn't really know. So, what is ordination for - what does that do to the person being ordained that hasn't already been done? Or it is a symbol of a recognition of the gifts and calling they already have. I was thinking of scripture and realised when people were called by God, they were generally sent to get on with it, with no ordination taking place, though priest were (among others) anointed.

It's got me thinking and I'm glad of that. It's not something which has come up before and I know it's important I develop my understanding of what it is. That said, I was brought up with the whole thing that ministers are no different from anyone else and all Christians have their own unique calling from God and ministry is just one of many, many of them.

So, what do others think? It would be interesting to get some ideas to begin developing my own thoughts.