Friday, 30 August 2013

Think before you speak

When having a rant about a biker turning up at a presbytery meeting, please ensure you know who the new member of your committee is first. Otherwise, they will allow you to dig a big hole for yourself, then tell you who they are.

Because, in this case, they told you the biker was their son-in-law. But only after they've told you it wasn't a Harley they were riding, but a Honda - a Honda Goldwing, in fact. All I can say is "Go Mum!"

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

50 years ago today

50 years ago today, Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr gave his "I have a dream speech." BBC 4 has put together a recording of the speech by a range of world figures. It's definitely worth a listen.

Looking around the things I see and read of going on around the world, the dream hasn't been fulfilled. People are still separated through colour or creed or background or nationality or poverty. Does that mean the dream is not of relevance; does that mean people should stopped pursuing justice and freedom for all God's people? No. We need a dream - a vision of the future - which keeps us striving for a better world. Even 50 years on, Dr King's speech seems as relevant as ever.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Coming up

In a few days I will be heading off to another candidates' conference. If I'm honest, I'm looking forward to seeing my colleagues, some of whom I haven't seen since the last one. As for the conference - how that goes seems to very much depend on the speakers themselves.

This will be my final conference before probation. For around a third in my peer group, they will either will have already begun probation or be about to begin it. There was a chance I could have been in that boat, but know this is the right timing for me. It's one of those things I can't put my fingers on, but I just know staying to do honours feels right. Besides, doing a dissertation on church architecture - I have a feeling it might be more useful than some may think.

This next year will be a funny one. I have no placements, though have set up doing regular pulpit supply to keep my hand in (and to maintain the connection between the academy and the coal face). I still have Ministries Training Network (aka MTN - I still don't really see the point of it, but I do it as well as I can, never the less), but nothing formal beyond that. This is also the year when where I go for probation will happen. The list has been narrowed to 2, with a strong preference in favour of Airside Kirk.

And I have very few actual classes (plenty work, just we're expected to be 'independent learners' - glad it's not me spending 9 grand a year on this sort of education!). The way things work out, I may never see some of my year group. A bit like getting into probation (and, later, parish) I think this will make me make an effort to met them for tea and a blether.

Looking forward to getting back to uni, though. I enjoy the study. I'm looking forward to serving the church I am doing pulpit supply for too. I think they are looking forward to getting a bit of continuity - if I could be described like that!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Just doing my job

While I was up north, the congregations I was working with really liked me. Like - really, really liked me. Given their parish profile could indicate they are seeking a minister with a very conservative theology, either I was doing something wrong or their profile doesn't really reflect their wish (which might be a post for another time). By the end of my time there, I was being referred to as 'the minister' (note the lack of student or trainee, in that statement - humbling, a privilege and very, very scary!) and I was getting the impression they thought the sun was shinning from a certain orifice )this only increased when I said I brewed my own beer and wine and visited the pub - what is a girl to do to remove the shine!).

While reflecting on this with a friend the other day, they wondered if it was because I was there. Not just in terms of being in the area and leading worship on a Sunday, but meeting the people in the parishes, turning up at church and community events, visiting the sick and the lonely. Maybe it was - and I know in small communities word gets round quicker than a dose of diarrhoea, but that doesn't explain how many positive comments I received (and heard third, maybe even fourth hand - don't you just love Chinese whispers?) regarding the services I lead, especially the sermons. Those comments talked about how they liked that I didn't whitter on and knew when to stop; that I didn't tell them what to think; that I allowed round for people to have their own answers (and questions); that I (and I am quoting here) 'left them wanting more'. It's amazing to be seen as okay at this (knowing I really don't think I am that good), but isn't it just doing my job?

Being involved in the parish. Taking the church into the community (and the community into the church); being with people; sharing time with people; listening to people; sharing God's word in worship; not having all the answers, as I don't have them all; being myself; and holding on with all I can to the faith that I am following where God leads me and them.

If that's not doing the job, then what is. Or, more to the point, how depressing is it to think that these are things these communities aren't used to a minister doing. I do wish them well in their search for a new minister. Maybe my role up north wasn't just to gain experience, but to sow seeds of a different way of how a minister can be. Either way, I sincerely hope their new minister will be the right person for them and their communities.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Sunday School Problem

The current Moderator, Lorna Hood, was visiting the Youth Assembly yesterday.* There she talked of young people being the church of today, not tomorrow, and also spoke how the church needs to make Sunday School interesting and relevant. To me, this is not earth shattering. I know I would have left church when I hit 12, 13, had it not been for the way church was done and that the young people were as much a part of the church as the elderly. After all, are we not supposed to be a community?

She also spoke about the right resources. I am all in favour of that, but think it begins with having the right people running the Sunday School? A few weeks ago, a friends went to the local church while on holiday. The children were invited to Sunday School. This did not tie in with the service, so what does that say about the children's importance in church? The theme was Jesus washing the feet of his disciples' feet. The children (who are deep thinkers) talked about the passage being about a willingness to serve others and that those who serve will be exalted. The Sunday School teacher told them they were wrong - that it was about doing jobs you wouldn't want to do if you are told. Then they were given colouring in to do (they are both in their early teens). Their parents were shocked and we talked about how it's important to have the right people leading the children. Also, what happened pretty much ticked the boxes for why children who may want to come to church leave, perhaps taking their families with them.

But how do we get the right people? Just asking for volunteers may not generate the 'right' people. Maybe churches need to pool resources (shock!). One thing I know from various experiences - make children and young people feel included and welcomed and valued. Treat them as people loved by God, as are the oldies. They, like most people, respond to that.

*Good to see how times have changed. Back when I was a delegate to the NYA (when it was still new) the mods did not attend and it didn't seem to be valued by the wider church.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Both together, but apart

Yesterday, I managed to chum Spot to his 'final' act of worship. I won't add to what he said. Over the summer, if he has been visiting, I have been leading worship. As we progress through our training, actually being at the same church at the same time is going to become more and more difficult. Since Spot began the enquiry process, we knew this was one the cards, so times when we can worship together will be more precious.

Looking to a time 'before ministry' - or was there a time, but just a different form of ministry? - due to the involvement we had in activites in our home church, it was often the case we'd not be sitting together. I, due to being a Young church leader, would be heading off with the children during the second part of the service and he'd be running the projector. Yes, we were in the same building, but doing our own things for the church. Nothing has really changed, then.

I am aware that, probably from now on in, it will be a rare time where we are both 'bums on pews'. From the beginning of September I am covering regular pulpit supply in a local vacant charge* and Spot will begin his first placement, so I can't even go to support him much. He'll be good, though (not that I'm bias, oh no, not at all!). So, I do see that holidays and times where we can worship elsewhere together will be times to be cherished.

But, though ministry has its down sides (and this is just a tiny, tiny wee bit), after 2 years at uni, 3 placements and a long stint of work experience, I really am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. Looking back, I can see I have been being formed to this role for a long time. The responsibility still terrifies me sometimes, but I know I do what I do trusting in God and trusting where he'll send me.

* In a interesting twist of fate, the last minister at First Stop (before their linkage with Railway Crossing) was the minister where I am going. It's a small world.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Men (and women) in uniform

So, my visit to RAF Lossiemouth. How did that go? Well., very well. It was a bit of a whirlwind tour of the base and I know it will take me a wee while to really process what I saw and was told.

The main things I noticed were just how respected the padres are by all the personnel (most of the civilians are ex-RAF or have close RAF connections), irrespective of religious affiliation. No one seems to bat an eyelid when a padre goes somewhere and there really is no area barred for them. As I was with the padres I was allowed to sit in on a couple of welfare meetings and no one was in the slightest bit bothered. That, I think, reflects how much respect and trust the RAF has in their padres.

While there I did volunteer to do circuits. Why? Because I am a masochist, but in for a penny, in for pound. It wasn't easy, but not as tough as I was expecting and, I must admit, the PTI was a very nice bit of eye candy (there had to be some benefit to looking and feeling like a sweaty bag of pooh!). Just like all other RAF personnel, the padres have to maintain a certain level of fitness, as they have regular fitness tests.

So, do I feel called to military chaplaincy? No. But, I have gained a great and very useful insight into the workings of the military. Wherever I may serve there may be ex-servicemen or may be near a base. Though a very small insight, it will be useful in the years to come. Who knows, maybe there will be an Air training corp in the parish and I may be their chaplain - again, this insight will be useful.

Highlight of the two days? Visiting 617 squadron (aka the Dambusters) and sitting in the pilot seat of a those swistches on the left hand side, what are they for???!!!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

And you're back

Not from outer space, though. After 10 and a half weeks away, I got home yesterday. It's been a busy old time, but I have thoroughly enjoyed (almost) all of it. It was a great opportunity to be the 'minister' in a couple of parishes for the summer and - for some reason I can't quite figure out - they really took me to their hearts. In some ways, maybe it might have been good to be there for the long haul, but I've maybe sown the seeds for a different way of ministry in the area (long story). If that's the case, then perhaps my time has been beneficial for the congregations as well as me.

On the way home, I also visited RAF Lossiemouth, to see how military chaplaincy works. At the moment, there's a lot to process about that - I will write about it soon. For now I will say 2 things. Men in uniform and sitting in pilot seat of a tornado. What more does a woman need?!

Monday, 5 August 2013

A day for meeting angels

I don't quite know what I do. People seem to like my preaching and my prayers and the way I generally engage with them and others. I don't see what I am doing as especially different (from what I think a minister should be doing) nor especially special. But, the people in Railway Crossing and First Stop seem to have a different idea.

I suppose I shouldn't over analyse this. They like me and I am just being who I am - nothing more, nothing less. I laugh (imagine that!), but I will also listen and share pain and, I suppose, just be there. As I say, nothing unusual.

Yesterday, there were a couple of angels in the congregation. Visitors on holiday. Both thought I was the minister. One is a reader in the Kirk - he genuinely seemed surprised when I told him I was just training. Another's family is from the area, so they visit the church in Railway Crossing whenever they are up. He liked my fresh approach (I didn't realise I had one), but wondered if older people may. He told me how he'd heard many people in the congregation saying how much they like my way of leading worship and that I was like a breath of fresh air. I was very humbled and touched that he wanted to tell me what the congregation was thinking. He seemed really enthused by the message he was bringing me. And I was humbled someone would do that.

Both were angels, because angels are messengers from God. They gave me a message of encouragement and reassurance I am on the right path on many, many levels. I pray I remain to do so.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The end is nigh

Today I am aware I am about to enter my final week at Railway Crossing and First Stop. I have really relished the experience of being here for the summer. I know I have grown and settled in very well.

The coming week is going to be a busy one, with the summer holiday club taking place in Railway Crossing. I have warned the other leaders I am very relaxed with these things. I already surprised one of the leaders by having a laugh when we were 'quality testing' the giant jenga. Apparently they've never seen a minister laugh than much...the poor people.

I'm really looking forward to the holiday club. I have missed not having any youth work for a year, due to none taking place at Caledonia Kirk. My concern is there may be an undertone of 'get them to church', which I rail against, but time will tell.

I'm amazed how the congregations have taken me, so it seems, to my heart. I am who I am and don't try to be anything different, perhaps that's why. I also regularly get positive comments about my sermons - they like that I don't waffle and I leave them thinking - that I don't give them all the answers. That's my intent - after all, I don't have them all - but I'm glad that comes across. Surprisingly, I was told one of the congregations laps up hell-fire and brimstone and I am just not that kind of preacher, so maybe the person who told me this thinks they like that because that's his style and reflects his theology?

Though I have enjoyed the experience, have met some wonderful people and seen beautiful scenery, this experience has confirmed I am not called to remote rural ministry. Not at this stage in my life or ministry, but I'll be careful completely dismissing it, as I don't want to give God too good a laugh.

After here, I am heading straight off to shadow a military chaplain. I don't know if I am called to that form of ministry, but it's an experience which I know will be useful in any ministry. Besides, I do like a man in uniform!