Monday, 28 July 2014

Sermon and reading

It was an intense day yesterday, with my first preaching gig at Airside in the morning and helping (in a very small way) with a prayers for peace service in the evening.

This is the first time since Easter I'd preached and the first time in well over a year I was being assessed. Yes, I may have done it before, but not here. And not to this group of people.

My custom and practise is to only go to the pulpit at the end of the hymn immediately before. I know why many who preach go while it's still being sung, but it I'd get more worked up having a 'pause' before than just getting on with it. So far, this plan has worked. Yesterday, there was a technical problem which meant the hymn looked to have finished, but it didn't. Ne'er mind. Take deep breath and shrug it off.

I really do think that, for the first time at Airside, I preached well. There was a good theme running through the sermon and, off-script, I referred to (and expanded on) something Laura had mentioned in the children's address. I even managed to get the congregation to laugh (mainly by using the word 'minging'). So, they do have a sense of honour.

Saying that, I only referred to the first reading obliquely, as between choosing the readings and preparation my focus was on the gospel reading. I could have made a wee bit more of that when I drew in the children's address.

The feedback I've had so far has been overwhelmingly positive. People specifically coming to say how they enjoyed it, to thank me for it, to say how it had given them food for thought. And The Boss mentioned she'd been told this too. Oh dear, have I set myself up for a fall? Too good too soon, or are they being very generous because it's my first time? (This reaction is because I really, really struggle with praise).

One person did mention they wondered why I'd talked of hot cross buns and crumpets, as it didn't seem to fit, and they may have drifted off. Yes, this was one negative comment over many positive, but I don't think I should just dismiss it either.

Later in the day, there was a reflective prayers for peace service, with a high proportion of ministers present (this is actually ordained ministers, not including yours truly and him indoors!). The reading I had was Matthew 5:38-48. When I began, I did so at verse 43 and realised half a verse in. Rather than start again, I carried on to the end, then added verses 38-42 at the end. Given the way Laura's reflection and prayers went, to everyone but us, it probably looked intentional, though she must have been wondering what I was doing.

Will definitely be plenty for Laura and I to discuss at my next supervision meeting, that's for sure!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Going too well?

I can't believe I am almost 4 weeks into probation already. It just seems to have flown by (and I have a hunch the following 14 months 1 week will too!). Okay, so being in Malawi for the first 10 days, then having Summer Holiday Club the following week, did make the first 3 weeks quite intense. It'll be interesting to see how (or if) some sort of pattern develops over the coming months.

Airside is a big congregation, and the church is full on a Sunday (yes, even in the summer). It's great to see, but a little intimidating for me, as the last 3 churches I've served have had no more than 40 people of a Sunday morning (and even then, I struggled to remember all their names!). Quite how I'm going to manage at Airside, I have no idea.

Anyway, I am getting to know people. I've had some people to visit - and they have all been so welcoming and hospitable (though I also know, as one let slip, that The Boss had contacted them and asked them to be nice to me when I visited - I think I'm being broken in easily). Through the visits, I am finding the connections between people in the church and community. Some even know Spot, as he grew up in the town and used to be a member of the kirk. So there's that connection too.

Before the service, Laura will wait in the lobby to see who arrives, have a wee word etc. I mentioned I wasn't sure if I like this the other day, but the explanation made a lot of sense. Then, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that when I was serving Railway Crossing and Last Stop last summer, before the service I would say hello to people as they arrived, welcome visitors etc. So, maybe I do prefer doing that, I just had known everyone - what was going on in their lives and in the community - but don't know. I think, on reflection (I so had to get that in), it's being the newbie, knowing I'm being 'watched' and feeling a wee bit overwhelmed at the moment, rather than not actually liking it. Will see how things go today, though have the pressure of preaching today. Sure it'll be fine - God's got my back and, so far, I seem to be doing okay.

When I received feedback from The Boss, by way of what's known as supervision, I was waiting for the 'BUT.' You know, the feedback sandwich - good, bad, good. That didn't come. My prayer, which I'd sweated over was described as 'impressive - very impressive' (it was alright, I thought), as was my presentation and the way I've carried myself. And I managed to get on with everyone in Malawi. And I fitted on so well at Holiday Club that some people thought I'd been there for years. And I chat to people with ease at coffees after the service Etc, etc. I can't help but think that's what I am supposed to be doing.

I know I shouldn't be complaining, but I'm just not used to this. Besides, I've never been very good at accepting praise (I actually find it a bit embarrassing). Still, will see what comes out of my preaching when we have our next supervision session. I can't be wonderful all the time, but don't want to be rubbish just to get critiqued.

Today, though, I need to focus on preparing to preach for the first time at Airside. The sermon's written and printed out. I hope it ties in with the rest of the service (which The Boss is leading) and speaks God's word to the congregation.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Pressure from no one but me

I always knew it would be a bit odd, going back to just doing bits of services and being formally assessed after almost a year of 'going solo.' To be honest, I am looking forward to having some feedback (good and bad) other than the usual (and well intentioned) most members of congregations make at the door.

I'd like to think I have fairly high standards to what I do and prepare - though am aware there will be times when things just don't come together as I would like. I know The Boss is very, very good at her job, especially preaching. So, I'm somewhat feeling the pressure as I prepare to preach on Sunday.

This isn't pressure from anyone else. I've been given free reign over what bible passage(s) to use. Members of the congregation have reassured me no one will expect me to be a copy of Laura - and I know they aren't just saying that to be nice. No, the pressure is that I place on myself, knowing this is a congregation which has grown since Laura arrived and I don't want to break it.

And, though I've chosen 2 readings, I'm now wondering if I should be just using the 1. Maybe this will become clearer as I discuss my ideas during supervision tomorrow - hopefully.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Days off and building jigsaws

So, yesterday was my first real day off for 3 weeks. Yes, for the first 5 days of being in Malawi, I was not on probation, lets face it, with the best will in the world I was being assessed and watched by those from Airside with whom I was travelling. And, for the 2 weeks we were out there, there was no rest for the wicked!

It being a pretty rubbish day, weather wise, Spot and I decided to head westish. I dropped a friend a text before we left, to see if they'd be up for a visit - and they were. It was great to see them - and their children. It was a joy to spend time with them, catching up on news and seeing how the wee ones are growing and developing (and how good the oldest is with his wee sister - and jigsaws for that matter).

As the wee boy was getting ready for bed, we said goodnight. He wanted us to stay over, so we could have breakfast and go to church together. Sorry dude, I work on a Sunday - I'm a minister. This is the second time I have tried to convince him this is what I do, though he seemed a little more open to the idea than the last time I (and his Mum) tried to explain this to him. So, how do I convince an under 4 year old what I do without turning up to see him in a clerical collar? As far as he's concerned, I am the person who talks about trains and Thomas and motorbikes and Peter Rabbit and helps build jigsaw puzzles with him. But, maybe that's no bad thing!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

A quick reflection on the start of probation

So, the group from Airside arrived safely from Malawi on Friday morning. That was a truly AMAZING experience - one which I will be pondering and thinking and reflecting on for a long time to come. I'll post properly on some of it on the coming week (once I've sorted through the almost 700 photos!), so this is a brief (she hopes...) thought about the beginning of my probation.

It's a funny thing, I had never been told, I'd have to share a room with The Boss, but it didn't come as a surprise. Luckily, we got on like a house on fire and I'm really excited (and dead, dead chuffed) that I'll be working with Laura for 15 months. The thought never occurred to me before, but this past fortnight could have killed my probation too! But it didn't. The others in the group were totally fabby, and I feel so blessed to have been included so easily and quickly. And the experience was AMAZING (did I mention that before?).

There's much I have learned. I don't know how long it'll all take to process, but I'll reflect on it as I go. I have seen that Laura is really loved by those we travelled with. She's got a great gift to connect with people and pull brilliant stuff out-of-the-bag at extremely short notice. When it comes to worship stuff, I have to admit I am quite in awe of her - and it takes a lot for me to do that with anyone.

I was discussing this with one of the older members of the group, who agreed this is one of Laura's gifts, but reassured me I wouldn't be expected to be Laura - and I know she meant it. But, I now feel the pressure, because this is a congregation which has grown (in numbers and depth) in the time Laura has been their minister - so I feel I have a high bar to live up to, so I don't ruin what she's doing.

Which meant yesterday (I know, so much for a day off!) it took me over 2 hours to write a thanksgiving and intercession prayer. It was a combination of being out-of-practise (we're not following the lectionary today, so I can't 'research'), being nervous about being 'assessed' for the first time in well over a year and knowing how good I want to be, never mind how good others who will be leading aspects of worship at Airside today are. Spot thought it was a good prayer, though I suspect what I've written and what I will actually say may differ when I actually lead the congregation in prayer.

And, the 'no rest for the wicked' continues tomorrow with Holiday Club - bring it on!