Thursday, 29 January 2015

Community building and working together

At the moment I am reading a lot. There's various blogs, reports, articles, books, daily reflections etc. They are written for a range of contexts (though church is a recurring thread), and prospectives, yet there are a couple of things that are drawing them all together - and it seems a bit more than coincidence.

The recurring themes are:
  • Discipleship - what it is and how to build it.
  • Moving from worship in rows of people listening to one person talk.
  • Importance of intergenerational relationships in building community.
  • And some sort of looking towards a less clergy (or top-down) model of church. (This is a bit more of a hard one to explain, as I do believe in any community, there needs to be leadership, but it's how that leadership is perceived and deployed that, as I read it, is the important thing here).
Now, I must admit, there is an element of 'chicken and the egg' here (oh, it was the egg, there is evidence from paleontology that eggs were around before chickens evolved), as I may be reading what 'agrees' and confirms my standpoint, but some of this did come from a book I was given to read by my supervisor, which I may not have chosen in different circumstances.

Part of what I keep coming back to, from all this stuff I am reading at the moment, is the importance of community. Community does not happen by 1 or 2 (or even a handful of people) leading a service in front of rows of people in a packed church. Do those gathered talk to one another beyond basic courtesy? How do those in the congregation interact with the scripture, the prayers, the sermon? Are they allowed to? How is what does on in worship built up through the congregations lives in the coming week (months and years)? How are the gifts of those gathered discovered, developed and deployed in God's service? In some ways, I a starting to wonder if my role is to work my way out of a job (or parts thereof) as I enable others to do stuff? (Or am I just getting that confirmed?).

In many ways, now I am involved in Messy Church at Airside Kirk, I see that happening in the community that is building up. It's families worshipping God together, and the leaders of Messy aren't the minister and I - it's proper team work. I suppose, it's collaborative leadership in action (121 will be pleased!). Those who come know who the leaders are, as we're showing crafts, or setting up games, or welcoming them, or doing the talk, or leading the music, but there's no distinction between the leaders. We all muck in where needed, take in tasks which we're able to do (or gifted to do), and we all wear our ordinary clothes - jeans and a top sort of stuff. Yes, some there know who The Boss is, as they've been to church at normal Sundays or through her school work, but some don't. And it doesn't matter, because we're doing this as a community, serving the community and, God willing, through building up our relationships with those who come, showing Christ's love working through us. Bottom line is, there's no perception of 'rank' by those who come. (Yes, I know there shouldn't be rank, and that ministers are not above anyone else, but people don't always react that way).

Perhaps, looking longer term (which is a dangerous thing to do, I know), my role is more one of facilitation, getting the congregation(s) I serve to grow and mature in their Christian faith, but with us all working together, sharing together, growing together. Then, if I am called somewhere else or am away for a prolonged period, things will still happen, the church will (and does and should) go on without me.

Maybe part of my call is to work my way out of a job? Or, at least some of the jobs ministers seem to take on, but they don't need to do and, through doing too much themselves, the priesthood of all believers is not reflected. The calling and gifts of all the Christian community are not found, not grown, not nurtured.

And, as for people sitting in rows and listening, I did wonder how that could be 'worked around' in a large congregation. Well, Airside is one. Though sitting in rows for the 'ordinary' (oh, believe me, I don't think there is such a thing there!) Sunday service makes better use of the space, I have introduced the congregation talking to one another on a couple of occasions (once in a children's address and once as the intro to a sermon) and it worked! I wasn't sure how it would go down, but took the risk. Not sure I could do it all the time, in the Sunday morning service, but certainly something I will use from time to time and in smaller contexts too.

I know all of this will feed in (in a scarily short period of time - run around the room with arms in air going arrrrrggggghhhhhh!) to figuring out where I am called to minister. No, I've no idea, but with God's grace and guidance I pray to go where he wants me to go.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Looking to where I may go

A couple of weeks ago, I attended my interim review. This makes sure probation is on track - that there are no major issues and may set new goals/objectives, depending on new/unforeseen/changing circumstances. The bottom line is, that things are confirmed as going well.

At the end of the review, the subject of 'looking for my own place' came up. Though I cannot formally apply until after a positive outcome from my final review, which is likely to take place in late June, it is recommended I have a 'clear' idea of where I may apply once that time comes. Clear? Well, me being me, I need things painted in BIG, HUGE CAPITAL LETTERS, as I can take a while to get the hint.

But I have, on occasion, been looking at the vacancy list on the Kirk website. There are some which seem to have been there for years. Yes, there may be reasons, but I wonder if it's a bit like the property market (especially when things are going well). When a house has been on the market for ages, people assume there's something wrong with it, but it might be perfect. Some of the long term vacancies may be the same. Not that I am saying that's where I will go, but I won't automatically disregard them.

As I look, there's the things which aren't there. Details of how to look at the parish profile without contacting the interim moderator. I only want a neb, not to implicitly indicate interest. In my opinion, if a church has a website, that should be used as a 'recuritment' page as much as direct contact, Life and Work adverts etc. And, if a church doesn't have a web presence, in some shape or form (even if it's a facebook page - and, well, I'm not exactly a fan of that platform, am I?) how does it reach beyond the 'normal' congregation or reach potentially their prefect minister, who lives at the other end of the country, but through looking at their web present can, to a certain extent, get a feel for the church and community. Just a feel, but a feel never the less. I could go on about my opinion of the importance of a half decent website here, but I'll just link to Spot's post on the matter instead.

Today, I looked at the new adverts in the Life and Work. The way most of those are worded, it seems the congregations are wanting an all-singing, all-dancing minister who is brilliant at almost everything. While I am sure that is not the case, on the ground, unfortunately, that's the impression many leave me with. Oh, and if you're going to have a photo of the interior, could it have some people in it, please? Pretty please, with sugar and a cherry on top?

So, do I know where I am going? No. Do I know I need to begin thinking where I am going? Yes, but with as open a mind as I can, trying to pick my way through what's said and what's meant, remembering who I am following and what gifts and talents I have, as they will influence where I am called to serve. With the added factor of Spot also being called to a recognised ministry in the church. Life, it's fun and exciting, and a little bit terrifying too. I go in the assurance I am being prepared for a congregation and community and they are being prepared for me.

Monday, 19 January 2015

God's spirit moving within me

I'm Scottish Presbyterian, so inevitably, I do not do change. Change, that's an anathema, a heresy, come on, let's all say "It's aye been" in a resounding chorus!!!

But I have been changing, and it's brilliant and a little scary all at the same time. The rawness and roughness are fading - I don't think they will ever disappear, as sometimes that's what gives me the 'breath of fresh air' attitude people commend me for (well, most of the time!). I suppose it's the rawness and roughness which were my barriers or my 'shields' as I was perhaps (what do I mean, perhaps - certainly is more like it!!!) concerned I wasn't cut out for this ministry role, that they had accepted the wrong person, that I was nervous of the labels and attitudes other's placed (and will continue to place) on me.

And now I stand, as me, just me. In the knowledge I am really, really, deep down in my soul, called by God to be a minister in his church. I stand in my brokenness, in my wounded state, with a willingness, a desire, a hope, to use that brokenness and those wounds to bind up other's. I know this sounds very deep, and it is deep. I am more and more amazed at how God is working through me, using me and gifting me in ways I could hardly have imagined even 6 months ago, never mind 6+ years ago when I began this part in my faith journey.

Because I have (finally) started to set aside those things which prevented God working through me, fully working through me (which I hasten to add, I believe is an ongoing process, one which will never be finished), my ministry gifts are further released. My preaching has improved enormously over these past 6 months, especially since the end of November, where something The Boss said was a bit of a light bulb moment. And some of the prayers I am writing, well, I write them, then use them for leading worship and even I am stunned at their content. The other week I included a line which said "may our praise and prayers be like sweet smelling incense, wafting up to heaven to mingle with the angels and saints..." If you wanted evidence of God working through people, you couldn't get more evidence than that - I mentioned this to a probationer friend last week and she looked me straight in the eye and asked "What have you done with Mrs G?" It is a very fair point, but one which shows how this acceptance of God using someone like me has allowed me to be so much more open to the Holy Spirit moving in and through me. (Sorry if this sounds like bragging, it's not my intent, I am just amazed at how God is working through me).

Even my interaction with people has changed. This is more difficult to get a handle on, but I find people are no longer wanting to scrape the surface when I am with them, but we enter a deeper place more readily, even among those who I know well and less so. Again, this can only be through God's presence being with me as I go about life.

One major thing I've notice is at training conferences I am no longer concerned that others have greater bible or theological knowledge than I do (and I mean both of those in the very academic sense). I no longer feel 'inferior', but look to the multitude of gifts we each have and how amazing it is that God called all of us to minister for him, because of our gifting. My gifts are just as valid as everyone else's. I do take a while to get the hint about these things, but I've got there in the end!

The journey continues, but it couldn't be more the right path, for me, if it tried. Of that there is no doubt. It's not that, with this new, deeper, understanding that the journey will suddenly get easier, or that I will be able to ease off the gas, but I feel fit enough to take on the steep climbs and the narrower paths in this knowledge, this amazing knowledge that, even though I ran away for years, God always gets it right. The more I learn to trust the more I am used for his glory and, I pray, others feel in some way God's spirit moving through me.