Yesterday morning saw the pavements outside the Gathering Place covered in glassy sheet ice. Witness one minister landing somewhat inelegantly as her feet slide sideways (fortunately) and her well-padded thigh hits the ground. In the words of the late 1960's Tufty club "Public Information Film", spoken by the badger police-officer, 'no bones broken, luckily.' Luckily indeed - I have schedules to keep that don't permit traumatic injuries! Thankfully only one other person fell en route to church, she also escaped with minor bruises and hurt pride.
A 'generous forty' made it through the icy conditions including some visitors, and we gathered round the tables deliberately left from the day before for a low-key all-age interactive, slightly mad service. We began with a 'quiz of the day' and I was most impressed someone knew it was Wren Day (although I'd opted not to pursue that one as it has a rather unpleasant origin) exploring the origins of Boxing Day, King Wenceslas (shame our resident Czech was absent really) and just who was St Stephen (there are two and they seem to share the same day).
We reflected on the biblical Stephen who was a Greek convert, who began his Christian service as a table waiter tending to Greek widows in a church where there were mumblings that the Hebraic widows got better treatment and who in time came to be a witness for his faith. We didn't major on the execution, just noted that 'martyr' means 'witness' and that this can be as much practical as overtly 'spiritual'.
For our prayers we made 'Christmas Boxes' on the inside of which we wrote, drew or symbolised prayers for ourselves, our families, our neighbours and friends, our church(es), our city (town or village, wherever was home) and our world. Having stuck the boxes together we put in a gold coin (chocolate variety!) as a sign of promise (bit stretching the idea of Christmas boxes and magi gift of gold anticipated but hey).
As part of our service we said 'farewell' to two of our overseas folk, returning to sunnier climes after fifteen months in Glasgow. We will miss them greatly because they have blessed us richly and modelled for us an ability simply to invite friends along to church (many of whom have stayed).
It still feels a bit strange to think I won't be preaching for four months but I know my church is in good shape for the months ahead. As part of our worship, we sang this hymn, exclusively found, it seems, in BPW (No. 583) and sung to the folk tune 'Stenka Razin', and which seemed to sum up what I wanted to say rather well.
We are called to be God's people
Showing by our lives his grace
One in heart and one in spirit
Sign of hope for every race.
Let us show how he has changed us
And remade us as his own
Let us share our life together
As we shall around his throne.
We are called to be God's servants
Working in his world today;
Taking his own task upon us
All his sacred words obey.
Let us rise then, to his summons
Dedicate to him our all
That we may be faithful servants
Quick to answer now his call.
We are called to be God's prophets
Speaking for the truth and right
Standing firm for godly justice
Bringing evil into light.
Let us seek the courage needed
Our high calling to fulfil
That the world may know God's blessing
In the doing of God's will
Thomas A Jackson (c) Broadman Press
Non-authorised emendations to final verse from "mankind" to "the world" and from "his" to "God's"