And me with the person who gave it to me...
Today, and for the next two Sundays, I am exercising a little nuttiness. Not just in the services themselves but in what I am wearing to conduct them. I have three tops that were gifts from folk at church, and I think they ought to worn to church.
So, today, I will be wearing a beautiful African top made of black cotton and emblazoned with sky blue and barbie pink symbols (plus a few teeny yellow dots). In the coming weeks it will be two teeshirts with slogans.
Photos (and the reactions of folk at church?) to follow in due course.
For a couple of days my super duper BT inifinity broadband had been acting up, and then it stopped working. Last night I phoned the helpline number and, after the usual round of button pressing, spoke to someone who organised some checks on my line and confirmed there was a problem (well, I already knew that!). She then arranged for someone to come today and sure enough, half an hour into the 5 hour period, the man arrived carrying a new openreach modem... 'that's what it'll be' he said, 'there were problems with the first batch and now they've overcome it. I know it looks the same but it's not.'
So he fitted the new modem - and attached it to the wall which he said the first guy ought to have done but didn't - and, lo, I have my super duper infinity broadband back again.
It's easy to find fault and to complain, but my problem was dealt with quickly and effectively, so I am happy to say 'well done BT.'
There are two topics, more than any other, that people ask me about. One is human sexuality, the other is end-of-life and euthanasia. On one I have accepted the discipline of the Baptist Unions and will direct you at books you might find helpful if you want to think seriously about it. On the other I can offer my views - not 'the' Baptist view, just mine.
I make no value judgements about the rights of other people to determine how their life ends, and there are Christian arguments that can be made for euthanasia understood as assisted dying, but for me, it is not something to be considered. If someone I knew did elect to end their life - or have it ended - in this way, of course I would conduct a funeral for them and treat them exactly the same as anyone else. A while ago when someone asked me what I thought, my response was roughly thus:
Death is simply a door from this life to the life of eternity (however that is understood by the individual) and what most people really seem to want is someone to walk with them to that door. We all know we have to go through the door alone but to approach it alone is frightening and we just need someone to accompany us that far. The 'goodbye' or 'farewell' at or near the door is different for different people. Just as in any parting, some will quickly say 'bye' and be on their way, others will linger on the doorstep for a while, a few will sneak off when we aren't looking. Some people stand on the step waving and waving until their friend has disappeared from view, others close the door swiftly. My, relatively limited, experience, is that people, even people in tremendous pain don't actually want someone to open the door and push them through it, they simply want someone to be alongside them as they prepare to grasp the handle. Some people 'choose' to die with others around them, some 'choose' to die alone (how often does someone die just after their last longed for visitor has left?). I also believe, though cannot prove it, that in these circumstances people don't die until those left behind are able to cope with their loss - whether that is determined by God or by the dying person is a moot point.
One of the greatest privileges of ministry is being one of those who walks towards that door alongside other people. To share a last communion ('food for the journey' or viaticum of you're more sacramental than I am) is precious and can be helpful in 'giving permission' to go through the door (ministers sometimes find ourselves seen as 'gentle angels of death' in this context). But in the end we have to step aside and let go, the last hug, the last whispered 'farewell.' For me, attempts to hasten that moment, or to pre-meditate it would be inappropriate - death is a mystery in the true, theological, sense of the word and should be allowed to remain so.
Now I know there are many and complex issues. I know I've ignored murder and accident. I know that life gets 'artificially' prolonged. I know that even having thoughts on this is the privilege of wealthy western society. Just that I get asked about it quite a lot.
Don't try reading anything into this, there's nothing to read in, except that there's a lot of death, terminal illness and chronic incurable conditions in the lives of people I know and love right now, and the question gets asked, 'what do you think, Catriona?'
Evidently today is the feast of St Martha of Bethany... to my warped brain it seems a slightly strange idea that she would have a feast day especially given the bad press the church has generally given her throughout history. But actually, I find myself rather pleased that she does get a feast day, a day to be feted and celebrated for who she was.
Those of you who have read this stuff for a while will know that I get very uppity about portrayals of Martha that are based on a poor synthesis of the Luke 10 and John 12 stories... OK so Martha was distracted but it doesn't say she was cooking dinner at the time. And I also stress (ad nauseam) that in John 11 (the raising of Lazarus) it is Martha who names Jesus as Messiah. I have blogged various explorations and reflections on this trio of stories, which I won't repeat here. Suffice it to say, I am something of a Martha fan.
Without the 'Marthas' (and her 'sons') our churches would be in dire trouble... we depend so heavily on those who bake and make tea and polish brass and arrange flowers and move chairs and sweep steps and empty bins and, and, and... I get rather huffy with people who perceive themselves as too spiritual to muck in with the practical tasks, especially on a Sunday. But actually, I like the idea of a feast day for Martha and her descendants, a day when they can sit down, enjoy a bit of TLC and be celebrated for who they are and what they bring.
Martha, sit down a moment...
No, not on that hard, kitchen chair, here in the soft welcome of the settee.
Martha, take a moment for yourself...
Put down the tea-towel, the duster, the broom; pick up a book or gaze through the window
Martha, have a little refreshment...
No, not the healthy apple or the plain biscuit, choose the sumptuous richness of Belgian chocolate or cream-filled gateau
Martha, take a moment to indulge...
Lay aside the list of jobs to be done, people to be helped; daydream, reflect, meditate, be
Martha this is your moment, your day...
No, not a recollection of your distractedness, but a celebration of your authenticity
Martha, homemaker, theologian*, sister, disciple...
We pause for a moment to see yourself in us, and to accept ourselves as we are, image bearers of the God of Jesus Christ, unique, loved, welcomed.
* Check John 11 for the theological discussion she had with Jesus at her brother's grave-side!
Picture of Martha borrowed from here