Yesterday I posted my apprehension about coming away to the next Stage of Ministry event... that hasn't entirely been assuaged but as ever there are more good things than not so good, if you can be bothered to look for them. It helps that I realise I do a few of the people here, and that certainly helps.
Things got off to a good start when dessert was a yummy peach, almond (marzipan) and puff pastry thingy served with cream, and when someone had organised birthday cake for one of the delegates whose birthday it was.
The opening round of introductions was of the form "my name is Fred, I'm married to Wilma, we have 2.4 children and 2n+1 grandchldren". Early on man, married, with no children noted his envy of those with children/grandchildren and another that he had no children but did have a dog. The other woman present simply stated her role and nothing about family (it transpire she's single too, I hadn't known that) whilst I said "I'm Catriona, I have no wives, no husbands and no children," which raised a laugh (phew). The dog-man asked if I had a dog (no, a cat) but it did make the point I think, how easily we normalise to our own experience and inadveertently exclude or demean others. Many years ago, I was gently told off at a course for introducing myself by saying 'my first job after I left universirty was...' because not everyone would have had that opportunity. A tricky path to tread but one that being aware of is probably a good thing.
The first session focussed on the topic 'Growing in Godliness' and dotted around 1 and 2 Timothy with an occasional foray into Titus to come up with six signs that might evidence this. Here they are:
- By the way we deal with those who oppose us (graciously, hospitality)
- By how we interact with scripture (depth, expectation of effect, mirror, transformation...)
- By our willingness to listen (not simply to hear but to engage with, to listen ettentively and actively)
- By the presence of agape in our lives (love as the primary motivator and means)
- By cultivating contentment (satisfaction with 'enough', not greedy, envious etc)
- By fascination with the Mystery of God (incarnation, trinity, cross-event etc etc.)
A really interesting and helpful list against which to measure ourselves which says nothing of 'success' in numbers, activities or qualifcations, and everything about attitude.
Feeling apprehensive and somewhat defensive, despite the yummy peach cake thingy, it was a good opening session to remind me of the 'better way' that is love.
Day 2 dawns with its own challenges but I will endeavour to listen attentively, love generously and deal graciously.