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  • Evening Worship for Holy Week

    As is our custom, we are joining with other local churches each night during Holy Week.  Today, amongst a whole host of other things, we sang this, which I love:

    Thank you for the night,
    the sign that day is done,
    that life is meant to rest
    and sleep to come.

    Thank you for the quiet
    as silence scatters sound,
    while God, in both,
    is waiting to be found.

    Thank you for the dark
    to compliment the light,
    as insight, open-eyed,
    replaces sight.

    Thank you for the word,
    which darkness can't contain,
    that life, laid down,
    is raised to life again.

    Thank you for the night,
    a measure of your care.
    In darkness, as in light,
    you, Lord, are there.

    John Bell (born 1949) and Graham Maule (born 1958) from The Courage to Say No © 1993 WGRG, Iona Community, 4th floor, Savoy House, 140 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3DH, Scotland

  • Reflecting

    After a busy couple of days, I am taking a little breather on the basis that I may as well stay at work to go to the service over the road at 7p.m. rather than go home and come back again.

    It struck me the other day, as I approach my sixth Easter at the Gathering Place, I have been here almost as long now as I was at Dibley.  There I saw six Easters and five Christmases during the 5.75 years I was  with them.  Now I have seen six Christmases and am approaching my sixth Easter in the 5.5 years I've been here. 

    I think what struck me is that I am moving into metaphorically new territory - I pretty much know what a six year pastorate looks like, and I can recall how a nine-month notice period was employed to try to help a congregation transition.  Now, despite the occasional bad day or tough week, I feel settled and there is no hint or sense of a time to move on... the balance of my sixth year will be 'more of the same'. 

    In one way that's good: feeling settled, still being sure this is where I am meant to be, means that I can think longer term, start to imagine our next steps if the journey we feel we are being called to comes to fruition (it will be exciting and a tad scary).  In another way it is challenging - longer ministry means revisiting themes and ideas that we have already explored, entering new iterations of cycles of learning and growing.  Knowing each other quite well, there is no pretence and nowhere to hide!  I am beginning to realise that I need to think about carefully what the next five years might look like, what God might have in store for us.

    Year one here was really exicting, a time getting to know each other and beginning to dream what the future might look like.  By the time year two began all that had been turned on its head as we journeyed together through my cancer treatment.  The subsequent three years have seen lots of good things  - folk coming into membership or being baptised, weddings, infant blessings, our continued involvement in the West End Festival and participation in the More Than Gold outreach of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.  Overall, I think the church is in good health and good heart, and though for sure we have our moments, I remain very happy to be here.  In August it will be five years since my cancer diagnosis, five years since I learned what fear really is, five years since I dared to look too far ahead.  Now, I know what nearly five years post cancer diagnosis feels like, and know that, whilst certainty never returns, it is now safe enough for me to think a bit longer term, and to work towards a future after I have moved on or been 'called home'.

    My first preach here was Low Sunday 2009, which was at the end of April, but that makes Easter very much a signifcant point in my personal calendar.  This year on Low Sunday I will be taking the day off and resting after a busy Easter season.  Six years on from that first visit and the sense that this was almost certainly where God wanted me, I am as glad to be here as I was then - and a darned sight less nervous!

    And Dibley?  Six years on they have excelled themselves - calling a half-time minister and opening a community coffee shop/mission centre in their village.  At the moment life is very tough for them, their minister is very ill and sadly the outlook is far from good.  They are very much in my thoughts and prayers as they face another huge challenge and, quite possibly, more major changes in the near future.  I remain proud of them and grateful for all they taught me.

    Back in the day, one of my lay preachers in Dibley used to have a favourite expression, "we don't know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future".  It's as well we can't know what the future holds, because if we did we wouldn't savour the present.  And it's as well to know that the future, just like the present, is in God's safe-keeping, whatever it may bring our way.

  • 40 Acts - Day 36

    When I read this one my first thought was "you're having a laugh"... do they think that any minister (worship leader or preacher) has the head space let alone the time and energy for housework during Holy Week?!  My flat looks like the aftermath of a rather fantastic party, or a stall at a flea market oe Paddy's market or, well, you get my drift.  Sorry 40 Acts people, but this challenge is not going to happen today!!  (PS please don't offer to the third one for me - I'd be too embarrassed to let you see my topsy turvey house and would have to clean before I let you in!!)


    Heads up: you might want some rubber gloves for this one. Unblocking the sink, cleaning the toilet, scrubbing the oven. Plenty of domestic chores we routinely avoid or pass off to someone else. So today, sign yourself up for the job nobody else wants to do in your household. And if you happen to be the only member of your household, see if you can do the dirty work for a neighbour instead.


    No procrastinating – spend five minutes doing that one household job you can't stand, or schedule a spring-clean for someone at some point in the next week.



    Go the extra mile. Don’t just clean the kitchen, scrub the bathroom too. Spend a little longer perfecting that clean and sparkling finish!



    Get a group together and offer a spring-cleaning service for a neighbour. You could offer to hoover, dust and polish their entire house for a day, free of charge.

  • 40 Acts - Day 35

    <Mmmm> I think maybe thats how to 'write' tongue biting!  A good challenge for me today, as I can be guilty of a rather critical tongue.  Tongue-biting, yes sometimes, but maybe should try harder to think of positives to say instead...


    It’s so easy to let cutting words slip out. The problem is that the effect of our verbal stings can resonate with other people for a lot longer than we expect. The good news is twofold. First, we can learn to hold back when it’s tempting to deliver a put-down. Second, our words can also be generously kind, and these words also resonate – sometimes for entire lifetimes.


    Make the decision to catch your words before blurting them out. Just five minutes of intentional decision-making can set you up for a day of generous, kind communication.


    Reflect on those closest to you – the ones that you’re probably more prone to get shirty with when you’re stressed/tired/hungry. Think about the last time you said something harsh to them – what was it? Are there particular words or phrases that you use repeatedly? Spring clean your vocabulary and eliminate the nasties.


    Ask a friend to evaluate your speaking voice. Things to question are: am I too blunt? Too sharp? Slow to listen and too quick to respond? Take their answers and see if you can turn them into action points.

  • Palm Sunday 2015

    Today we went on a journey back in time to first century Jerusalem and travelled literally (if we wished to) or metaphorically with Jesus through some of the events of Holy Week, culminating in the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and bringing in our life size wooden cross.

    It seemed to work well.  As well as the Temple (above) we went to Bethany where a woman poured lovely perfume onto Jesus' feet


    And we went to the Upper Room for the Last Supper:


    As is our custom, we ended in silence without a blessing - the raggedy ending expressing something of the raggedness of Holy Week, epsecially for those who, for whatever reason, aren't able to join in the evening reflections.

    It is quite a lot of work for a 50 minute service (always ends up shorter than a traditional services) but it is so worthwhile, and I know some good conversations will be, or will have been, shared over meal times today.

    In a couple of hours I'm back at church to sing with the choir, but for now just chilling in the knowledge that we made Palm Sunday happen for ourselves today.