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  • Trying not to be an Ostrich...

    The unfolding of events in the week since the EU Referendum has been shocking and horrifying with a Westminster government that seems to be in chaos, each side slinging more mud than ever at the other.

    Meanwhile those who had no voice in any of this, the many EU nationals who wipe bottoms in care homes, pack strawberries for supermarkets, carry out life saving surgery and teach in our universities, are understandably angry and frightened. 

    Xenophobic langauge and attacks.  Lies, damned lies and "expletive deleted" lies are still being peddled by foolish people for whom, it seems, this was all a game, with no thoughts for the consequences.

    As a Remain voter (perhaps my past public neutrality, at least on this, was not such a wise thing afterall) I have joined in the straw-clutching exercises of signing petitions and writing to my MP.  Whilst I have little residual hope that this will affect the outcome, at least, for once, I've stood my ground and done something, however little, and however much too late.

    I agree with those who say that dilly-dallying is not an option - either work has to start to invoke Article 50 or a clear decision not to act on the referendum made, and soon.  It isn't fair to anyone to do otherwise.  There is a huge work to be done to (re)build a nation with the values it has long espoused.  But when most major parties in Westminster are in such disarray...

    So all I want to do is be an ostrich - to hide and hope it all goes away...  All I want is for people to play nicely together and be friends...


    As I paused to think which Bible stories might speak to me just now, these came to mind...


    There was Elijah in the cave on Mount Horeb, exhausted, bewildered and disillusioned...

    There was Moses equally hacked off with the Hebrew people and their repeated failure to learn...

    There was Jonah who didn't much fancy what God was calling him to do, so set out in the opposite direction

    And there was a small boy with a packed lunch (one of the readings I'm using on Sunday)


    I believe that God called me to the ministry I exercise because of who and what I am. 

    God called me as someone who doesn't 'do' party politics but who does care about the use of power.

    God called me as someone who doesn't really believe in nations or borders, but who accepts that they have practical purposes in a disordered world (I did briefly reflect on the Babel story in the light of recent events but didn't get very far!)

    God called me as someone who will always try to forgive, and who cringes whenver anyone says something is 'unforgiveable' even if I know where they are coming from

    God called me, fallible and with my foibles, as someone willing to leave the security of the familiar and go elsewhere, taking with me  the good I had discovered and learned along the way

    God called me, knowing I'm a wuss, knowing I fear conflict, knowing I forget to pray, knowing that sometimes I just want to run away and hide...

    God called me as someone who will cling on, even by her finger nails, to hope, choosing to seek the good in all people, and who will believe that the Kingdom is breaking in despite all appearances to the contrary.


    Why am I blurting all this out where anyone can see?  Because I doubt I am unique.  Because emails and texts and PMs on social media tell me that there are others like me who find what I say 'normalises' their experience.  Because maybe someone who is a wuss needs to be a voice for the wusses.


    I am sad at the break up of the EU that now seems inevitable.  I am sad at the break up of the UK. Though I cannot be sad, indeed I am glad, for Scotland to have a parliament that works effectively, and for Northern Ireland if it finds a brighter future with other arrangements.  I am sad for Wales, for England, for the little islands still part of the current UK.  I am sad for those who were so down-trodden and disillusioned that they sold their future for a mess of lies.  I am sad for my European friends who arrived on these shores full of hope and now are filled will fear and anger.  

    Actually, I am beyond sad.


    But I choose hope.

    I come out of the cave to listen for God's voice in the silence

    I come down from the mountain to dwell among those who seem impossibly slow to learn

    I stop running, stop hiding and go where God sends me

    I offer my picnic, my signature, my letter, my whispered voice, my tentative response, trusting that somehow God can feed a multitude and answer the prayers I cannot articulate or express.


  • Take this moment, sign and space... (3)

    This photo is from a church meeting after a service held in a hotel conference room a few weeks back.  It's one of the photos we used on Sunday, not that anyone could see them - the sun was so bright the screen was almost invisible!

    The "Chiefly Yourselves" songs of praise service seemed to be really well received.  The hymns/songs, selected in advance, spoke eloquently both of our shared values and into the immediate post referendum context.  We laughed at some funny readings, reflected on some serious ones, sang a dozen hymns, prayed the Lord's Prayer and discovered among us "a place where [God's] love is found."

    These three short posts record three very different events that took place in under 24 hours.  Two overtly 'sacred' one ostensibly 'secular' yet in each of them, in the making of community, however fleeting and imperfect, a place of holy love was found.

  • Take this moment, sign and space... (2)

    Saturday evening, after the wonderful ordination service, a quick change into a ridiculous outift and some pizza for tea, I headed off the SECC to take part in the Glasgow at Night Pink Ribbon Walk

    Around 700 people took part, walking 5, 10 and 20 miles.  Some groups/teams, some solo walkers.  Some dressed relatively soberly, others as ridiculous as you like.

    It was great fun, well organised with excellent stewarding, signage, rest stops etc.  And it was characterised by love and laughter.  Back messages of remembrance and of celebration.  People directly and indirectly affected, all supporting the same great cause.

    My own sponsorship stands at over £500, which is truly amazing.

    As it happens I was the first ten-mile walker home which pleased my cometitive side, but first or last or in between everyone there was a winner.


    Would you trust this woman with a church???

    pink paint face.jpg

  • Take this moment, sign and space... (1)

    Last Saturday afternoon, I travelled with a small contingent of Gatherers to Tillicoultry Baptist Church to attend an ordination.  If you look closely at the photo, you can see part of my head, as I was invited to among those who laid on hands during the ordination prayers.

    It was a lovely service, with a good sermon on "forgetting what is past, I press on" and a warm, friendly atmosphere.  The candidate's testimony was moving, honest, open, vulnerable and engaging.  The other "stories" likewise affirmed that this was 'of God' and it was good.

    This family heads south to Cambridgeshire, a great gift to a rural area at a time of political uncertainty.  God seems to like moving people across humanly-made geographical borders... there are actually more English-born than Scottish-born in that photo!

    And more divine humour... this ministry will be in a church where I know one of the past ministers a little, as he was a couple of years above me at college.

    May God bless L&M s&p as they journey on, fulfilling their callings in a new context.

  • Baptists Together... in Scotland

    This from a ministerial colleague in Scotland, Rev Norman Graham
    Brexit & Mission
    Ok deep breath...Brexit happened. Now we have to live and minister in this new reality.
    We could probably debate all day the rights and wrongs of both campaigns and the final result...but let’s not. Whatever the vast array of differing opinion regarding our place in the EU within our Baptist family of churches, our union with one another via our union with Christ transcends all other relationships, political ideologies and loyalties.
    With that caveat, we cannot ignore the new reality in which we are called to minister, and the facts seem to be that the new reality is going to be a very difficult one. The Pound continues to fall along with the value of shares, investment is being cancelled, multinational companies are preparing to move out of the UK and we are bracing ourselves for hundreds of thousands of job redundancies. Today the chancellor has announced that he expects us to go through a prolonged period of financial instability that will require much more severe budget cuts and austerity measures as well as tax rises.
    That is the new reality that we now live in and it is the new reality that we must now minister in. According to organisations like the Joseph Roundtree Foundation and the Poverty Alliance, the present austerity measures have pushed half a million families into poverty. It is likely that the new austerity measures, coupled with significant redundancies and tax rises will push far more people into poverty. The two most significant areas of poverty in the UK currently are food poverty and fuel poverty (which may get a lot worse if the Hinkley Point Nuclear plant is cancelled as looks likely, like Brexit there seems to be no plan B regarding energy, except possibly to allowing fracking). Furthermore, an inescapable consequence of the Leave campaign has been the normalisation and acceptance of racism, an evil that is contrary to everything the gospel of Christ stands for. It has left many in our communities feeling very vulnerable, and afraid.
    The Baptist family of churches in Scotland must now urgently begin thinking more constructively about how we can reach out beyond our church buildings, or even open them up to community organisations, in order the meet then needs of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our communities. Let us not be in any doubt that many social services, already strained, will be cut back significantly or cut out altogether. My own local authority was already facing a £20 million gap in its funding for next year. We must now begin gearing up and begin thinking about how best we can respond to these challenges and minster to the people in our communities.
    Is there a community council in your area or a tenants and residents association. If so, get on it and fight for your community services. If not start one.
    Is your church building near a school? Can you start a breakfast club to ensure that children get something to eat at the start of the day?
    Is there anyone in your church that can help people with free legal advice?
    Can you start a food bank?
    Can you start a hardship fund (probably best administered in partnership with Social Services or similar group)?
    What can you do to befriend immigrants living in your community, to help them to feel loved, and welcome?
    Please do not write off such suggestions as socialism, this is the gospel in action.
    The South African missiologist David Bosch has written that, “Mission is more and different from recruitment to our brand of religion; it is the alerting of people to the universal reign of God through Christ.” One of the ways that we alert them to God’s reign, is to be a demonstration and foretaste of the kingdom of God to them. In the Kingdom of God people are not abandoned, they are not left to go hungry or cold.
    Such care has always been part of the life and mission of the Church. About 300 years after the Book of Acts was written the Roman Emperor Julian complained bitterly that the influence of the Christians was so great they were in danger of taking over the Empire. Although Christianity was the main religion in the Empire by this time, Julian viewed the early Christians as atheists because they did not worship the old pagan gods of the Empire. He understood Christianity to be a kind of sickness plaguing the Empire and wanted to restore the old religions. Julian wrote to his officials demanding they embark on a programme of social welfare, he said, “We must pay special attention to this point, and by means affect a cure. For when it came about that the poor were neglected and overlooked by the priests, then I think the impious Galileans observed this fact and devoted themselves to philanthropy. And they have gained ascendancy…through the credit they win for such practices…and the result is that they have led many into atheism.” By atheism he meant Christianity.
    I really do not care at all if you voted Leave or Remain. Our primary loyalty is not to any sense of national identity or political party or ideology, Queen or country. Our primary loyalty is to Christ and he has called us to a mission. As a family of Baptist Churches in Scotland, we must more than ever speak up for those who have no voice and defend and care for the widow and the orphan, the poor and the vulnerable and the marginalised, the foreigner and the stranger living among us.
    Whether our nation realises it or not it needs, now more than ever, for the Church to be the Church.