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  • A Little Light Reading...

    Between now and this time next week, I have undertaken to prepare some material for a house-group on "Constructing a Sermon/Reflection'... I have plenty of ideas, and plenty of notes (somewhere) from the endless repetitions of workshops/courses I've done down the years, but it seemed good to go back to some books... so I've set myself the challenge of reading at least part of each of these - plus another one I recalled after I'd taken the photo - and then producing something fresh, interesting and helpful.

    And in between times, to write this Sunday's sermon!!

  • It's a 'hmm' from me!

    This morning I'm researching liturgies to adapt for a gravestone dedication service that I'll be doing tomorrow.  We chose the date purely by convenience - but of course tomorrow is All Saints Day, the day after All Souls.  Which is remarkably apposite. Hmm.

    I am loving both the Jewish and Roman Catholic liturgies I'm reading through, as well as some other websites that talk of annual, community ceremonies among Roman Catholics in Ireland.

    Our purpose is largely pastoral - someone with no surviving relatives, and for whom, along with the other members of her family buried there, we arranged for a new headstone to be made.

    Not your everyday Baptist kind of a thing, certainly not one they teach you at 'vicar school', but nonetheless one that feels right, and the timing of which generates a gentle 'hmm'!

  • Symbolic, Shabby, Celebration

    Seven years ago I bought this red duffle coat in BHS in Coventry on the way back to Glasgow having visited my Mum soon after my cancer diagnosis.  It was an act of defiant self-indulgence at a time of incredible fear.

    Today it gets its first outing of this season.  It's pretty shabby.  The cat hair refused to be brushed or picked off, the fabric is 'pilled' but I don't let that worry me... this is my symbol, my way of celebrating life, as well as remembering others less fortunate I've met along the way.

    BHS is long gone.  I no longer have cause to travel via Coventry.  But I do have many blessings to count, and more defiance to express!

  • Testimony, Reflection, Story... Hope

    Yesterday evening was the annual service of 'Grieving and Gratitude' at one of our Church of Scotland neighbours, and in which I have participated since I arrived in Glasgow.

    At the moment, there are very few ministers in our C of S parish grouping, so last night was both special and poignant... one full time C of S, one non-stipendiary C of S, and one Baptist, in a service planned by email and with minimal contact.  Built (loosely) on the Kubbler-Ross 'stages of grief' model, each of us was allocated one or two themes to work with.

    Firstly, one of my colleagues shared the story of his mother's death, when he was just 15 years old, and how significant it had been in shaping his life and faith.  It was powerful, moving, profound and gentle.

    Next, I had been given "anger and bargaining" (thanks guys!).  After normalising the reality that anyone may or may not experience either of these, and that all experiences are equally valid, I reflected as best I could on the 'why' and 'what if' and 'if only' questions that may arise, and the scary emotions that may be experienced, with words from Psalm 22 and 139.

    Lastly, my other colleague used the story of Lazarus, a story of a couple adjusting to the birth of a child with cerebral palsy, and some lines from a poem to reassure us that in it all God is present, and that there is no obvious timetable, rather that in God's time, with God's help, we'll find our way through.

    Three very different approaches, and yet, somehow it flowed together as a piece.

    Lighting candles to remember, listening to music, singing, praying... stilllness and openness... and through it all, hope.

  • Church with a (twinkly) Twist

    Yesterday we did church differently.  Something we are getting rather good at, if I may say so... people are gracious and generous in engaging with different things, adapting to different times, places and formats.

    To close out our autumn themes of creation and harvest (and because our usual venue wasn't available) we went to the Glasgow Science Centre where, after coffee and chat, we watched the planetarium show 'wonders of the universe', shared packed lunches and participated in a simple communion service.

    Spending roughly three hours together was inherently good.  Conversations were deeper and more wide ranging.  Rather than just sitting where we always sit (which was impossible) people sat with different people and, with more time and less input, had time to get to know each other.

    There were many beautiful moments which, rightly, could not be captured in a photo.  A parent offering the chalice to a child.  The Lord's Prayer in multiple languages.  The smiles on faces old and young.  The excitement of a woman in her 80s.  The sleeping baby.

    Our church is a messy church, an open, enquiring, Jesus-following, surprised-by-God, Spirit-infused, loving, hoping community.

    I am proud of our church.  Proud to be part of this pilgrim people, learning together, muddling along, being perceived on the one hand as prophetic and on the other as heretical (probably a good combination!).

    All my ministerial life, I've held a secret ambition to organise a "Sunday Fun Day", yesterday (which was organised by others - so even better) came pretty close!