It's been a bit quiet on here - partly because I succumbed to the 'Clergy Christmas Cold'. Thankfully it was a 'short sharp' one, with the first stirrings in the evening of Christmas Day, and now, apart from some post viral fatigue, it's behind me. Anyway, enough self indulgent waffle.
Christmas Day itself was wonderful... the service attracted around fifty folk, who participated in a low key, easy access service. After that it was on to dinner - and, in the words of the African American spiritual, 'the people keep a-comin...' as we served fifty meals. For sure, most people were there at the appointed time, but there were new arrivals with each course, and the last person came in from the cold just as we started to clear the tables - and was so grateful for a warm place and hot meal. I always love the miracle of this gathering, not that people come (that takes a fair bit of work, though the 'jungle drums' and Holy Spirit reach where advertising cannot) but that people 'of all stripes' sit down together... international students, homeless people, lonely people, elderly people, people desperate to volunteer, Christian people, Muslim people, agnostic and atheist people. It's hard work, tiring work (and the photo was me when I got home, and the Christmas jammies and fluffy slippers went on). It is also 'what Christmas is about' and so often isn't. I am proud to have been a small part of it.
After that it was hibernating for a couple of days as the lurgy took told... but that was a good call, it cleared up quickly.
This morning, as has become recent custom, we joined with Church of Scotland friends for a 'Turn of the Year' service during which we looked back and forwards, reflected on some hopeful words of Scripture and sung some lovely hymns/songs.
People we gracious and joined in creating the verses for 'Thank you God for this past year...' with some super, and significant, choices...
Thank you God for:
This past year!
We also sang Bonhoeffer's New Year Hymn, 'By gracious powers' and prayed together Wesley's Covenant Prayer - these are powerful and poignant, and it was more than a little self-indulgent to chose them. We listened to some great words of Scripture, infused with hope and encouragement. And it felt pretty darned good!
So that's it, then, all services for 2019 completed. If we count the new millennium from 2000, we are are now a fifth of the way through its first century (eek!). If we say the old one ended in 2000, well, OK, we are about to enter the 20th one of the new century (equally eek!). Had anyone said to me, as a first year ministerial student working alongside an Anglican parish in 1999 that in 2019 I would be co-leading a service with a Church of Scotland minister in Glasgow, I would probably have thought they were slightly mad (only slightly, because after all God had so clearly called me to abandon my career to train). Those twenty years have seen a lot of changes and challenges, as well as lots of joy and delight. And so it is that I can sing Bonhoeffer's hymn and pray Wesley's prayer with honest intent and commitment...
I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.'
Alas, I seem unable to find a version of 'By Gracious Powers' to 'Finlandia' (the set tune in Baptist Praise and Worship, ergo, the 'right tune') so you will have to imagine it, but it is truly awesome!
I have just stumped the cost of another year's blogging, on the basis that £3 a week isn't exactly big bucks... Thanks to everyone who continues to read this stuff, and may God bless you with a peaceful and hopeful 2020 when it comes.