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  • More Things They Don't Teach You...

    Ministerial training is a thankless task - whatever you elect to teach your students they will find things for which you had not prepared them.  To be fair, I think we were told to expect the unexpected and some of the things I was sure they were daft to be teaching us have arisen several times over in the last six years (I suspect as normal church members we see things very differently from how the 'rev' does).

    At the moment I am preparing long-distance for a funeral, something I've done a few times in the past when relatives have lived a long way from the deceased and it was necessary to do all the 'conversations' by phone or email.  This time it is me who is 300 miles north and will be travelling back to Dibley for a service I knew was 'on the cards' before I left.  An aggressive, terminal illness has run its course and now I have a promise to fulfil, one I am privileged to fulfil, but one that is more complex at a distance and following so soon after a sudden death in the same congregation.

    In my more flippant moments, I have pondered the effect of the back-clad vicar boarding the 'red-eye' flight from Glasgow; in my more serious ones I wonder about flight delays or cancellations on the one day I cannot be late.  Mainly I ponder the unique and privileged nature of this role, for which no one can prepare you, as you are permitted to share in the extremes of human experience in this way.

    The person who has died wasn't a regular church-goer for various reasons but did confide in me his assurance that there was 'more than this.'  He was a loving and much-loved person with a mischievous sense of fun that, evidently, continued to his final moments.  It will be odd going back as a 'borrowed minister' to a 'borrowed church' when already my sense of 'home' is in Glasgow but it will be a real privilege to say farewell to someone whose life was lived well with love and laughter. God bless you LS RIP.

  • Taking a Break

    Next week I am having a week off, not least as I have a sizeable amount of annual leave to take and also as Advent is looming large.

    It is hard to believe that this is my 7th Sunday in my new church and that, today, I complete my first preaching series.  The timed as whizzed by and yet in other ways I feel as if I've been here for ever.  For the first time today I will be asking the adults to do something more than listen to me talk - so that'll be a test of something or other!  Using the 1 Peter 'living stones' we are going to make a collage of cardboard 'dressed sandstone' bricks (both blonde and red!) on which we will write our first names.  For the first time ever I have to write "Catriona G" to distinguish myself from others with the same first name - that made me chuckle a bit.

    Anyway, all quiet here for a week or so and then back to begin the Advent journey with ecumenical lunchtime prayers during the week and a  preaching series based on the lectionary.  Good fun, and I'll look forward to it.

  • Good Fusion

    Today, as I sat in my office, I heard the patter of small feet climbing the stairs and turned to see a small boy bearing a plate of food for me.  Pakoras, onion bhajis, apple pie and coffee cake, a celebration feast because two of the mums in the toddler group had just been awarded British citizenship.  A lovely fusion of their traditional food and quintissential Britishness.

    I went and congratulated these mums, we laughed that they know more about Britishness than most of us who were born here.  I chatted to the other mums and carers too.  They love this place where their children can play safely, where they can chat about the challenges of city life or bi-lingual families or mulri-culturalism, and they really appreciate the freedom they are given in using the space.  Some little links being made... and with Christmas on its way all too soon, I am beginning to think how to develop those creatively...

  • Walking the Dog

    Yesterday I popped into Waitrose to see what all the excitement was about - ultimately it is just another supermarket but even so, it was full of people come to see it.  And to be fair, for many folk it is now their local supermarket and here they will do their regular shopping.  I bought a pint of milk ("red milk" for those who speak the lingo) and a packet of biscuits!

    As I got to the checkout the woman offered me a free bag-for-life, a gimmick they are running for the first couple of weeks, which gives them incredible levels of free advertising.  The West End of Glasgow was awash with people clutching Waitrose bags and 'walking the dog' as the checkout operative put it, giggling as she observed it would really wind up the other 'up market' food outlet just down the road.

    All of which made me think about what we do as Christians and what is an appropriate way for us to walk our own particular dog.  In common with many of my ministerial peers, I am 'big' on give-aways, whether they are events or meals or gifts, but am not quite so sure about the idea of branded carrier bags (or whatever might be equivalent).  I am certainly not happy with the denominational (brand) competition intended in this campaign but is there something about awareness raising?  Tricky.

    Images of yeast and salt or of tiny seeds hidden in the earth offer a very different perspective on how we permeate society.  And yet there is the contrasting image of the city on the hill, the light that cannot be hidden or defeated.  Being 'salt and light' seems to demand a tension of hidden and visible, of 'walking dogs' and plain paper bags.  I don't know how the right balance is struck, but maybe that's part of the challenge of being disciples - learners who never quite get it sussed but keep trying.

  • Been Pondering...

    ....the lyrics of the song 'Coming Home' by the The Soldiers (three real soldiers on active service) which I heard on Saturday in the Festival of Remembrance from the Albert Hall, and what they say about God and us and free will and its consequences...


    "All the wounded and the brave

    The ones God couldn't save

    We salute your courage..."


    At first I wanted to be cross with the line 'the ones God couldn't save' because part of me said 'yes God could.'  But then that left the question, if God could, why did God not.  And I had to think harder and remind myself how I understand omni-God-stuff.

    My view of God is roughly this:

    God can do anything consistent with God's character
    God gives us free will
    Free will has consequences and if God intervened every time we make a 'bad' choice we wouldn't be free; in effect God's hands are 'tied in love' as someone I know once put it.


    So, on balance I'm left tending to agree with the words, not because God is/was incapable of saving (in the sense of preventing from dying a human death) those people, but because in allowing us to be 'grown up' and free God has to let our actions have consequences.  In terms of eternal salvation, which isn't what they meant, then of course God could save them, otherwise God wouldn't be God and Christ wouldn't have accomplished what he accomplished.

    I think my theodicy is intact, and I think I can now not be cross with the line in the song.  And, on reflection, I'm glad it made me think.