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- Page 4

  • Expectations and Excitement

    There has been mounting excitement in this corner of Glasgow over the last few weeks as a new supermarket has been taking shape in the shell of an old one.  Workers from "darn sarf" (even by my reckoning) have laboured long and hard, cranes have appeared from a Manchester-based firm (why?!  one of my long standing puzzles is why cranes trundle across the nation rather than being sourced locally) and plenty of local people have been recruited and trained up.  Yesterday I witnessed frantic shelf stacking, sign hanging and barrier shifting.  This morning a glistening new supermarket awaits its first customers.... Waitrose has arrived!

    As I am beginning to think about Advent preprations (i.e. preparing to do Advent, not what Advent is) this activity and excitement has been quite striking.  I love the Advent season with is calendars and candles and (at least among the young) mounting excitement as Christmas nears.  I love the Advent hymns with their sense of yearning and aching for what is just out of reach.

    This morning I found myself reminded of these words from the advent hymn 'There's a light upon the mountians' :


    There's a hush of expectation,

    And a quiet in the air;

    And the breath of God is moving

    In the fervent breath of prayer...


    I hope that people's expectations of Waitrose will be met, that the food they have longed to taste is worth the wait.  More, I hope that our Advent waiting might be eager expectation and anticipation of the promises of God, Immanuel.

  • Little Links

    Just being around at church is a good thing.  It's good because I get to chat to the cleaner and various building users.  Today two hints that links are being made...

    Upstairs is an office rented by a commercial tenant.  Usually once or twice a day he goes to the coffee shop and asks if I want anything.  Today he called in as I was preparing a visual aid for Sunday, and we chatted about what it was, allowing me to explain why I was using it.  Not a deeply profound conversation but a little link, and notably it was he who asked the questions and opened the door a chink.

    Then the cleaner arrived bearing a slice of delicious homemade cake as a gift for me.  We chat only a little as she is busy and also has only limited English.  A level of friendship is establishing itself and smiles and small kindnesses say a lot.

    This is why I wanted to be based at church, and I am glad it is already proving worthwhile.

  • Glimpsing Eternal Hope

    Here is one of the photos I used on Sunday, taken at the National Memorial Arboretum in July.

    The slightly ajar door in the wall allows those on the battle field at glimpse eternity, into which their fallen comrade has already passed.  Part of our hope as believers in Christ arises from such glimpses - that death and sin are not the end, there is a brighter tomorrow.  When Jesus called his disciples to take their crosses and follow him it was simply to death, but through death into the hope of eternity.

    The alignment of the sculpture is such that at 11 a.m. on 11 November the sun's rays pass through the slit; our hope as Christians allows such glimpses any time, anywhere...

  • Orderly Worship

    Among the visitors at last Sunday's service was someone who commented on the fact that the whole service hung together - that the act of Remembrance and the concept of sacrifice threaded their way through it all, that the hymns/songs fitted in, that the Sunday School's (absolutely amazing) reflection on the first Armistice Remembrance Day connected and so on.  Surely, I thought, this is basic stuff - but of course even as I thought it, alas I know it isn't, why else is every Baptist denominational college having to teach the rudiments of how to create an act of public worship?  How often do we hear people say 'we'll start with some worship' when they really mean 'let's sing some songs we like' or even, among hymny churches, 'we'll end with that one because it has a good tune'?  Scary.

    As I said in a recent sermon, it isn't style that makes of breaks worship, I like all sorts of styles and can worship in some very diverse settings, it is understanding what we are about.  Thank goodness for people like Chris Ellis whose recent publication 'Approaching God: A Guide for Worship Leaders and Worshippers' explores this in a way that is accessible, respectful of different styles and preferences, and rooted in a good understanding of what public worship is about.

    I am grateful to have spent my formative years in allegedly 'boring' churches where the groundwork of good worship practices were maintained, allowing me to learn what I was doing before I started to experiment with how I do it.  I do like creativity, and movement and contemporary music as well as stillness, listening and ancient forms.  But over style come intentionality and authenticity - and that is not always so evident.

  • Discovering and Rediscovering

    Last week I was lent copies of the two histories of the church.  One written for its jubilee (50years) and the other for its centenary.  It is always interesting to read such documents and to find out how a church saw itself and what it chose to include (whilst guessing at what may be excluded and why).  I guess what struck me was that some what I am now hoping to do/be and what I am saying finds resonates quite strongly with what the first minister hear did/was.

    One of my plans - which I hope to begin early in the new year - is to get directly involved with Sunday school, sometimes, and regularly, working  I with the children and Young People rather than the adults.  I wish I could claim this was an idea of my own, it isn't, I it pinched from a couple of male colleagues down south.  Imagine my delight when I discovered that the first minister of this church used to teach in Sunday School once a month!  Granted, it was a different pattern - Sunday school was in the afternoons and he fitted this between two (or more) services.  But the precedent is there, and all I am doing is reshaping it for a new century.

    Also included are snippets for parts of this man's sermons.  One on mission and one on public and private prayer... which had resonances with a couple fo the themes we've worked with in recent weeks.  Cue spooky music!

    At one stage in the church's history the building was jam-packed on a Sunday.  The history tells how visitors would have to wait in a side room until all the members/regulars had arrived and been seated (in their pre-paid pews) to see if space could be found for them.  Hard to imagine?  Well, at the moment we are having the lovely problem of fitting in enough seats for all the people who come along and on Sunday as full as we dared (without opening up the mezzanine gallery).  I did wonder if we ought to operate the old system in reverse... regulars have to wait in the corridor until all the visitors are seated?!

    There is, as the Teacher tells us, nothing new under the sun, and sometimes it is nice to be reassured that the new ideas you have are older than anyone who hears them.  In the meantime if anyone knows how to make elastic walls, maybe than can let us know...!