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  • Balloons and Bubbles and Blessing

    Alas I forgot to take my camera this morning - between the last post and walking out of the house I had too many other thoughts!

    The Gathering Place looked amazing when I walked in and saw the Pentecost drapes - crimson with gold flames - and two five-armed candelabra with red candles waiting to be lit.  Once the table had been dressed in red, yellow, orange and gold, and the cake and balloons added, all was set for worship.

    Since I arrived last autumn we have had to increase the number of chairs slowly but steadily, as most weeks we now have around 70 people present.  Today the 'extra chairs' on standby were used up and during the first hymn there was a foray into the adjacent room for even more.  What a fantastic problem to have.  The estimate is around 90 people.  Given how many were away for one reason or another that was amazing.  I often say numbers don't mean a lot, and they don't, but it is always a boost to the preacher when extra chairs have to be brought out.  Better than the numbers was the warm (as in friendly, as well as physically almost hot), open atmosphere with laughter, singing and, when appropriate, quiet.

    It was great to have our occasional band playing for us to augment the piano and choir.  It was lovely to hear music sung in other languages and from many different cultures.

    The balloons were a bit of a mixed blessing as a lot of them popped when people blew them up... next time I'll opt for cheap party balloons rather than gold helium quality balloons.  Although having said that, it did remind me of a little 'verse' I read in some SU notes years back...

    If we are all mind we dry up

    If we are all spirit we blow up

    If we are mind and spirit we grow up

    Best bit of the day seemed to be the bubbles.  I have to confess, I love seeing the air full of glistening, rainbow-hued orbs and feeling the cool touch of liquid on my skin when they burst.  Somehow they seemed to appeal to all ages and opinions... and I think we really did pray with them.

    I am looking forward to this evening's choral celebration of Pentecost, which will be very different and another expression of the joy and vitality God's Spirit brings.

  • Champagne Marmite? The Act of Worship!

    One of the many things I really appreciated about my former cogregation was their willingness not merely to tolerate but to embrace some of my more whacky approaches to worship.  One such Sunday I was chatting to the duty deacon about the forthcoming service and said, 'people will either hate it or love it.'  Quick as a flash she said, 'so, it's a bit like marmite then.'  And a new concept was born - the marmite service.

    Today will be a marmite service of sorts - a large dose of Catriona-madness with some Gathering Place familiar festal touches.  Above all it is a celebration of God's gift of Pentecost... courage and confidence to be and do what the church is called to be and do.  So that must make it champagne marmite I reckon.

    Photos may follow.

  • Blogging Responsibilities

    I have my own blog ettiquette that runs roughly thus:

    • Never post anything you wouldn't say to anyone mentioned/alluded to face to face.
    • Never post anything that you think might harm or offend those who are the subject

    Sometimes I get that wrong, and maybe this one did, even though I thought long and hard before I posted it.

    So, if anyone reading was hurt or offended, I'm sorry.

    Freedom carries responsibility but humans sometimes foul up... thankfully God's grace and mercy are limitless even if our own are not.

  • Close of a Season

    Last night I had the privilege of sharing in the final meeting of one of our church outreach meetings.  The main organiser had reached the point where he needed to step down and was wise enough to appreciate that he could not simply assume other would continue what he had been doing.  It was slightly strange saying the last prayer at a meeting I have hardly known - one that began when I was knee high to a grasshopper - and I could feel the mixed emotions of those present.

    Back in the early 1970s there was very little available for those on the 'fringe' of polite society.  People who were unemployed (it was high back then, remember) homeless or had addiction problems wandered aimlessly on the streets, cold, hungry and seemingly unloved.  So it was that one of my predecessors, with a loyal core of helpers opened a room at church to offer food and friendship on a Friday.

    The format has barely changed in almost forty years, but the world has. Even as we met in one room, one of two support groups for those with dependencies was meeting in the next room.  Even as we shared a tasty repast, it was clear that no one was hungry (a few a tad greedy maybe!).  The appetite for 'magic lantern' shows (even high tech magic lanterns) is long gone and what people really value is a good blether over a cuppa.  Most of those who come along now are elderly, and many slope off early to catch buses home.  It was - is - a healthy, natural end point for this work as it stands.

    Over the summer some of us will be giving some thought to what next.  What are the needs of those who still came to the group (about 16 yesterday but sometimes as few as 8) and how can they best be served for the future.  But there are more radical questions too.  Poverty and homelessness haven't gone away, there are still occasional door-knockers and still folk who need a safe place out of the heat/rain/wind to rest awhile.  What the future shape will be, I don't yet know.  Perhaps now is our pruning season, when God cuts back and cleans branches that have been very fruitful so that new shoots can grow?

    The person who led the closing worship used three psalms in the Message translation, Psalm 130, 124 and 134

    Psalm 130:1 - 2

    Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help!
    Listen hard! Open your ears!
    Listen to my cries for mercy.

    Psalm 124

    If God hadn't been for us —all together now, Israel, sing out!—
    If God hadn't been for us
    when everyone went against us,
    We would have been swallowed alive
    by their violent anger,
    Swept away by the flood of rage,
    drowned in the torrent;
    We would have lost our lives
    in the wild, raging water.

    Oh, blessed be God!
    He didn't go off and leave us.
    He didn't abandon us defenseless,
    helpless as a rabbit in a pack of snarling dogs.

    We've flown free from their fangs,
    free of their traps, free as a bird.
    Their grip is broken;
    we're free as a bird in flight.

    God's strong name is our help,
    the same God who made heaven and earth.

    Psalm 134

    Come, bless God, all you servants of God!
    You priests of God, posted to the nightwatch
    in God's shrine,
    Lift your praising hands to the Holy Place,
    and bless God.
    In turn, may God of Zion bless you—
    God who made heaven and earth!

    For everyone involved in the Friday group, there had been times of the bottom falling out of their world and this had been a place where they could be honest about that.  A great and Godly gift of space and welcome.

    For many, but not all, let's not deceive ourselves, there had been trust in God, and as the psalmist said, had it not been for God (believed in or not) many would have been overhwelmed by events beyond their control.  There was cause for praise and thanksgiving.

    In some way, and with less contriving than the speaker claimed, this had been a 'nightwatch' movement.  Physically, on a Friday night at the end of the week, and spiritually for those in the 'dark night of the soul.'

    Some of those involved read this twaddle, most don't, but to all of them, I am grateful for the mission they have undertaken to follow God's call.  What difference it made in the lives of those who passed through the door may never be known, and many will never be found on a church on a Sunday morning, but nothing is ever wasted and that has to be enough.

  • Joining in with what the Dancing Nut is Doing

    Don't you love it when the Spirit moves us?  This video at David Kerrigan's blog so connects with my views on mission and ministry.  Course if you are offended by the idea of Jesus as a dancing nut, look away now!