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- Page 6

  • Same but Different

    So, I'm back home after the Ministers' Conference which was, as these things inevitably are, akin to the curate's egg.  To dwell on that which I liked or didn't, found helpful or hindrance seems a little ungracious to the organising committee who had worked hard to bring it all together.  The format was similar to that which I'd experienced in England, but the feel was different.  Partly this was its intense maleness - two women and over a hundred men - and partly about its Scottish Baptistness.  Another English person whose been up for a few years said the difference was something that ran deep but was hard to identify; I think he was right.  Around a decade ago I recall reading an account in a church magazine from a Scottish Baptist minister who'd transferred south and attended his first conference and had experienced a similar sense of dislocation.

    The differences are tricky to pin-point since a broadly similar pool of speakers is invited speaking on broadly similar topics and saying broadly similar things.  The worship songs are broadly similar, if drawn from an (even) narrower range and with a residue of redemption hymns that were abandoned a century ago further south and a total absence of Taize, Iona, Northumbria Community etc.

    It did have a feel of laddish blokiness (sp?) that I have never encountered either in BUGB or for that matter when I was a lone female engineering student in the early 1980s, which gave me pause for thought.  I found I was saying to myself 'remember Margaret Jarman'  and 'remember Violet Hedger' who once had to enter this arena totally alone and without a network of VIKs with whom she could connect.  I met some fantastic people (who were by default men!) who welcomed me as one of them (without having to be an honorary male) ensured I was invited to the pub after the evening session ended and who demonstrated the richness the BUS is blessed to enjoy.

    So, now it's back to my familiar routine.

    Will I go next year?  Yes, I will.  Attendance is about much more than enjoying the worship style, more than the quality of the input, and more even than networking... maybe it's important to go for what I can give (by my presence) as well as what I receive?

  • Watching Paint Dry?

    Last night I went to the AGM of the Flat Owners Association.  Whether it is technically I or one of the church trustees who should go is debatable, but given how thrilling it was, perhaps better that it was me.  The Committee clearly work very hard and seem to be far more building orientated than I am, for which I am very grateful.  It's just that discussions over whether to use to matt or egg-shell paint, whether the street doors should be black (as now) or white (as originally), whether the contract cleaners or the contract gardeners should pick up the litter, remind me of the very worst in church meetings as epitomised by "Upson Downes Baptist Church" a few years back at the English Assembly.

    These days it always seems odd to be in meetings that don't start or end with prayer and where the participants only ever come together once a year for an AGM, ironically held in a church hall.  Evidently extra meetings are sometimes called - and take place in the car park!  More positively there was a suggestion of a communal bulb planting effort and/or a communal white line painting party in the car park... creating community is harder in residential developments than in churches where at least there is some sense of intentionality.

    Anyway, approval was given for redecoration of the building externals, evidently now overdue, so at some point I'll be able to watch the paint, of whatever colour it ends up, drying.

  • SBMF Conference

    Tomorrow I'm off to St Andrews for my first ministers' conference in Scotland.  The programme looks rather different from those I've experienced in England, in so far as there are a couple of seminar slots when you get to choose from two or three options: this suggests it might well be a bigger event (or that the groups will be tiny).  I'm not wild about something that finishes at ~7pm with a two hour drive home, but it will be good to experience this thing in all its fullness, so will avoid the temptation to duck out early.  For the record, no, I won't be spoiling any good walks, not least as I wouldn't know which end of the bat to hold! ;-)

    Even though I have met some delightful ministers through my college course (which I passed, woohoo, I'm now a thrice-qualified mentor) I am a bit apprehensive of being in such a different context.  I recall the trepidation with which I attended my first EMBA conference and also how it soon became evident that others were equally anxious.  I recall the grace and love that was evident among ministers and lay pastors as diverse in theology and church-personship as one could imagine.  Whilst I will notice the lack of women this time (EMBA was unusually high) I am sure that there will be more that is blessing than bane.

    Who knows, there may even be a few other Happy Heretics out there...!

  • Happy Heretics

    On Saturday I was doing a bit of sad narcissistic Googling (I'm everyone does they just have more sense than to admit it) with my name and that of our church.  Most of what popped up was obvious but I found one mention of a website that spoke very negatively of us becuase, shock horror, in my predecessor's time some attention had been given to green issues.  As I explored that site, I discovered that basically anyone who didn't share their exact views was a heretic, so we were in the good company of Rowan Williams, Tony Campolo, Steve Chalke and the Alpha Course to name but four.

    According to the website (a blog, it was a couple of comments that referred to us) we are in a state of terminal decline, which is sad really because actually we are growing.  Yesterday during the offering I did a sneaky headcount and there were ~60 adults even though several were out with the children and a lot more were on holiday.  We had the delight of receiving someone into membership - the third since I arrived so around a 5% increase in 'formal' membership in that time, not counting the growing number of attenders.

    So, the happy heretics are alive and well and worshipping in Glasgow.  There's always room for one more and the doors are open...

  • Chosen Risk; Reaping Rewards

    Today's service focussed on the parable of the sower/soils.  A familiar story, and one of the few where the Bible offers us an explanation, so finding something new to say is always something of a challenge.  My new angle came to me one day as I was walking to church, and involves stepping back from the story in order to glimpse a new pespective.

    So, I chose to centre on the farmer - someone who knows his trade and knows his land.  He knows that there are weeds at the edge of the field; he knows where the rocks are; he even knows the reality that flocks of birds will arrive on the lookout for an easy meal.  He also knows the value of the seed - saved from a past harvest, packed with potential, incredibly precious and containing his future hope.   So here is his choice: to go out and broadcast the seed - knowing that some will be gobbled by the birds, knowing that some will be trodden under foot, knowing that some will be choked by the weeds - or to keep it safe in a barn and miss out on the hidden potential.  He chooses risk - feeds the birds (and probably the slugs or other garden creatures), watches as the weeds stifle some of the tiny seedlings and hopes for harvest.  And so it happens... full grain in the ear, enough to feed the family, enough to sell to pay the workers and enough for another year's planting.

    So, do we keep the seed safe in the store or do we choose the risky option: do we cast it widely, knowing some will never get the chance to germinate let alone reach the harvest?  Perhaps there are two polar dangers we face, one that we cast our seed without the expectation of harvest, the other that fear paralyses our courage to choose risk; in either case we miss reaping the reward that makes possible another season of planting...