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  • Just a Moment

    "Let's keep a moment of silence" is a phrase often heard at the start of an act of worship.  It's one I used regularly in my old chuch and have used recently in leading evening services.

    "Let's keep a moment of silence" for what?  Usually I say something like "to become aware of being in the presence of God" or "to still our hearts and minds" or something else that sounds good and means well - but may actually not mean all that much to most people.  I choose my words carefully - we are not entering the divine presence as if to a building but attuning ourselves to its pre-existence.  I have a very low - or very high - theology of 'place'.  I don't 'do' sacred places, I 'do' a sacred universe.  God is lurking everywhere, has just been everywhere, will soon be everywhere... In those seconds of silence I try to remind myself of that. ('Thinness' of place is a conversation for another occasion)

    On Sunday someone commented on my 'moment of silence' experienced two successive weeks.  The first, they told me, was too short, so the second (which was far longer because someone came in just as it began and I gave them time to find a seat!) about right but they didn't use it because the first one had been too short, so why bother?  So how long is a 'moment'?  How long should we leave as silent gaps for private prayer in intercessions?  When is a 'pause' a pause, and when is it a 'moment'?  And how subjective is it all anyway?  I understand the frustration of the commenter, I have been in services where the leader has literally said, 'let us keep a moment of silence, we will now sing hymn number 25.'  I have been in services where the gaps between petitions in the intercessions have been too short for me to gather my thoughts never mind name before God those who are sick or unemployed or whatever before joining the guided response, 'Lord in your mercy...'.  I was once told that 17 seconds is about right for a silence of the kind I'm talking about.  A bizarre concept - not least as 17 is evidently the most popular 'random' number people think of.  I don't time my 'moments' or my 'pauses' or my 'gaps', I tend to go on instinct.  I have learned that it probably feels longer to me than to the congregation, that sometimes there is a palpable sense of 'stay quiet' or 'for goodness sake say something' but usually there isn't.  So, as a general rule, I wait what feels about right to me, then wait what feels about the same again, then speak.

    So now you know!  A moment - about twice as long as half a moment!

  • The Beauty of the Earth

    On Sunday we sang 'For the Beauty of the Earth' to the Rutter tune; it was divine, and not a little self-indulgent.

    This morning I was awake at 5 a.m. listening to the torrential rain outside my window (is that stoating?  I can't remember.)  Usually I roll over and go back to sleep but today I got up to watch the break of day - hard to call it sunrise when the sun is so obscured by cloud.  And it was beautiful.

    Thick black clouds poured rain onto the quiet earth but away on the horizon was a sliver of faintest blue, a gap in the darkness.  As my eyes acclimatised I began to discern silhouettes of buildings 'across the water' and a single light in one window of the (Children's?) Hospital pierced the gloom.  The blue widened and tiny, faint, fluffy clouds came into view: text book cumulus.  Slowly, the shapes of buildings took on detail and the shades of green on nearby trees came into view.  The dark clouds rolled away and the rain eased.  A train hurtled along the track.  A seagull squawked and flew overhead (sometimes I feel as if I live at the seaside!) and other birds soared skywards.

    The world slept on.

    And God conducted the symphony of the dawn to an audience of one.

    Other old hymns came to mind, each celebrating the wonder and beauty of God's creation.

    Every now and then people who have never visited Glasgow baulk at the idea of living in a third floor flat. If they had the views I enjoy, they'd soon change their minds.

  • Little Things

    This morning I had a very apologetic phone call from the secretary of a tiny church, asking if it was now too late to send me prayer information for a joint Baptist gathering later this week.  They don't 'do' email, a fact I'd realised fairly late on, so had had to contact them by letter.  One way and another this little church has been through the mill in the last couple of years and they are bravely facing an uncertain future.

    This was the only church to ask that we prayed for a world in need.

    She then apologised for the selfishness of asking for prayer about their future...

    Nuff said.

  • Miscellany

    A few disconnected bits on a Monday morning.

    I am working this week backwards - no, this is not further evidence of plot loss (finding plots seems to be a fruitless quest upon which I gather others are also engaged) but the dictate of circumstances.  So I think today is therefore officially Friday.  I don't feel too bad about this since the other week Moira Stewart announced it was Thursday 11th August on the relevant Wednesday; it must be definitive if Moira says it!


    Next, here is the verse for All Things Bright and Beautiful we wrote yesterday:


    The squirrels in the garden

    The birds all flying by

    Dalmatians and the dinosaurs

    All worship God on high


    Purists will note that the meter is wrong at rather than but the 'the' in line three was added so that the stresses make sense and it does work, honestly.


    Lastly, something reminded me of the old advertisement for car insurance with Joanna Lumley that had the strap line 'you don't have to be posh to be privileged.'  One of the things people who don't know our church say about us is 'oh, the posh church' on the basis of our geographical location.  No, we're not posh, we're privileged:

    Privileged to have forebears who moved out to a mining area on the edge of the city to plant a church (this means there are tunnels under the road in front of us...)

    Privileged to be placed in what is now a vibrant, diverse part of the city

    Privileged to continue the work of the gospel in a new generation

    We're so not posh - no car park, no high tech gismos, no plush seats, no best china (in fact if you've really 'arrived' you'll come on a day when we get the paper cups out!).  But we so are privileged, and we're grateful.

  • Marmitic Sunday!

    Among my more odd practices is to throw in the odd 'marmite' service, a phrase that arose from a comment made by one of my lovely Dibleyites when I said of a service 'people will love it or hate it.'  I think today was a marmitic Sunday, and I loved it!

    Morning worship was my first official outing to Sunday School, leaving the adults in the very capable hands of one of my Worship Team.  The way it worked was that I led the start of the service up as far as the All Together slot and then left with the children.  I had a whale of a time (appropriate given our 'animal' theme) and I am looking forward to listening to the podcast of the adults second half, which the hints are was excellent.  One of the things we used was an 'urban' form of All Things Bright and Beautiful to which we added a verse created from ideas made by the congregation... alas the words are at church and I'm not but I do recall it had squirrels, dalmatians and dinosaurs all worshipping God.  I even discovered one of my primary teachers and my resident oncology professor are dab hands at extempore hymn-writing...  Great fun!

    Here's the published urban version:

    All things bright and beautiful,
    All creatures great and small,
    All things wise and wonderful,
    The Lord God made them all.

    1  The fountains' water spouting,
    The trees in city squares,
    The flowers in window boxes
    And shrubs by hotel doors.

    2  The ducks and swans and pigeons
    The poodles and the cats;
    The great beasts in their cages,
    And guinea pigs in flats.

    3  The leaves that fall in autumn
    In shades of red and brown,
    The wind that blows them on the paths
    Of parks about our town.

    4  The clouds above the rooftops,
    The ever-changing light;
    The sun that dries the pavements
    Where rain sweeps down at night.

    Verses by Yvonne Tomes (fl. 1970) Chorus by Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) © National Christian Education Council

    Evening worship was 'a singing free act of worship' which used some recorded music, some pictures of Jesus and a variety of multi-sensory options for people to engage with (or not).  It was gently paced (I think) and I had lots of good, positive feedback.  No-one vocalised objections to not singing (they had been warned beforehand) so I think I got away with it... in any case, next week is a favourite hymn service so all singing (and no dancing!!).  I don't suppose it suited everybody who came along, but no-one walked out, so that's a good thing.

    For me a good day, and now I'm 'good tired.'

    I love marmite....