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  • Acts 28: The Ministry of Shut-ins?

    Yesterday I read through Acts 28 ahead of next week's service preparation on Paul in Rome.  I was struck by the fact that when he could no longer go to the people, he inivted the people to come to him.  This seems to suggest a ministry of/by 'shut-ins' rather than a ministry to them.  Granted Paul was not frail elderly (though he must have been into his fifites, some writers suggest early sixties, which was a good age back then) but his open-house approach is something that I suspect many could emulate.  What if rather than Roman guards it was carers and home-helps who happened to overhear talk of faith, Bible study or prayer?  What if the neighbours were invited in for coffee and genuine conversation on big questions?  My experience down south, and that of my friend who is an older people's specialist minister, is that 'ultimate questions' which often weigh heavy in the minds of older folk can best be discussed with other older folk who are, as the old hymn says 'ready to rest.'

    Being shut-in rather than an excuse to opt out is a different opportunity to opt in.  Something of this will find its way into next week's sermon I think.

  • Way Too Much Fun

    Yesterday I was working on my service based on Acts 17 and Paul at the Areopagus.  This whole little series has been fun to prepare and has given me time to think a bit more about the possible way in which the early church emerged.  If, as the commentaries and timelines I'm working with suggest, Paul reaches Athens around 20 years after the events that occurred for Peter in Joppa and Ceasarea, this will be a significantly different church than the one then.  For example, as I will note on Sunday, a whole generation will have have grown up since Jesus' Ascension - eyewitnesses are less and less part of the 'norm.'  Lots to ponder.  Overnight it struck me I needed to check the suggested dates for Acts to cross check if this stacked up... it seems it does, phew!

    I did wonder, though, if I was having just too much fun when I'd glanced up from my computer to discovered that it was 6:35 p.m. and I'd been typing away for about four hours...  Just hope the final, edited sermon (it is currently way too long) makes sense and justifies the fun I've had along the way.

  • Out From Church Sunday

    Last night I was at a planning meeting for the joint churches evening services, which went really well.  One of the ideas, something that's been done here before, is to take the evening service folk out to support a small congregation elsewhere, offering to lead worship and provide a joint choir.  I flippantly observed, given the date this will hopefully occur (26th Sept), that we were having 'Out From Church Sunday' rather than 'Back To Church Sunday'.  I think ours sounds more missional ;-))

  • Where our Church Used to Be

    When we had to close the church building at Dibley we thought long and hard about how it ought to be redeveloped.  One of the greatest fears people had was that it would end up as a carpet warehouse or suffer the fate of the ex-Primitive Methodist church down the hill which was generally termed 'the funny shop'.  We concluded that we would prefer to see the church/chapel demolished and refer to 'where our church used to be' rather than some monstrosity 'that used to be our church.'

    Yesterday through the post I received some photos of the finished development 'where our church used to be.'  The development has been very tastefully done, and the pair of cottages between my old manse the the listed cottage blend remarkably well.  I was even amused to note that hte former local councillor who lived opposite and objected to the development has managed to get himself a designated parking space on the 'private drive' which the council said must be kept free of parked cars...  The joys of local politics.

    So, here is a picture of the new cottages (cream doors) with the manse far left (just before the 16th century white timbered cottage).  The matching of the new bricks with the old is remarkably good, and the fake chimneys make me smile!

    Photos of new build (c) Roger & Susan Wick.










    The view from the rear of the manse has altered radically from open countryside and a (latterly near derelict) Victorian chapel to the 'bat house'* and new cottages...

    From this




















    To this

    Hugg2.jpg(The bat house is on what was originally part of the manse garden!)







    I hope that those who live in the new houses will find them to be places of happiness, love and fulfilment, consistent with the church's desire that the land serve the local community for a new generation.

    * The bat house had to be built from reclaimed materials so that the bats who hung out in the church (groan) would feel at home.  Whether they returned or converted to Anglicanism up the road, who knows?!

  • Really Rather Good

    Evidently these are the words used by the Archbish of Canterbury to describe the series Rev which aired its last episode last night.

    It was, I think, an important episode, expressing, albiet in a very over-the-top way, one of the real tensions of the ministerial life which, every now and then, affects all ministers who are honest enough to admit to it.  Upset by a bad review from the 'mystery worshipper' on a website that wasn't quite Ship of Fools but we all know it was really, assigning him -1 for his sermon, Adam Smallbones (the vicar) has a crisis of calling and of faith.  He goes off on a bender, stops being nice to people and voices the questions that plague him from time to time.  At the end he is dragged off, against his will, to administer last rites to a dying parishioner and in the act rediscovers who and what he is.  In conversation with a police officer, he quotes verses from Isaiah read at his (and any Methodist, Anglican or Catholic) ordination 'here I am, send me.'  In a rare moment of empathy between people whose work involves entering the dark places, the policeman offers him a drink from the flask hidden inside his uniform, which he declines because now he is 'all right.'

    It seemed to me a good place for the series to end - and to remain as a six-weeker only.

    Life here in Glasgow is great, I am enjoying my ministry greatly, and feeling affirmed and secure in my calling.  It isn't alway so.  All ministers have their 'dark nights', their crises of confidence and moments of doubt.  Watching the ending of the episode I found a sense of resonance... how often it is in the occasional offices, the moments of entering others' dark places, that our sense of vocation is renewed.

    Whom shall we send, and who will go for us?

    Here I am, Lord, send me...

    Although I had reservations about this series, suspect it may be much misunderstood, and has annoyed and offended not a few along the way, I am minded to agree with Rowan Williams that actually, for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, it has been, in the end, 'really rather good.'