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- Page 5

  • Celebrating

    This afternoon I attended F's ordination and induction service, what a pleasure and a privilege that was.

    The little Baptist church looked beautiful; an arrangement of twigs and sparkly butterflies and several clusters of candles served to create a soft ambience.  In a corner tables groaned under cakes and urns bubbled merrily in readiness for pots of tea of tea to be made.  This, I thought, is going to be great, people who, like the congregations I've served, know how to combine the functional and the spiritual in a coherent whole.

    More and more chairs had to be carried in, and were filled up.  A real buzz of excitement could be felt as service time neared...

    And at the heart of it all, was F, her smile lighting up the room as she shared her call story and made her solemn vows before God and with the people she now serves.  It was a lovely occasion full of love and life, rich in hope and optimism.  We sang old hymns and new songs, we laughed and we prayed, we caught up with friends and we met 'new' people.

    I love Baptist ordination services, because they (being very Baptisty) are tailored to the context.  Today's service was no exception, and this little church should be proud of itself.

    F is a very talented and loving minister, with incredible instincts and deep compassion - she will serve her people loyally and well, with the help of the Lord she loves and the support of her husband.

    This could turn all sloppy, and I'm not really a sloppy kind of a girl, but I felt today that F is in the place which is every bit as right for her as the Gathering Place is for me.  I came away glad of heart and feeling that God was indeed glorified in this appointment.

    God bless you F.  Cherish this day, and dare to believe that all those lovely things people said of you are true.


    Another girlie rev in post............. yeay!

  • Sin Sick?

    Today's PAYG used the well-known and well-loved story of the paralysed whose four friends lowered him through the roof of a house to be healed by Jesus.  I am always struck by how this event, which must have taken ages, and which makes me wonder why no-one went to investigate the act of wanton vandalism going on above them, is told as if it took just as long as it takes to read it.  This, however, is not the direction PAYG took, instead centring on the link that existed in first century worldviews between sin and sickness or misfortune.  The commentator asked the question, who is that we think of as being responsible for their own sickness or suffering?  Clearly, we don't make a direct link between paralysis or blindness and sin these days, but, she suggested, what about people with AIDS or asylum seekers or immigrants, do we see their problems as being of their own making?

    A while back a press article attributing 40% of cancer to lifestyle choices caused a deal of furore among people with cancer, many of whom live broadly healthy lives.  Is it justified to say that we contribute to our own sickness, our own suffering?  What about, for example, people who smoke or people who drink to excess.  Or people who enjoy extreme, dangerous sports.  Or people who work ridiculously long hours.  Do they/we contribute directly or otherwise to our own suffering?  Do they/we cause sickness/suffering for others close to us or, indeed, for society more widely?

    I am reminded that questions about the relationship between sin and suffering cannot have a simple answer.  Sometimes it is indeed the case that foolish choices lead to personal suffering.  Sometimes it is the case that bad things happen to good people.  Sometimes the non-smoking, teetotal, healthy living woman gets cancer.  Sometimes a child is born with AIDS because her mother, who had been raped, was infected, or with foetal alcohol syndrome because his mother had an alcohol addiction.  Sometimes our choices cause suffering for others directly or indirectly.

    That Jesus broke the link between personal (or familial) sin and sickness or suffering is central.  Never, ever, blame the person for their suffering, instead address them as they are.  That's really challenging in a world of limited resources (who do hospitals choose to treat?) with a blame culture (everything has to be someone's fault).  It's also challenging if we believe that somehow the world is damaged/disordered as a consequence of human 'sinfulness', not in a neat, responsibility evading view of 'Adam and Eve fouled up, we pay', but in recognising that the choices we make impact on the lives of others, directly or indirectly.  In some sense, the relationship between sin and suffering is utterly correct, it's just that it is more nebulous and complex than the ancients, and sometimes the church or society, likes to think.

    In the pericope (chunk/passage/story) used by PAYG Jesus first forgives the man's sin and then heals him physically.  There is, it seems, something holistic here.  Not a simplistic sin = suffering relationship, but a health/wholeness > physical cure understanding.  To be freed from the regret, anxiety, grudge, emotional hurt of the past is valuable in and of itself; to be physically cured is, perhaps, a bonus.

    I could of course go on to ramble about what we understand as 'normal' and 'healthy' or 'whole', and disability theology is a vast and complex field all of its own, but I have work I ought to do, so I'll shut up!  Suffice to say, I do not believe that there is a neat one-to-one corelation bewteen personal sin and suffering, though I do believe that choices have consequences, which may include sickness or suffering.

    Fence dwelling as ever!

  • History Makers

    There is a Graham Kendrick song that says "I want to be history maker, I want to be a world shaker" and whilst I kind of get what it tries to say, viz, "I would like to play my part in the in-breaking of God's Kingdom of Shalom" (which hardly makes for a snappy little ditty does it?), my instinctive reaction to it has always been 'no I don't, I'm happy enough just to be part of the 'crowd of witnesses' (ok, pedants, cloud).

    Anyway, this week sees the 15th Anniversary of some history makers in Wales including my blogging-buddy Perpetua who was one of the first women ordained priest by the Church in Wales... see her reflections here.  Now I am pretty sure that neither P or any of her 'cohort' woke up one morning and thought 'I want to make history' let alone 'I want to make history thus' but do so they sure did.  I love the photos she has posted, ear to ear smiles that radiate through the ether...

    In those fifteen years of faithful ministry, quiet and unobserved by the fame-machine, I wonder how it has been for these pioneer-sisters?  The anxious times, the sad times, the lonely times, the wonderful times, the privileges, the challenges, the doubts, the questions, the highs, the lows, the thrills, the new insights, the glimpses of grace...

    I find it all rather bewildering that I, too, am a history maker, a flawed, inadequate, competent, hardworking, anxious, laughing, learning, growing... etc etc disciple of Christ who, it seems, God trusts not to foul up big time in the task of pioneering sole female Baptist pastorates in Scotland.

    On Saturday I will be dancing (metaphorically) as I attend the ordination-and-induction of another woman Baptist minister in Scotland.  Alas, the second 'sole charge' woman is still a pipe dream, but God has this sneaky habit of calling women and leading them into ordained ministry.  I hope by the time (DV) I reach 15 years since ordination (only 7 to go!) women sole charges in Scottish Baptist churches will be a lot less pass-remarkable.

    God bless you P in your continuing ministry, and F as you are formally recognised and commissioned.

  • What the Dickens...?

    Today I have been juggling three Bible Study guides and a few commentaries, trying to plan a series from 1 Peter.  The decision to go with 1 Peter was made back in September, but to my shame until now I haven't given it any more thought, and the first one is next week.  In the end, I have opted to adapt the title of the one of the study books to form a question "The Best of Times or the Worst of Times" and to use the longer Dickens quote as a jumping off point:

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. (A Tale of Two Cities)

    I have to confess I have never read the book, but this sentence has a timeless quality about it and will hopefully lead us into a series where, after an introductory study next week, we can reflect on

    • Hope
    • Holiness
    • Relationships, both domestic and societal (two studies)
    • Suffering & Struggle


  • Before 'n' After

    For those who are interested.... the rest can go and find something else to look at!

    I am very happy with the cut, so no need to be cautious... just so long as you don't say I should have done it years ago!









































    Of course, as soon as I went out into the damp and breeze it started to revert to curls...