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  • Day 3 in the NSM House

    Whenever I go to ministers' gatherings, one of the most precious parts is the sharing of communion - and I love it best when it is the last thing we do together, as it was here.

    With a fair deal of creativity, we were led into a gentle time of sharing and blessing each other, feasible in a context where there were only ~20 of us.  I could be sniffy about the use of two cups, one with fermented wine and the other with prune juice (!) but to do so would be unfair.

    As part of the sharing, we were invited to offer to those to whom we felt led a word of encouragement or blessing, lirturgical, scriptural or, in my case, just plain English.  There were two people I wanted to encourage, and they, plus one other, blessed/encouraged me.  However God does stuff, what they said really touched me, and spoke to inner places...

    • one person prayed for me and in so doing named the isolation that arises from being a woman minister in a Scottish Baptist context
    • one person offered me 'well done, good and faithful servant'
    • one person thanked me for coming and for particpating fully in the discussions

    In the course of this communion service, the leader used the inclusive language NIV, I appreciated that.  And we sang a Taize chant (adoramus te Domine) which was lovely, as well as a more ubquitous worship song 'Light of the World, You Stepped Down into Darkness'

    I travelled home much lighter of spirit, and not 'just' because I was going home, but because I had been blessed and encouraged and not a little humbled.

    This doesn't mean everything in BUS-land is rosy, that suddenly all my moans and groans will cease... but I think what I realise is that for all their foibles, faults, carelessness in language, sometime sexism and even outright misogyny in some cases, I am learning to love these guys, these brothers in Christ, who are doing their best to fulfil the calls on their lives.

    There's still a needed for sanctified stroppiness, there's still a way to go, but perhaps today I glimsped the green shoots of spring in unexpected places.

  • Day 2 in the NSM House

    Posted on Day 3, oh well!

    Whole day devoted to aspects of conflict resolution and healthy decision making.  Good stuff and, if all familiar, useful to go back over it again.  It felt timely to revisit some apsects of communal decision making, so overall quite useful if unexciting.

    I do find the assumption that all ministers and church office bearers are male trying and wish that those at the front would make a more obvious effort to counter this... we can have 'church-persons' or 'chairs' (even if I don't like that term much) we can refer to 'spouses' not 'wives' (When someone said 'wives and families' in an open thought-shower session and I said "should that be 'spouses' (or "spice" which a tleast raised a smile) the scribe said "spouses and wives then".  No.  It's not that people mean to be sexist (well most don't) but they don't think and they don't seem to want to change... "everyone knows man includes woman" kind of thing.  Sigh, back in time by two decades.

    Overall, I'm glad I came, it has been less anxiety inducing than I feared.  Just that it's demanding being that 'pioneer' person people think I am.  With all the talk about pioneer minsitries, I hope the various organisations realise just what they are demanding of those they send out in horse drawn waggons to explore uncharted terrain...

    Nice apple crumble and soy-free ice-cream last night, and marmite on the breakfast table - grateful for the little things :)

  • Third Wednesday on Lent - A Poem

    Here's the poem we reflected with on Sunday


    Jacob’s Well And The Samaritan Woman

    By Dan Doyle


    “Listen to me, my neighbors and my friends!

    (To herself: I went to the well at mid-day.
    I was thirsty and angry about
    Having to walk to the well again,
    Bear the burden of the bucket
    Over these dusty streets for my man.
    Men. They always demand more of me.
    They use my body for their pleasure
    And it is never enough, they want more.
    They want my time, my labors
    For their own satisfaction.
    It has always been so.
    Five men have lorded it over me.
    They’ve whimpered like children in my arms
    In the brief moments of their ecstasies
    And moaned prayerfully, “Adonai,” never my name.
    Then, like wounded birds,
    They fall from those solitary heights,
    And leave me alone in the bed
    Without so much as a kind word.)

    When I arrived at the well today
    There was a man waiting there. A Jew.

    ‘Give me a drink,’ he said.”

    I thought to myself, ‘What is it about men
    That they think women are here to serve?’

    I said to him, “You, a stranger, and a Jew,
    Talking to me? A Samaritan woman?
    Why do you do so?
    What do you think I am?

    “Woman,” he said, “If you knew
    Who it is that asks you now for a drink,
    You would ask me for life-giving water.
    Those who drink from this well
    Always find themselves thirsty again.
    Drink the water that I will give
    And you will never be thirsty again.”

    Friends, I felt something stir in me at those words.
    It was something like a fear, but I was not afraid.
    It was something I’d never felt before. I said to him,

    “That is bold talk for a stranger.
    This well is deep, and you have no bucket.
    This is a holy well, even as it was
    When our father Jacob gave it to us.
    But if you can give me this life-giving water,
    Give it to me now, So that I will never
    Have to return to this well again.”

    He told me to go and get my husband.

    “I told him that I have no husband, sir.”

    “True enough. You have known five
    And the one with you now is not your husband.”

    His words shook me to my very soul.

    It is clear to me that this man is a prophet.
    So I asked him if he could tell me
    Which of us is right, we Samaritans
    We who worship God on this mountain,
    Or the Jews who worship him in Jerusalem?

    He told me, “There is a day coming
    When people will not worship God
    Either on this mountain or in Jerusalem.
    The time is coming, and is already here,
    When by the power of God’s Spirit
    People will worship the Father
    As he really is. For God is Spirit,
    And only by the power of his Spirit
    Can people worship him as he really is.”

    “Sir,” I said, “I know that when the Messiah comes
    He will tell us everything.” Then, he said,

    “I am he.”

    “Oh, my living God! My friends, my neighbors!
    I have seen the Savior with my own eyes!
    He spoke to me with such words, such clear words.
    And in His presence I was known even to myself.
    My neighbors, my friends, I believe this man is
    the one for whom we have been waiting for so long!
    The Messiah, He who will save us, has come!
    Come with me to the well and see for yourselves!

    From http://god-bless-you.org


  • Day1 in the NSM House!

    Yesterday I posted my apprehension about coming away to the next Stage of Ministry event... that hasn't entirely been assuaged but as ever there are more good things than not so good, if you can be bothered to look for them.  It helps that I realise I do a few of the people here, and that certainly helps.

    Things got off to a good start when dessert was a yummy peach, almond (marzipan) and puff pastry thingy served with cream, and when someone had organised birthday cake for one of the delegates whose birthday it was.

    The opening round of introductions was of the form "my name is Fred, I'm married to Wilma, we have 2.4 children and 2n+1 grandchldren".  Early on man, married, with no children noted his envy of those with children/grandchildren and another that he had no children but did have a dog.  The other woman present simply stated her role and nothing about family (it transpire she's single too, I hadn't known that) whilst I said "I'm Catriona, I have no wives, no husbands and no children," which raised a laugh (phew). The dog-man asked if I had a dog (no, a cat) but it did make the point I think, how easily we normalise to our own experience and inadveertently exclude or demean others.  Many years ago, I was gently told off at a course for introducing myself by saying 'my first job after I left universirty was...' because not everyone would have had that opportunity.  A tricky path to tread but one that being aware of is probably a good thing.

    The first session focussed on the topic 'Growing in Godliness' and dotted around 1 and 2 Timothy with an occasional foray into Titus to come up with six signs that might evidence this.  Here they are:

    • By the way we deal with those who oppose us (graciously, hospitality)
    • By how we interact with scripture (depth, expectation of effect, mirror, transformation...)
    • By our willingness to listen (not simply to hear but to engage with, to listen ettentively and actively)
    • By the presence of agape in our lives (love as the primary motivator and means)
    • By cultivating contentment (satisfaction with 'enough', not greedy, envious etc)
    • By fascination with the Mystery of God (incarnation, trinity, cross-event etc etc.)

    A really interesting and helpful list against which to measure ourselves which says nothing of 'success' in numbers, activities or qualifcations, and everything about attitude.

    Feeling apprehensive and somewhat defensive, despite the yummy peach cake thingy, it was a good opening session to remind me of the 'better way' that is love.

    Day 2 dawns with its own challenges but I will endeavour to listen attentively, love generously and deal graciously.

  • Next Stage of Ministry...

    I find it a rather odd name for a 'refresher' type gathering of ministers, but I am off this afternoon to spend a couple of days in Pitlochry with around 20 ministers reflecting, sharing, praying and hopefully having some laughter too.  I'm a bit apprehensive as I hardly know any of them and it's likely to be extremely blokey...


    Will report back!