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- Page 4

  • Forgiven...

    This week, Sasha had to go to the Vet Hospital for  tests - something she finds very stressful, and which resulted on a mega-sulk lasting around 24 hours!

    Yesterday evening, we held a meeting in the manse where Sophie, as always, stole the milk from the jug, and towards the end, Sasha made an appearance, accepting snuggles from anyone-but-Catriona.

    It was lovely to wake up to find myself forgiven... and pinned to the bed!

    Not only do cats love (in their unique way) they are also incredibly forgiving... 70 x 7 and then some.

    Way back in the 1970s there was a worship song that began " I get so excited, Lord, every time I realise, I'm forgiven"...

    Being forgiven by Sasha reminded me of this song and, whilst I can't imagine it being part of any service any time soon, I did metaphorically at least find my feet dancing, and my heart filling with warmth to realise that Sasha has forgiven me. And if that is so, how much more amazing the truth that God has forgiven, is forgiving, and will forgive, not just me, and not just once, but everyone and always. I reckon that justifies a bit of dancing and excuses some cheesy lyrics.

  • Chruch Growth Maths...

    This is somewhat grumpy post, because I hate bad maths mascquerading as growth strategy. It gets used in the worlds of industry and commerce, and annoys me there, so, when it finds its way into a headline for a church growth seminar, I get very irritated!

    I do 'get' what is being intended, and I am sure there are some great ideas behind the headline, but "double your number of baptisms next year" annoys me on many, many levels (not just maths ones).

    Any Baptist Church, ABC, has had zero baptisms for as long as anyone can recall.  So if ABC doubles the number of baptisms next year it will have - oh, zero.  In fact, should ABC have one baptism it is an infinite increase (measured in terms of multiples), so out performs any church that simple doubles. Actually, my suspicion is that going from zero to one is far more significant than going from two to four, or ten to twenty.

    Bigger Baptist Church, BBC, had one baptism last year. So this year it hopes for two, next year for four, the year after for eight... If this continues, BBC will have baptised the entire population of the planet in around 30 years. (It's that old grains of rice on a chessboard puzzle). Sorry, but it ain't going to happen!

    Then there is Our Baptist Church, OBC.  We last had a Baptism roughly five years, we had two one year, and one the year after. This year we have five. That's much more messy maths.  I've been here for nearly nine years, so that will average out at a little under one a year.  Doubling zero, or one or two or even five feels pretty meaningless to me; particpating in each baptism is hugely meaningful.

    More importantly, and not just me doing a bit of pedantic maths, what does the number of baptisms actually measure? Is anyone counting the number of people leaving by the back door? (Of the four people I have baptised (three here, one elsewhere) two are still active in the churches concerned, one has now moved to a different church that better fits their spirituality, and the fourth has vanished depsite efforts to keep contact).  If baptism is part of a 'numbers game' it is a poor choice, potentially giving false reassurance that all is well.

    Defining church growth is a thorny topic, one I studied in depth many moons ago when I was researching church health.  Growth isn't just - or even necessarily - bums-on-seats or baptisms or any other numerical count, it includes factors such as demography, diversity, sprituality, theological depth and breadth.

    OBC - The Gathering Place - is growing numercally, we've had to ask the hotel for more chairs and had to restructure our Sunday School. We are increasingly diverse, and attracting thinking adults in their 20s and 30s including asylum seekers, overseas students and professionals. Hardly a week passes without some visitors dropping by, and former members often visit when in Glasgow.  We are learning to be an Affirming church where all are welcome to exercise their gifts, whilst embracing and encouraging those who find that more difficult. I think we are a healthy church, a fallible and forgiving church, and that. for me matters far more than how many people get very soggy on any given Sunday or in any given year.

  • A Good (Monster-free) Morning

    This is Naples Nick, an elderly cat who guards a restaurant, and various other emporia, near to where I live.  He is friendly - alwas glad of a stroke and a friendly word - and has the wisdom to remain on the footpath, as his home is on a very busy road... a less sensible cat would not have lived so long.

    Pausing to stroke Nick on my way to conduct Uni Chapel prayers set the tone for a good morning - yesterday's monster stirrings have gone away (hurray!) - and I enjoyed the sunshine as I hurried along the road after the slight delay it caused.

    I always find leading prayers a positive, encouraging epxerience, the small congregation always appreciative of whatever I offer.

    Next I rushed back home to 'collar up' and take a taxi to a care home where I have been invited - and now agreed - to offer a very tiny level of chaplaincy support (around 1/80 time). The taxi-driver, observing my (Barbie) pink clerical shirt opened up about his experiences as an RC Eucharistic Minister, and we had a great chat.  The meeting at the home was lovely, and the place seemed as welcoming and friendly as it could be.  I had an inner chuckle at the stoic silence of the taxi driver who brought me home and whose body language said he did not like clergy one jot.

    Then it was a visit to one of own folk in a care home, just next door, and more fascinating revelations of her younger life!

    Sort of fitting then, that I spent a few moments stroking an elderly cat, who cares for the locale I inhabit, at the start of a morning focussed on care for elderly people.

    Now, after some scrummy over chips and M&S mushroom and red onion sausages, it's back to my desk and service prep...

  • Luke 5 and a Poem

    The study notes we have for uni chapel prayers, which I am leading in 45 minutes time (!), alluded to this poem - I love it.

    The Skylight

    You were the one for skylights. I opposed
    Cutting into the seasoned tongue-and-groove
    Of pitch pine. I liked it low and closed,
    Its claustrophobic, nest-up-in-the-roof
    Effect. I liked the snuff-dry feeling,
    The perfect, trunk-lid fit of the old ceiling.
    Under there, it was all hutch and hatch.
    The blue slates kept the heat like midnight thatch.

    But when the slates came off, extravagant
    Sky entered and held surprise wide open.
    For days I felt like an inhabitant
    Of that house where the man sick of the palsy
    Was lowered through the roof, had his sins forgiven,
    Was healed, took up his bed and walked away.

    Seamus Heaney

  • Fairly Productive Day...

    At the end of the day, having achieved quite a lot, and squished the monster back into its box, I am looking back and feeling content. There has been a lot of stuff to occupy my thoughts and lots of positive moments along the way. After yesterday's online GDPR training, I have to admit it's nice to be sitting down not working this evening!!