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  • End of Year Reflections...

    The way Christmas has fallen this year has meant I haven't been away, and a number of pastoral and practical matters mean that it's only now that I am pausing - and having a lieu day for Boxing Day (I think) before sharing in leading worship on Sunday - one small triumph for ecumenism!

    It would very dishonest to say that 2018 has been the best year ever, it certainly has not.  Nonetheless, as it reaches its close, I am healthy, content and have just booked a lovely weekend break in February, when I will head to Florence with one of my oldest friends.

    The year has had many church-related highlights - the baptism of five friends in May, the emergence of new leaders for our Sunday School, a wedding, welcoming people into my home for meals, generous financial giving to important causes, and the pure delight of seeing younger people flourishing and finding their voices.

    It has also also had some personal delights - a long weekend in Rome and a fortnight in Czechia being especially enjoyable.

    There have been challenges and disappointments, and a lot of sadness - when five people who have been important in your story die within three months, that's quite a lot to process.

    There have been times of self-doubt and questioning, and there have been times when I have (finally) felt, 'actually I am OK at this ministry lark.' However it has felt, my sense of call has not wavered one bit, and I remain convinced God calls me to this role, in this place, at this time.

    Sasha the cat has had a tough year, too, with endless tests, surgery and drugs that have horrible side effects - we are hopeful that the new year will see her weaned off the drugs and able to enjoy being a happy cat again, along with her mum, Sophie, who is thriving, and winning over even the most unsure of guests!

    As the year draws to its close, I feel positive and hopeful. I have learned a lot about myself - and about others - this past year, which I hope will enable me to 'grow', even flourish in 2019.  There continue to be green shoots at church, and God's grace which had brought us safe this far, will continue to lead us on.

    I know that among my readers are many others for whom2018 has been demanding or difficult - as it draws to its close, and as we turn the page to begin writing the story of 2019, my prayer is that hope will sustain you, joy uplift you,  peace fill you and love will surround you whatever the year may bring.

  • Christmas Day 2018

    Dessert - Christmas pudding, AND trifle AND ice-cream WITH cream - well, why not?

    The culmination of the the Advent journey is, for all clergy, a day of extreme busyness, whatever 'flavour' they are, and whatever their church does, or does not do, as part of its traditions.

    When I left home this morning, it was quiet and largely still.  A few dog walkers and runners, and, in a restaurant, tables were being prepared for festive diners.

    Morning worship with a combined congregation from two (or three) churches, and a lot of visitors, some of them simply curious. At the close of the serivce a young man approached me and asked if I knew of anything happening that he could go to today because he was an overseas student with nowhere to go.  What a thrill that he joined us, joined in - and afterwards told us he was a Buddhist!

    Lunch was its usual fun-filled self and thirty-odd of us sat down to enjoy a good feed! Alas the man referred by social services was unwell and didn't make it, but at least I knew he had someone with him.  As we were packing up at the end, someone observed to me that you could tell I was a Baptist because I was 'fully immersed' in everything from taking the service to playing carols to serving lunch.  It made me smile.

    Yesterday an online friend told me she had been telling her niece about this woman she knew in Glasgow, and the church that opened its doors to give a meal to lonely people on Christmas Day... appparently this earned the response, 'that's proper Christianity'... I'll take that!

    My day is not yet done, but it has been a good day, a day that expressed so much of what Christmas should be.

    Tomorrow I will probably sleep a lot - but for now, it's just good to rest content for an hour or so before venturing out for the last task of the day.

  • A Celtic Advent - the Last Day! (39/40)

    Today's reading left me feeling that the author was glad to reach the end... as if just shy of six weeks had been a bit too long, they were travel weary and frankly just wanted to sit down with a cup of tea and a mince pie... or maybe that's projection on my part!

    If you have journeyed with me these 39/40 days (and maybe kept count better than I did!) then THANK YOU for your companionship, and I hope that some of what I've shared has been in some small way of value.

    If you are now chillaxing after a busy year, enjoying rest, refreshment and simply 'being' then that's wonderful, and I wish the deep, lasting rest that will strengthen you for fresh challenges in the year ahead.

    If you are working hard, finalising services, caring for the sick and dying, working in a job that operates 24/7/365, or rushing round like a mad thing to do the last minute preparations at home, may you find joy and fulfilment in your labours, bringing to life new hope and deeper love.

    If Christmas is hard for you, this year, or every year, then I pray you may find some tiny chink of light, some happy memory, some hopeful moment, and that in the darkest, saddest, emptiest low-points, you will recall the love that has held you, and will continue to hold you now and always.

    In a few moments, I'll be off out in the freezing fog for the last hospital and care home visits of the year, and later I'll be helping to set up for tomorrow's Christmas Day lunch. A couple of days ago I had a call from social services, and as a result we will welcome a gentleman who would otherwise be alone, and doesn't want to be... my first job of the day has been to book his taxi, and I look forward to welcoming him tomorrow.


    The prayer from the book...

    Holy, gracious and loving God, you stepped into our world; you became incarnate; your took on our humanity that we might take on your divinity.  May I rest this night knowing what the dawn brings, knowing the joy which awaits me.  May I rest this night ready to celebrate the glorious bright of Jesus Christ. Amen


    Or, in the words of Tiny Tim: God bless us every one!!

  • A Celtic Advent - Day 38

    Today is the one but last day of the reflections in the book (somewhere along the way I have obviously messed up my counting!) and, to me, it feels a bit as if the writer is tired, almost out of ideas, and glad to be nearing the end of his journey.  Whilst I appreciate that, and it can indeed be my own experience, it seems a shame that sometimes the frenetic planning and preparing leaves us too tired to enjoy the 'main event'.

    We are invited to think about gift-giving - not just the exchange of presents, however lovely that is, but the gifts given us by God for the common good.  Advent reaches its end for another year, I wonder what gifts we might have discovered along the way? I wonder what gifts we have shared or given away?  I wonder what we will, in a couple of days, offer to the child...

    The prayer:

    Generous one, thank you for all the gifts you give me.  Thank you for all the gifts I have been given by others.  Please open up in me more the spirit of generosity so that I can give gifts to others with joy and gladness simply from the act of giving.  Amen.

  • Forty Days of Photos - Day 38

    Service of nine lessons and carols... I have no idea how it lasts so long when Kings College do it... we added in candle lighting and were still done in 40 minutes!

    It was all just lovely - so proud of all who read, sang, played, lit candles, hung decorations, took the offering - and who participated by being there.

    Feedback is that it was better than Kings College - and who am I to disagree?

    So that's pretty much Advent done for another year! No Christmas Eve services this time, but lots to look forward to on Christmas Day itself.