Saturday, 19 June 2010

Sun, Sun, Sun!

Well the bags are packed, the cat is away for her hols, Peanut has gone too, and Archie settles in with H, the house-sitter for a fortnight! A drive to Manchester awaits, but I'm so looking forward to getting away for a little while. To put it in perspective, the World Cup will still be on when we return, but England will probably be home before us! (Unless God has a sense of humour). I'll be rooting for Greece, of course, but things don't look too healthy for them either!

A break from blogging, Twitter and Facebook! See y'all in July!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Back in the Real World...

After a good morning and a fairly emotional ending to the Conference - (yes, it was THAT good) - it's back to reality with a funeral this morning and sheets to prepare for the next three Sundays. 

For it's off to Kefalonia we go early Sunday morning for a fortnight in the Greek sunshine, and chill, chill, chill. The RW and I need the break, it's been over a year since we've had a proper break together, and the Greek Islands are our favourite bolt-hole. Glad Greece won at the footie yesterday, because there will be a decided interest in all things World Cup, and I'll maybe get to catch some of the "important" games when I'm away.

Archie is staying in the house with a dog-sitter, but Peanut is off to Auntie Maggie's. The worrying thing is that we haven't seen the Silent Assassin for over 24 hours, and it's not like her to stay away so long. After losing Toastie it would be a devastating blow to lose the cat too, but I tell myself that she's bound to turn up soon.

Last night was a Gambia meeting and some tough decisions had to be made about the school over there. I'm afraid that cut-backs will have to be made and our teaching staff need to be streamlined a bit more. The free education, feeding and health care will be unaffected, but we need to reassess just how many teachers we actually need. So changes will be made before the new term begins.

I'm feeling calmer and much more settled after this week's Conference. In many ways it has had a profound effect on me, and although I still need my hols, I'm really looking forward to getting back and torn in again in July!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Locking Horns with the Issues and Leadership

We were drawing again this morning. Mapping out the groups in our parishes and how they relate to each other, and questioning how our leadership works. And as I "drawed", so much made sense and I could see how my parish lives, and works and has her being, and, readers, I became quite excited by this process being laid out by Duncan Wallace. I had been drawn into and seduced by the "psychobabble", which wasn't psychobabble, and actually made perfect sense. Affirming. Yes! And authenticating my ministry. It's been like having a go at your scratchcard and realising that you actually have the winning numbers.

I have always felt OK about "my little flock" and where we were heading, but I can now look back in a different way and see what I was working towards and how it actually works successfully. Don't worry St Auggie's! Nothing much is going to change and we're doin' OK!

But , like all of these things, the real stuff is worked out in the meeting with peers and with exchanges. Connecting and reconnecting. Feeling valued. Giving and receiving support, pulling legs and laughing uproariously at stuff other folk wouldn't understand. It's been good to be here!

And tomorrow we pray, again, (Jings, I'm all prayed oot, and God is sick of me!), and having sussed out our parishes and how they work, and how we operate within them, we turn to this "connectedness". How do we as parishes, and as priests, connect to the diocese and all her works? How do we support and affirm each other? And if Galloway dare to tell me after this week that they are unsupported or that rural ministry is not affirmed, I'll be tempted to kick asses all the way back to the rural haunts they inhabit! They deserve to live and die with their coos! Tools have been provided folks! Use them!

For the first time in a 32 year ministry, I find myself  considering my Bishop and Dean as my brothers, and that's the way it should have been from the beginning. These guys share my ministry, and for that I'm grateful.

It is midnight and my stomach is heavy. The food has been copious, too much, and I'm glad we're not talking too much about our Third World Projects or the poverty within the sub-classes in our parishes. (However, I did eschew the carved turkey and ham, and things with French names, at lunchtime, to go for the sausage roll, beans, and chips!)

Tomorrow, I'm back to the World Cup, parish and back to the world and ministry I've come to love again.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

In Conference

There is the wonderful little story of the wee girl who was drawing a picture. "What are you drawing, darling?", asks mummy. "I'm drawing a picture of God.", the little girl replies. "But Darling, nobody knows what God looks like!" "Ah!, but they will after I'm finished my drawing!", was the solemn reply.

I kinda remembered that story as we were all given pieces of paper and coloured pens tonight and sent off to our rooms to "do a drawing" of our parishes and how they related to the Diocese. And No Words Allowed! How did I draw my parish and its relationship to the Diocese? If I had a scanner here in the Glynhill Hotel, I would gladly share it with you! It certainly involved lots of people, and my matchstick men are now infamous!

I wonder if what I shared eventually with others would be similar to what others in my congregation would draw. Do they see things like I do, or vice-versa? We maybe all need to start drawing when I return. Maybe if I roll out my own drawing all will be revealed like the little girl's God?

But don't mistake the above goings-on as a frivolous exercise in a time wasting clergy freebie. (Although the food is to die for and the bedrooms extremely spacious and comfortable). This is all serious stuff, and if anything the leadership from the Grubb Institute is pretty intense in nature. The Transforming Experience Framework, leading to Authentic Ministry is heavy stuff indeed. The experience of being a person, in a context, in a system, surrounded by the living God active in the world is no place to be if you are not prepared for some soul-searching and squeaky bum thinking!

Again, it's good to share some soul with fellow clergy, stipendiary clergy, who give their lives and guts and souls to their parishes, often to the detriment of their own well-being.It is in receiving from our people that we are affirmed and strengthened, and I reflect that I am truly blessed!

I talked much today about a ministry of enabling, and I have a people thirsty for enablement.  That's why we have a glorious future as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus, well...... sometimes we do!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Good and Dreadful News

Good news yesterday that Mother Ruth is taking up the post at Christchurch, Falkirk. They deserve someone brilliant and energetic and I'm certain she'll transform them as a congregation.

My horrific news is that a very good Gambian friend, Fax, who looked after me so well when I was out there, was mugged last week and died later in hospital with his injuries. I am totally distraught. A young man, full of the joys of life, who wore his Partick Thistle jersey with great pride, cut down in his prime. I mourn the death of someone I loved dearly.

Recovery and Miracles

The Gospel,yesterday, was about gratitude. Gratitude to God for sins forgiven and a new beginning. A super background for Big Boab from NA sharing his story of recovery in the sermom slot. He had some in tears as he talked about being able to look after his daughter again and being trusted enough to be able to do this after years of a chaotic lifestyle.

This is a starter for us, having hall users speaking in church and telling us all what goes on in the Community Hall. Other groups and individuals will get their chance and hopefully we will go on to own everything that goes on as one big St Augustine's family.

It's Carers Week, and are Carers Groups are putting up a big display in church and in the hall displaying all they get up to. It's part of what we "own" and some of us are heavily involved. Was it St Francis who said something about we should preach the Gospel, sometimes even with words?

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Back to Normality

After a last morning of General Synod yesterday, it's back to the parish and the real world where people's priorities are a little bit different, and the only thing that I've been asked by anyone, so far, is how much our quota for next year is going to increase by! (3% it seems).

Synod was saved yesterday by the brilliant presentation from the Provincial Youth Network. Here were a group of young people who taught the rest about lively and "to the point" presentations. I'm not sure what sort of Church they are about to inherit, but I'd elect them all en bloc to Synod for next year!

I thanked God for them, for by coffee time my heart was full of guilt and sadness after an extremely sincere whipping we all got from Church & Society over ecological issues. My own reflection was that the issue was overly milked, and the real message simply got lost in a sea of words, but I was heartened by the fact that someone pointed out that energy saving lightbulbs may not be the best option for helping to save the planet. I simply hate them! The thermostat in church may go down a few degrees though!

Glad to be back in the west? You bet!

Friday, 11 June 2010

More Bottom Numbing Synod

Well, the pews at Palmerston certainly weren't designed for a comfy experience! And much of today was not too comfy either. After a decent session on Mission & Ministry, where I desperately wanted to speak but was afraid of the continued squeakiness of my voice, we entered into a mind numbing debate on rural ministry. An early tweet proclaimed that someone didn't really "do" rural, and our minds were numbed to match our bottoms for what seemed like an eternity.

I was really quite open and up for it, but the presentation started badly and went downhill. Being shown maps where there are supermarkets in Scotland and where none exist was the highlight. I feel that the Pisckie Church should immediately plug the hole in the market here. We need to invest in setting up One-Stop Superstores, with chapel attached, fulfilling the needs of these rural communities that have been badly let down by TESCO, and finding a way of funding Bishop Mark's cunning plans for rural areas.

It was one of the sad things this morning that +Mark had obviously been told we have to do this rural stuff on the cheap, and the Provost of Glasgow taking the huff because he hadn't been aware that they might need some IT money out of his I&C budget. Let's go for it! Build the Superstores with the Investment Portfolio, it would be much more ethical, and the rural places could actually begin to fund the urban mission that we so obviously need.

I worry that our Church is retreating into the suburbs, and the rural lot didn't do themselves any favours today, but if major initiatives in mission and ministry present themselves in areas of poverty, whether rural or urban, then our Church damn well better start finding the money to support them. Where is my Church that was heavily committed to the Gorbals Group, the East End of Glasgow, Pilton, Wester Hailes, and all the rest? Are we retreating to the suburbs to minister simply to the comfy?

We were decidedly uncomfy in our seats as the afternoon dealt with admin. Jeremy's lucky yellow socks got him through the Canons.  I looked forward instead to clear crisp presentations on Edinburgh 2010, the Porvoo partnership and the EMU situation. I shouldn't have. There are times I wish that God had not created Powerpoint, and this was one of them. Cheered, however, by the news that South Africa were one up in their match against Mexico.

And then the culmination of the day. We were being addressed by +KJS. The Presiding Bishop of TEC obviously had her hands tied, and had been told not to say anything too controversial, so we were obviously treated to a history lesson, underlining the special relationship we had with the Church in the USA, and why they could be no longer referred to as ECUSA. They certainly seem to have their own wee Communion on the go if the Anglican thing doesn't work out. Impressed, I was, though, on the variety and depth of mission within TEC, and the commitment to the poor and dispossessed.

Her presence was not universally welcome, though, and I know of some Synod members who absented themselves. I know the same folk would have reacted in the same way if someone from GAFCON had been invited. It's the principle. While we obey the moratorium, should we be seen to encourage either side of the great divide? I was glad that there was no standing ovation, but she sure deserved the response she got from what she had to say.

The embarrassing moment came early today when it became obvious that the Synod Dinner had been booked for the wrong date! The Sheraton came to the rescue at the last minute, bless them. I was unable to take part, as I limped home to my hotel with a numb backside and a hail of coughs and sneezes!

Thursday, 10 June 2010


Synod - a Big Pussycat

Never having been at Synod before, I'm an RCC man myself, I was always somewhat in awe of this body. I don't know what I imagined it to be. Dynamic? Yes, a little. High Powered? Yep, with lots of intellectual and witty debate. Decisive? Definitely! Decisions, important decisions would be made that affected us all at Parish level.

Tonight, after my first day at General Synod, I feel let down and more than a little disillusioned. Sure, there was talk and some debate, some of it quite emotional around the Gender Audit business, but basically we talked ourselves into corners where we decided we would just go on talking.

This was difficult for me, for my voice is such that I'm still croaking, and any contribution from me would, I'm sure, simply be met with much mirth.

Today I came away with sadness in my heart. The Church I grew up in felt sad and tired, and were talking about issues which don't seriously bother those who live in the real world. Maybe the world should be bothered about gender issues in our Church and in our liturgies, and perhaps they should be concerned about the future of the Anglican Communion and the proposed covenant, but they're not.

At pew level, we are much more concerned about things like our financial future, our kids on drugs, our town centres in decay, the possibility that education, health care and social services may be cut back so much that we fail to care for each other as a society. Some of us are more concerned about African starvation and poverty rather than African ecclesiastical politics. These are the real concerns of our people, but this was not reflected today.

Maybe tomorrow we'll get round to it, but I doubt it. I'm just understanding why I've evaded this sort of stuff for so long.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

June and July Magazine

The latest offering from St Augustine's can be accessed HERE. Happy reading!

Almost Surreal

Realised as I spoke to my wee Pastoral Group that I'm basically away from the parish until the beginning of July. I have General Synod, a residential clergy conference and then a fortnight's holiday to look forward to!

I know I leave it all in good hands! St Auggie's folk are exceptional! We look after each other OK!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Synod Virgin

For many years now I have managed to evade General Synod. I am a Synod Virgin. I have eschewed nomination, and even took a "sickie" when I was called once as an "alternate". There were other alternates and I'd already booked my holidays before the call came.

Oh yes! I was a proud attender of the old RCC which was a right good party in the olden days, but it was scrapped for this streamlined sleeker body called "General Synod". At first I didn't go out of protest. I wanted the "party" style of the RCC to remain forever. Later I gave it the Glaswegian bodyswerve because such Church machinations didn't interest me. I was much too involved in putting out fires at parish level... and lighting new ones!

So, it's with a bit of temerity that I've given in and prepare for my first Synod in Edinburgh on Thursday. Going to Synod is hard enough, but Edinburgh is probably worse. Who, in their right minds would want to go there???

However, no doubt I'll survive, but one word from the Primus or my Bishop that I look/sound far too poorly to be at Synod and I'll be back on the first train to my beloved Glasgow!

Summer Project

I'm just catching up with things as I crawl back to normality, and becoming aware of a "Summer Project" that the Dean and the Ministry Development Officer of the Diocese have asked us all to participate in. It is a precursor of the Diocesan Growth Strategy which it is hoped will be launched in Spring 2011. The usual sorts of questions have been asked, and we are invited to answer them by August, giving the Dean and the MDO a picture of where we all are at the moment, how we are faring, and what we could do better.

Now, this sort of questionnaire leaves itself open to all sorts of criticism. Having been a priest in this Diocese for over 30 years, I've seen quite a few initiatives come and go with varying success and failure. It can be annoying to be asked the same sort of questions again and again. The Provost of our Cathedral is extremely scathing about this new initiative, however these are folk who are genuinely trying to put together a strategy for mission that works and is not smothered by cynicism from the outset. I think a bit of support or a word of encouragement or advice would have been a bit more helpful. 

We have a new Bishop, a new Dean and a recently appointed MDO who have the enthusiasm to start afresh and help build structures that will be more effective in our Diocesan life, and they need to be supported and affirmed at this point. OK, some of us will need to fill in yet another form, but if it helps this wee group to get a snapshot of where we all are today, and helps launch a Diocesan Strategy that's fresh and exciting next spring, then I , for one, will buy into it. I want it to work. I want us to have a dynamic strategy where we all pull together and share talents and resources and relate to each other as Episcopalians rather than as Congregationalists. A Diocese that is supportive and caring in our work at parish level is certainly desirous and it's the sort of thing I have craved for over 30 years. Helpful suggestions are always welcome, and, hey, we have a few suggestions and models of mission and ministry that others might want to have a go at too!

When I was interviewed for my first parish in Possilpark I asked the Vestry about mission. I was told, "Ach, we tried that but it didn't work". A negative response to this new initiative within the Diocese is akin to that sort of response. Let's be positive and give it our best. We have a new beginning and the chance of a fresh and decent initiative. God help us if the cynics kill it before it's even begun.

Water Water Everywhere

I'm indebted to Big Rab for providing me with the photos below, taken yesterday afternoon in Dumbarton. We had a massive deluge of rain, but it has to be said that those monitoring the repairs to our flat roof in the new Community Hall were not unhappy about this severe test! Not a drop of water ingress has appeared, despite the fact that it looked as if Loch Lomond had been emptied on to our streets all at once. Gondolas anyone?

Monday, 7 June 2010

Two Dog Family

It's been rather strange to be a "man down" in the dog front of late. Toastie has been greatly missed. Archie is certainly on probation after almost taking my arm off! I know I tried to take away his food, but his reaction was rather vicious, and I worry about the possibility of a "wee one" trying to separate him from whatever he might have stolen in the parish bun-fights. It's Peanut who concerns me right now. Not only has the wee lamb had to cope with the loss of her "big brother", but was wheeched into the vet to get neutered before the holidays and close to her expected "season". She's still pretty sore and uncomfortable, and doesn't understand why she's being denied walks and swims until her stitches are removed.

It won't be long now, hen!

New Parish Website

Now that I'm crawling back into the Land of the Living, I'm aware that I'm half way towards launching a new-look website for St Augustine's. It's going to take another couple of weeks to get it ready to go online, but I'm confident that it will certainly be up and running by July at the latest. The old site is beginning to look a little tired, and we need to make it look a bit more lively and welcoming. Now, if the cold goes, and my enthusiasm returns, it may actually look quite good at the end! Suggestions for content and revisions are greatly appreciated!

Fortnight from Hell

The last couple of weeks or so have not been the best ones in my life. The dog bite ending up badly infected, the loss of Toastie Dog my faithful friend and companion, and the most incredible cold/flu that really knocked me on my back. I'm still suffering from the, (I hope), tail end of the cold, and coughing and croaking my way through. The congregation were in hysterics yesterday as I presided with a voice that could have come from the Muppet Show... and that's me feeling better!

There is, in ministry, always the need to get up and do things that need done, however sickly we feel, and the new bishop's visitation to the parish last week went well enough. We even involved him in a Murder Mystery Night and he managed his lines very well! This bodes well for the future! He went away with the feeling that Dumbarton is an exceptional parish, which, of course, it is! Certainly a memorable one!

So, with an extreme effort, it's back to blogging time. It's amazing how crippling a cold/flu can be! I had no desire or appetite to do anything other than what had to be done, and a realisation this morning that General Synod awaits me on Thursday is enough to get me going again. Lots to prepare and lots of loose ends to tie up before I go to the unclean city of Edinburgh, and unless I get better soon and lose the coughing and sneezing, I'll be taking the plague with me! That'll teach them!

Seen at a BP Service Station

Ironic eh? Thanks to Susie Sue for this!