Tuesday, 31 August 2010


Not often that the four of us get together these days, but here we go!

St Augustine's-Tide

Still recovering from a wonderful Patronal Festival on Sunday. Lots of good music from our Praise Band, a special liturgy for the occasion which was well received, and a terrific sermon from Fr Fred Tomlinson, who grew up in St Auggie's! The congregation was swinging, and with lots of little ones, our average age was what it should really be all the time! We even got in well over £1000 for our Gift Day with more to come.

A couple of pics... Fr Fred and me, and one of the Praise Band with its latest recruit!

Saturday, 28 August 2010


I now know another good reason not to hit the whisky again!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


This was a new word for me! One I learned last week. It seems to have been going on in Roman Catholic Orders for centuries, although in modern times it has been weakened by tepidity itself and is now labelled the "mid-life crisis" that priests and nuns can often experience! A good dose of aromatherapy can help, it seems.

However, in the past this state was taken very seriously. We come to ordination or to final vows with such a great enthusiasm, and as the years roll by this can wane and our commitment to Our Lord or even our work can become lukewarm.

And as I sat this afternoon thinking about this, and thinking of our Diocesan Ministry Officer on a train to Gothenberg today, I found great comfort in the fact that tepidity is no longer allowed in Glasgow and Galloway!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Virtually Offensive ... or Good Fun?

Well! We've seen it all! A good friend has pointed me to the delights of "Priestville", a new "game" on Facebook, where you are a virtual priest with a virtual parish, and like Farmville and all the rest, you are "called" to progress.

Game Tutorial
Step 5: Strengthen Your Diocese

But there's more!

 You need to work on your charisma, integrity, self-esteem, brainpower and energy, and win parishioners, who, i suspect will give you gold coins or something. Maybe you will need the gold coins to buy a new biretta. Who knows? We are told: "PriestVille fans periodically receive free Parishioners, Gold Coins and other useful game items!" There is also an online confessional! Free parishioners, gold coins, and absolution too!

Hold me back!

It's tempting. I'm not taking the bait, but I suppose with a bit of time and effort, I could become a virtual bishop eventually, or even a Cardinal. Whenever things are not going too well in the "Real Deal", I could retreat and draw comfort from the fact that in Priestville I have a thriving congregation who hang on to my every word and do as they're told? When the real bishop calls to reprimand me, I can silently snigger, for in my virtual parish I have much more power than he has!

This could be a very attractive thing for the disillusioned in Holy Orders. We could sit on our backsides all day playing with our laptops, and let the parish go to the dogs, either our real one or our virtual one. Hmm or maybe that happens anyway?

The biggest boon to the Church, though, could be in scrapping selection conferences for potential clergy. We can now just tell potential ordinands to go away for a year, play Priestville, and if they have a successful parish, or have risen to the heights of Dean, Canon, Bishop or whatever in that time, they would be a shoo-in for training!

I'm just waiting for some smart-ass to tell me that their congregation is thriving on Facebook, and that I should be ashamed of myself. My retort will have to be that the game doesn't seem to mention God, although maybe God comes in at some point after you have enough gold coins, and there is nothing in the initial blurb about praying. However, who needs God and prayer when you can run a successful parish on Priestville?

PS If you get your parishioners to join Opus Dei, then you won't lose them! Spooky, eh?

Monday, 23 August 2010

Let There Be Light!

A couple of weeks ago I bought one of these SAD lamps! I know, I know, maybe I have more money than sense, but fellow sufferers from depression had recommended them to me, and pointed out that a wee burst of light every morning had often raised their spirits enough to see them through the day.

Now, because I'm not that rich, I opted for the cheapest version, but even in these dark summer mornings, sans sun, I've felt the benefit. I opted not to take it on retreat, and there was enough sun and stimulation there to make it kind of redundant anyway! Even though I didn't feel the need today, I had a half-hour blast this morning and it's done me no harm at all.

West of Scotland dreary cloudiness doesn't do the spirits much good..... a wee parish in Florida would be nice..... but something caught my eye in today's Herald which rang bells with me. It was a light-hearted, (no pun intended), wee article on light bulbs, suggesting that we are all really being deprived of light in our modern world through our efforts to save the planet!

I remember the days when a 100 watt bulb was always in the "big light", but we can't purchase these things for love or money these days, and even our 60 watt bulbs are energy savers. They take forever to heat up, and just don't give me the same buzz as ordinary old-fashioned bulbs.

The West of Scotland should be exempt from saving the planet through the use of new-fangled light bulb rules, and we should be allowed, as from now, to have as much light in our homes as we like. Simply to stave off the depression of course!

After all, a happy workforce is a productive one, and for those facing long-term unemployment, they'll need something to cheer them up!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Back to Reality

"So how was the retreat, Kenny?" I've been asked that so many times in the past 24 hours, and I've still to formulate a reply that does the experience justice!

On one level it was an amusing experience. I became a Roman Catholic for five days, surrounded by a mixture of nuns, priests and religious from all over who were fellow retreatants.  I've said so many Hail Marys in the past week that they are coming out of my ears! The Masses were wonderful, and because of the tradition I come from, and my knowledge of the Roman Missal, I coped really well with that stuff, except when they went off into singing the Agnus Dei or the Sanctus in Latin and I realised my Latin was somewhat rusty! However, it was a joy to be able to receive Holy Communion with them all and made to feel a part of it all. Nightly Exposition and Benediction became special times and I longed again for that special holiness which so many modern liturgies have drummed out of us.

The best bit was the silence. The five days when not a word was spoken, (except in my chats with the Director), but only in praise and adoration of Our Lord. If that sounds pious, then I'm sorry, but it was a very real piety that permeated my soul and gave me a peace that passed understanding. Kinnoull is the sort of place where you catch that stuff. It's the sort of piety that you need to experience and drink in , especially if your ministry tends to focus on so any material and practical matters. We are always in danger of losing sight of the bigger picture!

The Retreat Director, Fr Ronnie McAinsh brought something very special to the retreat and to me personally. His experience, in Zimbabwe and elsewhere, and his qualifications as a practising psychotherapist, were all extremely relevant to me and many of the issues and problems I had been dealing with in my life and ministry were addressed and tackled. (I know that many of you think I should have visited a "shrink" a long time ago!)

So, back to the parish! Expectations that the "sermon" tomorrow will be an imparting of all the wisdom that I've "sooked" up since last Sunday. However, I don't know how much I can impart at the moment. Much of it is still swimming around in my brain and my soul, and I'm not really ready, or able, to articulate much! Some of it may never be spoken. I no longer feel the need to show a "naked" spirituality! Some things need simply to be pondered in the heart, as Our Lady did.

See, all these Hail Marys have had an effect on me after all!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Radio Merseyside Adopt Partick Thistle Nil!

I guess stranger things have happened than this, but it was a big surprise on my return to the real world from Kinnoull!

Sunday, 15 August 2010


There will be silence on the Blog for a few days as I head up to St Mary's, Kinnoull, in Perth for my annual retreat. Silence for me, too! It's been a few years since I've been on a proper, organised retreat, with conductor and greater silence for five days! I'm greatly looking forward to it.

A retreat is an opportunity to listen to the God who speaks to us in Jesus Christ. His Gospel is the word of life, and we need to hear it afresh, if it is to touch our hearts and change our lives.

So says the introduction to this retreat for Roman Catholic priests and deacons and religious, and it's something that all clergy need to do from time to time. Our preaching and teaching can become a little stale, and our ministry can become a bit tired and worn without it.

Oh! And it was Partick Thistle One, and Dundee that got the Nil this week! Yessssssssssssss!!!!!!

Be back at the weekend!  

Friday, 13 August 2010

A Cup at Last!

You need to see THIS to believe it! Hope for the future?

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Incredible Stuff!

One of my congregation, the amazing Barbara Barnes, has done some incredible things during my time here in St Augustine's. From abseiling down tall buildings,  to throwing herself off aircraft in sky-diving mode or just simply parachuting, she's always raising money for Altzheimers or some other cause close to her heart. However, she doesn't just raise money, but gets her hands dirty in a practical way in helping sufferers and the elderly in our community. A JP in her (spare????) time, she was acclaimed as Citizen of the Year last year.

To celebrate her 70th Birthday, Barbara has completed her most daring feat yet! Wing walking! Here's the proof....

Minnie Driver Controversy

Minnie Driver, while filming "The Deep" for BBC recently, had cause to drive down Dumbarton High Street. In an interview she called the place depressing. (Dumbarton is the new Hollywood for BBC Drama).

Now this has caused quite a stushie locally! How dare she? It seems that it's alright for locals to voice this opinion, but certainly not something TV stars or Film Stars are allowed to say!

Of course the place is depressing, and that's why Save Dumbarton High Street has emerged as a powerful local group who are beginning to get things done. Come back, Minnie, in a year or two, and we'll show you the difference..... I hope!

Why the Chicken Crossed the Road...

Jimmy Reid RIP

Jimmy Reid was one of my childhood heroes. My father taught me to listen and learn from people like this, and I was given a good education as a result. I remember well the triumph at UCS which ensured that shipbuilding had a future on the River Clyde, but as life has progressed I've despaired as prophets like Jimmy Reid, Scargill, Benn, and many more have been worn down and pushed to the fringes. Truth, however, will never be silenced. My thanks to Big Rab for reminding me of this moment!


I was at Glenalmond yesterday, visiting the Provincial Youth Network's annual bash. Glen 10 has proved really popular with over 100 young people attending over the two week period. We need to do two weeks these days because of its increasing popularity and the number of youngsters who want to go back again and again continues to grow.

This has a roll-on effect, and the number of leaders needed come from a great pool of young adults who have attended themselves as teenagers. I was really impressed! I came away extremely moved by the enthusiasm, energy and faith which I witnessed, young folk expressing themselves in worship, being immensely creative in their fun, and forging links and friendships which in many cases may well be life-long.

How do we build on this stuff? The days when we patronised these youngsters by patting them on the head and telling them they were the Church of the future is surely in our past now, and we can now start taking this Church of the present very seriously indeed. Bishop Mark is facilitating something strong and exciting, but I suspect that the Episcopal Church is not very sure what to do with it.

I watched at General Synod when the PYN made a telling contribution on the Saturday morning, and most folk commented that it was actually the highlight of Synod proceedings, but I suspect that we've all gone away and forgotten all about them! One of the problems is that PYN is simply a network within the Church and so has no teeth whatsoever. That needs to be addressed and the Youth Network needs to be given a proper voice and allowed to make the sort of contribution that is taken seriously and requires action and support from Synod.

Some years ago I ran a Youth Event called "Not the General Synod". We met at the same time as Synod in Perth, but our voice wasn't heard. Could that sort of thing be done again in the future? We certainly have enough young folk to achieve it. There would have to be a willingness to make that happen, and with the technology available, General Synod could be made aware throughout their proceedings just how our young people are thinking about the issues which our wee church wrestles with.

If we were to meet simultaneously, then different days would need to be chosen, but it could be possible for Youth Synod to meet on the weekend before General Synod convenes. All it takes is the will to make this happen.

The other thing I pondered as I drove back last night was about fostering vocations. How do we do that with the group we have, and what would we have to offer in the way of full-time training for ministry? Could we use Cumbrae as the new TISEC, and have a Theological College again? It would certainly be expensive, but I believe, again if there was the will, that this could be achieved and sustained. An annual retreat for young people aimed at fostering vocation could easily be set up, and I understand that other folk in the SEC are thinking along the same lines.

Our two young folk, Caitlin and Erin, are certainly having a whale of a time at Glen 10, and will no doubt return next year. The Alice in Wonderland theme, (our two meet a rather fetching rabbit on the ramble yesterday), is woven around a study of different liturgies and how they are used and constructed. I can't see either of them coming back with a pressing need to reintroduce the Prayer Book, but they are much more aware of Liturgy, and even how to create their own liturgy as a form of their expression of their love of God and God's love for them.

Meanwhile, to the leaders, movers and shakers. Don't give up! Eventually the Pisckie Church will sit up, take notice, and begin to listen properly to what you have to say!

Oh! And the Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, aka The Mad Hatter, can be seen here!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


I've been spending a bit of time, of late, updating the Parish Website. Trying to get my head around rotating pictures is a big deal for me and that's my next goal, but going through what is quite an extensive site and updating text is laborious, yet enlightening.

There is stuff that has been there for nine years which still holds true and cannot be changed, really. Positive things I wrote about the parish then are still relevant and accurate. I try to think of ways to reword the stuff, but I'm afraid to weaken the positive message that new visitors need to get! Other things are tedious, for example adding another year on to my age! (I should just record my date of birth and be done with it).

Other things are having to be rewritten. The development of Friends and the Gambian School need to be recorded, and some more recent photos needed to be added. The whole area of community involvement needed to be rewritten, and several new links added. It's where things have developed that I get the biggest buzz. It shows that things are growing and refusing to stand still.

The Site itself needed to be given a totally new look as it seemed to be getting quite tired in my own eyes, and new pastel colours have perhaps achieved that.

It's my belief that a parish without a decent website is really missing opportunities in the modern world. It doesn't take too much effort to get one going, and there are plenty of folk in our congregations who can help with that, but maintenance is as important as presence! There's nothing worse than visiting a parish site that is at least two years out of date, but sadly that's quite a common phenomenon.

However, that's just me being chuffed, and a little bit too smug for my own good, at tackling something I should have done months ago!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Dinner Time

And a recently groomed "Special One", aka Archie, sure likes Dinner Time!

It's Crying Time Again.

It seems like a long time since I blogged about the football. I know we've had the World Cup and all to keep us  in peak condition, but the Scottish season ended for Partick Thistle Nil in mid-May, and the First Division kicked off on Saturday.

For the first time in many many years I haven't renewed my Season Ticket. There are two reasons for this.£250 just after my holidays is a bit of a struggle, but has usually been a priority for me in recent years. The Club needed my money and my commitment, even if I missed a few home games. However, churchy commitments on a Saturday seem to be getting much heavier of late and I'm missing more and more of the home fixtures. Financially, it's just not viable any more.

Why the reluctance to part with hard earned cash? Saturday's result tells a story. A 4-0 reverse at Raith Rovers calls into question how the Club is being run at the moment, and to be honest, for once, I have other priorities that seem to be more worthy of my support. Partick Thistle runs through my veins and always will do, but Tuesday nights at Firhill in mid November, watching a bunch of guys who no longer seem to play for the jersey is not my idea of fun.

Maybe I'm just getting old?

Oh! I'll still be there this season, defeats or otherwise, relegation-threatened or otherwise, but if the guys who wear red and yellow don't come across as being 100% committed to the cause, I don't see why my bank account should be 100% committed either.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Community Fair

It was a way of bringing together all the community groups who use our new Community Hall together with the congregation, and jointly having a massive bash in the sun, and yes it was a perfect day for a change. One of my Facebook friends even turned up to meet me in real time and spend some of her well earned dosh!

Singers, dancers, morning coffee, barbecue lunch, cream teas in the afternoon, masses of stalls along with reiki and reflexology sessions, and the place was "hoaching" with folk! Gemma Doyle, our new Empee, was with us, pictured, and it seemed that half of Dumbarton popped in at some point. £1,000+ for church funds, and our community groups made a fair bit too on their various stalls.

Somehow, however, the fundraising wasn't the most important bit, as the St Augustine's family that we are trying to build all came together and made a mighty effort. We got to know each other and what we do, and names were learned and new friendships formed. Brilliant!

Very often in churches there can be an "us" and "them" mentality and today was an excellent way of breaking that down, and building community. It's a first and important step along the way of what we are now trying to achieve.

And as we closed down, some peace marchers arrived to stay the night in our hall on their way to Faslane tomorrow. Who said St Aug's wasn't a happening place?

Friday, 6 August 2010

Traffic Nightmare

A dear friend, and a dear friend of St Augustine's, Eve Underhill, has died and her funeral is tomorrow in Dumfries. This coincides with the most important Church/Community Day to take place since I came here 9 years ago, and there is no way that the RW and I can absent ourselves from it.

We had the wonderful idea that we would attend the Reception of the Remains into church this afternoon at 4.30pm instead. Off we set at 1.30pm for what would be a two hour journey at the most. By 4pm we had not even reached Motherwell, less than 20 miles away. The traffic was just dreadful. Unprecedented.

Eventually at Hamilton we gave up and set off back home again. We just feel empty, as if we have been denied closure. The spirit was very willing, and we just know that those involved will understand.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Booked it!

I've been needing to go on retreat for a while now, and today I took the plunge and booked a retreat in St Mary's Kinnoul, in Perth, my bolt-hole on many occasions! This is what's on offer:

The Radical Call to Discipleship

A retreat is an opportunity to listen to the God who speaks to us in Jesus Christ. His Gospel is the work of life, and we need to hear it afresh, if it is to touch our hearts and change our lives.

Our task as disciples is to bring together the teaching of the Gospel and the unique gift of our life experience. In this way we bring the Gospel to life, One sheds light on the other and the saying of Job rings true, “I know that my Redeemer lives and in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19: 25-26)

The six day retreat will seek to provide you with the contemplative silence and atmosphere that you need for your personal reflection. It will encourage you to enter gently into the life of God, taking account of your need for rest and stillness. Fr. McAinsh’s special interest, over many years, has been in interpersonal relationships and their link with spirituality and the consecrated life. You will have the opportunity for private sharing with him.

The retreat begins with the evening meal at 7.00pm on the 13th and concludes after breakfast on the 20th August.

Fr. McAinsh is the Provincial of the Redemptorists in Britain. He has conducted retreats and spiritual workshops in many parts of the world and has served on the Redemptorist International Formation Commission and as Novice Master. He spent many years as Superior of the Redemptorist Region of Zimbabwe and was Leader of the Conference of Religious in Zimbabwe for 9 of those years.

Because of parish commitments, I'll not be joining them until Sunday afternoon, but it sounds like just what the doctor ordered!

End of a Chapter

It was strange today, locking up the old Rectory for the last time and handing in the keys to the Estate Agent. I lived there for eight years, and the house was part of many sorrows as well as joys. The good bit is that it is all sold, the new owners move in tomorrow, and the parish has some spare funds again! The bad bit is standing in the living room for the last time remembering all the happy bits.

Houses are like that. The very walls seem to hold memories, and I had a wee nostalgic trip down memory lane. However, some things have to be let go, and St Andrew's Cres was one of these things. I come back to the new abode and know in my heart of hearts that we did the right thing, not only for the parish, but for us too.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Well Said, Wee Eck!

Dear Senator Menendez

Thank you for your letter of 29 July.

I have made clear in my letters to you and to Senator Kerry that the Scottish Government's decision to decline your previous invitation for the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Dr Fraser to attend a hearing in the US was based on principle rather than on any issue of practicality.

The most appropriate way for us to assist the Foreign Relations Committee is to provide a statement of the position of the Scottish Government, as I have done, and to answer any questions that the Committee may have in writing, as we have also done.

Scottish Ministers and public officials are properly accountable to the Scottish Parliament and not to other legislatures. It is difficult to envisage circumstances in which serving members of the US Government would agree to appear as witnesses in hearings or inquiries held by the legislature of another country, and there are many high-profile and indeed current examples of the US Government declining such invitations.

Your letter again seeks to link BP with the decision made by the Scottish Government to grant Mr Al-Megrahi compassionate release. No-one has produced any evidence of such a link because there is none.

We have said repeatedly that there has never, at any point, been any contact between BP and the Scottish Government in relation to Al-Megrahi. The statements we have made on this issue are entirely clear and consistent.

It was with concern that I watched you attempt to insinuate such a link on BBC Newsnight on 30th July by citing a letter from Conservative Party peer Lord Trefgarne, the chair of the Libyan British Business Council, to Justice Secretary MacAskill last year. This was one of approximately one thousand representations received by the Scottish Government last year, including many from the USA. You have this letter because the Scottish Government published this last year as part of our comprehensive issue of documentation related to the decision. That being the case, you must also have seen the reply from Mr MacAskill, also published, which stated that his decisions would be "based on judicial grounds alone and economic and political considerations have no part in the process". In order to avoid any suggestion of misrepresentation, I trust that you will include that fact in future references.

BP's admitted lobbying on this issue referred to the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) and with the UK Government. As you must by now be aware, the Scottish Government opposed this agreement from its inception, a position that we have maintained publicly and privately since. Indeed, I revealed the existence of the proposed PTA to the Scottish Parliament in a statement on 7 June 2007. It is perhaps to be regretted that our warnings about the circumstances in which this agreement came into being found no response at that time from the UK Government, the then opposition in the UK Parliament, or indeed from the United States Senate.

Finally, you and some of your Senatorial colleagues, have suggested that the Scottish Government have sought to pass responsibility to others for the release of Al-Megrahi. That is simply not the case. Secretary MacAskill took the decision following the precepts and due process of Scots law and jurisdiction - the same jurisdiction which over a period of some 20 years led Scotland to play the leading role in investigating, trying, convicting and incarcerating Al-Megrahi. We do not resile from our responsibility in making that decision.

The point we make is a different but a quite simple one. Please do not ascribe to the Scottish Government economic or commercial motives for this decision when there is no evidence whatsoever for such a claim.

If you wish to investigate commercial or indeed other motivations surrounding this case, then call the former UK Ministers and Prime Ministers who were involved in proposing, negotiating and then signing the PTA and, of course, where there is a public record of admission that business and trade, along with other issues, were factors. In this light your decision not to proceed with the draft invitation to offer evidence to former Prime Minister Blair, who actually signed the proposed PTA in May 2007, seems puzzling.

These people, of course, may have had, and indeed in some cases have conceded, motivations other than justice considerations. However, they did not take the decision on Mr Megrahi.

I am copying this letter to Senator Kerry.


Big Ships

It is thought that there is little or no traffic on the River Clyde these days past Greenock, but it's just not true! The River can be a fairly busy wee place at high tide, and Archie, the Golden Retriever, has been known to chase a few ships as they pass Dumbarton Rock! This one he almost caught!


Life is a bit empty in the Rectory now that Poppy has gone back to my son and his wife! She certainly was a "presence", and a reminder of how much hard work a puppy actually is! It was like having three normal dogs rolled into one, held together by limitless energy!

Now her time of noising up the rest of the Rectory Pets is over, and she was chauffeured off to her own little palace on Sunday evening.

The place is kinda derelict and sedate without her! Would I have another pup to replace Toastie? Hmmm. Maybe not after all!


Was I the only person who found this BBC 2 programme/comedy utterly depressing? There were so many insights into the very negative parts of ministry that I began despairing for the Church, and despairing for priesthood in the modern age. Even the little bit of redemption at the end of the last episode seemed like a small crumb of comfort for the vicar. For his poor wife, there was not even that.

Yes, there was so much of my own ministry, and my own thoughts there, but it was almost totally devoid of the good bits of ministry, the joys, and the fun of leading a parish with people who laugh in the face of it all.

Reminder to self: Don't ever think that an urban parish in the C of E, however tempting it might be to do so, is any easier than working in a small Church which struggles for survival.