Tuesday, 30 November 2010

St Andrew's Day

My favourite... a tune for our Saint's Day!


The video below has been held up to ridicule, but I actually like it!

Clergy and Meetings

We had a good and constructive meeting yesterday. Just some clergy from my little part of the world sharing some coffee and sorting out some problems. I came away feeling so much better than I did in the morning. It lifted me because I was meeting with people who knew where I was, shared a similar agenda, spoke the same language, and instilled a feeling of collegiality. So it should be. We are not Congregationalists!

A problem had arisen which meant we had to meet, and I think we all left feeling that we should all meet, problems or not. That feels good to me.

Often clergy can be inclined to be too busy for our own good. Not another meeting, we wail. Oh! Lord! The Rector of Little St Reuben's will be there. Can I stand it? Will the Rector of St Archie-in-the-Snow  boast about how successful her parish is? Will the crucified Priest-in-Charge of Christ-in-the-Desert come to moan about the terrifying bouts of depression he suffers? Facebook Friends are easier to deal with!

The fact is that in AA or NA Meetings, the "OK" and long-time sober/straight come because others need them to be there. In a congregation, we sometimes need to come to church because others need us to be there. Clergy meetings are no different. Sometimes we just need the presence of others in the same boat who know the issues and are willing to "be present" for us.

Maybe I'm getting old. When I was first ordained, there was a "brotherhood" amongst clergy. I remember getting up at 6am one morning every week to join brother clergy at a Mass then breakfast. It was simply not allowed to miss this! However, it began to fall away much earlier than the ordination of women. It's not the fault of women priests then! What happened? Was there something in training at some point that encouraged clergy to think that they were on their own?

I mention the ordination of women for a purpose. I may offend many by saying that amongst the gifts that women bring to the priesthood is the gift of motherhood, and a natural gift of gathering the family around her, enabling the 'family' to meet together and inter-react. Oh that we had women who would take on this role in clergy chapters or even local situations. In this Diocese, and I'll get clobbered for this, we have an incredible woman who takes on this role so successfully. I'm convinced that her gender is helpful in this respect.

So, yes, clergy meetings are necessary and beneficial, and the more localised the better. I might be terribly wrong, but it is my feeling that the ministry of women, sometimes but not always, is designed to enable the coming together that we have lost somewhere along the way.

We have lost our collegiality. Perhaps our women can help us to redefine this and encompass us into a caring and sharing group of people again?

Now I baton down the hatches and prepare for war!

Ah! There's Nothing Like....

A good roll in the snow! Archie shuns the Clyde for the more solid stuff!

Stolen from MadPriest...

It is a slow day in a damp little Irish town. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt and everybody lives on credit. On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the town, stops at the local hotel and lays a €100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night. The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the €100 note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher. The butcher takes the €100 note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer. The pig farmer takes the €100 note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel. The guy at the Farmers' Co-op takes the €100 note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the pub. The publican slips the money along to the local prostitute drinking at the bar, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him "services" on credit. The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel owner with the €100 note. The hotel proprietor then places the €100 note back on the counter so the rich traveller will not suspect anything. At that moment the traveller comes down the stairs, picks up the €100 note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money and leaves town. No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole town is now out of debt and looking to the future with a lot more optimism. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the bailout package works.


Travelling to Helensburgh yesterday with Gadgetvicar, and looking at the most beautiful scenery that God has created on the road, the Firth of Clyde was stunning, I happened to mention that Dumbarton folk were not always appreciative of the wonderful part of the world we live in. Apart from the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, and the majesty of the Ben,  just two or three miles away, there is stuff in the town itself which at times can be quite breathtaking.

First photo from the RW before the snows came in earnest, then yesterday's dog-walk along the Clyde, both showing Dumbarton Rock in all its glory!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Let it Snow

Blizzard conditions in Dumbarton this Sunday morning and only two of us at the 9am. The Church of Scotland across the road has cancelled its service, but we soldiered on, and had about half the usual number at 11am. For those who did'nt make it today, have a wee look at this! Folk in the food court were in for a big surprise on 17th November this year.....

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Tough Days

Sometimes tough days come in ministry, and it's my experience that they often come like buses! One after the other after a long wait! We can be lulled into a false sense of absolute security. The parish is going well, things are good, we are OK with ourselves, others and God, then wham! It happens often to me, and I can only tell my own story!

The story of my ministry is like this. So much good is happening, so many things are going well, and there can be a smile on the face in the morning. God is good, and your people are good, and your ministry is OK. Note that it's OK, because you are always striving for it to be better!

And then things happen, as they do to everyone. Life is life and it's not often rosy. People are people and they don't always say or do rosy things. Someone will wake up today and face bereavement. Others will be given bad news after a hospital appointment. Someone will say something or write an email and our hearts and souls plummet. Our little worlds are attacked or challenged and we react or fail to react.

For the last two days I have been walking my dogs along the Clyde Shore. Both days have been beautiful experiences where I've felt a part of a wondrous creation and my wee heart has sung God's praises. The Big Boy, The Special One (Archie), has been swimming like there's no tomorrow and almost reached Langbank today!

A couple of things have happened in between which have touched my soul and made me cry within. However, God is good, and I am good and the world is good, and my community is good and my congregation are good too!

And whatever happens to you today, be assured that God is with you. Every step of the way....

Sunday, 21 November 2010

And it Came to Pass that there was a Census...

The Sunday Next Before Advent is extremely crucial, it seems, for the Scottish Episcopal Church. We are all given, around this time, a form which needs to be filled in, and it's all about our numbers. It's our Annual Returns, and amongst all sorts of rather searching questions, it asks us how many communicants we had on the Sunday Next Before Advent.

These numbers are sent to the General Synod Office, and will appear in print for the whole world to see sometime next year before General Synod. Of course, clergy being as they are, we get rather paranoid about this. I mean, what will people think if we have only 30 good folk on this Sunday, especially if we are capable of getting 70 on a good day? Do we make it up, or tell a little white lie? Of course not! We're trusted and respectable people and who cares how many you get on a winter morning in November anyway?

With that in mind, my soul went "eek!" when three of my trusty 9am service were missing this morning. Three can mean a great difference, you know! I was almost running up the High Street, knocking on doors demanding to know why they have a cold, or how they dare to sleep in/visit family for the weekend/decide to have a Sunday off!! Don't they realise my numbers are important? The bishop looks at this stuff, for goodness sake!

I'm dreading the 11am. Just hope everyone brings their grannies!

Of course, the Provost of St Mary's has the right idea. He's arranged three baptisms for this morning! Now count that pal!

The Silent Assassin Shares this...

Royal Facebook

Whatever Next?

They say that old age brings with it wisdom. Although I am sure that this will never be the case with me, I was heartened to read this! It won't change the world, I'm sure, but it is definitely a start.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

How to Wrap up a Cat for Christmas!

Getting De-Baptised

A must for all those "aggressive atheists"! Thanks to Ship of Fools for pointing me in the right direction. It's not just Sir Alex Ferguson who gives out the hair-dryer treatment, it seems!

A Big Hello!

From our kids in The Gambia to all who help to run this school by contributing....

Following the Monobloc Road

Due to the "Parish Photographer" sadly having to dash to London on Sunday because of serious family illness, I've been holding off writing about the most recent "parish production"! Not that I remember too much about it having just arrived at Glasgow Airport at 1.30pm on the day, but I had a serious duty to perform. I was the Tin Man in The Wizard of Augz on Saturday evening!

The creativity, talent and inventiveness of St Augustine's folk never ceases to amaze me, as we followed the monobloc road to the Land of Augz, following the death of the Wicked Witch of Dumbarton East, sadly crushed by the roof of our new hall. Toto was played by a "ginger rodent", but we were more startled by the fact that our Treasurer was looking for a brain and the Rector was after a heart! The RW was slightly shattered after giving her all as the Chief Munchkin!

Over eighty folk, including our bishop, sat down for an American style meal, fried chicken too, and were duly entertained by a bunch of dafties, but that's St Augz at its best, really! An £800 profit kinda helps the parish, too, and it's amazing how much money you can raise by simply enjoying yourself! Well done to everyone!

A full set of photos can be seen, thanks to Michelle, on http://picasaweb.google.com/Tiggermich/StAugZ?authkey=Gv1sRgCN-9jdnU3pnjGQ&feat=email#

Monday, 15 November 2010

Brain Across the Sahara

Re-entering the world after a trip to The Gambia has always been a problem for me. Living in the Third World, not as a tourist, even for a week, always has a profound effect on me and at the moment, although my body is here in Dumbarton, my soul and brain have still to catch up. They are still floating somewhere over the Sahara!

Our little school in Serrekunda needed a visit, really to sort out staffing problems. When you are totally responsible for a school, rather than just a sponsor, there are all sorts of employer/employee issues, and some of these can only be done in person. I had a busy and stressful week, but things are sorted, again, and after a plethora of meetings and informal discussions, I can see ways of taking the next step in development, and providing a larger more holistic model for the school and what we provide. Much work lies ahead, but it will be worth it for the children.

And all this is for the children. All ninety of them. Even after nine years, I continue to be shocked by the conditions they live in and the poverty which is accepted and endured with smile and song. We now have a new Principal Teacher who has great energy, lots of vision, a good track record, and excellent qualifications. That's a big help, but without our regular contributors, none of it would happen.

Leaving is always a drag! Below, a little film of my last minutes in the school before getting off to the airport. The words are simple: "Fadda Kenny Bye Bye!" Ignore the "tubab" in the striped shirt! He's just an old dreamer who is working hard for us out there! Thanks to him and the indefatigable Helen for all they do for Dumbarton London Corner Nursery!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Tripping Off....

After a wonderful weekend at St Augustine's, with the baptism of wee John Hardie, it's been a hectic week preparing to go off to The Gambia! The school out there is in trouble, with West African floods seriously undermining the foundations of our school building, and then there are the usual staffing problems that always need to be addressed. Nothing dreadful, but we probably need two new teachers fast!

One of the things that our school is committed to is training our teachers to the highest standards. They, therefore, can be "stolen" away by the bigger schools who want highly qualified teachers and who can pay more and give benefits which we can only dream about giving. "That's life", as they say in France.

It's certainly not going to be a holiday, but at least the work will be getting done in sunshine. :-)

I'll be back on the 13th for the Parish Production of The Wizard of Augz, following the monobloc road to wherever the other side of the rainbow is, or something like that! My tin man suit will be waiting for me, but I think I'd rather have the red shoes! Well, if the Pope can wear them.......

Below, the RW celebrates my coming departure.