Thursday, 29 December 2011

Wonderful Christmas

Having just finished my last Home Communion after Christmas, it's a minute to post my favourite pic of the season! It's the RW finally cracking under the strain with the electric carving knife which, thankfully, she'd forgotten to plug in at the time!

It has been a good Christmas, with a wonderful Midnight celebration, lots of goodies, and the world would be even better had Archie not taken a likening to Belgian chocolates, ham wrapped in tinfoil, and my slippers!

Oh! Santa brought an iPad too, so I'm now on a learning curve! Watch out!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Angel in the Darkness

Well, it's like never that I post a picture of my Christmas tree!

I fling it together every year, and sometimes it looks better than others. However, this year I wanted to share a wee bit which you can't really see too well from the photo!

At the front, near the bottom/middle is a wee straw angel. Somehow the lights have managed to bypass her, and there is a little hole of darkness with only the angel there, shining as brightly as anything else, even the over-sized angel on top!

I meditated long and hard last night on the angel in the darkness. For many, this Christmas will be a time of great darkness, but in the midst of it the angel still says, "Fear Not!"

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Pressures Receeding

Now that Advent 4 is past, the Christmas Cards written and posted, the RW's car fixed and collected from the garage, and several deadlines met that had to be met, it might be a space today to actually put up the Christmas tree!

I suspect Rectory families don't have it too easy in the run up to Christmas. Friends and other families have their stuff up by December 1st and their houses look like Santa's Grotto from Advent 1. However, the "grumpy cleric" insists it's still only Advent and everything is put on hold until the last days of Advent and some of the pressures are off. I know many clerics who will not have a bauble in the house until it's almost Christmas Eve! (I'm afraid I'm a bit like that myself, loathing Christmas Carols until after Advent 4!!)

I may even go Christmas shopping soon! Hums.. "The Angel Gabriel..."

Monday, 19 December 2011

The Christmas Party

St Augustine's Community Christmas Party and Candlelit Carol Service didn't disappoint again this year, although one of Santa's little helpers had problems getting into his gear!

Each year we bring everyone together, hall users, various weans, big and small, and start off with a big party at the back of the church. That tends to be pandemonium, but there's always Santa to look forward to! He was as magnificent as ever in 2011, with a new outfit, (XXXXXXL Size) from a posh shop in Helensburgh!

Santa's little helper gets his stuff from Slater's! There are lots of pics of the children and other exciting bits which will go up on the Parish Site as soon as I've written my Christmas Cards, but here is a pic of the Dynamic Duo,,,
and one of the Service. We had well over 100 folk who came and went during the four hours!

Dumbarton Nativity (Repost)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


Yes, I miss my mother. She's been dead twelve years now, but she is still very much with me, and she still "speaks" to me through the days and the weeks. I guess that "confession" is brought on by two things. Firstly by a fellow blogger who has just lost her mum, and my heartfelt sympathy goes out to her,  and something else which happened this week to me which my mother would have strong opinions about. She's been whispering in my ear since Monday!

Isn't it strange that even as we grow older, the voice of our mothers is still strong in our lives? We remember sayings, phrases, funny events, and more and more I find myself saying, "As my mother would have said....."

I have been blessed this week with opportunities for silence and reflection. Many voices have spoken in the silence, and I hope God was among them, but the strongest voice has been my mother's! Beyond the grave with comfort, challenge, and a wee reprimand!

As I think of those who have lost loved ones recently, my heart goes out to them at this first Christmas without them. However, we are not without them. The line between the living and the departed is very thin within the Communion of Saints, and our loved ones are not far from us. We need to remember this. We can cry at our loss, but the loss is merely physical.

She was not perfect, but my mum gave me her faith. For that I will be eternally grateful. We all have reasons to be grateful for those we love but see no longer. Maybe we can count them and smile during the "jolly" time which is looming. They are celebrating the birth of the Christ too.

It's Hard When you are Little!

Young Neve manages to light the Gaudete Candle on Sunday, with a little help from a friend!

Only one more to go, then Santa is coming!

Oh! And the Baby Jesus too!

Come and bring your weans to the Parish Christmas Party on Sunday, in church, at 4pm.


Here are some members of the Scottish Tour Guides Association who visited Dumbarton on a study day at the beginning of December.  Few knew much about the town, having mostly whizzed past in tour buses.

The exception is the lady in the green jacket - Margaret  nee Goldie, daughter of Fred Goldie, who was once Rector of the parish and who went on to be Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway. Margaret  sends her regards to anyone who remembers her.  The family left Dumbarton to go to St Margaret's Newlands..

Monday, 12 December 2011

Archie's Dream!


A 6am start this morning to take the RW to the airport. She's off to Welsh Wales to see her new grandchild Isla for a few days, laden down with gifts, not only from us, but from members of St Aug's too. So, a few days for myself, and peace perfect peace in The Rectory. The dogs and cats are a handful, but I can at least rule the roost until Friday.

Oh! Cards will be printed and posted, and a lot of admin including dastardly Parish Returns might also be done.

However, grandchildren, or the thought of them, bring a smile to my face. Graham, my son, and his beautiful partner Angela, are about to present me with my own first grandchild on or around January 13th, and I'm beginning to realise that this is no longer in the distant future. So Santa could well be bringing me a cardigan, pipe and some comfy slippers so I can at least look the part!

It's certainly making me think of generations just now. My dad is suffering badly from dementia just now, and visits are a heartbreak. His care home is fantastic, but he's not the most popular chocolate in the box when he head-butts staff in his anger and frustration. The old Glasgow Kiss is something he remembers OK, and that's upsetting for all.

If the cigarettes don't kill me first, I often wonder how things would be if it was me in a care home. I pretend that it would be fine and I would cope, but I know I wouldn't, and I'd feel as sad and abandoned as my dad feels just now. That engenders feelings of guilt, but I know we couldn't even begin to give him the care he needs. Frank Downie House staff in Dalmuir are just fantastic and they give him the best life possible.

Recently I have been dreaming of my deceased mum, and I remember how close they both were, a real loving partnership. I pray often that dad would just have a massive stroke, or something, pass away quietly and be with her again. I don't know if that's a good prayer or not, a selfish or a self-less prayer, but I know that his funeral, when it comes, will be one of gratitude that my Old Man will have been released from the pain  he's so obviously in at the moment.

Another generation is about to be born, and I guess that's just the way of things.

And will this new child visit me in my care home? Naw! He'll be too busy playing for Partick Thistle Nil!

Saturday, 10 December 2011


This is one of my lads from The Gambia. Another in the background with an old Dumbarton top.

He's going to be disappointed today!

However, I'm delighted that Partick Thistle Nil put away another three points today, at Cappielow, no less!

C'mon the Harry Wraggs! We can still win this league!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Borrowed from Big Rab - Hurricane Bawbag is Tamed!

This is from the STV website
It continues:


The mosaic used as an altar frontal on Wednesday was made by the Women's Group attached to Alternatives in Dumbarton, entitled "New Beginnings".  (Click to make big) It took them six months to make this, and I covet it immensely! I'm borrowing it back for Easter Day at least! Brilliant and beautiful piece of work!

Light up the Fire!

The Service of Remembrance for those who have died as a result of addiction went well on Wednesday night. When you compile liturgies from scratch, you worry about how they will work out in practice, but this one flowed well, and the feedback has far surpassed my expectations.

The church was fairly full, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends and caseworkers of young people who had died as a result of drug misuse, others with names of people who had died as a result of alcoholism.

We were all given the chance to name someone we had lost and light a candle in their memory. There was a lot of healing and some closure going on. The liturgy flowed well, and ended by remembering those still suffering on the streets and at home, with a great feeling and message of hope for all.

Afterwards we had coffee, tea and eats in the hall, where we were joined by a large gang of NA folk in recovery. That certainly gladdened the heart!

Hopefully, this will only be the first one of these services, and it will become an annual event in out town. We had 18 drug related deaths in West Dunbartonshire this year. Unfortunately that number will be added to as the weeks and months and years progress.

A Book of Remembrance has been started, and it will be housed in St Augustine's. We will remember them.

Nothing can be done without drama, however, at St Aug's, and after everyone was safely in the Community Hall blethering, the candles on the table at the front of the altar exploded into a huge flame. A large dollop of baptismal water was used to "pit it oot"!

Worth doing? Certainly!

Dumbarton's Cup

Some years ago I started sponsoring and supporting a large group of lads in Brufut, in The Gambia. They had a large number of lads who were daft on football, but they had no kit, no jerseys, shorts, socks, boots. No nothing, except incredible skills.

Shortly afterwards, I approached Dumbarton Football Club, and they generously donated some old kit which was shipped out for my boys.

They changed their name to Dumbarton FC, and proudly wore the yellow and black, with a white jersey with blue trimmings as a second kit when colours clashed. The lads have done well ever since. I've watched them mature and grow, and rise in the Gambian leagues. They are now in a position where they are overseen by the Gambian Football Association, and must have certified officials to referee and run the line on their games.

They became, and still are Dumbarton daft. They look up their results when possible, and they even had special T-shirts printed with the Dumbarton crest on them. You can catch a glimpse behind the cup in the photo.

Yes! A trophy! This year they won the Gambian Combos Cup, and there was much celebration, as you can imagine. You can imagine too that the Dumbarton Kit is well worn and done.

Maybe Dumbarton FC will donate some more? Certainly, a Dumbarton FC in The Gambia, or anywhere else in the world, winning trophies is good news! We just need them to get into the yellow and black again. They are having to hire kit at the moment, and these guys really live in poverty. They charge 10 Dalasi, about 20p to watch their matches, and that just about covers referee fees and their membership of the GFA. Anything else they have to pay for out of their own meagre profits!

Any donations to help support this team are gratefully received!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


Tonight, for the first time ever, the people of West Dunbartonshire have an opportunity to remember those who have died as a result of addiction in a formal church setting. St Augustine's is hosting a Candle-lit Service, devised by yours truly, and hopefully it will hit the spot. This year alone we have had 18 deaths through drug addiction, and God only knows the number through alcoholism and its effects.

We're pulling out all the stops with millions of candles, some Taize music, and a chance for folk to remember, light a candle, or share their story. Trying to organise things like this are a nightmare sometimes, dealing with great folk whose lives are a bit chaotic anyway, or those whose lives are chaotic because they are caring for or working with the chaotic. For those who know me, they will realise that I'm totally at home with that! Chaos and I are really good friends!

I'm trying, desperately, to stay in professional mode, but I can't remember the last time I was so nervous about something. It's maybe because it's the first time around, or maybe because I know it's got to be just "right" for those who are in varying stages of grief. People will come, or will they? People will be upset, people will come with expectations, looking for closure, looking for comfort. Can we do all that? Can we pull it all together on the night?

I'm trying to pray and keep calm but I can't because I know how much this will mean to some folk. I'm giving it all to God, then I'm taking it back again, and the stomach is churning! So say a wee prayer for us tonight!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Friday, 2 December 2011

Feeling Like a Priest Again.

As I sit down tonight, after the busiest day, it's with feelings of satisfaction. Not just that I managed to tick off a few more "must do" things in the list in my head, but that in the past 24 hours I have been really there for people who have needed me to be there for them. Often, in my busy-ness I forget that this is what it's all about.

Open Doors ministry is great in theory, but when I'm in the middle of a thousand things, and someone says, "Rector, there's a guy in church bawling his eyes out and he's not even drunk or on drugs", the human, frail reaction is, "Well gie him a hankie and tell him to say a prayer!" (Honestly, I never actually say that!) I might feel it, and in the middle of admin and planning, and magazines and sermons and all the rest, that's very human, I think, but I get a much bigger buzz in shutting my office door and facing what ever needs to be faced.

Two enormous problems today, talked over with guys who are really lost and in the wilderness, together with an emotionally heartbreaking pastoral problem last night, and Kenny is feeling like a priest again. It's a funny thing to say, that. "Feeling like a priest again", but so much in modern ministry can weigh us down and take us, or tempt us away from the things we were ordained for.

And despite the fact that I was "hauled" away from the admin, you know, it got done anyway!!!! It may be 9.50pm, but it got done!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Weekend After

Usually it takes me a few days before my head catches up with my body after a trip to The Gambia. For several days my head hangs over the Sahara, and eventually body and soul and mind come together again. It's that sort of place.

For some reason, this year, probably because it was the beginning of Advent on Sunday, the first weekend back was complete overload! Friday night saw our annual Pantodine in church, this year Augadoon, (rather than Brigadoon), and we all had a part to play. Thankfully my role didn't require me to learn the words, and I read from my script perfectly! It was a great night as ever, with ham acting, a beautiful meal, and a bishop rolling in the aisles with laughter. The RW played the Good Fairy perfectly, but there was a cast of star performances.

Saturday saw us engage with serious stuff, sitting down and working out our plans for our Mission Action Plan, as required by the Diocese. Anne Tomlinson was wonderful, as always, affirming the things we are doing well, and pointing us in the sort of direction we could be growing into in the next year. It was a good session, and it gives us lots to work on, and maybe we made a good start with an incredibly emotional Healing Service on Sunday evening. Almost 40 folk attended, most of whom weren't regulars, and the feedback has been very positive.

So, Advent Sunday, the start of a New Year for the Church was maybe the beginning of something which we will be building on, and looking ahead to a special service on Wednesday, when we'll be hosting a Service of Remembrance in St Aug's for those who have died as a result of addiction. More tears are expected, but we hope and pray that they will be tears of healing.

Gambia 2011

It's been an unusual November, most of it spent in the sunshine and 30-40 degrees, and then back to monsoons in Dumbarton! The Gambia still holds that little bit of magic which means I always have a wee tear in my eye as the plane takes off from Banjul back to Manchester, but this year we found the school in terrific shape under our newish Teacher-in-Charge, Sulayman Saidy. Sulayman is a star and he certainly motivates both staff and pupils, and gets the best from both.

As always there was a great big list of needs and wants, and the Charity was in a position to give the needs rather than the wants! The children were in excellent form and their oral English has come on leaps and bounds. They couldn't all get in the picture, but we tried! One class at a time!

Raising money to keep this going, providing free food, medicine and free education for 90 kids requires a lot of effort, and anyone who wants to help with £5 a month is very welcome to join us. For those who do already, a couple of quid more every month would be like manna from heaven.

More of my time, this year, was holiday rather than work, since the school is obviously in good hands. Our Administrator, Helen Touray, does a wonderful job, and we are really grateful for her presence and expertise. 

The RW took some time off to indulge in her pet hate of snakes, yet managed to find a wonderful pal to ease her feelings of discomfort. This guy will only attack if he thinks he can eat you whole, so the RW was quite safe!

It was a great opportunity to spend some time in St Andrew's Lamin, who link with St Auggie's, and to show the weather, and the newly painted Church Hall, I add this pic!

This is opposed to what we came home to in Dumbarton....

For two days, Archie hasn't needed the River Clyde to swim in!

However, it's home to reality and a backlog of work that is frightening the pants off me! Will I make it to Christmas? Only if you postpone it to January!