Wednesday, 28 November 2012


Listening to a brickie last week, as he laid out his life before me. Recovering alcoholic, sober for many years, coming to believe in a Higher Power who has relieved him from active alcoholism. Over 20 years without a drink.

His life is not easy, having lost loved ones lately. Family causes him nothing but anxiousness and pain. Difficult days and sleepless nights. I was crying inwardly as he spoke.

As he ended there was a long silence, which he broke by saying, "Either God is, or he isn't"

Been thinking about that for a whole week now.....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 27 November 2012


The wee Girls' Group that started in St Aug's this year are really going from strength to strength. Just a wee group of teenagers, only one of them belong to St Aug's, but in lots of ways they all belong to us now. Their arts and crafts programme is exceptional, they discuss really deep and meaningful stuff about being a young "teenie" in the modern world, and recently they tell me that they've made contact with a wee Faith Group similar to themselves in a church in England. "What church?", I asked. "Southwark Cathedral, are they any good, Kenny?"

"I don't know, I'll check them out", I reply.

They reach out to the needy and make up food parcels for the homeless, make poppies for the fallen, do giant posters on being grateful, and they bring them all into church and bring their mums with them.

Just now they are finishing off a giant montage of a butterfly made from bottle tops for the wall of the Community Hall. It reminds me of them. Little butterflies emerging from a cocoon, but twice as special!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Complimentary Nuts

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.

Provoking each other to love… eh?

Encouraging each other? Sounds good to me!

St Paul loved and worked with Barnabas the Son of Encouragement… cos even St Paul could see a vital thing in Barnabas and his ministry. – Encouragement!

Barnabas was a man who encouraged others.  And the church of Jesus Christ is intended to be a community that encourages one another that provokes one another to love and good works.

A guy goes into a bar. He’s sitting on the stool, enjoying his drink when he hears a voice say, “You look great!” 

He looks around there’s nobody near him. He hears the voice again, “No really, you look terrific.” 

The guy looks around again. Nobody. He hears a voice again, “Is that a new shirt or something? Because you look absolutely brilliant tonight!” 

He then realizes that the voice is coming from a bowl of nuts on the bar. 

The guy calls over the barman, “Hey Jimmy! What is it with the nuts?”

“Oh,” the barman answers, “They’re complimentary.”  

I know it’s a bad joke, but it can be really good for us to be around someone who is complimentary! Someone who encourages us and gives us praise? What does a wee bit of encouragement do for you? Doesn’t it make you more likely to smile and go on to encourage somebody else?

You know I always say that I preach to myself first… and I do…  and I admit that at times recently I have been far from encouraging, and that is wrong. One of the tasks of ministry is to encourage others, to provoke others to love.

Very often, in my own ministry, little words of encouragement have been enough to keep me going through the dark times .. sometimes just a wee comment from someone .. or sometimes a wee note or card or letter from someone has given me the encouragement I’ve needed to carry on going.

There was a time not too long ago that I was ready to walk away from here and from ministry, and a wee notelet from Anne Tomlinson, totally out of the blue, was enough to pick me up and keep going. She’s totally unaware of the effect that had on me. Maybe I will tell her one day.

I’ve often said from here how important it is to encourage each other as a congregation. A kind word goes a long way, and we need to be building each other up rather than tearing each other down. We need to be praising and counting the positives rather than trying to find fault with negatives.

There’s a lot to be positive about in St Aug’s. We have some wonderful people and do some wonderful stuff together, but often we need to hear a bit of praise from others. Often we need a kind word to keep us going.

Those of you who have been on a Cursillo weekend should know the power of a wee card or note to someone… so why don’t we do it with each other more often? Even a wee phone call to someone who is going through a hard time is enough! A phone ministry can be really effective. Sometimes we are really good at this stuff in St Aug’s, other times not so good, depending on who it is!

It’s all too easy to be negative about others, too easy to run another person down. But, as my granny used to say, “If you don’t have something nice to say to someone, or about someone, then keep your tongue to yourself”!

As a parish family, we need to remind each other of that fact from time to time. We need to build each other up, rather than tear each other down. It’s dead easy to be negative or sarcastic about someone else but let’s not go there.

We encourage each other, and we have words of praise for each other and words of kindness and encouragement. And that’s the way to do it!
And we need to be encouraging others out there in our daily lives … we, too, should be sons and daughters of encouragement in the world. There are a lot of people out there in need of a kind word. Because of unemployment or poverty, there are thousands beyond our doors suffering from dreadfully low self-esteem, and we have a ministry to them too!

Kindness is contagious and you never know what kind of effect an individual word or act of kindness will have on others. 

You never know where a simple act of kindness may lead. 

That is why the writer of Hebrews tells us to provoke or to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. . . encouraging one another . . .” 

A great Jewish rabbi named Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote, “When I was younger, I used to admire intelligent people. Now that I am older, I admire kind people.” Why do you think he said that? It is because he knows that kindness is contagious and kind people are truly building a better world. 

Of course, Jesus set the example of love and kindness for us. “We love because he first loved us,” says I John. 

The Kingdom of God is built brick by brick, and our little acts of love, our simple words of encouragement are little bricks of that Kingdom.

That is why we are to provoke one another to love and good works. So that someday the whole world will know Jesus and his love – and God’s Kingdom will be ushered in.

As I look around St Augustine's, I often think of you as something akin to a bowl of nuts..... but lets make sure that we are complimentary ones.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Partick Thistle Nil - Eh?

While I'm having a go at blogging today after an absence, can I just point out that Partick Thistle are top of the First Division in Scotland, playing excellent football, and cheering the heart of Jagophiles everywhere? There's only one team in Glasgow! I sit just to the left of the yellow barrier. Great view!

A Spiritual Parish? - preached today...

Many years ago, when Hitler's forces occupied Denmark, the order came that all Jews in Denmark were to identify themselves by wearing armbands with yellow stars of David. The Danes had seen the extermination of Jews in other countries and guessed that this was the first step in that process in their countries. The King did not defy the orders. He had every Jew wear the star and he himself wore the Star of David. He told his people that he expected every loyal Dane to do the same. The King said, "We are all Danes. One Danish person is the same as the next." He wore his yellow star when going into Copenhagen every day in order to encourage his people.

The King of Denmark identified with his people, even to the point of putting his own life on the line. It's a wonderful story with a powerful point. The only problem is it isn't true. It's an urban legend. It's been around for a long time and told thousands of times over. And now with the internet we are getting a lot of these legendary stories retold. It’s a shame! What an image for a king, identifying with his people.

Our image of royalty is very different, isn’t it? I have a great respect for Elizabeth our Queen, but she’s hardly one of us, is she? She hardly identifies with her people. She lives in palaces and castles, eats sumptuously at banquets, even though she may well be fed up with them and would prefer a bacon roll from time to time.
She has the best instant medical care that money can buy, she has much wealth, and will never know what it’s like to sign on, or visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureaux. She talks in a very posh accent, and has people on hand to cater for her every need. And good luck to her! I wouldn’t have her life for the world!

On the other hand, many of her subjects live in great poverty. We are being asked to set up a food bank in the town because some of our people do not have enough to feed themselves or their family. Unemployment and poverty is rife in our town. The NHS is wonderful, but there are still long waiting lists for those who cannot afford to go private.

Today we proclaim Christ as King, but his Kingship is obviously very different from the sort of image and example we have of royalty today. His Kingdom is very different, it is a spiritual Kingdom where love and care for the outcast is paramount. It is a Kingdom where the humble and meek are exalted, and the mighty are cast down.

So when we look after the lepers of our world, we take part in Kingdom stuff, the spiritual kingdom that is. When we welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, serve the downtrodden and the marginalised, we are doing Kingdom stuff, the spiritual Kingdom that is. And we DO this sort of ministry in St Augustine’s and in Drumchapel where I celebrated the Eucharist earlier today. In our ministries we get down to the stuff where our hands get dirty, and we become servants of God’s little folk.

Our hall is full every day of people who are being accepted and cared for and loved. Our doors are open for the distressed and needy, and we identify with them and walk beside them on their journey. We kiss lepers here, you know.

I have heard it said this week that we are not a spiritual parish. How much more spiritual do you want? We walk with the poor, the anxious, those with mental health problems and support women in prison and through their time of release. That is a very deep and meaningful way of working out a practical spirituality…. And it is underpinned by our prayer, here at the Sunday Eucharist and in our daily lives.

I know that people in this parish pray because I can see it in their eyes.

We follow the King of Kings and identify with His people as he showed us to, as he commanded us to do. Our King came to earth and identified totally with his people and we are asked to follow his example.

Some will pray in a more organised way than others, and sometimes will pray in groups. Some of us will study our faith in a deeper way than others, but we have a deep spirituality here which is rooted in the practical. It is the sort of spirituality which Mother Teresa showed the world, and although we might not be quite as good as her, we can see that it is the way of the Kingdom, the spiritual Kingdom which Jesus taught us about.

And it is deeply rooted in this Eucharistic celebration which goes on week by week, where in the ordinariness of bread and wine, Our Lord takes us blesses us and breaks us, then feeds us to strengthen that ministry and commitment. What is more spiritual than kneeling at this altar with your hands out to receive Jesus, to be fed, so that you are strengthened to go on into this week to carry on this work of the Spiritual Kingdom? It is deeply rooted in our Taize Services and our Remembrance Services where this place is lit up with candles lit for the dead who died as a result of addiction.

And we are a part of a different kind of Kingdom, with a different kind of king … a King whose glory shone from the cross with love in his eyes, as he loves us to the end.

That makes me want to fall down and worship and give thanks that indeed I am part of that spiritual Kingdom with every one of you here today.

Because if what we do here today, and every day, in our wee ministries is not spiritual, then I'm not sure what is!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Historic Day

Recently, archaeologists have found a part of Dumbarton Castle which was obviously used as a chapel, dedicated to St Patrick. Today, with the help and permission from Historic Scotland, the first Christian worship was held there probably since the 16th Century.

It was a grand half hour, with all Dumbarton churches being represented. Our Bishop, +Gregor was there, along with the new Archbishop of Glasgow, Phillip Tartaglia, and Revd Ian Miller representing the Presbytery, and all three took part along with local clergy.

We also had a Provost, an MP, and an MSP!

We should do this more often!