Friday, 16 October 2015


I had a day yesterday which involved me with two lone parents, whose benefits had been sanctioned, and I was able to help them and feed their children at least. That was all they asked of me.

I ended up, last night, feeling very frustrated by this, and posted something on Facebook, pleading with The Church to at least be the voice of children in poverty. Who cares, really, when there are cuddly cats and dogs to be "liked", and the enormous amount of attention seeking, and massive amounts of low self-esteem to be pandered to.

I got a helpful reply from a priest in Brechin Diocese who is doing her bit, and I know that many individual churches are trying their best to feed the children of the poorest and most marginalised in our communities.

In St Mungo's there is an independent Foodbank operating every Tuesday, although The Rectory is open 24/7 for emergencies. In St Augustine's there is an amazing Food for Thought project that runs 24/7 which not only feeds, but follows up with practical care and support for individuals. New tenancies? No problem. Once we help families to become independent, they often come back to volunteer.

My gripe is with Bishops in the House of Lords and others, even in Scotland who are not prepared to make a stand against the reality that the folk on the margins are having to deal with. Let the voice of the poor be heard. Put it on the front page of newspapers.

Meanwhile, wee parishes, like mine, try to do our best. However something has to change.

If the Church can get real, and stop worrying about who goes to bed with whom and what they do in it, it would be a step forward. Those with power and money can debate the intricacies at their leisure. 

Meanwhile, a generation of children need to be fed and looked after.

I can honestly say that I am ashamed to live in a country where this is happening. 

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Sermon on Trinity 14 2015

Sermon                     St Aug’s                          6th Sept 2015

I suppose that the whole thing that kicked it all off was one picture, the photo of three-year-old Aylan, or Alan, washed up on a beach in Turkey after drowning, with his brother and mother in the Mediterranean. Some having been talking about this for months!
Suddenly, the world has wakened up to the fact that we have a massive refugee crisis, as big, if not bigger than that at the end of World War 11.

You will note that I use the word “refugee”, and not migrant or scum or freeloader or swarm, but refugee, in the same way as Joseph, Mary and the Baby Jesus were when they fled to Egypt from King Herod.
I have come across a number of things written this week, some of which has angered me, some of which has caused me to shed tears, but one poem, written by a Somali refugee, a young woman, moved me to tears. Syrians don’t have time to write poetry at the moment, and I decided to use this instead today and share it with you.

"Home" Somali poet Warsan Shire
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbours running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won't let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it's not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn't be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i've become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.

To give balance, a “friend” of mine and some of you know who, wrote this in social media:

I think that all of us ex-servicemen should collect our little pensions together and buy up the old HMS Hermes. Put our families aboard and sail her over to Syria, where there is a hell of a lot more room and no immigrants to bother us. Use that land to build a new England because it seems that this so-called government wants to give all our hard-earned money and health organisation away to everyone except our own people. Want to join me?

I felt tempted to offer him his fare.

Firstly, it’s not an “either or”. The poor and marginalised already in this great country of ours need to be looked after and austerity is not working and is making them poorer by the day.
Then we come to the stranger, the refugee!
The Old Testament is full of the importance of welcoming the stranger. The Hebrew Bible remembers well the exodus of a whole nation fleeing Egypt on a journey to a Promised Land. The Lord told the people of Israel that they were never to forget that they were once in the same predicament. Read again the first reading today from Proverbs. It talks of sharing our bread with the poor, and the stranger at the gate.
In the Epistle today, James has some straight talking.. about loving your neighbour and tending to their needs. We need to print that out and put it on our noticeboard!
The Gospels are full of the same sort of material. We know all about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and all the rest, because Matthew 25 tells us to. What would Jesus do? What would Jesus say? What is Jesus saying? The Syrophonician woman today, treated as scum, is granted the crumbs from the table, and more than crumbs! The disciples in Acts sold their possessions to have a common fund to help the poor and share with those in need.
And yet in today’s papers (Telegraph) I caught a glimpse of governments intention to take 15.000, and start bombing Syria in four weeks time. Not in my name!!
There is only one Christian response to this refugee crisis, and that is to take as many as possible. Anyone who thinks differently should go back home and read their Bible.
Before the General Election, our Prime Minister told us that we were a Christian nation. I wondered.

However, if we do not meet our obligations, and refuse to take our fair share of human beings, yes, human beings, then I’m afraid that we can no longer pretend to be a Christian country, but one of greed and self-interest.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Service of Remembrance

I am sitting here, 24 hours after our Service of Remembrance for the 600+ children who were slain one year ago during what has become known as the 51 Day War. Innocents, all of them. The Service was not pro Hammas or anti Israeli. It was the remembrance of little children, now very dead as a result of that onslaught.

The adrenalin has gone, the service went seamlessly, and it had the desired effect. Actually, tonight I can reflect on the children. Tears are springing from my eyes.

Church politics and Parish politics matter not one jot. It is the children who are in my mind. The children who died and the children who throw stones at Israeli tanks today, for that is all they have. No proper homes, but just rubble, twelve months on. And memories. Memories that no child should have. I pray for them and for peace and justice.

My thoughts wander to our own children, whose parents have had their benefits sanctioned, or who are children of low income "hardworking" families. Their parents come to us because they want food for their children. Not for themselves. They get it, and all the support we can give. This is called ministry. St Augustine's in Dumbarton is a very special place.

The Jesus who weeps is among us, but sends his Holy Spirit to help us laugh, and rejoice in our little victories.

I return to the children. The ones who died and the survivors, in both Palestine and Scotland. I pray that they can lay aside bitterness and create a world which is better than the on we have left them with.

I weep tonight for the children of Palestine and the little ones of Scotland whose bellies are empty.

Monday, 3 August 2015

It's the Cough that will Carry me Off

One of the benefits to smokers like me during the summer, when travelling to a country in the EU, is cheap cigarettes! Yes, I always bring a bundle home with me at less than four euros a packet. I suppose it makes up for being a social leper for the rest of the year, and being spoken to like scum by some rather unpleasant people who for whatever reason cannot stand the smell of cigarette smoke even outside in the rain!

However, the swollen supply of my drug of choice can tempt me to smoke a little more than usual, and within weeks, I'm back to smoking packets costing upwards of £10 for twenty! Eek! How many of our customers at our Food for Thought Programme would be appreciative of that? This is not to mention general poverty in Africa,starving babies, hospitals in Gaza, and all the other things my spare cash could be going to.

I've just had a month of smoking cut-price cigarettes, and I've been amazed at the difference it has made to the amount of cash in my pocket. It all disappears eventually, but at least it's not all in the Chancellor's pocket! I wouldn't trust Mr Osbourne to do anything constructive with my pennies, whether politically or as an  individual.

As the supply runs out, the question arises again. Is it not time you beat this habit, Kenny? Is it not time to call it a day? I've tried all sorts of things in the past, including the e-cigarettes that are rather fashionable at the moment, but nothing has worked before.

My own take on that is that, deep down, I don't really want to give up. However, I think I'm coming to a point where, financially, it really has to go. (I've enjoyed having extra cash in my pocket last month). Health wise, the doc says I'm fine, and I'm really under no pressure from anyone in my personal life to quit, but I'm coming to the point where I might just want to chuck it for my own sake.

I know, from my experiences in addiction that nobody will give up their drug of choice unless they are personally committed to doing it for themselves. Maybe there's hope for me yet?

Thursday, 30 July 2015

They are Coming For You Next........

Our Food for Thought Programme volunteers at St Augustine's, Dumbarton went into fits of laughter after reading one of the stories carried today in The National. It was either laughter or tears of frustration. We chose to laugh!

The story is basically about our Government, and Ian Duncan Smith in particular, looking for new targets in an effort to lower the cost of our benefits system. It seems that those struggling with alcohol and drug problems as well as others who are obese face having their benefits stopped under draconian new welfare plans being considered by Iain Duncan Smith.

Part of our work is giving food to the hungry, those who have been sanctioned, and others who are not entitled to a penny from the Government. (Yes, there are people living in our community who get absolutely nothing). We now face the problem of obese people coming to our Foodshare looking for food because their benefits have been stopped! 

How will we respond to this? One way is to size them up and judge them with the unspoken thought, "Aye, well you could do with losing a few pounds right enough", or we can treat them in the same way as anyone else is referred, and that is, "How would Jesus respond?"

Is this a valid way of addressing the health or addiction issues of a minority of people on benefits? People need to be supported back into the workforce, and not supported by the welfare non-system into poverty.

As my Associate Priest often says, "You gotta laugh", but today I've stopped laughing. We are now going after the obese! Who will be next? (Remember you are only allowed two children these days).

I'm predicting it's going to be pensioners. I may be wrong, but we may soon come to the point that those of a certain age will be means tested before receiving the State Pension they have paid for, supposedly, all through their working life. I only hope I'm wrong, but, hey, who would have thought that the obese would be a target group?

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

New Partick Thistle Mascot - Kingsley!

As Time goes By

I've just noticed that it's been almost twelve months since I blogged anything. Not that I blog much of significance anyway, but with a new football season coming up, and my growing anger on poverty issues in the UK at the moment, now may be a good time to start again.

I guess I was seduced away by Facebook, as have so many, and now the only real Bloggers that remain are darned good ones who tend to specialise on one subject or another! On the contrary, I'm all over the place. Always have been!

One of the reasons I'm back today, I guess, is that there have been hints of my lack of communication. I run two websites, am constantly on Facebook, sometimes use Twitter, and publish weekly pew sheets for two congregations and a colourful, newsy Parish Magazine. I actually thought that I was communicating quite well. Perhaps not, however, when I look at large chunks of the folk I really want to communicate with.

I read an excellent piece about a fortnight ago, titled, "An iPhone Priest in a Typewriter Congregation". It certainly brought me up short, for very few in my congregations use Facebook, Twitter or look at websites, however important these things may be in modern communication and basic IT.

Pew sheets are easily discarded without being properly read, and folk skim through magazines and miss a lot. That's modern world trends, where we don't sit down to read properly.

This leaves the spoken word, and that doesn't reach many. Through Chinese Whispers, that, too, can be distorted. In saying that, texts and Facebook posts along with Tweets can always be perceived in a different manner in which you wrote them, and a smiley face doesn't stop anyone believing your 'joke' was anything other than a barbed comment!

We live in difficult days, yet in days when communication can be instant and information at our fingertips. Some of my typewriter friends long for the day when an angry letter could be written in the evening, but in the morning, we decide it's not really something we should put in the hands of a postman!