Well, rather a lot has happened since my last post. I’d been meaning to slip in a few little updates since announcing my ordination and induction, but it always seemed I had so much to say and never quite enough time to sit down and order my thoughts into a coherent blog update. Now there is just so much to try and condense into a few thoughts it feels like a bit of a mammoth task, but one that I feel I ought to do to make note of the significant events of, well, the last few days at the very least.
Since I intimated the ordination and induction date almost a month ago, life has been a bit of a whirlwind of preparation and decisions. Stuff for the service, for the move, for the ‘job’ – it has often felt like the time passed in a complete blur. Some of it was frustrating – knowing that something had to be sorted but couldn’t be until something else fell into place. It also meant that there was a growing ‘intensity’ of activity as the ordination date loomed. But, one by one, pieces fell into place, things were decided upon and arrangements were finalised.
The culmination of those arrangements was the service on the 23rd of February. But one or two things happened before even that.
The manse wasn’t quite ready to move into. Not that there were any major problems, but the congregations wanted the place to be as good as it could be before we moved. Or rather, part-moved. The family will be living in two places until the end of the school year and we can then fully settle in Kirrie. But the place has now been repainted, some carpets will be replaced in the next few days and I have enough furniture arriving on Tuesday to have somewhere to sit, somewhere to sleep, and somewhere to work. That should be enough to be going on with and let me get on with getting to know the congregations and the parishes.
The other thing that happened just before the ordination and induction was a little odd, but shows the power of ‘connectivity’. There is, as yet, no manse phone line, and I hadn’t given out a mobile number as I wasn’t sure what I’d be doing in that regard. However, I got a message via Facebook asking me to get in touch with one of the local undertakers regarding a funeral in my patch. Contact was duly made and so I had my first funeral booked in the diary before I had even started. Just as well nobody stood up to object on the night.
And so, said night arrived.
There is just too much to process about it, and just too much emotional content, to do justice to it in a blog entry. The entire evening had that ‘wow’ factor. The service of ordination and induction was just great, and with some ‘interesting’ (and I’ll leave it at that) thoughts regarding family connections, shall we say. If you were there you’ll maybe get what I mean. It was very humbling to see so many friends who had travelled to be there for the occasion. If I didn’t get an opportunity to say hello and thank you personally, I do apologise, but do know that I appreciated the presence of everyone who was there. There were even a fair few folks I didn’t know were coming and it was a pleasure to meet some ‘virtual’ acquaintances in real life. I was also very surprised at the number of visitors who associated with presbytery. Can’t decide if it’s a bit ‘sad’, or really encouraging, that I know so many ‘clergy’-types, so well. But their presence was also very much appreciated. And what’s more, they all got dressed up for the occasion, even those who would normally run a mile from such ‘fripperies’. And I should mention at this point that I was made a very generous gift of robes from the congregations. There’s enough of the ‘traditionalist’ in me to enjoy being seen to be the minister. I know that the clothes are of no relevance, but to be, identifiably, the minister, is a way, I think, of keeping a sense of humility. It’s not so much about ‘grabbing the limelight’, but remembering that, whether we like it or not, we are ‘in the spotlight’.
The hospitality laid on for afterwards was simply excellent and, if that’s a sign of how guests are treated, then I better get to be considered a ‘local’ in short order or I’m going to end up the size of a house. The hall was ‘cosy’ with so many there, but I think everyone managed to squeeze in and get to all the goodies. Again, just meeting so many who had come along to be with me to celebrate the evening, was quite overwhelming, and I can’t express just how much it meant to me to have so many there from the congregations I trained in, and colleagues and friends I’ve met and made along the way.
The service was ‘wow 1’, you could say. ‘Wow 2’ was the social evening we went to on Friday night. Nothing to do with my arrival, but a fundraiser for a charity in Peru which has local connections. It was a Greek-themed food and quiz night. We were made to feel very welcome and had great fun. I have to say, our table won the quiz. Now, I’m not sure if it was the ‘honeymoon-period’ effect and we were allowed to win, but I put it down instead to our sheer brilliance – not that I contributed much in this regard, it has to be said.
And, maybe a bit controversially for some, it was also good to enjoy a glass or two of wine with the meal. And also to top off the evening blethering over a glass (or two) of Aberlour 10 year-old single malt.
However, regardless of the fun of the evening, it was an important time to begin meeting people and when that happens, it’s funny how the ‘it’s a small world’ effect begins to show. My grandfather, dead many years, used to be a cattle buyer and was a regular, and much-respected, visitor to the Forfar market. One of the first people I met on Friday was a retired auctioneer who knew him well. I then overheard a number of conversations that were of the “ah kent his grandfather” sort (and if you were at the ordination service, you’d maybe appreciate the irony of that). It seems to me that in such a community, those sorts of ‘bona fides’, in a sense, are very valuable. Now, I’m not suggesting that I can lean on my grandfather’s reputation, but I know such communities and people well enough to realise how important such connections can be. It also means, that in some regards, I am not a complete stranger. I have a connection, however tenuous, with the area, and that also helps to fit in and be accepted all the more readily.
Maybe it doesn’t seem like such a big deal in the church world where it often seems that everybody knows everybody else anyway, but when it extends into the community, then I think it is a very big deal. It’s also another of those ‘humility’ moments, when you realise that you do have a family ‘reputation’ to live up to.
This post has grown beyond what I intended, but I have to mention ‘wow 3’.
This morning was, of course, my first Sunday. Following an established tradition in the Church of Scotland, I invited a former colleague to preach me in. Lorna is an auxiliary minister who is currently attached to the church I was in for my probation placement. Ian, my former supevisor, gets the credit for turning out another successful probationer, but I also learnt a lot from Lorna. She’ll be embarrassed by me saying it, but Lorna is one of the most gracious, caring and supportive people I know and was a source of great encouragement to me during probation.
It seems a bit presumptuous to get someone to take your first Sunday service on your behalf, but Lorna assured me she counted it as a privilege. As it turned out, things weren’t quite to straightforward. Tannadice was hosting the Scouts and Brownies for their Thinking Day service and their renewal of their promises. There were colours to deal with, and a family service to conduct. All very different to the ‘normal’ service afterwards in Kirrie. Of course, Lorna took it all in her stride and we largely shared the first service, reverting to ‘type’ for the second.
All-in-all it was a great start to the Sunday services, and so encouraging to begin with a family service, with so many young people there. I don’t have any illusions over their regular attendance, but that it does show the opportunities available for work with those groups.
Anyway, all went well. The services were well received, and at least that part of my ministry has got off to a flying start – albeit with a high standard to maintain now.
Time now to settle into the ways of the parishes and build up relationships. I really can’t express (stuck for words once again) how excited I am about being there, with the two congregations in Kirriemuir: St. Andrew’s and Oathlaw Tannadice.