Sep 202013
 

This is just a short post to re-establish my blogging habit.

I had intended starting to blog again a while ago but struggled to work out what to write about, and what direction to take this blog. I’ve previously used it to reflect on ministry, but that’s perhaps a bit too close to home now that I have responsibility for two congregations and two parishes. There’s only so much you can say without it getting very personal, very quickly.

However, I was cycling with a friend recently and I was saying that the one thing I really miss from my period of supervision is the opportunity to chew the fat on theological issues. I’m a (not so) closet academic. Not that I’d ever want to teach/lecture, but in the sense that I enjoy exploring theology in a more academic, almost detached manner. Coming back to parish work always keeps that well-grounded though, but it’s too easy to get caught up in just ‘doing’ and not take a step back to ask ‘why?’ every now and again.

Student placement and probation reports encouraged us to think theologically in our reflections on ministry. But I want to do more than just that. We don’t stop learning, and theology, albeit that it flows like treacle at times, also doesn’t stand still. I want to get my brain working again  and discuss the ‘angels on pinheads’ stuff as well as the genuinely challenging theological issues.

Given that it’s not going to be done on a Sunday morning in a sermon, or at a Bible study group, I need to find other outlets. Online discussions are useful, but, ultimately, get messy and unfulfilling. Nevertheless, blogging is a useful outlet for brain-dumping, and sorting through thoughts and ideas, so this is a re-start to blogging again.

As always, the primary purpose is for my own benefit, sorting through thoughts and ideas. But if I can be presumptuous enough to expect some people to read what I’m writing, then you are welcome to contribute your thoughts.

So, write then!

Jan 012012
 

I’m not given to writing retrospectives, so this isn’t a look back on last year (which was, to be fair, eventful enough). Rather, this marks the start of a year (and more) of very new things indeed.

I’ve also been a bit reluctant to blog about the most recent developments in my application process. The last time I blogged it was to note that things were progressing. Well, they have now progressed to the point where I shall be preaching as sole nominee on the 15th of January at Kirriemuir: St. Andrew’s linked with Oathlaw Tannadice. The main reason I’ve been reluctant to blog about it is that I don’t really want to settle into a sense of complacency about it, or to give any sense of it being a foregone conclusion. It felt that writing about it would be, in a bizarre sense, a betrayal of trust. However, it’s now public knowledge that I will be preaching as sole nominee and so, admitting it here isn’t a big deal. That said, I still don’t want to feel complacent about it, despite the reassuring noises from all and sundry.

As that date races into view though, and as phone calls and emails start coming in to make tentative arrangements for an ordination and induction, the reality of major upheaval in the near future is beginning to dawn on me. There’s the logistics of moving – but having to keep the current house going so that school can be finished. There’s also the daunting prospect of settling into a first charge – getting to know people, avoiding upsetting familiar routines (initially anyway), planning, doing, rushing around mad wondering why on earth I ever thought this was a good idea.

There’s a bit of me that wants to hold back and hide behind the idea that ‘it’s not settled yet!’ After all, I still have to be voted for by the two congregations. and yet, when I get a church calendar in the post, with the encouraging message that it’s for my new study, then it all seems a little less daunting (if still somewhat presumptuous) and I can let a bit of the excitement sneak through. And I am excited. I’ve met some of the people and, I think, made a good connection – one which I’m keen to develop. The area is beautiful. The churches are keen to develop. There’s some great work being done as part of a wider area ministry. School chaplaincy work. And the list goes on. All exciting and appealing.

In may ways it’s not what I had initially been looking for, but any so many more ways, it’s more than I’d considered. And perhaps the biggest clincher is that it has been received very positively by everyone in the family. That’s always been a big part in my discernment of the ‘you’ll just know’ advice that has come from many quarters. And that’s exciting too, because it is vindication of lots of advice and direction and prayerful consideration.

So, a new year; soon a new start. But, first things first – I still need to decide what to preach on on the 15th.

Oct 172011
 

The primary purpose of this blog was to act as a vehicle for my reflections as I went through the ministry training and formation process with the Church of Scotland. It has acted as a place to journal my thoughts on issues and situations and to be a place to raise questions over what I’ve studied and experienced.

In a sense that purpose is coming to an end – although reflecting and questioning will continue. It will be in a different context though and I’m beginning to wonder how to reshape the blog to better reflect that. As I see it, I could use the blog as a continuing reflection of my greater immersion into full-time ministry; or I could use it to reflect on wider issues of faith and culture. I’ve never really used the blog for the latter. Other people cover that more regularly, more effectively and more sensitively that I think I would.

I flatter myself to think that my often rambling thoughts have proven to be useful to those also going through ‘ministry formation’ in whatever shape or form that may take. I suspect that many of the issues I have reflected upon are shared by others. I don’t flatter myself that I have the answers to these issues, only that I have grappled with them in my own way and come to some sort of understanding which sits with some integrity of faith and life. Continuing to reflect on a journey further into ministry possibly smacks a little of pride; that what I have to say may be useful. And yet, I really only ever write for my own benefit/pleasure. The simple fact of making it public though does give a bit of a lie to that thought.

And then there is the problem of what to do with the current blog. Do I draw a line under it and move it to an archive, beginning afresh? Or is a continued reflection on ministry a natural continuation of what I have been doing anyway? If nothing else, I may mark the occasion with a theme change and a tidy up of the various links that lurk around (if yours disappears then it’s nothing personal, just part of the spring-cleaning and different focus). After all, it’s been a while since I’ve actually made any changes to the site itself.

All of this assumes, of course, that I will even have the time to blog, but I have learned the value of the activity over the last few years and I would be keen to continue. Anyway, change may be coming, but there are a few more reflections to go on actually getting a ministry to write about.

Jun 122011
 

In case you’re wondering, the recent Israel trip didn’t stop at day 3. It simply transpired that processing everything we had seen and then putting together a condensed version of it for a blog post was just a little too ambitious to do on a daily basis. However, I do hope to get some more thoughts up soon.

In the meantime, I have uploaded most of the photos I took. I still have to stitch together a number of panorama shots, but the main ones are there. You can check out the latest albums from the Photo Albums link above or go directly to the albums if you want access to higher resolution photos.

Just as an intimation of what’s still to be blogged, the rest of the days were:

  • Day 4 – Yad VaShem – Holocaust memorial
  • Day 5 – Masada, Qumran, Dead Sea, Tiberias
  • Day 6 – Around Galilee, Caesarea
  • Day 7 – Haram Ash-Sharif (Dome of the Rock, Aqsa Mosque, etc), Mount of Olives
  • Day 8 – Jaffa, Tabeetha School
May 102011
 

I’m wondering what has happened to the month that has passed since I last posted anything. Once again, it’s not a case of nothing happening; more just a case of lots of little things which eat away at the time and are, in and of themselves, not really worth a blog post. But I suppose that’s a reminder of just how quickly time slips away when there’s constant activity. And that’s a reminder in itself that things come around all too soon and before you know it it’s a bit of a panic to get everything sorted that needs done.

I was speaking with someone recently who was asking what I was up to in the next wee while. By the time I’d rhymed off what was definitely in the diary I realised that a chunk of May had been accounted for, June was a complete goner and July signalled the time for my final report in anticipation of the review in mid-August.

Time, it seems, is not willing to stand still to allow me take stock for a bit. And when I do snatch a moment, I keep thinking in terms of, “But I’ve still to do…” or “I’ve never done…” And, of course, there are all the things that I’m blissfully unaware of that will hit me from out of the blue. But when I snatch a moment and look back at all that I have done, I realise that there has been a lot packed in to what seems a ridiculously short time. And it will soon be time to start dredging it all up and putting it together for a report.

It also came as a shock that I had passed that halfway point and the second half of probation looked an awful lot shorter than the first half. I’m really not convinced that time is constant at all. I think there is some bizarre warp effect that comes into effect the moment you take your eye off the clock to do something. Or maybe time is just downright sneaky.

Anyway – a couple of tangents.

I’ve been reading Eugene Peterson’s,  The Contemplative Pastor and have decided that it should be required reading for all ministers. More to the point, it should be mandatory reading for all vacancy committees.

I’ve also been getting agitated reading recent postings and comments on many of the US-based theology blogs I subscribe to. The issue, of course, is bin Laden. I can’t decide whether to be irritated or saddened by much of the rhetoric that passes for ‘Christian justice’. The, generally, triumphalist attitude is really quite sickening and when respected UK voices are pilloried for daring to question the tone and the actions then I do begin to realise just how vastly different US and European culture actually is. I don’t particularly want to unsubscribe from some of the blogs, because it’s mainly commenters I take issue with, but I see very little response from the bloggers to gainsay them. I’m generally quite happy to read stuff I disagree with, but this recent activity has just left a particularly sour taste.

Aug 232010
 

On Sunday, part of my sermon had a go at unethical business practices and how we, as consumers, and as Christians, had a part to play in making ethical choices in our consumption. Well, here’s my opportunity to speak out against downright dishonest and misleading business practice.

Continue reading »

Jul 192010
 

It’s been almost a month since I last blogged anything (and then, only briefly). I’m not on placement at the moment, so there are fewer things to reflect on in that regard; I took a break from the academic work to catch up on some house maintenance that has been sadly neglected over the last few years; I’ve been on holiday with the family (photos can be found here); I’ve even found the time to read some non-theological books.

I suppose I could have blogged on some of these things, but then I didn’t really feel any great urge to do so – a bit of a break from blogging as well, I guess. Stewart has been covering the issue of resting and priorities with recent posts on ‘always available‘ and ‘busyness‘ – a useful reminder that we need, and benefit from, taking time out from our routine and the demands that are placed upon us. It’s also not been an issue of having nothing to have a rant about (OK, I admit it, I love a good rant) – there have been numerous things which have got me grumping (mostly associated with misrepresenting the Church of Scotland, misunderstanding the Reformation(s), and generally being utterly contradictory (that’ll be church services then). But again, I haven’t felt the need to rush off and blog about it (well, I was tempted, but really couldn’t pluck up the enthusiasm).

But perhaps the main purpose and benefit from this blogging/academic/placement interlude has been to clear the decks somewhat in anticipation of a panicked and pressured dissertation-writing drive. I’ve put off the writing for as long as could get away with as ideas and thoughts and readings all bubbled around in my head. But now it’s time to get that lot down on paper and see where it all ends up. So, chances are, this is not really an end to the blogging interlude, but it’s certainly an end to the timeout from academic obligations.