May 192011

We had a meeting today to go over the itinerary for the trip to Jerusalem in a couple of weeks. There’s a lot of stuff crammed in there, but all worth doing and we also have some excellent guides with us. So, what are we up to? Here it is:


Travel – and somewhat tedious it is too.
Depart Edinburgh 13.35, arrive Tel Aviv 2.30, Friday morning!!!!
Arrive St. Andrew’s hostel, 4.30/5.00am !!!!!!


After a whole 3 hours kip, it’s up and out and walking round the Old City, taking in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Lunch and siesta (or whatever the Israeli equivalent is).
Early and late evening, more Old City walking and the start of the Sabbath at the Wailing Wall.


Early start, heading for Hebron, Herodium and Bethlehem, including a visit to the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).
Sabbath worship in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.


Long lie – breakfast at 8.00.
Worship at St. Andrew’s, Jerusalem.
Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.
Thinking time.


Early start, heading to Masada, the Dead Sea, Qumran, Jericho.
Tiberias and a swimming pool!
Posh dinner.
Communion at St. Andrew’s, Galilee.


Early-ish breakfast.
Sail on Sea of Galilee with morning worship on the boat.
Mount of Beatitudes, Tabha.
Caesarea (not Philippi).
Head back to Jerusalem.


Haram (Dome of the Rock, Aqsa Mosque).
St. Anne’s / Pool of Bethesda.
Mt. Scopus, Mt of Olives.


‘Flexi-day’. Time to explore on our own or to revisit sites.


Outrageously early start to head home.

Apr 082011

Hebridean PrincessFor the last five years, every time there has been ‘holiday’ break, I’ve never really had the opportunity to take advantage of it. Quite apart from the lack of funds, it seemed that every Christmas and Easter break was spent either revising for exams or doing stuff for placements. It has been a long time since we’ve just had the luxury of saying, “Fancy going away for a few days?” In fact, so long that we had forgotten what to do with the opportunity.

However, I needed to take a break from work, it happened to be during the school holidays, and so we thought we’d go for it. Nothing fancy, just a few days away with nowhere we needed to be and nothing we needed to do. A few days of easy touring around the West Highlands fitted the bill perfectly. Except it didn’t quite pan out that way.

The original plan was for three of us to go away and then there was the sudden realisation that a concert had already been booked for a night right in the middle. Problem easily solved – just two of us will go and then all get together afterwards. That all went to plan and Inverness was the agreed (and already booked) rendezvous. But it also meant that the planned sight-seeing didn’t work out and to see everything we ended up retracing our steps, adding to the driving mileage, but ensuring everything got fitted in (I’m sure I said something earlier about not having specific commitments… hmmm!).

It did actually work out for the best. Our third day was a washout – seriously heavy rain. But, as we were mainly driving, it wasn’t too big a deal. The forecast for our last day was much better and so it turned out to be. So now we got to see all the things we couldn’t because of the rain. And they were worth waiting for – very spectacular scenery in the main. All-in-all I ended up doing 800 miles of driving, 350 on the last day alone. But it was great just getting away.

So, here’s where we ended up going:

Falkirk – Erbusaig (we stayed 2 nights in the Tingle Creek Hotel – very nice) – Skye (as ‘around’ it as possible, including a trip to Dunvegan Castle) – Plockton – Lochcarron – Applecross – Torridon – Kinlochewe – Inverness (overnight – then return journey) – Kinlochewe – Torridon – Applecross – Lochcarron – Kyle of Lochalsh – Armadale – (ferry) – Mallaig – Glenfinnan – Oban – Crianlarich – Callander – Falkirk

Photos are here.

Jun 172010

IMG_4031.JPGFrom the 10th to the 14th of June, I had the pleasure of spending time in Geneva with other candidates and some staff from New College. The trip was part of a rolling series of visits which include Rome and Jerusalem. I skipped the Rome trip last year as I was in Brussels. The trips are intended to be educational as well as fun and help set both the academic work and general Christian understanding in a broader world context.

Geneva, of course, was one of the wellsprings of the Protestant Reformation, famous largely, but not exclusively, as the place where Calvin taught and preached. But Geneva is also home to major world organisations: the UN, World Health Organisation, the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNHCR and many others. The group had the pleasure of visiting the World Council of Churches to get a flavour of the work they do and their vision for world Christianity.

We also took the chance to visit the cathedral, including the Sunday morning service, and we were able to worship with the Church of Scotland congregation in the Auditoire de Calvin which sits just to one side of the square occupied by the cathedral. Nikki and I also had the privilege of leading our evening devotions in the Auditoire on Friday evening. She’s written about it here and I still can’t quite get over how some silly ideas came together in the way they did. I’m still not convinced that Calvin would have entirely approved, but it was so very appropriate for the occasion.

Add to that some sight-seeing time, an excellent art gallery and some great company and it was an excellent long weekend. I’ll post some more reflections on specific parts of the trip in due course. My photo album from the trip can be found here.

Aug 242009

On my way back to the apartment tonight I was thinking about the good and bad of Brussels. Nothing major, just some of the little things that have caught my attention. Anyway, the good in no particular order:

  • Classical music in the underground stations at night
  • Getting around easily
  • Lots of green space
  • No such thing as architecture ‘in keeping’ with its neighbours
  • Leffe Blond (that’s a beer, in case you’re wondering)

And the bad:

  • Graffitti
  • Dog fouling
  • City prices
Aug 202009

Yesterday (Wednesday), I was visiting the university town of Leuven to grab some books from Peeter’s bookshop. I also took the opportunity to have a wander round the historic place and see some of the sights. It was, in many respects, not unlike many of the other historic towns or cities in Belgium and has the Grote Markt as its focal point. There was the usual Stadhuis and loads of cafes and bars. Continue reading »

Jul 302009

IMG_3188.JPGHaving got bored with Brussels (kidding!), we decided to take a daytrip  to Bruge (or Brugge, depending on your preferred language). Photo album here.

It’s a very busy touristy place but it is still a very beautiful old town. many of the buildings date back to the early 17th century. The photo on the left is the Belfort, the bell tower.

I’ve been to Bruges before. The company I used to work with were bidding for a contract with a company in Bruges. I spent some time in the town working on the bid and had a bit of a chance to see some of the sights. We didn’t get the contract, but it was nice to revisit the town.

To finish off the day, we had a very nice meal in La Taverne Brugeoise. The apple pie with flaming Calvados was most excellent.

IMG_3217.JPGHad a quieter day today with lust a little walk to a nearby park. Brussels has some very beautiful green spaces and some interesting architecture. I am no expert when it comes to architectural styles and it’s not something that really interests me, but I find the sheer diversity of buildings in Brussels quite fascinating. Anyway, some more pictures to view here.

Jul 192009

PlantainsWell, if I learn nothing else from this placement, I have learnt that I love red plantains. Can that fall into the category of self-understanding and self-awareness?

I was on a visit a few nights ago and was invited to stay for dinner (yeah, I know, visiting is tough here). One of the things on the menu was red plantain and it was absolutely delicious. So, I had a go at making the same thing myself this evening and, with all due modesty, it was most tasty. To be fair it can’t be simpler to make – thick slices of plantain, shallow fried until it’s dark golden in colour. Ends up slightly crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. They taste a bit like banana but not as sweet. They go well will something like a veggie rice or even risotto.

But there’s a little catch – red plantain isn’t red, it’s yellow. What’s red is the inner fleshy bit – well, sort of orangey – the skin is yellow. You also get green ones, but you boil them apparently.

So, never mind the theology, there are practical lessons to be learnt on placements too.

Jul 122009

Today, after the morning service, I stayed on to sit in on the afternoon service that takes place in the church hall. It’s a regular event, every Sunday, but it is most definitely not something I have ever experienced – a worship service by an African church (Ghanaian, specifically). Yes we (Caroline was with me) stuck out like a sore thumb, being the only white faces, but we were made welcome and everything was translated so we could follow (not sure it that’s the norm or if it was for our benefit). It was loud, cheery, somewhat chaotic, very scripture-led, with lots of prayer and lots of dancing and lots of ‘participation’. It wasn’t charismatic, but there were lots of hallelujahs and amens and when prayers were being led, basically everyone joined in with their own. The message was very good (an underlying current of liberation theology, if one wanted to be academic about it) and was delivered well and with passion.

We actually arrived part way into the opening Bible study. A passage had been read and was now being discussed (by the congregation). The topic in question was the ‘headship’ of a husband over his wife, modelled by Christ’s headship of the Church. ‘Reverend Andrew’ was spotted and invited to contribute to the discussion. It was obviously well received given the number of amens he was getting. Andrew then introduced me as a theology student and I was invited to speak. Now, it was clear from the earlier discussion that ‘complementarianism’ was the order of the day. But I’m more of an ‘egalitarian’, with a leaning towards using the gifts each is given with no privileging of either gender for specific tasks. Anyway, I fudged and my score of amens definitely didn’t match Andrew’s. It was, however, an interesting challenge to come up with something off the cuff.

The Bible study was followed by music (loud) and prayer (everyone joins in) then the Bible readings, then the sermon (delivered by a woman, despite the earlier discussion). So, in a sense, it wasn’t hugely different to any other service I might have been to, just that it had a very particular cultural slant. Oh yes – there was also the dancing down the aisle to drop your offering in the box. Then there was the time of testimony and singing happy birthday to a couple of Sunday school members (did you know there were 4 verses that could be sung to Happy Birthday?). Then more prayer and music (at which time we made our excuses and left). Apparently it’s not unusual for it to go on until after 6 (having started at around 2.30).

Definitely worth going to. I didn’t feel at all uncomfortable (we were, as I say, made very welcome). Not sure me ears could have held out for the full service though.