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!

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.

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.

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.

Feb 192010
 

I was having a chat the other day with Nikki about life, the universe and blogging. I had, in the back of my mind, Scott’s challenge to define my theology and I was throwing around the idea that I am a bit of a ‘bungee-theologian’. That doesn’t mean I keep changing my mind and bounce uncontrollably from one idea to another. Rather, it describes the constant theological tension I seem to have to live with. Just when I think I have something fairly sorted, I am reminded that its polar opposite can also be justified, so I have to attempt to accommodate that point of view as well.

However, even someone tied to bungee cords will find a point of equilibrium and that doesn’t seem to be true for me. Nikki threw a phrase into the pot which seemed to be a pretty accurate ‘label’ – Restless Theology. I rather liked that, so with due credit to Nikki for coming up with the name, I lay claim to it as a label for describing my own theology. I will post some restless thoughts in due course.

Dec 182009
 

This blog forms part of my ongoing journalling and reflection on my training process into ministry. I generally blog about particular theological issues I’m wrestling with and those discussions are open to all as I seek to understand different viewpoints. Sometimes the topic is about particualr situations or events that have been part of my placement. Whilst I try to keep descriptions suitably vague and avoid naming names or otherwise make people/places/events as anonymous as possible, there is the strong probability that someone associated with what I am writing will know exactly who and what I mean. And sometimes there’s a back history to things that I am unaware of and so inadvertently move the can opener closer to the can of worms. The blog entry “2 school services” has been put under ‘lock and key’ just now for this reason. I hope anyone reading will understand why I have to do this at times. Where I can extract a ‘discussion point’ from such an entry, I will attempt to do so.

Oct 012009
 

It occurred to me that I hadn’t blogged for a while and indeed the last one was over a week ago. But that last blog post contains the root of the lack of blogging – the usual step change in activity when a new semester starts.

I’m also conscious that, in previous years, my semester-time blogging is often dominated by whatever theologian is occupying my thoughts at the time. Usually this is simply a way of getting their ideas straight in my own head – the by-product being that I inflict my ramblings on the wider world (well, those who choose to read them anyway). So, in keeping with tradition, it looks like it’ll be Barth this semseter. And that’s where the catch-up comes in. We had approximately 40 pages ‘left over’ from last week’s class. That meant that we had 110 pages to do for this week. Amazingly I got through it (more or less – to within a few pages anyway) and feel as though I have actually ‘caught up’. The slightly bizarre aspect to this week’s reading though was the language. I could actually hear it being spoken! You can’t spend four years studying Divinity at New College and not be exposed to Barth and so as I read I could hear echoes of the words Barth uses from past lectures (and all delivered in an Irish accent).

The side-effect of having churned through so much reading is that I feel my brain is back in gear again (to a degree) and so future reading assignments don’t feel just so daunting. It’s also helped by starting to get the measure of the ‘Death’ course and realising that it’s not going to be onerous.

There has been catch-up in another sense as well. At the beginning of the week I got an email from Andrew, my supervisor in Brussels. He was popping over for a training course and we managed to get together for an hour or so as he passed through Edinburgh. As is often the case we ended speaking about people and realised that the old adage that “it’s a small world” is so very true. It also made me realise (upon reflection) that the links we make at university, on placement and just generally through the church, will stay with us and that that ‘small world’ can often be our source of support and encouragement. It provides the breadth of experience that we can bounce ideas off; it is a source of ‘corrective’ voices when we get too carried away with our own ideas and lose sight of the bigger picture; it is the community that provides the sense of being part of a bigger plan, a bigger ‘work’.

So, duty done – blogging caught up with – but, as always, in the ‘duties’, the opportunity to keep reflecting.

Sep 042009
 

Intrigued by the title, I followed a link in my WordPress dashboard to the article “How to write with a knife“. It is aimed primarily at bloggers but I couldn’t help but notice its applicability to sermon or reflection writing. I encourage you to read the article – in keeping with its teaching aims it’s short and to the point and will only take a minute of your time.

Now, to put it into practice.

May 272009
 

The minutes of Monday’s GA session are available online and the wording of the so-called ‘gagging clause’ read as follows:

Instruct all Courts, Councils and Committees of the Church not to issue press statements or otherwise talk to the media or to make decisions in relation to contentious matters of human sexuality, with respect to Ordination and Induction to the Ministry of the Church of Scotland, until 31 May 2011;

There were, of course, some get-out clauses for some projects and councils. It seems to me that this is aimed primarily at the official bodies of the Kirk and not at individuals. In other words, there cannot be an ‘official response’ to the discussion, but personal opinion should be allowed.

Update:

I just caught, on the webcast, a statement about the moratorium. It is, as yet, a draft but it states that individuals are also expected to comply with the spirit of the agreed motion.

So, whilst not a hard and fast ruling on individuals, there is an expectation that individuals won’t make statements to the press. It still leaves a bit of wriggle-room to allow public discussion.

Apr 222009
 

At the recent Candidates’ Conference, Ministries Council outlined their revised plans for the ongoing assessment part of the training. Candidates are now encouraged to continue journalling to record their thoughts on situations and challenges encountered during training. Many will continue using diaries and the like, and I will continue to blog my thoughts (nobody forces you to read them).

But, I decided to have a bit of a play so I set up a new website – Eutychus – for Candidates to start blogging on. It uses WordPress (because it’s excellent) in it’s multi-user (MU) guise. But it also adds some rather nifty social-networking facilities as well, along the lines of Facebook or Bebo.

I’d be interested in suggestions for improvements or ideas for other features. Or, if you’r interested in something like it for a group or organisation you’re part of, get in touch and I might be able to help.