Feb 242013
 

One year ago, last Thursday, I was ordained and inducted into my first charge.

One year ago today (Sunday), I had taken (actually, shared) my first service in that new charge.

I had also done a funeral visit, and was preparing to take it in just a few days time.

I’d sat in the car park on Kirriemuir Hill looking out over the stunning views of the glens and the southern reaches of the Cairngorms.

I’d been at a fundraising bash in one of the churches.

And we were about to head back down to Falkirk as we were still living in two places at that time.

It’s hard to believe that that was a year ago, and as I quickly survey my blog, you’d think little else had happened – well, very little has been written about anything. But there’s plenty that has happened during that time – it’s just not all been blog-able.

There have been small triumphs, huge-grin inducing moments, times of real challenge, the odd ‘dark’ moment when it all gets called into question. In that regard, it’s pretty much life as most people experience it – just in a very different context, and, quite possibly, with a variety not found in many occupations.

There is the strange position of being the one people look to for guidance, and yet thinking that those looking have probably more life and faith experience than I’ll ever have. There’s the challenge of finding the right words for people you know little or nothing about. (There’s also the challenge of getting to grips with names that are pronounced, and abbreviated, far beyond how they are written – no wonder I don’t know where anywhere is!)

But he truth is that that probably won’t change much in the next few, or many, years. There will always be a sense of inadequacy; of always wondering if that was the correct thing to say, or the correct way to say it.

There will still be the privileged moments when stories are shared and burdens eased. And there will still be the times when it all goes utterly wrong, and you realise it’s time to stop digging a deeper hole.

The blog has been somewhat neglected because much of my reflection on what’s happened is around situations which are much too identifiable. In some senses it’s now about others, and not about me. Up until this point it’s been about my journey to ministry, my steps into a charge, my grappling with new and challenging ideas.

This last year has been about others – getting to know them, understand their context, their dreams, their anxieties. It’s been about finding my place in their life, and in their community. Unless you’re born in Kirrie you’ll always be an outsider – you’ll be welcomed, but that’s your status nevertheless. As a minister, I’m very much aware of being even more of an outsider, and, in some sense, the ‘passing trade’. I could be here for 5 years (minimum sentence) or 25 years (theoretical maximum). That sense of impermanence both underpins and undermines what I do. I would like to effect change, but it needs to be sustainable beyond the potential of my moving on. There are long-term plans I’d also want to implement, but wonder if they’re just my passing interest.

Either way, being ‘trapped in the headlights’ is not an option and movement is necessary. Quite where that will be is not so much anybody’s guess – I still have plans and ideas – but it will, largely, depend on the enthusiasm and inclination of others.

Now that really is deserving of a blog entry, but it’s definitely getting a bit too identifiable.

Maybe next year.

Mar 122012
 

Well, that’s just over two weeks in ‘the job’. Three Sundays, albeit one where I was preached in, two funerals, initial contacts with one of the primary schools, time with local colleagues, and lots of unpacking and manse-readying. Oh, and a rapidly filling-up diary.

If I was being totally honest, I would have to say that it still feels very much like the honeymoon period is in its early days. I’m probably getting off very lightly at the moment, but that’s fine. It’s time being used to settle in. And attempt to tune my ear to the local accent. I suspect people are just being very polite and speaking ‘properly’ around me, because when I hear the locals speaking together I wonder if it’s a different language. Mind you, Kirriemuir itself seems to attract a lot of ‘incomers’. It is, without a doubt, a beautiful part of the country and is eminently commutable to Dundee, Perth, and even places like Aberdeen if you don’t mind a longer drive. It’s well-served with amenities and not too far from places like Forfar if you need a bigger supermarket. You can hit the huge retail park on the north edge of Dundee in under half an hour. A drive through Edinburgh or Glasgow to somewhere similar is probably shorter mileage, but possibly longer in time.

So living here in Kirrie is not a great hardship. Mind you, I’m writing this in Falkirk as I’ve popped back down to load up the car with more bits and pieces.

Settling in comfortably to a new living place certainly makes it easier to settle in to the main reason I’m here at all – ministry. Like I say, I haven’t been overly-burdened so far (maybe I shouldn’t admit that publicly) and that has given me an opportunity to reflect on what I have been doing.

Two ‘proper’ Sundays is not enough to evaluate how things are going generally, but they have still provided enough of a challenge to think about things.

Yet again, sussing out the hymn repertoire of two new congregations is fun. That said, they’re both very good at giving it a go. You know it’s a new one to them by the near silence on the first verse; but there’s certainly a lot more volume by the last. Prayers have been appreciated and commented upon. The children are great to work with, but present some interesting challenges too. we’re both ‘unknown’ to each other and it’ll take a little while to build up a rapport.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the time constraint between the two services. It means sermons are shorter than I would usually do – well, if I want to fit in the same number of hymns, etc. That’s a good discipline to say things more succinctly and perhaps get to the point more quickly. I’m still very guilty of trying to squeeze too much in and will also need to ‘tone down’ the ‘level’. That’s not any criticism of the congregations, but of me. My ‘fallback’ position when I’m not so sure of what to say, is to make it too academic. It’s where I’m most comfortable and is perhaps a way of not wanting to make things sound too basic. Once I get to know folks better then I’m sure the right level will be found.

Actually, on a related note – I was asked if I might consider re-introducing the mid-week Bible study group. That’s certainly something I’d want to do, and might even, depending on who’s up for it, convene in more comfortable and convivial surroundings. That’s maybe one step too far at the moment, but you never know.

And the relatively quiet start has also allowed me to think ahead a little bit. Not that I’ve spent any time preparing anything, but just beginning to get my head round some of the medium-term issues which need addressing.

So, all-in-all, definitely settling in. And very much looking forward to what’s ahead.

Feb 262012
 

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.

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Jan 162012
 

At least I’m beginning to know what to think. After the ‘confusion‘ of last week, I am pleased to report that that has now given way to a mixture of excitement and trepidation – and there’s no confusion; that’s exactly how I feel.

Sunday was the ‘big day’, preaching as sole nominee at Kirriemuir: St. Andrew’s l/w Oathlaw Tannadice (must program a shorcut key to type that lot) [oh, and I’d link to the website but it seems to have exceeded some quota or other and isn’t working – an opportunity to move it to some more reliable, free hosting {me, in other words} I think]. Did it all go smoothly? No! I had a few glitches, of my own making. Managed to skip a hymn, but that helped claw back some time since I’d gone on a bit long, and so we finished on time after all. Struggled a bit to connect with the kids on the second service. Forgot to take water to the pulpit so had a bit of a dry throat at one point. And various other little hiccups that probably weren’t really noticed, or if they were, people were too polite to say so.

But, in the end, none of that mattered. The votes were counted and a unanimous decision was returned. We heard the enthusiastic applause as the result was announced and received the same when we went out to say hello officially. I can say that I was utterly overwhelmed. The warmth of the welcome and the enthusiasm was obvious and I still couldn’t quite believe that they had accepted me.

The rest of the day passed in a bit of a blur. We had lunch with some folks from the churches and had a good look round the manse. I think my brain had shut down by that point and I was running on autopilot. By the time we got home I was absolutely shattered and felt totally drained.

It’s really only today that it has started to sink in that it’s time for a change. As messages and calls of congratulation hit the pone, txt, email and Facebook, the sense of joy and excitement gradually started to make its way into my own head and I’ve been going around in a mild state of euphoria for most of the day. There’s still a slight sense of unreality about it all. The whole process must be the most bizarre way of getting a job anywhere. There’s always one more ‘thing’ to happen it seems. For me now that is settling on a date for ordination and induction. That’s likely to be the 23rd of February, but the date’s not fixed yet. That’s far enough away to give me time to prepare, but scarily close to realise that real life, and real ministry, kicks in very soon. That’s the trepidation part.

But, for now, I can enjoy the setting aside of confusion and think about what an exciting next phase of life and ministry is about to begin.

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.