Mar 252012

I still can’t quite decide which direction to take my blogging thoughts. But as this blog has been about thoughts and reflections on the challenges, events, and learning ‘moments’ of getting to this place, I suppose it makes sense to continue in similar vein. After all, getting to ‘this place’ was never an end in itself, but merely the place where the next part of the path opened up before me.

Anyway, here are some initial, somewhat random, thoughts on the first few weeks.

Perhaps the dominant thought at the moment is that I wish I had paid a bit more attention to certain things during placements or conferences. Not so much that I have come across things that are unexpected.It’s just that you hit that point of having to do them yourself and suddenly detail matters. You can remember in vague terms, or even in fairly clear terms, what a particular activity entailed. But what about the detail? What about the nitty-gritty of procedure? And does it actually matter here, or is it just a reflection of past practice? This is, in no way, a reflection on my supervisors or on the training, but simply a matter-of-fact note on my ability (or lack of) to retain ‘detail’ information.

Another passing thought concerns making things up on the hoof, as it were. I don’t mean inventing stuff, but I mean working out how and why you might want to do a particular thing. For example, I’ve now had two wedding arrangements to sort through and I’ve never given much thought previously to what I would like done, the specific words to use, or the precise order of things. But as I was going through options with folks, I realised that I would prefer a certain order to things because it makes more liturgical sense to me to do things in a particular order, or use particular words, or perform particular actions. And, of course, how do you respond to the request that begins, “We were thinking we’d quite like to…”? Because you can be pretty sure that it’s not something you’d thought of, and it will almost certainly push against that notional boundary you have. And it’s the, “we’d quite like…” that means that an awful lot of pre-planning can only take you so far. Unless, of course, you’re the sort of person who will dictate how it will be done. But that’s not me. Theology is much more fun than that.

I would dearly love to have a foolproof method of remembering names, and the faces they are attached to.

Bizarrely, I still actually enjoy doing funerals. There is no better sense of satisfaction than the one you get when someone says, “You summed them up just spot on.” It means I’ve listened and cared enough to get it right. And my hope, and prayer, is that they’ve sensed that ‘the church’ cares enough to want to do that.

Balancing the ‘squeeze it all in’ and ‘save it for another time’ in sermon-writing is still a challenge. Especially at the start when I’d like people to get a grasp of where I’m coming from. But settling in to the necessary time constraints of preaching in two places on a Sunday morning is a work in progress, and one where, I think progress is being made. Having only 50-55 minutes or so to squeeze a service into (if I want to spend any time with people afterwards) really focuses the mind.

I really ought to plan ahead a bit more. Diary events seem to hit the radar sooner than anticipated. I guess that’s just a matter of getting into routines and knowing what the ‘shape’ of any given period actually is.

Mark out time in the diary for family and leisure. We were told this so many times in conferences and by supervisors, yet it’s often the first thing that slips. Reminder to self – don’t let it!

That’s probably enough to be going on with. As always there are things that are not really appropriate to comment upon; at least not while they are still fresh. And there are plenty of things that have cropped up, been dealt with, and have passed by with barely a chance to register because the next thing has come in.


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.