Dec 062010

Of the point behind my Masters thesis that is.

My mate Bryan at Greyfriars Parish Church, Lanark, has recently started streaming the Sunday morning services. No bad thing and on, Sunday’s snowy morning, an ideal opportunity for those unable to get to church to do more than just listen in, but to get to see what was going on. Undoubtedly, using video technology allows people to feel more part of something than simply listening to the audio.

Sunday had a slight twist to it – it was communion. A short flurry of discussion on Facebook certainly gave the impression that some who were tuned in from home shared in communion using what they had in the house. I somewhat cheekily wondered if epiclesis worked through cyberspace and that comment triggered a little bit of a (gentle) bashing.

But it’s a serious question (even though it makes something that ought to be simple, more complicated) and, in my opinion, impacts on our understanding of sacramental ministry. Bryan suggested that it was sufficient to rely on Jesus’ promise that where two or three are gathered in His name, He will be with them. Which begs the question, “Why do you need an ordained minister to pronounce an invocation, when it’s God who does all the work?” This was the core of my thesis – the Church of Scotland needs to get its brain round sacramental ministry if it is going to encourage more innovative forms of worship – and video-streaming services isn’t exactly at the extreme end of the innovation spectrum.

Someone else wondered whether it would therefore be possible to perform a baptism over the airways, so to speak. It’s exactly the same issue. Is there some sort of ‘essential presence’ that a minister, and only a minister, brings to these sacramental acts? Or is it simply a case of the practical consideration that it gets done ‘properly’, with no under-the-table jiggery-pokery?

The point I made in my thesis was that conversations around these issues really need to be happening right now, otherwise we end up with a free-for-all which will, ultimately, cause further argument within an organisations which could well do without further cause for dissension in the ranks. And these conversations need to be focused on what is happening in churches now and not just at some academic, ivory-tower, theological level.

Nov 192010

Last night I was at regular commenter Crabbit Besom’s ordination service. Apart from some slightly odd hymn-tune choices (nothing to do with CB), it was a great evening and one I was very pleased to attend.

I’ve been to only a few ordination and induction services and the last one (if I remember correctly) was a few years ago. This one was particularly notable because it was of someone who is more a ‘contemporary’ than the others. CB and I were at assessment conference together, but that was the one I didn’t get through and was obliged to go round the loop again.

But being at CB’s ordination last night was a reminder that it won’t be too long before I go through the same process. There was, in a sense, a ‘reality check’ to being at the ordination of someone not too far ahead in the timetable, as it were. It’s a little bit like heading up an escalator. SO long as there are plenty of people in front of you, then it’s a long way from needing to take that step on your own. When the people just in front of you are beginning to step off the escalator, then you realise it’s just a matter of a short time before you have to do so too.

What was encouraging though from last night was the warm welcome CB received and the sense of promised ongoing support. That makes the step off the escalator somewhat less daunting. More than that though is the greater sense that that support is not just from ‘bruckle pigs’ (you needed to be there) but from God. This milestone is, after all, the response to a call from God and that too was made clear last night.

So, every blessing to CB for the next exciting chapter.

Jan 192008

It’s been a pretty diverse week just past.

On Thursday I was at the ordination and induction of a friend. It was a lovely service, full of humour and joy tempered by the serious business of taking on responsibility for a parish. If taking on her first charge wasn’t enough, Louise also has to cope with it being a new linkage as well. That said, I’m sure she’ll do well. I remember meeting her just a few days after she had been called to the charge. Up until then I had always seen a ‘minister-in-training’ but on that day there was an air about her that said ‘minister’. It was more, I think, than simply being happy at being called to a charge. It was a real sense of ‘rightness’ and affirmation of God’s calling.

This morning (Saturday), I was at the funeral of a local minister who died very suddenly. That service too had joy and humour and not just a little seriousness as Geoff Smart was remembered, as husband, father and dearly-loved minister and friend to many. The church was packed out, a real tribute to the esteem in which he was held. I was there as part of Presbytery and I only really knew Geoff in passing. That said, he was the Presbytery person who ‘looked after’ ministry candidates and enquirers and I knew him in that regard. I found the service deeply moving and, like me, Geoff was a relative latecomer in his calling to the ministry. On hearing the tributes delivered today, one could do worse than look to his ministry as an inspiration.

I also had news that one of the church members in my district had died, so that’s a funeral visit I’ll need to do as soon as possible. Archie was a retired teacher and, whenever I visited, was always keen to hear how my studies were going and how my family were doing. His wife Pat is a lovely person and they were always a great joy to visit.

Archie spent his last days in Strathcarron Hospice and, I understand, had plenty of time to say his goodbyes. Not so Geoff, who died very suddenly. Both families will have to deal with deaths but with a very different set of circumstances. Both families have a faith and it is in that I pray they will find their comfort and strength.