Sunday, 20 June 2010

Hidden not too far below the surface...

The stories hidden behind the apparently normal appearance of things...

Church life is a powerful mix of liturgical gathering, and relationship building and support between times! The gathered members worship together, and bring all that makes them unique to the table (quite literally in a sacramentally focused church like ours!)

A first glance and meeting with anyone looks straightforward enough - but the privilege of actually getting to know people, what God is doing in their lives, and their own personal history - that is so much part of priesthood in a congregation.

The photograph above captures some of the sense of this. I had seen it quite a few times in passing in our (very few) weeks here in Dunoon. The angel is a grave monument, tucked away by one of the large lime trees between the Rectory and the church. I can't say I knew it well, but I had spotted the laurel wreath - the victor's wreath, ready for one that had completed the race, I suppose - good old St Paul! But one of the previous rectors, chatting to our children, told them the angel's secret. Can you spot it?

Another hidden story - and a predictable little disappointment! We gained access to the cellar of the Rectory, to store some wet-resistant property. It is a gloriously dark and dank space, with non-lit areas moving off under the recesses of the house, filled with bedrock and bits of house! The cellar has a single bare bulb to illuminate the space, after a fashion. I, being environmentally and financially responsible, always remember to put the bulb off before I lock the door.

...but the bulb had been on the past few times I had gone down there! Very strange. Add to this the hidden story that someone told my wife at the licensing service: 'They had a lot of trouble with hauntings in the house, but I think it's fixed...'

Hmm. I met a bit of this in my curacy, and always approached with an open pastoral mind. Mental health issues, unresolved grief and other pastoral issues, and maybe, just maybe a tiny smidge of possibility - all wrapped together in the oddest way. I have blessed and celebrated in a house before, under guidelines etc. etc. ...

So here - the cellar is below the specific room the person was talking about. So - an experiment in the paranormal! I make sure the bulb is off (really, really sure). And leave it for ages (with a teenager in the house and all the rest of it.) And it stayed off. I am just bad at remembering to switch the bulb off. Disappointment, but only as expected.

But the delightful angel still has 11 fingers (or 9 fingers and 2 thumbs for any anatomical pedants out there...)

Sunday, 13 June 2010

A lot can happen in eight or nine days...

So much to reflect upon after the past few days. My first 'official' week in Cowal and Bute has been varied and full - yet also embryonic and not-yet-engaged! In nine days I've visited Rothesay four times, Tighnabruaich once and done all sorts in Dunoon. The General Synod has happened (which I don't (yet) go to) with representation from one of our congregations.

The Kyles of Bute - the weekly commute!

I've presided/celebrated four times, all blue book (1982) liturgy. Which of course is all new to me, having trained and ministered south of the border! It is familiar, from Clarkston days, but still requires attention for the differences (spot the missing filoque clause, etc.!)

Being where I am, there is not a particularly strong Episcopalian presence close to me. I think Roy, in Lochgilphead, is probably my nearest diocesan neighbour. Drew in Greenock (who I have still to meet in the flesh) may be the closest geographically, over the water! The local Church of Scotland ministers and Roman priests seem to be a friendly bunch, both on Bute and in Dunoon. There seems to be comfortable blurring around the edges of where some of the brothers and sisters of this part of the world socialise and attend.

Vestry meetings are looming, and the changed priorities of the churches from waiting for a new priest to whatever their new priorities will be. Money and people, I suspect, will be an area of interest.

The family are settling in - Peter with a date for the leavers' dance, Elly with her first sleepover and 'hang-about' down the town. Jack the cat has probably made the biggest impact on the neighbours, establishing his turf with a nearby tom-cat (current score Jack 1 - Tomcat 0) and with some of the smaller residents. He is a hunter by nature, and clearly believes in the 'catch-it, skin-it, eat-it' school of relationships. Except for the skinning bit of it. And the tails. Which he leaves. Anyway, the current score there is Jack 2 - rabbits 0. Not quite sure I approve of that, but a creature's nature is what God gave it (the gist of my sermon this morning).

Monday, 7 June 2010

... it begins

It is a privileged feeling, to be at the start of something. I was present at the birth of all three of my children (although I nearly missed Peter as I was parking the car at the hospital and he wasn't for hanging about), and to see them growing up into the strong individuals that they are becoming is wonderful. There are times it seems a real challenge, and they don’t want to know, and they seem to be a million miles away from us. But it remains a wonderful privilege to be their parents, to care for them, to give them a safe place to grow and become themselves.

The metaphor of raising children is not a particularly good one for church congregations. Members of a church are not little helpless bundles of humanity, wriggling about with no ability to make decisions or look after themselves. Members of a church also cannot be sent to their rooms in disgrace if they throw their weight about. No, the metaphor of child-rearing is not very good for the people of a church.

But the day before yesterday my ministry in Cowal and Bute was born, as Bishop Mark of Moray, Ross and Caithness licensed me to the charges of Holy Trinity Dunoon, with St Martin’s Tighnabruaich and St Paul’s Rothesay. The metaphor works for this new charge. My ministry here is like a new child! It is new, unformed, not really able to do much yet, but is full of potential. The privilege that I feel today is to be present at the birth of something that will grow, develop, change and eventually become something (hopefully) full, rich and, always, for the glory of God!

So, as I sit at my desk, looking out at the marvellous trees of Holy Trinity Dunoon’s site (which block the view of the sea!), and I glance over the still-cluttered, just-moved-in desk (Bible, brand-new 1982 blue book with propers and RCL, packaged headphones for Skype, congregation lists, phone message pad, paten I found in a cupboard and a set of Jesus pencil toppers), I am excited at the future. The congregations and I will form this ministry (helped by the boss, of course), but I am quite overwhelmed by the privilege of what is beginning here!