Friday, 21 September 2012

Trust on the edge?

I often find myself here, fingers poised over this keyboard, wondering if I can actually blog about all the stuff that's going on: the people, the issues, the ways forward, the problems, the conflicts.  In practice it usually makes me pause, then go away and do something less dangerous instead.  Talking about church in a blog (in almost any way) can be a risky thing to do...

But to reflect that we can live in a edgy way is good: read this guest post on friend's blog by a friend.

The churches where I serve are not established in any sense of the word: neither formally, as part of a state church, as there isn't officially a state church in Scotland (some of my Church of Scotland colleagues may argue this...), nor in a we-have-lots-of-money-and-are-clear-where-and-who-we-are sort of way.

One of my English colleagues with whom I Google+ met this week (see piccy below) has started at a new parish - and he described them as having lots of money and tradition, wanting to grow, but not knowing how. He has an exciting time ahead as he takes them on their journey (prayers for him!).

But the contrast here feels extraordinary.  We have no money, not in a significant sense.  Our existence is precarious. Our master-plan is to try and offer an encounter with the living God to anyone who is seeking it.  That's not an easy thing to try do in the geographical and financial fringes of a country, with dodgy buildings, midges and the rain!

But we are in a spiritual heartland, out here in the fringes.  Jesus met people on the fringes of society (St Matthew's day today - the repulsive outcast tax-collector - transformed into a follower, and, if you wish, an evangelist) - so being on the fringe is good for church mission.  You don't take your (still greatly valued) tradition too seriously, you are open to new possibilities - that's life on the edge.

But being edgy can make people anxious - I guess the answer is to strike a balance between confidence in where and how an institution is going, and a certain looseness and edginess about going that way.  The best model I can find must be ... yes, you've guessed it: Jesus and his disciples.  Did they know where the project was going? No.  Was it a safe, established, comfortable project? No.  But an encounter with the living God was made again, and again.  And they trusted him in this journey, wherever it might take them.

Trust and edginess - those must be the perfect partners for Christian mission!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Diaspora memories captured...

I love the fact that people make pilgrimages to our churches - two sets of families in the past week, one to Bute (grandfather married and lived there) one to Dunoon (grandparents buried there).  They are usually people from England who have emigrated south with family/work/wars.  But they come up, often on a coach trip, to visit these important places of family pilgrimage.

The Bute visitors were there for the third time - second time during my stay here.  I'd spoken to them on the phone last year, but met them in the flesh for the first time.  They left a home-made book about their grandfather (Thomas Wilson), his life, death (falling from a gang plank in a new Zealand harbour in 1954), their journey, health and encounter with Bute. I blessed them and there were lots of tears.

The Dunoon visitors turned up while I was pottering about. moving boxes into church.  Flora Fraser (nee McAllister) had put up a plaque in memory of her husband John, killed in 1918 when his ship, HMS Montague, collided with the USS Manley off Ireland (Google said all that, not the gravestone).  29 years later she died, and was buried in the same lair (what they call a plot in Scotland) - beside her brother Samuel's lair, near the door of the church.  Her family were at the burial, and this was who was visiting.  Daughter & son from England, and son from Canada, over for the first time in decades, plus several partners and grown up children.  They had a look at the register with the record of Flora's burial - we didn't get round to Samuel's marriage etc.

Their memory to capture: on the funeral in Feb 1947 it was so snowy that the hearse couldn't get up the drive at Holy Trinity, so the pallbearers with coffin and all the mourners had to pick their way up the icy hairpin bend to get to the (no doubt freezing cold) church.  I can just imagine it, the black coated figures, the breath hanging in the cold air, the slips and scuffles with no words said.  It has stayed with them for the 65 years since it happened.

There is a distinct diaspora of the Scottish churches, just as there is of Scotland: economic movement, fluidity of society, never mind things like clearances from older times.  And we can meet and relate and engage with this diaspora wherever they may be, esp. with new technology!