Sunday, 26 February 2012

Carried Away by a Moonlight Shadow

Maggie Reilly is the red-haired singer on Mike Oldfield's hit single 'Moonlight Shadow' from 1983. The girl from Glasgow has done loads of things since then, in a long and hard-working musical career. The latest in this long line of performances was a live set on Saturday night, in a hall in Dunoon. She, with her long-standing collaborator Stuart McKillop (and Mark on guitar and Chris on sound) played a benefit gig to support Holy Trinity Scottish Episcopal Church in Dunoon raise funds for the Restoration Project.

Stuart (who is the cousin of Dinkie, the people's warden at HT: you start to see how this came about) last performed in this church hall in the famous Dunoon High Kirk pantomime in the 1970s (Oh no he didn't etc. etc.). So he was quite used to the surroundings. It felt slightly unusual - but this church has been trying out all sorts of things as fund-raisers, awareness-raisers and community-spirit-raisers. We have 'fair-ed', concerted, quizzed, coconut-shied, bag-packed, Italian-mealed - the list goes on and on!

It was a brilliant gig, with enthusiastic applause from the audience and massive stamping for an encore (with the spine chilling 'He moved through the fair' to continue).

But what did I love best about this rock'n'roll extravaganza?

We all had a nice cup of tea at the interval....

Monday, 20 February 2012

That would be an ecumenical matter...

I have been reflecting much on a service that took place in the Scottish Episcopal church on Bute on Sunday. I have hesitated to say much about it, because I find clerical fascination with how worship goes can be quite unflattering and ungracious, especially when read by others in the same line.

But it was a wonderful evening.

It was a 'slightly' choral evensong - sung versicles and responses, and a taize 'anthem'. With a smattering of hymns, of generally rousing genre. It was 1929, in form, lectionary etc. The officiant shewed up in choir dress. All that sort of stuff.

...and the delight?

We ran out of orders of service, almost by half. Bad planning, of course.

...I found myself wondering if I should have pushed the structural engineer from Ayr harder to get on and survey the balcony before we squeezed so many folk into it.

...and the responses were sung loudly by baptists, catholics, presbyterians, a salvationist (Major Nessie!) and our smattering of piskies, old and new members alike.

It was a gorgeous evening of ecumenical worship, with ALL the church leaders of bute, bar none, all there with big smiles on their faces.

Dare one say it? Yes, one dares: Praise the Lord!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

And there is another!

Back safely from my trip to Stornoway, a trip to see the new priest in charge licensed to St Peter's and St Moluag's (Eoropaidh). It was my first time on Lewis (in fact my first time on any of the Western Isles) and a very special occasion. I now have another full-time colleague in the diocese!

Shona Boardman is the fourth of the active stipendiary clergy (the provost is still in post, but remains rather ill - and there's a bishop too!) for the Scottish Episcopalian Diocese of Argyll and The Isles. This diocese, which goes from Stornoway to Arran and from Glencoe to Barra (and includes this little corner of Cowal & Bute) is a massive geographical area.

The small numbers of paid clergy in the diocese are both a symptom of the challenges that are faced, and also, I believe, an important part of facing these challenges. Ministry in Argyll and The Isles cannot depend on a small number of 'professional' church-people. Each of the small communities that makes up the diocese (and I think there are 32 churches/places listed on the diocesan website) requires a local leader to draw the community together, to give them direction, to help them worship and to draw others in. This local leader may be lay or ordained, it may be one person or several. But in a dispersed, massively separated place like this, us stipendiary mortals cannot and should not try to be in all these places, keeping some sort of show on the road.

The SEC has done much work on this type of ministry, and I love the echoes of the early church, sowing new communities as the gospel spread. It also has resonance with Donovan's 'Christianity Rediscovered' - where communities grow and have integrity in their local context.

All very exciting: lots of hard work - but it's great to have welcomed Shona into the middle of it all!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

..time for a rant

The General Synod of the Church of England (20 months ago I was a cleric in that church, at some point in the future I may well become one again) is continuing to debate how the C of E should live with women bishops. They have already committed to the fact that women should become bishops - the process is slowly grinding on, and the arguments are now about what happens to people, lay and ordained, who don't like the idea.

Outside the church, society would prosecute under discrimination law for this sort of behaviour. The Equality Act 2010 has an exemption for religious organisations that allows them to disciminate on grounds of belief or sexual orientation - but not gender! Interesting - I hadn't really hoisted that on board!

How do the churches play this game?

There some who like debates about churches being places that define counter-culteral positions - Jesus came and contradicted the existing unjust structures of his day, didn't he? So it's the job of the church to take that same ground. And that means rejecting women/LGBT/... delete as applicable.

But if the counter-cultural position that the church takes is only counter-cultural because society has moved on and has a more developed view of what human justice ACTUALLY is - on gender, sexual orientation etc. - is not the church merely hanging onto a conservative, reactionary point of view?

What appears next? 'But the bible says...'

It says a lot of things. It has things that were oral traditions gathered around campfires over 3000 years ago, it has polished histories of an occupied people 2500 years ago, it has grumpy letters to badly behaved churches, it has love poetry, it has books of pithy maxims. It is a glorious human edifice, filled with God-inspired wisdom - and also filled with dozens of cultural contexts.

The culture that surrounds our churches, whether resisted or accepted or embraced, is a vital part of how a church relates to people and relates to God. And culture formed scripture, tradition and our view of reason.

The church in which I am now a cleric, the Scottish Episcopal Church, has already fully accepted women bishops. But we have never had one. In fact, I'm not even sure there's been a woman dean or provost (I'm sure someone will correct me if there has been one). Hmm. The hot issue, in the SEC view on the wider Anglican Covenant-related debate, is on sexual orientation and the episcopate.

And I would observe that Scotland, as a nation, is advancing faster than our neighbours in the UK on removing the final inequalities for sexual orientation. Legalisation (but not compulsion) of same-sex marriage in church is high on the Scottish government agenda.

Where is all this rant going? Where would Jesus be with all this? This first century Jew, in the occupied territories known as Israel/Palestine - what would he make of all these heated, sometime vitriolic debates on who/what is right and wrong? I suspect he would crouch down and draw with his finger in the dust, maybe humming a little tune to himself, before coming up with something along the lines of,

"Let you who is without sin cast the first stone..."

Monday, 6 February 2012

Walk on the wild side...

The fog rolled across the Clyde and wrapped itself around Cowal today: from a bright blue morning in Toward to a gorgeously foggy & sunny afternoon in Bishop's Glen. I was squeezing in a quick walk of the dog, grabbed my (very ancient) iPod for company as I walked and off I went.

The range of music on the iPod was rather random (both what it contains and how I chose to play it) - and I was buzzing with the business of the day: change of headteacher at Toward school, what to do with the cadets at my padre's hour later, the massive and complex list of actions to be shared out for our building restoration project. Buzz, buzz, buzz. It all goes on...

As the view above swept into sight, the iPod randomly chose 'At the foot of the cross...'

Where all can be laid down, and where it all makes sense.


Saturday, 4 February 2012

Candlemas haze

Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Ps 141.2

Not just a grainy phone photograph: actually the gentle fug of the Candlemas incense drifting across the spotlight above the sanctuary of Holy Trinity Dunoon. Mac's new thurible (in memory of his parents) had worked beautifully.

The paint-free chancel arch is also lurking in the residual smoke - that wonderful 'Early English Gothic' building has seen quite a bit of smoke about its rafters over the years.

And will for many years to come!