Monday, 24 December 2012

On the cusp of Christmas

In just over one and a half hours we will be reach Christmas Day, in the midst of the celebration of our midnight mass in Dunoon.

So a very happy Christmas to all - and a peaceful New Year to follow!

God bless you all.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Episcopalian? What's that?

A reformed church, dating back to 1560, then 1689 in the Scottish conflict over bishops and authority. A reluctantly juring denomination from the early 19th century, linked with qualified English charges in a tense parallel system with Presbyterianism.

Why are we surprised that this description doesn't do much to draw people into a church?

Let's try again.

A church that is accepting of people regardless of their gender, race, sexuality, educational background, nationality and any other discriminator. A church that believes God's love is for all, as modelled by Jesus of Nazareth 2000 years ago. A church that believes this is just as relevant today as it was then.

Might work a little better.

But shouldn't we make sure that, as a church, we able to live up to that. In all we do? That fits with the informed way that we are centred on scripture, the faithful way that we believe we are inspired by the Holy Spirit. That fits with being a progressive church that wishes to be relevant in the 21st century with some sort of integrity.

To be truly inclusive on gender, sexuality and all might upset some other Christians, including Anglicans. But integrity, faith and being centred on scripture sometimes mean that you have to upset people.

What would Jesus do?

Advent 2 whizzes by

The slightly strange time that is the end of Advent is wending its way into view. There is a perception that clergy are very busy at this time of year. This is true, certainly for those who have a lot of school assembles and Christmas parties in homes and institutions. It's also true for those who have lots of churches, each wanting its own range of carol services and special events. In fact it's true for all clergy who a trying to visit, catch up, prepare and all the rest of it. Never mind the Christmas shopping, cards and the 'normal' parts of this time of the year.

But that's true at all times of the year - there is always 'ministry' to be done, and it can never be finished and there is always something else to do. Theologically, all ministry is God's and we just share in trying to deliver some of this in our place and our time. The outcomes are not ours, they are God's.

So why so much busyness? Why do we put the pressure on ourselves to achieve all these things? Priests, ministers, lay leaders - all those who have a part in this?

It is a shared ministry - we have our part, God will do his part too.

But it doesn't hurt to take the pressure off, to try and find some Advent space as well as the busyness of it all. The ministry will still be there to be done, it will be there to be shared whatever we do. And God will be there in it, acting through all those who share.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Dances with Twitter

The balance of local, regional, national and global matters is a tricky one.

I've been following Twitter a bit closer than usual for the past few days/weeks, just to see what I see.  There is chatter, affirmation, occasional howls of derision or anger, and lots of immediate reflection on what people are encountering.  I love the witty ones (@RevRichardColes is a bit of a winner) and those that make me stop and think.

Links to blogs (, or images (, or news items(@skynewsbreak etc.) are well worth following for a click or two: I suppose it's like dropping yourself into the consciousness of hundreds of other people as they look at the world and reflect how they feel about it, filtered or otherwise.

My own tweets tend to be locked in the local.  The weather, bit of ministry, things that are happening to me. Tentative replies to others' tweets I sometimes try, and sometime get a response or a conversation.  I suspect one has to commit much more time to Twitter to really, really take off.  I have a mere 800 or so tweets and a mere 200 or so followers.  It's a long way until I end up as a 'verified identity,' I suspect.

The local nature of my tweets is also because of the local focus of life.  Ministry is inevitably rooted in the place where you are (I think I blogged about trying to be present recently), and the people that you are with. And if ministry is taking up your energy and attention, then attempts to relate on social media will be local.

Does that mean that Leveson, or Syria, or Stuart Hall, or George Osborne, or even @Pontiflex are being ignored?  Far from it: I read the tweets of others who have analysed and responded, linked and reacted.  Twitter can act as a social conscience, without a doubt.

This Advent: another resolution.  Tweets on every scale, every week if possible.

Footnote: I've consciously noticed three 'verified identities' this week (public figures as chosen by Twitter): the Pope, Nicky Gumbel and Mike Russell.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Advent beginnings...

Today was our third Advent Sunday in Cowal and Bute - they seem to be passing with alarming rapidity!

The split of charges struck me strongly today.  Both Dunoon and Rothesay had their worship, one a sung eucharist, the other mattins (or morning prayer, not sure which was chosen).  One I led the worshippers, celebrated the eucharist, preached, shared fellowship and the pains and joys of the congegation.  The other was led by another member of the worship team, some miles away over the sea.  I have no idea who came, or what they sang, or what it felt like.  I know the gist of the sermon (I e-mailed some copy) but otherwise, it was unknown.

A helpful email came, saying that things had been OK. But otherwise, one half of my ministry has started a new year without me knowing much about it.

It is hard, to try and split yourself between communities, and to try as hard as possible to be fully present in whichever one one is in.  The careful use of language, titles, addresses and phone numbers seems important.  I greatly value the forbearance that both charges have to my absences, increasingly so now that I have wider responsibilities.  They imply that they don't notice. I think that's good.  But it is hard, when you would dearly love to fully belong to each community.

I wonder if the theological reflection from this is something about the nature of God incarnate (for which we now have our Advent wait.)  God, fully present and focused on every community and every individual in those communities.  Yet an infinite God with the scope to be present in every community, with every person. God can do it, with perfection.

But mere humans, even those trying their best, must muddle through as best as possible.

Tomorrow awaits, the second day of Advent, and a journey to try and be present with five communities elsewhere in our diocese, to help them with their future.

God be with us all.