Monday, 25 March 2013

Holy Week stramash!

Palm Sunday yesterday, and the whirl that is Holy Week beckons again.  It never feels the same, and this one, as ever, has a different flavour.

A few days, maybe a couple of weeks, after Easter, we will leave the church building in Dunoon to allow contractors to carry out a massive conservation project (thanks largely to the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Scotland, and much fundraising effort).  Maybe four months out will take some planning, management and looking after everybody!  And in the background the pieces are falling into place to recruit and appoint a new priest as my immediate diocesan neighbour to the north: something that I am intimately involved in my capacity as the dean (still newly installed in those shiny wooden seats in the cathedrals). Add to which a whole host of medium to short term issues with worship teams, rotas, fabric repairs on the island, financial planning, stewardship campaigns, a provincial board: there is a real danger that Holy Week might be swamped in the busyness of it all.

So let's slow down, stop, and see what's what.

Dean Marion (a different sort of dean) in Acts and Omissions last week had a different scale of this, but I felt a distinct mutuality with her plight.  But a Facebook status update this morning from a friend in Gloucester helped:

"Lord, when all seems out of control, help me neither to lash out nor to cave in, but help me to look up to the One who seizes chaos and marvellously creates new life from it. Amen."

I clicked "like" to that one.

A blessed Holy Week to all!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Blogging over the years...

I took that rare look back at my old blog posts, over the past three years since I started blogging again, three years of Dancing with Midges.

I can't help but feel that my earlier posts seemed more interesting than my recent ones. Maybe it is because I am feel very busy now, so less time to reflect on what is happening. Maybe it's because now dimly remembered things I was doing three years ago (that outward bound training day in the Forest of Dean!) seem a bit like someone else's memories, someone else's stories.

My resolve having looked back? More theological reflection on the events unfolding around me, in this very public model of virtual journaling. Maybe a bit more often, too, although that remains a resolve from the beginning.

And do I see God in the words of the blog? In the things that have happened, the people I have met, the things that are unfolding around me, touched upon every week or so. Yes, God is there, along side me, along side us as we continue the dance...

Friday, 1 March 2013

Once upon a time...

1001 Arabian nights, survived by a fearful wife telling a fascinating and never-ending stream of fantastic stories to stave off the seemingly inevitable assassination that had befallen all her predecessors. This is the stuff of middle eastern legend, with the wiley Scheherazade keeping the wrathful king on tenterhooks, and the interwoven folk tales wrapped in this happily-ending frame form part of almost every culture's stock of tales.

Tomorrow I will have got through 1001 nights in Cowal and Bute, as a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church.  I discovered quite by accident that today is my 1000th day since I was licensed here.

Is there an inevitable fate that awaits the unwary in taking on a ministry such as this?

I fear that the fate that awaits is to become stale, no longer feeling a fire and excitement at what a Christian community is called to do.  Maybe that can be by the repetition of the annual cycle, or the blurring of years into each other.  Maybe paralysis because of fear of upsetting whatever applecart may be presented to be upset.  Maybe it all goes sour when a chosen direction splits or distorts the congregation's view of the community.  Maybe.

I am glad to report (and any readers in my charges will be glad to hear (at least I hope they will be glad to hear!)) that this fate seems nowhere near as the 1000 day mark rolls by.  The excitement at what is going on and what there is to do is just a great now as three years ago, when we were negotiating the details of my arrival in the charge.  The cycle of the years has a gentle variation and change that seems to make it richer, not stale.  And alongside our third-time-now pattern of the year, the gently changing people of the churches, the new vestry members, the newly appeared ideas and opportunities, all add to make things feels stable yet stimulating.  I hope and pray that the churches feel the same. I also hope and pray that we have some of this to share with those around us in our diocese and elsewhere.

The tale is never ending, the cliffhanger ending employed by Scheherazade just as applicable to exploration of the gospel and the form of community that we are being made into by that gospel.  And the cliffhangers will not come to an end.  The happy ending is always there, even when the walk is through the wilderness (which it sometimes must be).

And the 1001st night? What special ending for that? Well, I will be compering the third publess church quiz night (bring your own bottle, even in Lent) on Bute, in a rather gaudy waistcoat and with as good a line of wisecracks and oneliners that I can muster. Sister Scheherazade and I, working the audience to keep them engaged, interested and aware of our community: all for the gospel!