Tuesday, 30 December 2008


Why is it that this time of year makes even such an unsentimental mutt (as I like to think) like me go all nostalgic? I ask, because it has been simply years since I've been to the panto and suddenly this year I was overcome by a desire to go to one. But not just to any old panto, but to the one at the King's Theatre Glasgow. Why? I'm an East Coaster born, bred and educated. Why the Weegie panto and not Edinburgh?

Well, childhood trips were divided between the King's Glasgow and the King's Edinburgh. And honestly, the crowd response was always far better in Glasgow. But maybe because it was an hour or more in the car, more of an adventure and a visit to a strange gallus city where they spoke funny but were very friendly, the Glasgow trips are more part of my memory. That and the fact that the Dames were the incomparable Stanley Baxter and Angus Lennie (Shooie the cook in Crossroads and the Scotch airman who did a runner with Steve McQueen in The Great Escape - how Christmas is that?).

So it's off to Glasgow on the 2nd. Oh No It's Not! Oh Yes It Is!

A surprising article.

I finally caught up with Saturday's copy of the Times and an article by Matthew Parris. Although he is an avowed and convinced atheist, he was arguing that Africa needed God. He noted that his experience of Africa where he grew up in part was that many of those working in Aid agencies (including secular ones) were Christians and seemed to make a greater difference than the non-believers. Similarly the role of missionaries in medical and educational efforts were incredibly valuable. Why? Because the Christian stress on a personal relationship with God, personal responsibility for actions and the dignity of the individual assumed and assured by redemption was a vital counteractive agent to a fatalism and resignation that seems to him to be endemic in African culture. A strong sense of personal responsibility and rights is needed to counter the assumption that the rights of the individual as less important that the right of the dominant group or tribe in power.

I was intrigued and can see the point of the argument but I am slightly worried that it pre-supposes that Western democratic culture, derived as it is from the Christian and particularly from the Protestant tradition, is inherently and automatically superior to native African values. Just a touch of the Victorian Imperialist mindset in there I think. perhaps the best hope for Africa is a Christian ethic that blends the best of traditions. The Protestant Work Ethic and the respect for individual rights and dignity which to my mind are inherent in the Christian tradition (all made in God's image and of equal and infinite value and worth as vouchsafed by the Incarnation and the Cross) are certainly vital to the development and deliverance of Africa from Maoist maniacs like Mugabe, but the African stress on the importance of social units such as the tribe, village and family have their great strengths too.T o cite a simple example: in Uganda many families take in the children of relatives who have died from HIV or Malaria. That responsible reaction comes as much and as validly from the tribal tradition as from the Christian one. To my mind, a creative synthesis is the solution, not the imposition of an alien cultural tradition. That much we have learnt from the mistakes of 19th century European missions.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

We wish you a smelly Christmas!

No, I am not complaining about the aftershave Ma bought me (Issy Myake, BTW!), nor remembering the alternative version of Jingle Bells we sang in the school playground ("Jingle Bells, Santa smells, Rudolph thinks he's gay!"), but reflecting on the odd way in which smells evoke memories of Childhood. For me it wasn't the turkey or incense at Midnight Mass (I only discovered Anglo-Catholic worship at University) - it was the smell that hit my nose on Christmas Night when I was walking the dog in Cowdenbeath. The smell of a coal fire burning on the crisp night air.

Growing up in the 70's and early 80's in the heart of the West Fife mining district, coal was often used for heating. Not in our house (we had gas fired central heating) but it is a smell I associate with my grandparents house and Christmas morning there. Up the hill to Kirkford with the pressies to show them, the smell of the coal fire and breakfast was an integral part of my childhood. I really hadn't thought of it for years until I smelled the coal in the air the other night and it transported me right back. Learning how to light one properly was a skill I haven't practised in 20-30 years. Paper 1st (Daily Record, tightly wrapped into 'sticks'), then kindling. Zipp firelighters if the wood was wet then the ashes from the day before (recycling?) and finally 'sma' coal to ignite it. Big stuff only after it had caught.

What smells take you back to childhood? it would be interesting to know.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

It's Chriistmass!!

Well, well. The Christingle service at Grahamston United (church not a football team!) wasn't just as bad as I feared, though very Church of Scotland in the way that an elder of the Kirk once described it to me - flat church rather than High or Low! Midnight Masswas excellent with much candles and incense. And the Family Eucharist this morning went OK. So now oft to the family estate for turkey and stuff with the family. Merry Saturnalia y'all!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

It's Christmas Eve .. Don't Panic!

Even when yer flower convener appears at 10am to tell you she can smell gas in the Church! Visions of the gas being cut off, the Midnight in Baltic temps or even in the hall raced through my mind. So the Gas Man was called and cameth! Deo Gratias, there isn't a leak - but I'm darned if we can say what the funny smell is! Luckily it's incense tonight, so nobody will be able to smell anything other than Rosa Mystica! I'm just narked that some folks smelled something funny on Saturday and nobody told me! We didn't have to do this panic. Also, who gave the spare boiler house key to the gardener without putting a replacement one in the Vestry? We had to use a hammer and two jemmy's to access the boiler. The People's Warden reckons he could have a post retirement career as a burglar after this morning!! I reckoned that might muck up his work on the Children's Panel somewhat!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

A full day.

Indeed: did the order of service, met mum, went to watch the Blue Brazil cuff East Stirling 4-1!! Met an old Uni chum in the stands, who kindly offered me a free ticket next time I go to Central Park (well, he is Club Secretary and his brother an RC priest). Walked dog, took mum to Benny T's for fish and chips and then drove her home! Watched Celebrity Mr & Mrs and then back to barracks! Never a dull moment!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Them things you see..

Like the mag that arrived with pikkies of the ABC Rowan the beard giving Benediction at Lourdes! And his Archiepiscopal flag flying over the Domaine to says "We're here!" And the bottle of Coke I bought that announced proudly that it was made in Britain (!) not in the Untied States of America (aka the Land of the Free and Home of the Crazed: Prop Geo. W Shrub Esq). Life is full of funny sights! Maybe it's signs of the Last Days!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

My gum was numb!

The Ministry team Crimbo lunch was pretty good and would have been even better if I hadn't had a filling less than an hour earlier and was suffering from a numb mush! I hate dribbling in public! The mixed bread for 4 was a joy (garlic bread, cheesy garlic bread, bruschetta and pizza style garlic bread) unless you didn't like garlic! And the very tasty veal, ham and mushroom risotto was tres yummy! It was a tad pricey but was good grub, so...

Confirmation class tonight and more choc pud. Life is good!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The day thou gavest, Lord is ended. Phew!

A slightly panicky day today. Yesterday I could not find the Carol service for the MU on the computer. Luckily today it appeared on the Office Manager's Infernal Machine, so much new labour (this is not a political comment)was avoided. Then we discovered that nobody had actually booked a table for the FCT Ministry team Crimbo nosh up - and it's the 16th of December and the lunch is tomorrow!!! Luckily the local Tally restaurant was free - which means either the credit crunch is biting or the foods gone down the pan. We shall see.

The actual MU carolific bash went OK. But the afternoon (well, what was left of it) was spent harassing the Bishop's Office over a Canon 31 application which is running late. Now this is not the fault of the Diocesan Admin. The paperwork which should have arrived from the lawyers by August, due to legal sloth and sickness didn't appear until the 14th of November. And things have been knocked back by delay after delay caused by finding out dates of baptism etc and me being dizzy over jury service. so now I am pushing it as we need to get the papers into the Registrar PDQ. What a day! Chocolate is needed!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Dougal's TV Burp

Well, that's a downer - Nora Batty is no more and it looks as if it might finish off Last of the Summer Wine. A pity, as it's gentle humour beats Russell Brand any day in my book.

I think I very slightly startled some of the congregation by quoting from the Qi Book of Advanced Banter in the sermon this morning. Normally, I don't reveal the source of my quotations, but I thought it might lighten up the morning. Roughly, Life is a river that often has blood in the water and other bits of debris that historians record. But on the riverbank, people are getting on with their lives, building homes, having babies and even sculpting things. Civilisation is what happens on the river bank, not in the River. Kinda makes sense to me. I then entertained the Pastoral Care Group after the meeting with some quotes on marriage: "Love is blind - and marriage is an institution for the blind" Also, "I won't bother marrying again. I'll just find a woman I loathe and give her a house". Methinks the author of those two gems had had a rather iffy divorce!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

"Trial by Jury" is over. But one final thought.

That's it all done and dusted: I am no longer a juror and cannot be recalled for 5 years. My experience of the system was that it was quite fair (well, as near as is humanly possible and within the constraints of the Scottish legal system). It was a bit different from watching "Crown Court" in days of yore: 15 jurors, not 12 (no chance of a hung jury); no opening speeches a la Perry Mason - straight into the evidence (rather more business like really). But I have one question and that's to do with the choice of verdicts available.

Unlike England and the USA, Scottish juries are not faced with the simple choice of "Guilty" or "Not Guilty". They have the 3rd option of "Not Proven". It's effect is exactly the same as "Not Guilty" - the accused is acquitted and cannot be re-tried for this offence. But what does it mean? We can't make up our mind? We think you did it but the Crown hasn't proved its case? We think something happened but we don't think it's what the Prosecuting Fiscal (as they are known in Glasgow) put in the charge? Or we're not impressed by the Crown case and we don't think you're telling the whole story either!

I'm open to comments and information on this. For what it's worth, I think of it as the "Aye, but" verdict. The jury doesn't think the Crown has proved it's case beyond reasonable doubt but is unsure of the accused's total innocence. They cannot convict, but register almost a passing comment. Perhaps it's very existence reflects that part of the Scottish character which is willing to play fair but also likes to have it's say. I really wonder. I'm not sure I think there is a place for this in the legal system myself: judge the facts and the evidence it is not a court of morals but a court of law.

But it was a fascinating experience.

Friday, 5 December 2008

The duty of a Christian citizen.

I suppose jury service makes you think about this. But I also found a wee booklet whilst tidying up in the house (!) which I read and it made me think. Entitled "Hensley Henson and the Durham Miners", it was the 1983 Durham Cathedral Lecture by Professor Owen Chadwick. Henson was the often controversial Bishop of Durham in the 1920's and 30's. There was a terrible fuss over his consecration as he was alleged to be a Modernist. Brought up an Evangelical, turned Anglo-Catholic at Oxford, where he was influenced by the Anglo-Catholic Socialist theologian, bishop and founder of the Community of the Resurrection Charles Gore, he nearly became an Anglican Franciscan monk and worked as a slum priest in East London. After a change of theological viewpoint, he became famous as one of the best preachers of his day and had been Dean of Durham Cathedral. In politics he was a rather radical Tory. His time at Durham covered the prayer Book controversies within the C of E in 1927-28, the Miner's Strike and General Strike of 1926, the Great Depression and the run up to WW2. He was one of the early critics of Hitler and Mussolini over their treatment of the Jews and Abyssinia respectively and was one of the great episcopal mavericks the Cove from time to time produces.

Chadwick quotes a 1929 sermon in which Henson, who was very outspoken against the Miner's Strike, laid outy 10 axioms of Christian citizenship which struck me as still relevant in a time of economic crisis when the Church has been recently self-obsessed with internal debates. I'll quote him as writen (so apologies for the non -PC lingo) His 10 points are:

1. Man is not to be regarded merely as an economic force. He is always and indestructably a Person.

2. Whosoever pictures a man as essentially dependent on his circumstances or as incapable of the highest manhood in the worst situations, offends against the mind of Jesus.

3. Whosoever represents honest work as degrading or undesirable is in conflict with the example and teaching of Jesus.

4. Gifts and opportunities must surely be accounted for to God who gave them.

5. Wealth becomes respectable just so far as it can be stated in terms of social service. It is either an instrument or a chain. It may enable public work or it may endanger personal liberty.

6. The power to reform society is finally dependent on the moral quality of the reformer. Bad men may promote sound policies; and no personal goodness in a politician can avert disater if his policy be unsound. But the personal badness of reforms lowers the social temperature and in the long term brings worse mischiefs than those which their reforms corrected.

7. Popular approval is no security for moral rightness.

8. Liberty works from within outwards: the freee man makes the free state, not the free state the free man.

9. The value of service is determined by the amount of self-sacrifice it involves.

10. No external authority, be it Church, State, political party, employers federation, trade union, public opinion, can have the last word with the Christian citizen. The final court is within the man himself. "The Spirit of man is the candle of the Lord".

I think 1 is absolutely fundemental to any Christian concept of citizenship and responsiblity, as is 4. Point 5 reminds us that it is very much what we do with the means and gifts at our disposal that matters. 7 reminds us that the mob isn't always right - listening to a Radio Scotland phone in on the Peter Tobin case meant I heard plenty of people in favour of "getting rid" of Tobin. It would be popular, but scarcely moral. And point 10 I think is essential for understanding the role of Christian conscience with regard to public action. I might not personally agree with those who chain themselves to the fence at Faslane but I understand and respect the moral sense that makes them see it as both valid and necessary. Any thoughts on this one folks?

The world moves on.

By which I mean there was a rather interesting court report in this weeks Falkirk Herald. It described a domestic violence case and the Sheriff delaying sentencing for reports. Far from unusual. The interesting bit was that the couple were both male. What I found particularly interesting (and in an odd way encouraging) was that the report was perfectly factual and didn't get into hysterics over gayness. It reported the case simply as a domestic and saw nothing unusual in the gender or orientation of the individuals concerned. That says a lot about how far we as a society have travelled with regard to LGBT people even in my lifetime. I was born in 1967 - a few months after the decriminalisation of male homosexual acts for the over 21's. I have never drawn breath in a society where same sex relationship were totally discriminated against (well, except in Scotland where it took until 1980 to bring the law into line with England and Wales - one of the few good things the Thatcher Govt did in my personal opinion. And Northern Ireland but I can't remember when they fell into line). Normal, treated just like the straight majority even when the news isn't good. Surely that's the sort of equality we've been working for all along?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

"You know how Adam and Eve were English.."

That isn't a joke - it's what one of my S1's at the school said this afternoon! The question followed "How did Chinese people happen?"!!! Some very slightly startled gibbers were swiftly suppressed and I tried to explain that it was a story telling truths, not a fact. Oh yes, if Adam and Eve did exist then the Garden of Eden was in Iraq and Adam looked like Saddam Hussein! (Maybe that didn't help!) Also what was the meaning of life? (42 of course)! Great fun, if slightly surreal! I do enjoy school!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The daily waffle!

Went off last night with a group from church to support a local amateur dramatic group by attending their performance. It was enjoyable enough, although the play was a classic pot-boiler from the 1920's called T"he Ghost Train". You knew it was the 1920's when the baddies were revealed as Juan from Barcelona (Manuel's dad I think!) and Herr Otto Sitz and were decried by the juvenile lead as "Bolshies"!! Also, the paper being read was"The British Gazette", which was only produced during the General Strike of 1926 and was edited by Winston Churchill! (Nice one, props department!) Monocles, hip flasks, stiff upper lips, strong men and dependent women. They don't write 'em like that any more! Thank Gawd! It was an enjoyable hoot! But for me the fun bit was discovering who the playwright was. Arnold Ridley. Name means nothing - unless you are a fan of "Dad's Army", in which case you will recognise him as Private Godfrey! Fascinating, eh?

Back to court this am, but it was called off after 45 mins due to a missing bit of paper! Try again on Friday. However, when i went to the shop for my baccy and paper, I mused on why there is such a lousy selection of pipe tobaccos these days. When I were a lad, you could get St Bruno (as smoked by Dom Gregory Dix who wrote "The Shape of the Liturgy"), Gold Block, Clan and Condor (be very careful when purchasing this - when a curate I went into our local wee Asian shop in my dog collar and asked for a packet of this and the wee wifie put a packet of "Mates" on the counter. It was pointed out later by my Rector that when burnt, they smelled much the same as what I usually smoked!). But you also got some great other blends: 3 Nun's Ready Rubbed (ooh-er, missus!), Parson's Pleasure, Presbyterian Mixture. Whatever happened to those? Nostalgia!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

The thoughts of Chairman Dougal.

Perhaps it was tempting fate to think that an Area Council AGM might be the highlight of the day. It wasn't. The content was fine, but the chairing diabolical. So here are some wee thoughts on how to lead meetings.

1. Before you start, know when you aim to finish.

2. 10-15 mins before your intended finishing time, remind people that the hour of intended release from this travail is nigh!

3. Keep them to the point in hand: fascinating as reminiscences of St Bigot's in the days of Canon Flannel are, remember Dougal's Ecclesiastical Relevance Mantra - "And what has that got to do with the price of Spam in Govan?"

4. Do not be afraid to cut people off, wind 'em in or bring them to heel. It's not rude or not nice - it's your job as chair.

5. Age may not wither them but neither does it give the oldest gasbag in the group a divine right to drivel. Respect your elders but move them swiftly on when they meander pointlessly.

There you go! And now for the Mother's Union! Banzai!

Monday, 1 December 2008

Due process and the mills of God.

I am gently underwhelmed with my 1st experience of the legal system. I arrived at 12 noon and within 30 minutes we were sent for an early lunch, due to lawyers needing time to sort things out. Back at 2pm, only to be released again within 30 mins as the legal beagles needed more time. So 3 hours in a room, of which 50% was lunch break! Still, at least they are meticulous (which is rather reassuring) and the panel of jurors was a real mix. The diversity of an "Eeny, meeny, miney, mo" approach to jury selection was obvious and of the pile, only 15 will be selected and them by drawing names out of a glass bowl. Blind justice indeed! The upshot is we need not be there tomorrow, but should phone the Juror helpline after 5pm to see wassup on Wednesday!

It makes tonight's Area Council AGM positively thrilling in anticipation (there's a 1st for you!). If only we can keep the mitred one concise and the parish rep bods from droning on about how good their last fete was, I'll be happy! Sadly, I'm not in the chair, so neither is guaranteed!

The reasonable news today was that the Ministry Team Christmas lunch is booked - sadly, in my least favourite local Italian restaurant! That'll teach me to miss team meetings!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

It's a new Year, but the same old me!

Advent has started, the candles are lit! My wee bloop at the 9am service was a minor classic. In Advent and Lent, we use the 1929 Prayer Book version of the Scottish Liturgy and the 10 commandments. Sadly, I omitted one today. Yep, adultery! To be fair, the 9am congregation are really a bit beyond adultery on the whole! I'll mention it next Sunday - I promise! Still, I have never surpassed my legendary double whammy at Evensong in Coates Hall. Opening versicle "O Lord open thou our legs" followed by prayers for "Edward our Queen" in the suffrage's!

The lunch party went well 30+ gathered to eat lentil soup and apple crumble. Very good indeed, the crumble. The orange peel made all the difference! Evening prayer at St Francis was OK, our annual renewal of the FCT Commitment went OK.

is off to court to do jury service after cancelling in August. No idea what that involves, but we shall see.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Funny people fascists!

Yesterday's Sunday Herald had an article on some eccentric bloke who teaches the idle rich to shoot arrows at Gleneagles and who has appeared of TV programme "Ladette to Lady" (which I have never seen BTW!). Evidently he thinks it might not have been so bad if we had been conquered and ruled by the Nazi's! Possibly not if you're a right wing bloke, but hardly the case if you were Jewish, black, gay, left wing or Christian. That wasn't what set me off on a wee think, really. I've been reading a book on the relationship between Churchill and Lloyd George and had got as far as the run up to the War. LG visited Germany and came away very impressed with Adolf. Churchill was a vehement opponent from early days. Isn't it odd how some very intelligent people can be fooled by the apparent glamour and social programmes of the far-right? After all, Lloyd George along with Churchill effectively started the modern welfare state with the 1909 People's Budget. Not the type you'd have thought who would have been fooled by the Nazi's.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

I will survive.. the AGM!

Yes! It's over for another year. We zipped through the business in 1 hour and there were no riots (well, one picky pest who wanted to speak to a written report - we have written reports to avoid having people speaking to them - and he was squished from the chair!). Joy abounds!

The night before was the opera at the cinema and it was superb! The Met live from New York in Hi-Definition and it was absolutely marvellous and enthralling. OK, one has to suspend belief at the plot (like a teenager is really going to fall for the older guy whose been watching her undress through her bedroom window and has broken in to meet her! Rather than scream at the weirdo and use mace! Yeah, right!), but it was a stunning production with interactive scenery, CGI and all sorts of fabby modern tech stuff. And Napoleonic costumes. And all for a tenner! Roll on Thais on the 20th December!

Friday, 21 November 2008

A night at the opera/cinema - eh?

Yesterday, I rather oddly decided to buy a ticket at the cinema to watch live opera. No, I'm not actually off my tiny little rocker (well, no more so than is my custom!) - Cineworld in Falkirk are putting on a live broadcast in HD of the Met Opera in New York tomorrow night, so I will spend 3hrs in a comfy seat, with popcorn available, watching the Damnation of Faust by Berlioz. I'll be interested to see how the experience compares with the live operas I've attended. Makes a change from the the football! And will doubtless be as spectacularly costumed as "Strictly Come Dancing", with blokes as tubby as John Sargeant!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Voices on Liberty

The BNP are continuing to bewail their "outing" on the Internet. It raises an interesting question (OR 4!)about freedom. I agree that everyone has a right to express their beliefs, even if I hate their contents. But there is no such thing as total unconditional freedom. If you have the freedom to express objectionable views, then others have the freedom to oppose or criticise them. One strain of complaint is that the public revelation of political views may put the holders employment in danger or even their lives. But there are certain views that ought to debar one from certain posts. Racist views are rightly unacceptable in the Police or Prison services. Similarly I as a Christian would not expect to be employed as media officer for the National Secular Society - my beliefs and theirs are mutually incompatible. if you are misguided enough to think like the BNP, then it should scarcely come as a surprise that people might not want to employ you because they do not wish their organisation to be tainted with your views and attitudes.

But this is a slippery slope. We see objections to the employment of Muslims in certain posts because of what it is assumed they believe. And ditto Christians. There has been considerable fuss about Christians adopting children because they are seen as being homophobic. Surely sense says that individuals ought to be held accountable for what they believe, rather than using broad brush prescriptions? After all, there are liberal and conservative shades in all belief groups. Some Anglicans are horrid homophobes and not all RC's are anti-abortion.

Besides this, there is certainly a degree of hypocrisy in the BNP (who ain't in favour of the EU or the Human Rights Act) threating to use that legislation to secure privacy.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Fascist incompetence.

Well, the morning paper contained the reassuring news that British Fascists are no more clever than HMG when it comes to information security. The fact that you can now go online and find which of your friends are members of the British Nasty Party will doubtless delight the leftists among us. Personally I think if you have political beliefs then you ought to be willing to go public about them. And if your views are such that that would earn you public opprobrium, then doesn't that tell you something? Like you are wrong!

Home Communions and a confirmation class today. although these HC's are in Kincardine which isn't even in this diocese. Go figure!

Monday, 17 November 2008

The Madness of the PC.

There are moments in one's cyber-life when an item just appears and you giggle, grin or loft at least one eyebrow towards the biretta you sometimes wear. Today, I got the news that the Central Scotland Racial Equality Council are organising a Family Day @ Falkirk Footie Stadium for Ethnic Minority families. Very commendable. It's on a Saturday. Match day in the real world. On offer are free tickets to the Falkirk/St Mirren game. What in the name of Dagon have our local ethnic minorities done to deserve such a fate and threat? St Mirren - last time I watched them was at Pittodrie and Charlie Nicholas scored a hat-trick against them for Aberdeen! Why do FFC want to expose the ethnic folks to the baying mob of Ferguslie Park residents and Thunderbird swigging shell suits? Are they mad? Or just desperate to fill the ground a bit more on a duff Saturday?

And tomorrow is a day in sunny Stirling on hospitals and Spiritual direction. Life's rich tapestry, etc.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Christmas is coming!!

You know it's getting near Christmas in Dougaltown when you hear the Falkirk Children's Theatre doing selected numbers from their annual Crimbo production in front of the Steeple. This year it's "Oliver" (well, it was on the telly with Andrew Lloyd Wotsit earlier in the year, so it's hardly a surprise). Sadly, as I passed, Nancy was hitting "I'll do anything" in a pitch that would suggest Bill Sykes had mitigating circumstances for his evil deeds! Nerves, no doubt and the fact it was bleeding Baltic out there today!

This morning we observed St Margaret of Scotland, not out of any deep principle or devotion, but because the organist picked the hymns and went for St Maggie. Coincidentally, the organists name is Margaret. Funny that! We had 6 Margaret's in the pews this morning, which I think may be some sort of record. Maybe. Had the Rector's Warden been there, it would have been 7!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Praise where praise is due!

As has doubtless been noted by the Internet Thought Police, I am not the chair of the Falkirk branch of the Alex Salmond Fan Club. But all credit to the man, he was actually very good last night impersonating the Rev I M Jolly for Children in Need. Funnier than Tony Blair when he did "Am I bovvered?" with Catherine Tate. Mind you, I don't personally find her terribly funny anyhow and I always was a Rikki Fulton fan. Humour is a very personal thing and I never found Russell Brand amusing but I love Frankie Boyle.

Today it's off to the old home town to watch the Blue Brazil take on Stenhousemuir. Who are a Falkirk team. Divided loyalties? Nope, I am a faithful BB and will back my team. A draw would be fine, but we need to beat them if we are to keep up our promotion prospects. And as I spellchecked this blog, Stenhousemuir was queried and the machine suggested that I meant to type "satanism"! So let's hope for a victory against the goat sacrificers of Larbet!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Merrily on High.

I was browsing in Cornerstone yesterday when I discovered to my delight that the Canterbury Press have brought out a paperback version of Fr Colin Stephenson's "Merrily on High". The sub-title "An Anglo-Catholic memoir" describes it exactly. He was Vicar of St Mary Mag's Oxford and ran the Shrine at Walsingham after Fr Hope Patten dropped down dead at Benediction. MoH evokes the craziness of the high watermark of Anglo-Catholicism in the UK from the 1920's through to the 1960's, but in an amusing way. Much of the eccentricity, pottiness, pretension and real spirituality of the movement is captured in it. I read it years ago and looking into it again, am surprised by how different thing were for the spikes in days of yore. Still, it's got some good giggles in it. Never thought of a cotta as "tropical rig" as opposed to a surplice before!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

And by tea time...

I am a DOS (that's Doddery Old So & So, not Desk Operating System). I'd forgotten my specs so have purchased cheapo reading glasses as a back up set in the office - and the nice young lady in Superdrug threw in a free string thing to keep them round my neck so I don't lose them. The fillings keep on detaching and my hair is receding! And I'm still 19 years off the bus pass! Blast! eyes, teeth, hair all on the blink - what else will cease to function soon?

A good week-end.

Indeed it was. Saturday night was spent munching asparagus risotto and tarte au chocolate whilst watching "Strictly Come Dancing". Remembrance Sunday went OK with the amusement factor of somebody asking if we could take a retiring collection for the Earl Grey Fund! That is just soo Diocese of Edinburgh! I'm thinking of renaming the Coffee Fund.

Monday was hardly a thrill, with the office Internet not working and then the evening spent discussing the proposed Covenant at St Peter's Lutton Place. Frankly, there appears to be no real enthusiasm for it and most of the folks who had gathered wondered if there is any point in it. Its judicial leanings do not commend it to the mind of the majority in Edinburgh and I suspect that, whilst we will engage with the process, the General Synod will not vote to accept it.

The Tuesday Vestry meeting went well enough, with all business sorted in 2hrs. The trip to the chip shop beforehand was more fun though. And today? Well, prayers for Unity in St Francis Xavier's went well, although only 8 came. and it's confirmation class tonight. Life goes on.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Another day at the...

office. And Church. And hospital. And not at the football. What happened to "6 days shalt thou labour", eh? Never mind, it comes with the territory. Doing the pew sheet, sorting out the sermon etc.

As to Labour, despite my totally never having voted for them and having voted SNP on a regular basis to stump the Socialists at Council and Holyrood level, I am really quite pleased that Irn Broon's place man won in Glenrothes. It at least temporarily silenced Eck the Smug, our glorious leader and showed the arrant stupidity of his economic arguments: "Arc of Prosperity" - Phooey! Plain fact is, we're far too wee to survive on our lonio, the oil is running out and we can't use it to pay the pensions and fuel economic growth at the same time unless we spend it twice - which is the sort of fiscal dumbness which would have us all jobless, homeless and benefit less in short order.

And so, to preparing a Remembrance day sermon. Oh joy! Oh rapture! Oh...never mind!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Happiness is...

a cigar called Hamlet. (No it's not - I discovered Cohiba cigarillos in Dortmund!) Actually, it's getting into the office and finding the magazine ready for my bits to be added, doing all of them and having it all printed off in seasonal red before close of play! It's getting a decent espresso from the coffee shop rather than yukky Fair trade instant and finding the new office is more warm and snug that the old damp ridden dump of a converted Vestry. It's the redone missing filling holding out at the 2nd attempt. It's all sorts of little things just clicking and coming together in happy coincidence and making for a better than average morning.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Clergy Conference.

Underwhelmed I am after the clergy conference. The 1st session really made me lose the will to live - and all I can say about Indaba is, the Zulu's have certainly revenged themselves for Rorke's Drift! And the pheasant was tough. The 1st night was not really a success.

Luckily, it did improve on day 2 and we did some useful thinking about clergy support. The Bishop evidently had a rough time in his group - which I personally think is unfair and doesn't match my personal experience of him as pastor. Don't bash the Bishop was what I was taught in confirmation class!! Mind you, the Rector may have been on about summat else...

Of the conferences I have attended this was the least stimulating. No external input for a start. It also hit us with a 2 hour lecture as an opener, when we really needed to wind down from the Sunday and the rush to get there. Still, the meal on the Tuesday was far better, so I was a happy bunny after supper!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Liturgical car crash or what?

Yesterday was one of those horrid collisions of liturgical principles which horrify the purist and confuse everyone else. All Saint's fell on Saturday, so yesterday was All Souls, right? Nope, because All Souls is a much lesser festival than a Sunday in Ordinary Time. So I kept All Saint's Sunday. Easy enough so far. But it is the local tradition that we also observe the reading of the list of the departed on the Sunday. And it's meant to be a Family Service. Arrgh! So the order for Festivals was used, 2 readings dropped and a lengthy list of departed recited. Seemed to meet general satisfaction. Probably not to the taste of the high heid yins of the Liturgy Committee, but then I've never thought much about their collective wisdom - 'handsel' forsooth!

The afternoon had the pleasure of a baptism interview. For the first time in my career, I'll be baptising twins on the 10th January! I must get the names in the right order! And then "Godtalk 3" at Erskine Church. Discussing music and spirituality. Stimulating given that 2 of those present were on the Editorial Board of CH4. Quite a lively day, all told.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

One man and his dog, an electrician and a gym instructor!

Just kidding folks! No clerical scandals in Falkirk.

We had a slightly hairy night last night, Max and I. He, like many a dog, hates Halloween/Guy Fawkes. He was a bit jittery with the bangs last night. Luckily, I'd been dosing him with a new herbal concoction from the vet, which meant he wasn't as upset as he has been. The good thing is, it doesn't dope him out, so it has my vote.

The bathroom light in the Rectory is playing up a bit, which is probably due to the electrical system being installed by Thomas Alva Edison, so it's bathing by the light of the shaving lamp if I choose to shower in the evening! Which might be romantic, if I wasn't single! Willie the electrician is dealing with it as I type.

My disinclination for solo bathing inclines to a trip to the health club for a wee swim and sauna. The pool is patrolled by the gym instructors. Hence the headline!

Friday, 31 October 2008

Halloween - dontcha just hate it?

I was never a fan of Halloween as a kid. Out in stupid clothes on a cold night (which is what the clergy end up doing sometimes, but that's by the by!), turnip lanterns stank, we ended up eating neeps (a veg I can live without unless well creamed and served with spuds to kill the taste) for days afterwards. Nope, it's not my favourite festival. I'd much rather have had Diwali, personally. Nice Indian grub at least. But now the Americanisation of it all leaves me utterly cold about it all. Pumpkins? Trick or Treat? Bah!

Off to visit the sick this afternoon. If I can find her, that is. Yesterday was spent hunting through 6 wards in 2 different hospitals and still the admission dept couldn't tell me where Sadie was. Eventually a helpful Ward Sister spent the best part of 15 minutes tracking down for me. With modern computer technology, you'd think this wouldn't be a problem these days wouldn't you?

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Covenant week approaching.

Now the diocese is getting serious about discussing the proposed Anglican Covenant. The post this morning had all the bumf for the clergy conference - which means we will spend Monday - Wednesday next week talking about it (groan!). That's all very well, but it will only work if there is a turn out from all the different viewpoints. We will do little good if only the liberals turn out: we need the evangelicals to make this discussion worthwhile. Luckily they aren't bad at that in Edinburgh diocese. There is little sense of anyone wanting to split off or hold back - which is positive.

Then on the 10th we gather in St Peter's Lutton Place for an open discussion for anyone who is interested. Again the variety of viewpoints is vital. As is an irenic spirit of willingness to listen. Not the same thing as hearing the words and then catapulting your own point of view at the other side. That's no nearer to dialogue than a meeting of the Zimbabwean parliament!

So my bed time reading will be very Lambeth-ish for the next few days! Ora pro nobis!


Today, the world seems a little less grim. An enjoyable confirmation class yesterday helped. I actually find it is the teaching side of ministry, rather than the pastoral granny farming which stimulates and inspires me. Not that it's unimportant, but it's not where my gifts seem to lie. I also get a kick out of doing the odd RMPS class at the High School. Maybe I need to think about going more into that sort of post than doing parish? A worthwhile thought as I hit the middle of my time. Time's winged chariot does seem to be goosing me of late.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Down in the dumps.

I never like the dentist, but it's particularly annoying when one of the 2 fillings goes AWOL after less than 24 hours. Plus the dog is on herbal medicine because of the fireworks and it just feels like a grotty sort of day in the making. I'm late with an article for a magazine and annoyed with myself for a variety of little niggly things. A bad case of the grumps methinks!

Saturday, 25 October 2008


Back from Walsingham again. We had a really good week with decent weather, good food, a trip to the seaside, lunch on my birthday at Sandringham (in the teashop only, sadly!) and a good drive back until we got to the border where the A66 turned into the Road from Hell and then the M73 was just ridiculous. And I avoided diocesan synod! Yaay!
So now I'm 41 - better than the alternative I imagine! and back to the usual routine!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Busy little bee!

Friday was the over-80's trip - now renamed the Seniors to make it more inclusive - and we were off to South Queensferry to look at the nice bridges, before crossing the river and driving to a garden centre near Stirling via Alloa for tea. Oh well, they enjoyed the chattering if nothing else. Saturday was the Coffee Morning (£700 + for church funds) and a mad dash to Millport to drop off stuff for Cursillo. Then the holy mysteries today and off tomorrow to Walsingham with a group from the parish. This sadly means I'll have to miss Diocesan Synod (boo!)and spend my birthday in Norfolk - such a shame! Never a dull moment here.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Heretical opinions!

On Gaelic, I hasten to add. I enjoyed last night's clarsach bash but it was a bit like Wagner - great moments, but the quarter hours were a bit of a trial! It all seemed to take a while to say "It was awfy nice Morag" or "Wasn't that tragic Fergus". Still, several of the kids were very talented - a wee McPherson from Lewis (must be the clerical input centuries ago!) could fair sing and there were a couple of talented Campbell's from Edinburgh. Just a pity their clan got in my mother's clan's way at Culloden!

Tonight it's the Stations of the Cross for Cursillo, so I'd better go and find the ruddy things!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Not quite organised chaos.

Which is my life history in a sentence. Having met, fed and generally socialised with the Ugandan visitors from the Diocese of Kinkezi (who brought marvellous footage of the the new School hall we helped to build - the largest in Western Uganda - which has attracted Govt support and 6 new classroom blocks are in the process of being built by the Chinese Govt), I had to forgo a team ministry meeting and rearrange a supervision session this morning to transport them to a provincial Overseas Committee meeting. I rearranged the latter but not the former, which means I got rather in the bad books - I was supposed to chair it!
Tonight I go to a clarsach concert in Camelon as part of the Mhod. I'll enjoy it I'm sure!

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Awash in a sea of tartan.

Yes, the Mod (or Mhod) is here. The toon centre is hoachin' with kilted types, the air rent asunder with the skirl of the pipes and lissom young ladies are giving highland dancing exhibitions outside the Body Shop. Well, it seems an appropriate enough location! All very nice, but I think I'll stick to the italian nosh I planned for tonight: I'm really not in the mood for haggis and skirlie gies me the boak!

Friday, 10 October 2008


is better than Thursday. I had an early night to beat off the German germs and it seems to have worked. I certainly feel cheerier today. The nose is clear, the eyes bright and I'm not coughing as much.

The Mod is in town, so you can scarely move for wailing Teuchters of an evening (or so my spies in local hostelries inform me). Although Falkirk was never part of the Gaeltach, it was a major stop on the cattle droves so might be thought of as a sort of Tartan Abilene of the 18th century. Might try and pop along to some of the folk music type bits.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Thursday, bloody Thursday.

Ever had one of those days which is just plain annoying from the start? I got off to a grumpy one today with an e-mail from a colleague suggesting we scrap and re-do an ecumenically agreed liturgy because he didn't like it. A very sharp reply zipped off from moi. Then, the blinking dog caught a rabbit. The dim bunny didn't move as he approached and paid the price. There seems to be some myxomatosis type bug going around, so maybe the late Bugs was diseased and it was a merciful release. Still, it left me feeling yukky.
Add to that wet feet and a key to the outside door of the office which jammed - I don't feel too chuffed with today.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Skool rools!

School chaplaincy has its moments. Being asked if I belong to the same church as the Vicar of Dibley is a first though - thanks 1C! I do!

Last night was a really good session with our CCD guru. We're better than we were 2 years ago at communications and stewardship - which is good to hear. He also felt we (as a vestry) are working better together than we were. I put it down to pre-vestry fish and chips before each meeting, plus an away day twice a year to do a bit of strategic thinking and planning. That and the grace of God. A big change from my last vestry. This lot are friends, not potential enemies.

And tonight I go to Old St Paul's to chair the Edinburgh Servers Priors meeting as Priest Director. Only drawback is the trains, so I'll drive to the Park and Ride and take the bus in.

Time for a coffee methinks!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

What a week-end!

On Saturday I got to the Dusty Springfield tribute act and it was very, very good. Then on the Sabbath had to soothe the grumbling oldies at 9am because the Church was Baltic... and it was, as my breath turned into pretty little puffs of vapour. At 10.30 nobody noticed the vapour, because of all the incense for Dedication festival. Excellent stuff it was too; really cleared my sinuses, which are still plagued by German germs. On Sunday evening I did a talk to our ecumenical God Talk group on how to be a heretic. Next month is how music and art from non Christians speak to us of spirituality - led by another one of the group. Monday was the barber and the dentist and I have a batch of fillings to get. Ouch!

Today I had a school class, and then the MU, then a vestry meeting with our CMD advisor. No rest for the wicked, eh?

Friday, 3 October 2008

High Dunsinane, Birnam Wood and all that.

Last night was a wee trip to Falkirk Town Hall to see the Mull Little Theatre doing Macbeth by Wullie Shakespeare. With 6 actors. It may be over 25 years since I did the Scotch play at school but even I can recall that there were more than 6 roles in it! Very inventive, minimal set decoration, clever use of mirrors which made the 3 witches possible and the actress doing the witches did all sorts of other bits, like the porter, so was onstage virtually all the time - an amazing feat of memory if nothing else. Very gifted woman indeed. The witches were portrayed as a truly screwy schizoid young woman who in this day and age would be parked safely in the Royal Ed under heavy medication. Excellent production.

And my next cultural outing? Saturday night, same place to watch a Dusty Springfield impersonator!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Thoughts on ministering to the older generation.

I came across this poetic reflection by the priest-poet RS Thomas. It says something quite profound about ministry to the auld yins which makes up a fair chunk of the clerical task in the SEC these days. Thought it was worth sharing with the world.

The Echoes Return Slow” by RS Thomas

The cure of souls! Congregations tend to get older. There is no cure for old age. And the old tend to be sick. When one should be leading them on to peer into the future, one is drawn back by them into the past. The Visitation of the Sick! A ministry more credible because more noticeable than the cure of souls.

They keep me sober,
The old ladies
Stiff in their beds,
Mostly with pale eyes
Wintering me.
Some are like blonde dolls
Their joints twisted;
Life in its brief play
Was a bit rough.
Some fumble
With thick tongue for words’
And are deaf;
Shouting their faint names.
I listen;
They are far off,
the echoes return slow.

But without them,
Without the subdued light
Their smiles kindle,
I would have gone wild,
Drinking earth’s huge draughts
Of joy and woe.

The German Sermon.

This I hope speaks for itself.


Mark 2:2: “While he was proclaiming the message to them...”

He was Jesus. What message was Jesus proclaiming to them? And who were they? They were a crowd from Capernaum – a mixed group of the deeply devout, the churchy but curious, the faintly religious, the positively pious, the holy, the half hearted and those who filled a pew in body, but not in spirit. Plus those who had turned out to see the show of the famous radical rabbi irritating the local gang of the godly – our predecessors in these pews, if you like.

The message was painfully simple and blunt – “The time has arrived; the kingdom of God is upon you. Repent and believe the Gospel.” (Mk. 1:19). That gospel was being preached in the 1st instance in Galilee – “Galilee of the Gentiles” – a mixed and multi-cultural, multi-faith and mixed language society. That is a society that is not unlike our own society today. The gospel – the Good News – was a message that all who chose to align themselves with God were welcomed into the kingdom of God. This, of course, is the classic message of the revivalist preacher, simple, passionate and easy to understand. The message is easy enough to accept, if it is simply a call for the individual to amend their life in accordance with an accepted pattern and lifestyle: a “Christian” lifestyle. But when it challenges and calls us as individuals, as a group, as congregations, as Church and as a society to radically change and transform our lives and lifestyles, then it is anything but easy to accept and then it is usually met with anger, apathy, lip service or anguish.

Whilst preaching this simple religious message to this very mixed group of hearers, Jesus was faced with a challenge from the crowd. A group of 4 men brought a friend with a practical problem to him. It was a practical problem that totally overshadowed his life and pushed the religious dimension of the Gospel message to one side. He was paralysed. His physical disability and practical needs dominated his existence. His friends believed that somehow Jesus could help him, so they made tremendous efforts to bring him in contact with the one who declared that he was God’s messenger – Jesus the Christ. His response was not what anyone might have expected. He didn’t say a prayer or preach a sermon telling the paralysed man it was all his own fault or the fault of his parents, grandparents or great great grandparents. Nor did he give him money or a wheelchair. Instead he told him “My son, your sins are forgiven”.

This wasn’t what anyone expected. The man and his friends probably were hoping for a healing miracle, for this radical rabbi Jesus from Nazareth was also famous for his gift of healing: in Mark chapter 1 he had healed a man with convulsions, Simon’s fever ridden mother in law and a leper. And the learned theologians who were listening to Jesus were scandalised. Only God could forgive sins. This Jesus was a blasphemer, a heretic. They were all surprised. And they all missed the point. Because what Jesus was doing was simple and significant – he was empowering the paralysed man and giving him the freedom to take charge of his own life and destiny. That man had been told for years that his misfortune and disability were the result either of his own lifestyle and choices or of the choices made by his ancestors. The theology of that period very strongly believed that God was good and generous to the righteous and that misfortune was the fate of the sinful. This rather ignores the wisdom and insight of many of the Psalms and the book of Job. The other side of that coin was to believe that if you were unfortunate then you logically were or had been sinful. It was a theology that Job’s friends and so-called comforters would have recognised instantly. When he declared that the paralysed man’s sins were forgiven, Jesus was freeing him from the burdens and chains of his own history and experience and from the attitudes and expectations of the society around about him.

That liberation and freedom which Christ brought was, at one level, not a new thing. It was exactly the freedom and liberation promised by God to his people in the Sinai covenant declared by Moses in Exodus chapters 19-40. The people of God were invited to enter into a relationship with God that brought both blessing and responsibility. The Covenant also impacted on the whole of Israelite society, defining both the prosperity they could expect if they maintained their side of the bargain and their responsibility to structure their personal and their corporate life in ways that ensured justice and holiness, not only for the Chosen people, but also for the stranger who dwelt in the land, for the widow and for the orphan. In the person of Jesus Christ, this Old Covenant was being renewed, but in a radically different way that extended its membership far beyond the descendents of a small Semitic tribe who had settled in the land of Canaan and offered its benefits to the whole human race if they wished to accept it as a way of life.

Offering that freedom and liberation to the wounded people of God is, of course, the evangelical task that we as Christians today are still charged with and committed to. It may lead us to proclaim freedom and liberation to individuals from the results and consequences of personal behaviour that is contrary to the will of God; it may require us to challenge the structures both of the Churches and of society in a prophetic role, to enable the freedom and justice which is God’s desire for all his children to prevail. But it always requires us to enable women and men to take responsibility for their own destiny and future, so that they may know and enjoy the fully free and restored humanity and life that we inherit through baptism into membership of the Body of the risen, ascended and glorified Christ. Enabling others to take charge of their destiny is a profoundly Christian and evangelical action. It expresses itself in many ways: in spiritual counselling, in proclaiming the Gospel of salvation and in acting practically and politically to empower men and women who are marginalised and disadvantaged.

I have personally been lucky enough to observe the Church doing this in many different ways and places over the years. A friend of mine worked for several years as a priest in the East End of Glasgow in Scotland. It is one of the most socially disadvantaged and deprived areas in the European Union - worse even that parts of the former Communist Bloc. He established a Credit Union in the parish in which he served to provide low cost financial loans to help people to improve their quality of life and avoid debt. It made a great difference to the lives of many families. My congregation in Falkirk has a link with a congregation in Nyakinoni in south western Uganda and 2 1/2 years ago we visited Uganda. There we saw the real difference our financial support of a medical clinic made (we supply the salaries for a nurse and a midwife), saving lives from malaria to an entire community. We also saw the difference that Fair-trade can make in helping communities to help themselves. Money from fairly traded tea was used locally to start brick factories which have transformed the local economy and improved the situation of hundreds of local people. From being dependant on one crop, with all the dangers that come when a local economy is built on a narrow base, the local economy has expanded and diversified, ensuring greater prosperity and economic stability and a higher standard of life for the future. We also saw the huge difference a local micro credit bank made in providing low cost loans for local development in the neighbouring town of Kihihi. These actions, organised by local Christians who realised that the Gospel calls them to enable freedom for all God’s people, have led to real and concrete metanoia – transformation – in the lives both of individuals and of societies.

You recall that Jesus forgave the paralysed man: he enabled him to accept and experience freedom. That in turn, through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, empowered him to take up his bed and go home. He returned to his family healed and transformed, no longer marginalised and despised but restored and able to take a full and active part in the life of his society as a worker and as a worshipper. No longer was his disability – the sign of God’s disfavour – able to separate him from the vital life of the congregation of Israel. He was fully able to participate in and contribute to the life of God’s kingdom. May the Christ who gave each one of us freedom through his saving life, death and resurrection inspire and enable us to proclaim and work for that freedom and to share it with others, that his kingdom may come and God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Rhur view Dougal!.

It seems aeon's since I blogged last. The computer in the hotel in Dortmund sadly only spoke German - which I don't (Well, "Vo ist die toiletten, bitte?" is about as far as I go - but it's awfully useful!)

Superb hospitality and real openness were my abiding impression of the Evangelical Church in Westphalia. (BTW, Evangelical means Protestant (e.g. Lutheran /Reformed), not Fundy type Evangelical). It faces much of the same problems we do: declining numbers financial constraints, aging active membership. Ecumenically, it seems all rather good at the Institutional level (joint representations to the Govt.), but less of a reality on the ground. Massive Social Service programmes funded by a 9% Church Tax. Big emphasis on justice issues (ecology, developing world etc). Churches well maintained due to the tax. I felt quite at home with the worship and theology: Lutheranism is not so very far from Anglicanism. Sunday morning was a bit like Mattins rather than CofS morning service. Candles and colours are in use. I even managed to preach a sermon (in English) which was translated and will appear on the Shuren parish web-site.

What hit me at personal level though was looking at the cities of Dortmund and Munster where we went on the Saturday as tourists. Lovely medieval Churches - only they weren't. All rebuilt in the 40's and 50's because the RAF and USAF had utterly flattened 90% of the cities in the Rhur. We go on about the Blitz, Coventry and Clydebank, which were horrible events. But it was as nothing compared to the retaliation we gave in 1943/44. Seeing WW2 from the other side of the water was a revelation. Also in the Catholic Cathedral in Munster there was a display about the Catholic martyrs and heroes and heroines of the faith who resisted Hitler: Edith Stein (Carmelite convert from Judaism killed in Auschwitz), Karl Lessing (ordained in Dachau concentration camp) and Cardinal Graf von Galen who preached against Hitler's racial policies and is now beatified. Up there with Bonhoeffer and Niemoller for courage and faithful witness. We don't here about them at school. There was also a very powerful set of Stations of the Cross. The 5th where Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus with the Cross had, not a black man, but a prisoner in concentration camp uniform helping Christ. That struck me deeply.

All in all, a fascinating and very worthwhile trip. Now to persuade the peeps to go with the link.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Getting ready to go!

A mad rush to make sure all my bits are in place for next week's jaunt to Germany. Passport - check, EHIC card - check, dog to ma's - arranged, pew sheets - in hand, e-mails sent - yup. All systems go - H-Hour -48hrs.

We check into Edinburgh airport (Turnhouse, as I still call it) 5pm Sunday for the 7pm Sleazy Jet to Dortmund. Then to the Hotel Konigshof and a week of exploring ecumenical link possibilities between the EKD of Westphalia and their local ecumenical organisation the ACK (which has nothing to do with King's College London as far as I know) and FCT (Falkirk Churches Together).

Having done Latin rather than German at school, I had a sesh with Margaret our organist today. Not on music, but on German phrases (she speak Der lingo). I can now introduce myself, tell them I'm an SEC priest and find the toilet! Practical German for beginners! And I promise not to mention the War, Sybil!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Meetings in hell!

2 committee meetings in a day is bad. But when one of them is in a hall where you have a 70 piece symphony orchestra rehearsing next door, a samba band practicing upstairs and grumpy historians to be evicted from the room they occupied without consultation before you can even start, then bad acquires a whole new depth of meaning! There was something faintly appropriate however in the enforced soundtrack: we started to "Jesus Christ Superstar" and at the most boring bit of the agenda were serenaded by Glinka's "Night on the Bare Mountain". Light in even the most unlikely darkness!

Yesterday had a good spot in a meeting with a godly sister who I went to talk about my prayer life with. I was surprised to be told that I know something about spiritual poverty! In a good way! I'm happier now with enough from God rather than trying to grab everything or demanding it. Progress of sorts I think.

Time to eat now. Baked tatties for supper. Yum!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

On a lighter note.

Time for a funny. Miss MacSporran was taking the Sunday School at St Sinbad's Weegieville. She was trying to explain the Parable of the Rich Young Man to the weans. "So children, if I want to get to heaven, will doing what mum and dad tell me be enough?" "Naw, Miss" "Will being kind to everybody in my class be enough?" "Naw, Miss" "Will selling my house and giving all the money to the poor be enough?" "Naw, Miss" "So what else will I have to do?" she asked. Silence. Then Wee Evil Shug spoke up: "Die, ya muppet!"

Thanks mum!

Year's Mind.

Yesterday passed off quite well. I went across to Mum's and, after we had fuelled the Green Beastie at a Royal Dutch Shell emporium, we found Dobbie's Garden centre to purchase floors etc before going to the cemetery. After that, to pass the time, we decided a run to St Andrew's was a lousy idea due to the pouring rain and headed instead for the Odeon to watch "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" - based on the John Boyne short novel and giving a take on the Holocaust through the eyes of a concentration Camp Commandant's 8 year old son. If you've read the book, do see the film - it's fairly faithful to the novel. If you haven't then do go and see it. It's sombre but has light touches and does actually cover the ground without really harrowing the soul. It's also nicely acted - a good ensemble cast who underplay beautifully. A terrible sense of normality pervades the whole film. Doubt it'll pick up an Oscar, but it'll do well in the BAFTA's and I suspect in Berlin. Not so sure about Cannes.

Mum gave me a surprise by lending me a tape she had discovered after Dad died. It was a recording he made of himself talking to the 3 of us about life after he'd gone. It's must have been made at least 10 years ago as he has no speech impediment (ergo it's pre stroke) but after the by-pass op (therefore not older than 20 yrs). She was a bit reluctant to let me take it away ("You can listen to it in the spare room") but I really felt I didn't want to listen to it in their house with all the memories that holds and with her next door - if I want to blub, I'll do it in my own space without worrying about how I'm going to face her 5 mins later and not upset her. I didn't actually say that, but we looked at each other and she handed it over without comment. I suspect she knew what was going on in my mind - she usually does.

Part of me is curious and wants to listen and hear what Dad had to say. Like many a Scottish male he rarely talked about what he felt. Part of me dreads hearing his voice because I'm not sure how I'll react - particularly as it's the voice prior to the stroke. But I think it's something I need to do.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

"In hoc signes, vinci"

Quite appropriate for the feast of the Holy Cross! It follows on a rather good diocesan post Lambeth conference in Haddington. +Brian was good as usual, but Lissa his wife really rather stole the show. The Rape of Tamar is one of those bits of the Book of Samuel you race past in the Daily Office cycle of readings if you are male, I suspect, and it certainly made me think. It was just a pity we skipped from the 8 questions from the spouses conference to talking about human sexuality in the usual tired old way - i.e what some blokes do with their willies. If we had stopped off to think about the use/abuse of power in the Church (which impacts on male and female, gay and straight, young and old, Western and African) we might have got somewhere interesting. But we didn't. Maybe it's time to pack the Bishop off to Mars and let the spouses run the Anglican Communion for 6 months and sort the whole bleedin' mess out?

Met a friend I haven't seen for 10 years for dinner in Edinburgh afterwards. Both a bit tubbier than we were, but amazingly quickly, it was as if nothing had changed and the old easy camaraderie was still there. A decent Italian meal (I recommend the Conchigerli in Bar Roma, by the way) and a leisurely chat over coffee and a pipe in the New Club made for a pleasant evening. The views over Princes Street were stunning.

This morning I preached about the Cross and its shamefulness and pondered who we ought to embrace as despised for the sake of the Crucified One. Francis of Assisi kissed the leper. I think sub-Saharan Africa should embrace homosexuals - perhaps we need to look at embracing child abusers? It's a hugely uncomfortable thought and one which I imagine most of us would run a mile from, but the Cross if it is really what our faith is about, then it calls us all out beyond our comfort zone and calls us out of the comfort and acceptability norms of our society. When we embrace the Cross's radical call to welcome and inclusivity then we risk the hatred of our society. Which is what we of the liberal West are asking the Church in Nigeria etc to do if they become more gay friendly. I believe we are right to call the Church in Nigeria and Uganda to do that but I wonder if we really appreciate the cost of such counter-cultural witness? A bit like inviting Gary Glitter to stay at the Rectory. The thing is, if I'm honest, I know that's the sort of sacrifice we ought to be willing to make - and I'm pretty sure I'd bottle it if I was asked to actually do it.

Friday, 12 September 2008

The Horror, the horror..

Noooo! They've changed the caterers at Central Park. We'll never get decent steak pies again, they'll water down the bovril. Never mind 9/11 - this is real tragedy!

I'm a Chaplain again.

The honorary (i.e. unpaid) chaplaincy posts that sometimes seem to come with parish ministry can often be interesting relief from the mundane parts of ministry. Here in Falkirk I have 2 chaplaincies which have come with the post. I'm part of an ecumenical team at Graeme High School and I am chaplain to the Falkirk Campus of Forth Valley College.

This week I was busy with the school. The RMPE department use our lovely little Church as a resource and every S1 class in the school gets shown round it with a sheet on religious symbolism to fill in. I then do a class visit to guide them through the sheet and answer any questions they have on the building or on what I do in general. Which has led to some interesting conversations with the kids on death & funerals and other topics not strictly related to why we have a Star of David carved on our pulpit.

I also had to pop in to the College today. The Chaplaincy there has been a bit problematic due to our contact on Student support and Diversity being off work for a large part of last year. So the exchange of information about activities has been sporadic. Luckily, the new contact person seems keen enough to move things on, although 2 weeks notice about Freshers Fayre is pretty useless - both Alison (the Stirling Chaplain) and I are away. But I hope to get some useful links going with the Student Association Diversity Officer. It worries me that Chaplaincy may not be accessed by students because they assume Chaplains represent religions which ain't into diversity and are either anti-women or anti-LGBT people. I think a face to face contact to make it clear that this isn't the case would be useful. The Church may not be as exclusive as its detractors make out.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Dougal's Good Grub Guide.

Well, I can cheerfully recommend the Four Mary's in Linlithgow for a meal. The Cullen Skink was lovely, the lamb's liver excellent. Our party also commend the haggis, neeps and tatties and the fish pie. It also has an excellent range of real ales and seemed to do a good deal on malt whisky. There are some really good eateries in this neck of the woods which are also terribly reasonably priced.

Rather an odd time of year just now. Monday coming is the 1st anniversary of Dad's death, so I'm rather keyed up. I have the diary clear so that I can go over and spend time with mum on the day, but really have no idea how I will actually feel. It's something I've pushed rather to the back of my mind and not dwelt on, so now that it's so close I'm feeling just a little...anxious? Will I feel anything at all? I go to the grave, I've put flowers there: life is not the same, but progressing. So am I just getting slightly steamed up for no reason?

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Upsa daisy!

Positive and upbeat is how I feel today - up to a point! The lunchtime Prayers for Unity (a new, local, once a month initiative) was well attended with more than 30 bums on the pews in St Francis Xavier's - although the cynic in me wondered if the fact that it was in SFX's meant that the RC "turn up for everything that Fr does" gang would boost the numbers artificially. Possibly the case, although I was pleased to see two of the faces were RC parishioners who I know were originally Anglican. It's good when a change of allegiance doesn't lead to a rejection of generous openness to your former tradition.

All this ecumenism turns my mind to what it was that inspired me to it in the 1st place. I suppose being part of a family where your dad's Protestant, but non Church going, uncle would drive his devout RC wife to Mass every Sunday and sit outside in the car reading the Sunday Post until she was finished was a start. Having a brother who is a member of a flute band but who married an RC adds to the picture of knowing what I like and value in my own faith but wanting to share in the riches of others traditions. When I say say ecumenism I don't mean the content with a hymn sandwich, we're all the same really mushy type of ecumenism but a genuine open and sharing type. No prejudice but I really don't want to be a Presbyterian, nor could I cope with being an RC but I do want us all to work together more and to share more fully in the work of Christ and the fellowship of the Church as it is meant to be. Ideally full inter communion - but that is a very long way off. And it'll never happen if we don't work for it now. We may not live to see it in our days but we will see it and rejoice from the heavenly ringside seats!

And tonight it's off with the inter-Church social group (the Wanderlings) to try out the food at the Four Mary's in Linlithgow. Restaurant review to follow!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

A busy day.

Having dealt with 2 classes from the local school before lunch, I was somewhat stunned to discover that the local Missions to Seafarers Chaplain Tom (who was due to be licenced at the beginning of October) had died suddenly last night. That's a major shock, as I'd only met him last week and he was due to preach at Christ Church in November. Next I had lunch with mum and then did some admin - trip to Germany related. After exercising the hound, I shot off to join the vestry for our pre meeting fish and chips at Benny T's and then a meeting with a humongous agenda (always is after the summer hols). I chaired it rather briskly and we finished in 2 hours which was good going. Was given a rather fun pressie by Bob and Lesley - some tapes of "Round the Horne" and "Beyond our Ken". Bona, as they say!

Quite a tiring day really, given that yesterday I was up in St Andrews for some fresh air with Max and found the grave of an SEC calender saint in the East Cemetery quite by chance (Lucy Menzies), but had to come back for a Cursillo meeting in South Queensferry, which slightly dampened the day off feeling. More school tomorrow and I must go to Edinburgh to drop of some Cursillo bumph in the Diocesan Office. Hopefully I can combine that with dinner with a visiting friend who's in town until Sunday and who I haven't seen for years. Time for bed as Zebedee said!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Sunday, sunday..

Well, well, well! The parish barbie was a good thing. No rain for a start (no sun either, but hey this is Scotland) and wee Lewis (aged 6) made one of the best comments ever as his family joined the queue for Communion: "Dad, is this the queue for the Barbeque? Has John got burgers up there?" I knew there was a good argument against the Westward position and this is it: 6 year olds think you're a burger salesman, not a sacramental personage! Time to face east brothers and sisters!

Sadly, it over ran a wee bit and I didn't make it to Central Park for the gemme! Must stick on the radio and discover how we did against the brute beasts of Airdrie.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

The trouble with lunch.

The trouble with lunch is that it's in the middle of the day. Today a lunch date meant that I couldn't make it to the Servers Festival in Montrose. Tomorrow the BBQ lunch after Church means I will be hard pressed to make it to Central Park for 3pm to watch the BB play Airdrie in the Challenge Cup quarter finals. Rats as they say.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Good karma resumed!

Yes, it was lack of fresh air and exercise - I feel better and less grumpy today. No visit from mum who has a cold, so she stayed at home on my unequivocal orders! Had coffee with a pal from Edinburgh in the morning - partly to discuss matters of mutual interest such as Walsingham and rosaries and partly to catch up (she was only 4 years out of date on mutual friends doings!). She also has an immense hound who Max could (and did) easily walk under. Then a productive afternoon sorting out hymns and shopping. Tomorrow is a lunch date. And Sunday a BBQ for Harvest.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Aging gracelessly.

The Victor Meldrew-ism may be terminal in my case! Eating a late lunch (curry in Weatherspoons), a group of teens occupied the next table and I seriously wished the bar staff would check their ID and tell them to move on. One went up to get drinks and they were questioned and told the under-age 'uns weren't to get bevvy. They then mumphed loudly whilst supping and I got tetchier by the minute. I know we did the same things when I was 16-18 years old (ie tried to get booze in a pub whilst underage), but were we that bleeding
a) loud and b) obvious? Maybe we were.

Perhaps the grumpiness will be lessened by some decent excercise and fresh air. I feel a long dog walk coming on.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Random Thoughts

Am I Victor Meldrew's wee brother? I nipped out for a swim this afternoon and kept glaring at the young ladies hogging the centre lane of the pool thinking "I thought the schools had gone back". In due course it transpired they had just left school at the summer break. I also meditated on the American elections: are the Republicans getting their candidates from the "Round the Horne" leftover pile? Ageing war hero Binkie Hugabomb and Governor Celia Moosestrangler. Do I need to get out more often? Probably.

Friends films and building links.

Slight bummer of a message from friends yesterday. Two of my best pals are moving to Walsingham in November, so will no longer be at the end of the motorway for socialising and holidays. I'm pleased for them and think it's a good move by them, as they have had a fearful year in Glasgow, but am a bit sad for self. And a sad loss for the SEC. Just hope it all works out. Time will tell.

Really enjoyed Mamma Mia at the flicks last night. Pierce Brosnan sings like my dad at Hogmanay, but it was good fun. Ideal fare for gal pals, gay mates and swinging aunties!

Now to do some ecumenical networking!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Back in the ol' vineyard!

Oh, back to work today. 66 e-mails and struggling with a pew sheet because Oremus is on the blink. Normality resumes! It was a fabby week, but I'm already done an area Council last night, have a ministry team tomorrow and two school classes and follow up in the next week. Still, at least I returned to find the booklets for the monthly prayers for Unity were ready for next Wednesday.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

The leisure continues!

After a gallop to Shaftesbury Avenue to get a ticket for Hairspray (the musical, rather than the L'Oreal product - although I'm worth it!), it was off to the British Museum to see the Hadrian Exhibition. Then the show which was Faaaabulous!!! I will really have to put musicals on my list of interests. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Tourist days!

Yes, I went to the Tower of London, saw the Crown Jewels, marvelled at Henry VIII's shiny metal codpiece and rather enjoyed the day! Today, it's the Cabinet War Rooms, tea at Fortnum and Mason's, Evensong at the Abbey and then off to the theatre to watch puppets - I bought a ticket to Avenue Q! I'll post pics when I get home - the USB cable was hiding before I left.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

off to the Big Smoke!

And I don't mean Glasgow! No sirrah! I mean the Great Wen as Sam Johnson called it!I jetted down to our UK capital on Sunday night to spend a few days in the company of old friends and to finally visit some of those palaces I never managed to get to when I was a humble Curate in Ealing. Humble, of course being a figure of speech!

So of course day one was spent... in Walsingham. I'd arrived the day before the parish did a day pilgrimage, so it was into a bus at 7.30 and off we went. 1st person I met on arrival was a Scottish Rector I know in his holiday cottage in the village, then we got into the Shrine to robe only to find an unexpected Clergy House reunion - the Vicar and NSM of Christ the Saviour and 3 of his former curates, all present and liturgically correct! I think it's a local record. What is the collective noun for a gathering of former curates - a clump? A chapter? I've no idea!

Today the great plan is to "do" The Tower of London and possibly the National Portrait Gallery before meeting a friend of days gone by at Westminster Cathedral for Vespers and then going for a meal etc in one of our old haunts. But hey it's holiday, so it may change!

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Olive Oiling the Wheels!

It's good from time to time just to socialise with your wardens, so tonight Tom, Margaret and I met up for an Italian meal in Edinburgh. Talked a certain amount of Church and business for Sunday's vestry meeting, but really just chatted over the pasta, pollo, desserts and lattes.

I'm really looking forward to getting away and winding down next week. It's been a fairly intense July/August. There must be a Harvest Festival due soon, but I can't remember when!