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.