Today was a first for me for lots of reasons.   One of those firsts I’m not sharing.   The other I am.

Today I had the pleasure of dedicating a High School’s new building.   Looking for ideas on the internet, I could find nothing that offered any help for a beginning of where to start with a prayer.   So I turned to the ordinal of what is said when a new church or hall is built and I pulled up the school mottos in the hope that something would rush out and hit me with an idea.

Here is the prayer and dedication offered.


Almighty and Creator God,

You make all things new,

transforming what we know about ourselves

and about the world

in our meetings with other people

and with the experiences

of our senses.

Each moment of life

is an opportunity to be inspired

and informed.


We give You thanks

for the history and tradition of education

within this ancient burgh,

and for the continuing history and tradition

of this school.

We give You thanks

for the many people who have

played their part

in inspiring young people

that they might

head into life encouraged to reach into life

with vigour,

as they look to the opportunities before them.


Today especially we give You thanks

for the promise of this new building

and the work of all those

who have been involved in the design and construction.

From teaching staff, pupils and parents

offering views and opinions on what they hoped for;

to those who found the finance;

to architects, surveyors, builders, carpenters, plumbers, electricians;

and those who thought of furnishings and decoration.


As we dedicate this place of learning,

we ask Your blessing Lord,

upon all those who come within the walls and grounds.

May those who teach, and learn and grow

continue to be inspired and inspiring;

May this place continue to be a place

where young people are encouraged

to reach for their potential.

May the sounds of the corridors

be sounds of a community that values respect and trust,

and may the doors be open to the community beyond

as it finds a welcome and a place

for growth and learning.

May the hopes of the building of a better community

find its root in the ambition

of education that touches every aspect of our lives.

We offer these our prayers,

in Christ’s name.



I post, not because I think it is perfect, because another poor soul may one day search the internet for something that might help them think about where to start. Hidden within the words are the influence of two school mottos.   If you are from the area I hope you find them.


Parish Minister, Congregational Chaplain or what?

Yesterday I slept late for the first time in months. The younger child was off sick and I just about managed a whole day off, rather than respond to the urge within me that had meant I felt I should be at a meeting in a different city. When I say just about managed, there were two things which I ended up doing because it meant I wouldn’t be flapping around today and tomorrow trying to fit them in.

There was a little discussion yesterday on another media format about minister’s days off, and when they happened. The traditional pattern of a Monday seems to be disappearing as more people recognise that some of the things that happen on a Sunday can be dealt with the following day and so allow for a decent day of time to self and family. I personally have always preferred a Tuesday, although it tends to move during particular seasons of the year to allow for Bible Studies and acts of worship.

The discussion though had many ministers admit and acknowledge that the reality was that many of them were struggling to take a full day off. Not for belief that they were the only person capable of doing the pastoral care, administration, or leading of groups, but because instead the role involves people and there was a feeling of letting others down when they could not fulfil an obligation.

Whenever someone takes on a new role there is an element of expectation on either side. In a new post whatever the occupation there is usually acknowledgement that commitment will be pretty full on as the effort to work out who people are and what the expectations mean are worked through. Sometimes that means that proper days off slip, and time for self and family becomes a bonus rather than a routine.

A continuing pattern of finding the fine line between parish minister and congregational chaplain haunts many ministers and ministries, The joy of being part of the Church of Scotland is that we have made a commitment to serve the people of Scotland and beyond, and for ministers that does involve being involved in the community. I have always appreciated the line that a church is the one organisation that exists for the benefit of its non-members.

The fine line is managing to find time to be out and about, but also ensure that a congregation feels that its minister has a vague interest in them. Visiting doesn’t have to be done by a minister and many congregations have found ways to use pastoral support groups well in the care of their congregations. However some patterns of belief are hard to break. There continues to be a belief for many congregations that the church does not care if the minister has not visited.

So what does today hold for me. Well looking at the snow, it could be fun. I’ve a baptismal visit to make, then a trip to another church to hand some equipment back; a trip to tidy eyebrows (vain but part of the making sure I look cared for). This afternoon I’ve one visit at least I hope to get to, and then I want to make sure I know what I’m saying and doing this evening. Tomorrow I’ll be school chaplain-ing on two occasions and trying to work through the ever growing list of visits that get put on the back burner when funerals appear. Hopefully the Wild Goose or Heavenly Dove will put in appearance sometime in the next 72 hours and there may be something to say on Sunday.

Feeling hard done to? No, just a little battle weary. Bright and cheery service will be resumed by Sunday.


Panic rising

There are some days when moving away from most of the family suddenly hits home. We’re not really that far away, but particular days do make me realise that the potential for help is not always right on my doorstep.

We’ve never really relied that much on support of others for child care. When the children were very little they went to nursery, and with the job being flexible, on days when they were ill or bad weather kept us at home, then I could usually adjust my plans and work at home or take them on some visits. When there was not a possibility for that to happen then granny would appear. It’s not so easy for granny to appear here and given the weather today I don’t think she will be making a journey to help out.

The panic has been rising this morning as I have a funeral that has me leave town to go elsewhere for the burial, and I’ve been watching out the window and watching Twitter, just in case we suddenly get a call to say school is closing. The forecast is for snow flurries for much of the day, and once I leave the house that’s it, I will no longer be able to answer the phone or organise something to happen should the youngest need to come home. Some days (at the moment it seems like most of them) just aren’t as flexible as they once were.



Recently I was asked by another minister if it was okay if they conducted a marriage within my parish boundaries, to which I responded “yes.” Coming from a larger Presbytery where I had had a couple of hotels and a potential wedding venue, I am not used t0 being asked for permission. In the big city boundaries tended to be to ensure that funerals were covered and it didn’t seem to matter who did the weddings. So it was good to be asked if I minded, and a reminder that within a smaller community there was a possibility that news of another minister in the area would have travelled my direction.

The wedding is to take place in a local hotel, and the minister mentioned that they had been a little surprised by this as the couple were forming connections with their church community. When they had invited the minister to be part of their day, the minister had assumed church. For some ministers this might have been considered a problem as there is a tendency to see the church as the place a marriage should take place.

In this new place, weddings will probably take over most of my summer (although I have help) and all of them at the moment are in church. However the being in church has never seemed particularly important to me, because, you know, we as a Christian community understand God to be everywhere and that whenever we gather in worship the Holy Spirit is active. The Divine doesn’t need a special building!

Historically the Church of Scotland had a practice of not marrying within the church building and prior to the late 1950s/early 1960s many marriages took place in manses and hotels. The movement to a church wedding was something that, if I remember my history correctly, happened post the Queen’s marriage being televised. Perhaps that move towards a church wedding has also encouraged people to spend more money, and make the day more of a big event. Many people now want to be a princess for the day, with the beautiful clothes, lots of guests and the celebration. And I count myself in that.

However perhaps in these financially less secure days we should be encouraging those who want something smaller in hotels, vestries and manses again.

In my first charge I can remember on two occasions having to ensure that the dining room was clean and tidy as we welcomed two couples who asked to be married in the manse. Both were small affairs of under 10 people, and it was very special to offer them an intimate place to be married. They still publicly declared their love, and headed off to celebrate with those who mattered more to them in local restaurants.

As ministers and as churches we need to be willing to offer the relationships God calls humanity to in their varying forms. And for some that may be in all the trappings of celebration, while for others it may be in the quiet, still moments shared with those to whom they are closest.