Miracles can happen…

Today I decided fairly early on that I would be saving my voice and preserving my sanity, so I chose not to watch the rugby.   Instead my focus for the early part of the afternoon was to get the prayers written and perhaps a sermon started.    In the brief spell before I took for lunch, I peered into the living room and found that my initial thoughts were being confirmed.   Rather than suffer another Scotland rugby defeat, it seemed more sensible to focus on something that would give me a lift and perhaps would offer others something similar tomorrow.

As I started on the final prayer I heard a scream form the living room, and it would seem that some transforming miracle has happened in Italy.   With a final drop goal, a win has been stolen.

Am I sad to have missed this?

Not today.   My voice is intact.   My prayers are complete.   And now I just need to put my head into gear and attempt to pull a sermon together in record time so that I might enjoy and evening with my family.

Have I any ideas for that?

I’m not sure yet.   But I’m thinking about perfection and maturity, and holiness and community.   Something is brewing and hopefully by 7pm I will shut this computer and say enough.

Well there is another miracle that will need to happen today…



Returning Memories

This morning I found myself in Glasgow Queen Street Station.   I had a meeting with a potential partner organisation for an event, and rather than continue our discussion by email or phone we had agreed that it might be easier to meet.   It meant that we could weigh each other up, and decide whether we could work together, as well as try and grasp each other’s vision of how something might happen.

Travelling this morning worked better than I had expected and I found myself in the station half an hour before I was supposed to be there.   As I got myself a cup of coffee and something to eat (having skipped breakfast in the rush to get the younger house occupants to school and then rush to the station) I found myself realising that the last time I had been in the station had been 27 years ago and probably at much the same time of year.   It would have been my first trip to Glasgow, and probably my first trip on a train in Scotland by myself, it was also to be my first experience of a friend’s funeral.

For much of my senior years of High School, I had been part of an inter school Scripture Union group that met on Saturday nights.   As well as the Scripture Union appointed staff member, there were student volunteers who helped.   One of the volunteers was very into hill climbing, and during one winter climb sadly died as she got caught in sliding snow.

It felt important to go to the funeral, and even though I did not know my way round Glasgow I wanted to go.   One of the members of the group was studying in Glasgow, and made arrangements to meet me at the station and ferry me from church to crematorium.   In snow boots and warm jacket, with an almost school uniform underneath I found myself standing in the station, waiting.

My memory of the funeral itself is sketchy.   I remember it being so busy that we were in the back pew.   I remember the kindness of the young woman’s family as they ensured that this of us she had known through the group were included in being at the crematorium and the funeral tea.   I remember them asking about the kind of things the group did, sharing the enjoyment of young faith developing in discussion and activity.   But there is much about the day I don’t remember, as so much is lost in knowing that a late teenager was wrestling with the knowledge that youth did not mean invincibility.

This morning standing in Queen Street, I could remember the emotion of standing at the meeting place and the vulnerability of feeling small and young in the big space of the station.   But I was also reminded of the shared emotion of the day, as others mourned and celebrated the life of a young woman who had been their daughter or their sister or their friend.

I found it fascinating that a space could trigger such a strong recall response.


Traditional Education

While driving to the major hospital for the area this afternoon, I was vaguely listening to the news on the radio. I probably need to retune my radio to a more news based station some time, because at points in the day I can find my current station frustrating as it fails to offer much detail in the report or focuses on some childish item that is of little value.

Most car journeys I enjoy the music of a radio station. On longer trips between places I enjoy the opportunity to turn the volume up and sing along. On shorter journeys the music can act s a lift or a break form one occupation to the next.

Today though was news and a reminder of the seeming childishness of politicians. This week has been full of Michael Gove, as first he fails to reappoint the Ofsted chief, then his criticisms of the English Education system, and then today the ridiculousness of his behaviour during prime minister’s questions that led to his receiving “lines” from Stephen Berkhof.

There are so many things about this man and his pattern of behaviour that make me angry.

How can someone whose pattern of behaviour is so undermining of the value of others hold this position of responsibility? There seems to be no valuing of the voice or opinion of others.

There are questions about the devaluing of education though, whether that be the Scottish or the English system. Society wants the best for children, and yet to achieve that we seem keen to dismantle confidence in any system. Stories always play on what is going wrong and what needs to be improved.

Where are the stories that tell of what is good within education? How can we encourage confidence, when all we do is throw blame and accusation?

Too late at night, and perhaps not political enough to offer valid comment. But as a parent, there are risks to be taken in trusting children within a school. We trust that they are being taught at a level appropriate to them, that they are being stretched when they show aptitude, and slowed when they are uncertain.

Education should be about more than the 6 hours within a classroom environment. We can only inspire confidence in our children and in our education system when we are willing to highlight what has been good and of value in enabling young people to engage with the world.


Picking Hymns

In a previous charge, an elder would appear at my front door on a Monday morning with a list of hymns that he thought we should be singing.   It was a list with only 45 hymns on it, and I would look at the list and thank him.   When he questioned why I did not pay much attention to his list of 45 hymns I would look at them again and say “but that is only 9 weeks worth of hymns.”

The list he assured me were the hymns the congregation favoured and knew well, and he thought it would be better if we stuck to this list rather than continue to introduce new and different hymns.   We usually agreed to disagree, although I would try to explain that in picking hymns I did try to get a balance between what a congregation know and hymns that reflected particular seasons.   At points in the year there could by 5 well-known hymns, while at another point the struggle of learning something different would be worthwhile and maybe meaningful.

After he had gone, I would stomp around the manse – I try to keep my stomping to myself – and take his list to see how many of the hymns had been sung in recent weeks.   More often than not most of them had been sung in the last six month period, although perhaps not always on the Sundays he was there.   There was one hymn he always placed on his list that I was bemused by, because when it was given to the congregation to sing almost no-one knew it.   Perhaps it was his favourite.

Is picking hymns an easy task to do?   It is if you just want to pick five well-known, easily sung hymns.   It is not so easy if you want to pull out the theme of the readings, encourage a congregation in new thoughts about faith, and catch the season of the year and congregation.   It is not easy when you do not know the repertoire of a particular congregation.   It is not easy when your policy is to try not to repeat hymns within a four to five month period.

There is a distinct disadvantage in having grown up in a congregation where it seemed like we sang almost every hymn from the hymn book, the third edition of the church hymnary of course.   It’s not helped by that jaunt in childhood to the Church of England and another spectrum of hymns, or in teenage years hanging around the Baptist Church and learning a different genre of church music.   Of course I love music and words, and the combination of the two opens up the possibility of exploring something new of God.

Hopefully there will be no-one at the door tomorrow with a list hymns hymns they think we should sing, because I think between the two services this week I managed to cover my bases on the need for something familiar to get your teeth into, with the unfamiliar to set you thinking.