Preparation amongst the busyness

Advent… A time of waiting, a time where we have a choice – do we sit and wait impatiently for the big day to arrive or do we enjoy every day and do all we can to prepare the way? Do we sit on our hands, burn the Advent candle down another day, open another door on the calendar and look with impatience at the double doored or double waxed 24 or do we think about how we can open a door to making a difference in the life of someone we know or encounter for the first time, how we can bring a flicker or a burning flame of hope in the life of someone who is feeling in the dark?

Many friends, including my supervisor Karen, and colleagues of mine are on the team for a great worship resource called Spill The Beans – a Scottish lectionary based ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ filled with countless resources for each Sunday.

From the first Sunday of Advent to Transfiguration Sunday, Trinity are focussing on the theme of Light with new ideas popping into everyone’s heads as the weeks unfold ranging from new songs to ways in which we can use Ikea lights to build up a weekly installation! See the website (link above) for more information!

Karen and I have even written a song for the season!
The words are by Karen and the music by myself:

Click here to download a PDF of ‘We Light 1000 Advent Lights’

I’ve just realised that I am writing this post backwards, but as Magnus used to say on Mastermind….

It has been another busy, but incredibly fulfilling month or so. The journey has continued on through the theme of remembering  – both those who have lost their lives in conflict as marked on the 11th November and those who have passed away in the parish over the years as marked in a service entitled ‘Remembering with thanks…Remembering with hope…’ It was a privilege to share in this service where I was able to participate in this emotional experience having known everyone for such a short period of time. Karen and I based the service upon the idea of turning tears of sadness into rivers of joy, where we set up a reflective element. For this, people were invited to collect two glass stones, which were to be placed into two glass bowls filled with water representing those who were there when we first cried as we entered this world and those who were there when we shed tears of sadness or joy as we grew up.

Everyone was also given a teardrop-shaped piece of paper upon which to write the name of their loved one, that they brought forward to be glued on to a spiral with several blue ribbons attached. At the end of the service, Karen and I  held the spirals up at the door as people were invited to cut a piece of ribbon to carry the memories and thoughts contained in the spirals beyond the walls of the sanctuary and back into their homes and community. It was an incredibly moving experience, which I will remember for a long time to come…

Cosy Café also continues to go from strength to strength both at Calderside Academy on a Thursday where we have been running out of Hot Chocolate because of numbers and on Sundays where we have just brought our series on ‘Imitators of Christ’ to a close.
The last two gatherings have been incredible. We looked at how we must make the most of every opportunity and the idea of Carpe Diem. We opened the evening with a Crystal Maze theme, which concluded with the famous Crystal Dome. Well…almost.

We had an inflatable dome, which we filled with Carpe Diem and Loser tickets. These were on two different colours of paper, which cancelled each other out in points! Given my desperate need for a haircut, I can safely say that I wasn’t Richard O’Brien that evening!

From here we went on to watch a couple of clips – one from Dead Poet’s Society, when Robin Williams is talking to his students about the concept of Carpe Diem and one, which was a modern day adaptation of the Parable of the Talents, where three painters were given gold paint and different sized canvases to paint a picture for the wife of a wealthy man instead of different amounts of money to be invested or buried in the ground!

Our most recent gathering, which brought this series to a close, was about people who lived in the light – people who through their faith in Christ, felt called to a variety of challenges: Ruby BridgesGeorge MacLeod, George Cadbury, Saint Columba (played by yours truly!) and the apostle Paul. Each figure had a candle with each one getting larger as we went further back in history.

The evening finished off with our room of light where our journey back in time concluded with the birth of the infant Christ – the light of the World. We all placed our candles on the table before a blinding light and the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah filled the sanctuary with light and sound!

I feel so fortunate to have come to Trinity for this placement – the plethora of opportunities I have to work with so many different age groups has been and continues to be great!

We are currently working with the Primary Schools in the Hamilton, Hillhouse and Blantyre area for the Calderside Learning Community Chaplaincy Team’s Bubblegum ‘n’ Fluff programme, which I will write about in the next couple of days. I better head back out to pick up some more Starburst sweeties! All will be revealed in the next post…




Back to business

It has been a while since I last posted anything… It was very nice to get people complaining that I hadn’t posted – people are actually reading it!

It has been an incredibly busy, but rewarding time since starting at Trinity. I am loving the opportunities that I am getting, the friends I am making and, what appears to be a creative side of me, that is getting a chance to release itself. From visual work to crafting words, the time I am no longer spending preparing for essays or dissertation work is freeing my mind to put pen to paper for prayers and even some song writing (more on that at a later time!).

Since my last post, I have been working with the Calderside Learning Community Chaplaincy Team, which Karen, my supervisor (or ‘bishop’), is a part of. For the second year running, we ran a Rights Respecting Week called R.E.S.P.E.C.T, which can only be described as a rewarding, although tiring, week with first-year pupils. This was to help promote and participate in UNICEF’s Rights Respecting School Award programme.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. We had four workshops looking at four of the 54 articles found in this Convention:

  • An arts, crafts & music workshop to allow children to develop their personality, talents and skills to the full.
  • A games workshop to allow children to relax and play. In some parts of the world, children live their entire life working.
  • A workshop dedicated to discussing disabilities – both obvious and not so obvious – and how children, irrespective of such disabilities, should be given what is needed to ensure that they can lead full and independent lives.
  • A drama workshop, which used the medium of drama to help children understand that they have a right to think and believe what they want and practice their religion freely as long as they allow others to do the same.

At the end of the week, we brought everyone and everything together at a Friday morning assembly, where each workshop got to showcase their article and what the pupils had done and learned in them. From singing verses written by pupils to the tune of ‘True Colours’ with other pupils using sign language to sign the chorus to a drama sketch about Sectarianism being acted out by one of the groups, everyone got a chance to laugh
and to reflect on the issues raised throughout the week. On the topic of colour, we also hung a piece of coloured paper, which every pupil had designed, along ‘The Street’ – a central area in the school building, which looked as beautiful and vibrant as the one from last year.

Each pupil was also given a multi-coloured wristband as a memento, which we hope they will look at and remember their call to respect others around them.

Our Cosy Café was held at the end of each day from Monday to Thursday, which was a great success.


As we continue to do this every Thursday in Calderside, your prayers of support would be greatly appreciated.

We are also involved in running Cosy Café Sundays, which is now reaching out to approximately 50 children in the area, which is amazing! We run it in a relaxed café atmosphere with hot chocolate, games and opportunities for young people to express themselves simply through a chat, a group discussion or something more creative. We are focussing on the theme of being ‘imitators of God’ (Ephesians 5) and what that entails according to the words of Paul.
From personalised packets of Love Hearts for our ‘living by love’ week to serving burgers from a barbecue dressed as waiters (complete with bow ties!) to stories from the Timbuctoo series by Roger Hargreaves in our Storytime with Auntie Karen, we have explored these themes with humour whilst offering space for reflection and response.
The fun doesn’t stop there however! Over the October break, we held a Holiday Club for Primary School kids called The Academy of Amazing Things, which explored the story of Moses from his birth through to the parting of the Red Sea in order that the Hebrews may be led to freedom and safety from Egypt. By means of games, crafts, some singing, video clips from The Prince of Egypt and experiments, which I performed under the guise of Professor A.M.A.Zing, we not only had a ball, but all the children were incredibly well behaved and contributed a great deal to the week.
Alongside all of these wonderful opportunities (with many more to come), my experiences of worship and pastoral work continue to grow and develop as the days roll on. With two primary schools in the Parish, school assemblies have been a pleasure to be a part of as well as doing assemblies in Calderside Academy! Looking out to a sea of a couple of hundred faces was a shock to the system for my first S6 assembly, but you simply get on with it!
What is also a big shock to the system (well, for me anyway) is when you wake up as a Probationer and realise that the couple of days or so you would spend a week at your placement has become full time! I mean this in a positive way, because in some ways you feel that the finish line is in sight. The experiences are intensifying; you are only going to get as much as you put into the placement and the opportunities you get to explore as a Probationer with the support of experienced colleagues and patient parishioners are something that I have embraced to the full and will continue to do for the remainder.
So, that’s us pretty much caught up! Oh, and I have booked my flights to the States for my trip to Calvin College for the 2012 Worship Symposium! Karen and David, a fellow Minister in training are coming along too so I am sure it will be great!
I do hope to keep this up to date now so thanks for your patience and for surviving to the end of the post!

Eyes on the Prize…

What a week! I returned from my final Candidates Conference in St. Andrews on Wednesday, which I and, from the posts on Facebook, many others enjoyed immensely. On the theme of ‘Context and Commitment’, we had seminars led by a variety of people from a number of parts of the Church including Priority Areas, World Mission and Church & Society. From ministers to the Moderator, it was an excellent programme and, in the evenings, a lot of fun!
It was at this conference that I heard exactly what describes the type of Ministry I want to have –
I want to be a Minister who talks to fishermen about fish and farmers about seed…

On Thursday, my Presbytery (Presbytery of Hamilton) held a recognition service to mark the end of my academic training and the start of my final placement (a.k.a Probation). I was delighted that Rev. Dr Doug Gay, Principal of Trinity College, University of Glasgow, was able to come and preach the sermon for the service, which was fabulous. With the service based upon Philippians 3:4-14, Doug discussed Paul’s boastful introduction to this passage before going on to say that all the qualifications and gifts are ‘a pile of crap […] unless we go on to preach the gospel of God’s amazing grace.’

I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to everyone who contributed to a wonderful evening, especially everyone who attended!

And now, it’s off to spend some time with my girls, who I’ve hardly seen since last week!

Month One

You may be wondering why I am posting this already… Due to the family holiday in Norway and my final conference in St Andrews, I will not be back in Trinity until 4th September!
It has been a VERY quick month, in which I have had the opportunity to get to know a number of new people. Many of my visits have been to the housebound parishioners with whom my supervisor has journeyed for a number of years; sharing in their stories and, in some cases, their anxieties.
We begin a new worship series in Trinity when I return, where we will be using material from Spill The Beans, which I would highly recommend to all worship leaders and teams!
Upon my return, Hamilton Presbytery will be holding a Recognition of Graduate Candidate Service to mark the completion of my studies at Glasgow University and the beginning of my time as a probationary minister!

The Rev. Dr. Doug Gay, Principal of Trinity College and author of ‘Remixing the Church‘, has kindly agreed to preach for my service. Having worked together on putting a service together during our trip to Calvin College, Michigan at the beginning of this year, it means a lot to know that he will be a part of this special occasion.

There will be refreshments and home bakes after the service served in the church hall.

Thursday 1 September 2011
St Andrew’s Parish Church
6:45 p.m. Presbytery Gather
7:00 p.m. Service Starts

Right, I guess I better get packing!

Another day in Paradis

Yes, I have spelt it correctly! This is the name of the 5 house community in which my wife’s Norwegian relatives live and where we will be staying until Sunday. Kjersti, Karyn’s cousin and her partner Pål are getting married on Saturday, as many of the family who are able to are here in Haugesund, Norway for the shindig!

The last two days have been incredible! Between beautiful weather and a lot of time spent in one of the boats, we have not only had a lot of fun, but caught 40 or so crabs, 12 mackerel and 1 monkfish! Tonight, as you may guess, will be the seafood banquet down at the poolside.

My other brother-in-law and his partner are due here in any minute now, so looking forward to us all going back out to sea today at some point and hopefully catching more of the beautiful sunsets…

Going in the right direction…

While drinking my morning coffee, I was reading the blog of Peter Rollins, whose book entitled ‘How (not) to speak of God‘ has just been downloaded onto my e-book reader. In one of his entries, he recollected:

One evening a young man who is returning home after a long and tiring day at work gets a call from his concerned wife,

“Dear, be careful on the way home as I just heard on the radio that some crazy guy has been spotted going full speed the wrong way up the freeway”

“Sorry love” he shouts back, “can’t talk right now… there isn’t just one nutter, there are hundreds of them!!!”
One of the interesting things to note about this little anecdote is the way that the husband does not even entertain the possibility that he might be going the wrong way. Rather he takes it for granted that he is right.

Today’s lectionary reading about Jesus and the Syrophoenician Woman’s daughter is one that may have wished not to have been there this Sunday! One the surface, one can be quite taken aback by how harsh Jesus’ replies are to this woman in need. After hearing an excellent sermon at Trinity this morning, there were a couple of things that I reflected upon as I cut the grass tonight, which I thought I would jot down in the blog (I am determined to keep up with this thing!):

  • It is interesting how events pan out in Matthew’s Gospel in this story. Written with a Jewish audience in mind as can be seen in the constant referral to fulfilment of the Hebrew Bible as well as the genealogy in Matthew 1:1, one could go as far as to be pleasantly surprised by Jesus’ actions in the end. If the Syrophoenician woman was not as strong in her faith in Jesus as she was, it would have been entirely understood if she were to have just walked away after Jesus’ reply/remark. But she didn’t. She stood her ground and fought her corner. This woman believed that Jesus could heal her daughter and as a child of God she felt that Jesus should answer her pleas in the exact same manner as those of a Jew. Boundaries were crossed and equal treatment was received.
  • England has had a tough week. With people taking things to the ultimate extreme and seeing fit to riot, loot, assault and in some cases kill, it was heartbreaking to see a father, grieving for his son who was killed while trying to protect others, simply asking the rioters to ‘calm down and go home’. For me this was a most beautiful thing. So many words could have parted that man’s lips at that time – words of anger, words demanding the most severe punishment for all involved, words wishing revenge and the pain that may accompany it, yet he simply said these words:

“Blacks, Asians, whites – we all live in the same community. Why do we have to kill each other?

“I lost my son. Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home.”

We live in a world filled with people going in different directions. Some people think there is only one direction. Some people try different directions to see if they will end up at the same destination. Some people are still waiting to set off on their journey.

My prayer is that one day, people may stop forcing others off the road for going in a different direction. We are all pilgrims on a journey…perhaps some may benefit from walking along a new path once in a while…


Exterior of Trinity







Probation has finally arrived! Above is a photo of Trinity Parish Church, Hamilton, where I will be working for the next 15 months in order that I may get a continuous and intensive period of practical training and experience for the Ministry, to begin to ‘firm up’ the training and experience gained during my shorter placements. It is an incredibly useful part of our training as it provides us with a much more immediate and direct preparation for parish ministry.

Trinity is in the Fairhill area of Hamilton, which is at the top of Hamilton in the direction of Quarter, Chapelton and Strathaven. It is a large parish with a lot of maze-like housing areas, which make me very thankful to Messrs. Tom and Tom (My Sat-nav)!

I officially started on Monday 1st and spent the first week with my supervisor planning the weeks ahead. We have visited a number of housebound parishioners together in order that I may be introduced before arriving unexpectedly on the doorstep in the weeks to come!

At the close of my second week, with a number of visits and a couple of funeral observations under my belt, I can safely say that I am going to enjoy my time at Trinity and cannot wait for what lies ahead!