I'm back in from a very fun night at the annual Burns Supper of the Hamilton Burns Club having been invited to be the principal guest of their President, David Ogg (centre). During the festivities at Bothwell Bridge Hotel, David gave the Immortal Memory, exploring aspects of Burns's life, some of which I knew, others that I was unfamiliar with: an enjoyable tour of Burns's life, and the reference to Club Inverary (the 18th century version of Club 18-30!) will certainly stick in the mind!
Following that, Craig Henderson (pictured on the right) gave the toast to the guests likening us to parasites, to which I replied in similar terms! [There's more...]
We began a challenging series of evenings at Cosy Café Sundays this evening with the question "What is God like?" as our theme. Last year we asked all the young folks what their big questions were and got a fascinating list of questions. We had said that we would look at some of these in the new year, so we are going to try to do that.
The opening question seems so simple, especially for us church leaders, to answer, but it proved a challenging evening to plan! Indeed we met on two occasions (albeit with other business at both meetings) to finalise the plans for this evening. Part of the challenge is trying to do justice to such a huge question in the hour or so we have for our discussions without trivialising the question. [There's more...]
This afternoon I met with Rev Colin Wood of the Church of the Nazarene, and editor of their denominational magazine "Together", and with Irvine Boal, official photographer for the magazine, down at the Nazarene Hall. They were interested to know how the Nazarene Hall was continuing to be used by us after we purchased the building back in the late 1990s.
It was a pleasure to show them around. Both had been in the building before in years past when the Church of the Nazarene had a congregation in Blantyre, and so they were very pleased to see how the building has been adapted to become a modern and adaptable space both for church and community use. The new layout of the hall, disabled toilet and brand new kitchen all evidence of the investment made in the building.
And they were both delighted to hear that the building that had become one that was only used for one hour of the week during the mid 1990s was now in daily use by a mixture of different groups as well as by ourselves.
Colin and Irvine were particularly touched that we had kept the name "Nazarene" in our naming of the hall, and took a photo of the new signage with Colin and yours truly so that they can update folks through the magazine with how this building that began as part of the Church of the Nazarene continues to be well used now as part of the St Andrew's Church Centre in Blantyre.
If, like me, you have always hankered after some way to automatically turn the pages of a newspaper when reading it over breakfast, then here is the simple and effective answer. Brilliant. And I believe no hamsters were harmed in the making of this...
Kudos to Joseph Herscher, and for having too much time on your hands.
Over the last few days a number of different strands of thought have been coming together in my wee noggin. It is strange how disparate things can all illuminate the same truths. The truths being about how we work together, how God works with us, how communities interact, even how nations see each other, and how politics work. So, small stuff really.
The different strands that have come together have been: listening to Carolyn talking about a technique of teaching called "Cooperative Learning" that she is very supportive of from her psychology background; finishing reading a book by an ex-FBI agent about interrogation methods for terrorism suspects; thinking about how churches can work together better; and pondering particularly American politics and culture in the light of the start of the process leading towards the next US Presidential elections. [There's more...]
The video created by our younger folks for the Watchnight service on Christmas Eve. The theme of how Jesus brings transformation and new life even into the depths of HMP Blantyre Young Offenders Institute...
After the video, and following the singing of "Tonight", all the young offenders, wearing their nativity outfits came bundling into the church with their prison officers, and the warden promptly broke down in a tearful thanks for how moving their performance was. Quickly followed by a return to their prison outfits, and then each of the Uz! Group was given a candle and with these lit they processed around the church back to their cells to the accompaniment of Casting Crown's "God Is With Us". Very moving.
This morning was the final schools event for 2011 with the Auchinraith Primary service in the church. I used the above video, which the chaplaincy team also used the previous week with our Christmas Assemblies at Calderside Academy. What a fantastic video it is... and the wee boy featured is local, attending Townhill Primary in Hamilton. A small world it is.
The blog has been pretty quiet over the past weeks: I told myself when I started the blog that the first thing that stops when stress levels ramp up must be the blog. No point creating a rod for your own back! But the strange thing is that I do miss the opportunities to sit and reflect on what has been happening, it can be surprisingly therapeutic to put down some thoughts. [There's more...]
Not many of you will have heard of HM Prison Service's latest site... it opened its doors only on Monday evening as the creation of the Uz! youth group's collective imagination. A long night of filming later and a few hours of editing to follow and the video created by the young folks is ready for Christmas Eve's celebrations of light coming into the darkness, of hopefulness in place of hopelessness.
We had a lot of laughter and fun, and I am indebted to Jonathan Fleming and James Taylor for their assistance in very practical ways (they are behind me working away in the kitchen as I took this picture!), and also on film too.
I won't say any more... you can find out more on the night: 10:45 p.m. for refreshments in the church hall, then 11 p.m. carols and service taking us to Christmas Day.
A busy and joyful morning today with our Christmas Café Service with plenty of food, fellowship and fun. Including two great musical contributions from some of the younger folks who sang their own version of Rudolf! Then the Praise Group led us with the song "Come on and Follow that Star" which sounded fantastic - so good that we did it again in the 11 am service.
Many thanks to everyone who participated and who helped out from behind the scenes in the kitchen, to serving and setting up, to leading the worship.
A fitting way to lead into the final week before Christmas Day, as we go as bearers of God's light, uplifted and ready for the day next weekend when we celebrate the coming of Light.
A little later this evening it is our final Cosy Café Sundays gathering for 2011, and we have a Christmas Festival feel to this with lots of different activities planned. Alas that means I won't be able to make it to the community carol service at Blantyre Old this evening, so every blessing to those gathered there tonight.
In a burst of creativity, two new songs written for this week - both inspired by the reading from Mark 1 telling of John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness with imagery taken from Isaiah 40. One by Karen Harbison and Jonathan Fleming over in Trinity: "We Light One Thousand Advent Lights", and a homer from Blantyre: "Prepare ye the way".
Prepare ye the way
Prepare ye the way, prepare ye the way, make straight the path for our God! (Repeat)
1. Through the valleys of the dark shadows,
through the pain of loss and fear,
on the path that we all follow
may we know that love is near. Prepare ye...
2. Can we see in those around us,
can we see with our own eyes,
that God's glory shine upon us,
we reveal it in our lives? Prepare ye...
It was great to see the North Church in Hamilton full this evening for an Advent concert featuring the Lanarkshire Guitar and Mandolin Orchestra (aka Da Capo Alba), the youth orchestra (aka MANGO) and singers both from Hamilton Grammar and from the North Church itself.
I have heard so much about Da Capo Alba over the years but until tonight I'd never actually managed to get to one of their concerts. It was good to hear them playing together, both the senior and junior orchestras. I picked up a CD after the concert, so will look forward to giving that a listen.
The vocal ensemble from Hamilton Grammar did a great job with some beautiful singing, and some voices that belied their young years. Here they are pictured joining Da Capo Alba for a medley of Christmas songs.
Another good night - all to help raise funds for the Hamilton Churches Drop-In Centre - so well done to all involved.
On Monday 28 November the Parkville was filled with members and friends from St Andrew's as we gathered for a festive St Andrew's Day / Christmas celebration. As ever, Marion Brownlie did a fantastic job coordinating the lunch and had not one but two rounds of gifts for folks. A nice bottle of wine ended up in front of me, which I was not complaining about. But I also was given a rather strange creation called a Passion Killer - pants made from dishclothes! The mind boggles...
Francis Speedie led us in some singing of Scottish songs old and new (though I think I may have led everyone astray with the key during the Proclaimer's "500 Miles"), and at the end of meal May Snaddon presented Marion with a basket of flowers by way of thanks from everyone present. A fun afternoon.
I just love finding weird and quirky films that far surpass one's expectations. Tonight I found (thanks to LoveFilm who have it on their film streaming service on the PS3) a perfect example of this in the Finnish film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale that was first released for Christmas 2010. If you are feeling a little jaded at hackneyed and treacly Christmas films, then can I suggest a look at Jalmari Helander's first feature film. It is extraordinary and quite wonderful, but definitely not in an "A Wonderful Life" kinda way! [There's more...]