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...]
I just finished watching Neil Oliver's excellent opening documentary in a short series, The Last Explorers, based around the lives and impact of four Scottish explorers. The first film centred on our own Blantyre-born missionary explorer, David Livingstone. Based on this, I think I'll set the TiVo to record the other episodes.
The series had been mentioned to me earlier in the week, knowing the Blantyre connection, as there had been some press making the connection to a warts 'n' all exhibition on Livingstone due in 2012 at the National Museum of Scotland. The film also was not going to pull any punches about Livingstone, noting his appalling neglect of his family and even the lies he told in his letters back to London on how successful his mission was being, in order to keep the funding coming.
Some of this did not come as a surprise to me, as I read a book earlier in the year, Blood River, by Tim Butcher, that gave some insight into the complexity of both Livingstone's (and more particularly Stanley's) journeys and the continuing problems that affect the region. But Oliver's documentary really brought to life the complexity of Livingstone and the way he lived both in the Now and the Future. [There's more...]
Tomorrow night at Cosy Café Sundays we are continuing to explore what it means to live as Children of Light, followers of Christ. We're going to think a little about opportunities, and whether or not we seize them when they arise. The teaching from Jesus will be the Parable of the Talents, but before we get to that we have planned what should be a brilliant opening illustration of taking our opportunities when they arise with a kind of Crystal Maze challenge made up of six different challenges and culminating in a play off between the two best teams when they will get a chance in a "cash grabber".
We've got hold of an inflatable cash grabber in which we will have 400 slips of paper ready to grab... 200 with "Loser", 200 with "Carpe Diem" printed on it. The winners will be the ones that can grab as many of the latter as possible.
Carpe Diem, originally attributable to Horace, the Roman poet, we will reference with this fabulous clip from Dead Poet's Society. It is a brilliant scene as Robin Williams enthuses the pupils to seize the day, make the most of the opportunities that present themselves each day.
While we will use the film to pick up on the Carpe Diem aphorism, while I am editing the scene to use tomorrow, it was the phrase in this clip, "We're food for worms, lads" that is giving me an unforgettable image...
I'm looking forward to a very good night with the young folks. It is going to be a lot of meaningful fun. Perfect.
The image and this post's theme come from Sunday's Remembrance service. I'm just about to go down to Auchinraith Primary to lead a Remembrance Day Assembly, and have been finalising Sunday's service too. I found our Moderator, Rt Rev David Arnott's prayer very helpful myself for today.
Not just for yesterday, Lord God, Not even for today. But for tomorrow also, We stand in silence.
We stand like measured ranks in a foreign field Stone upon stone, Name upon name, Date upon date.
Stones not yet worn by the passing of the seasons, Names not yet forgotten by the passing of the generations, Dates too full of memories as year encircles year.
We stand with pictures in our minds Of repatriation Of tears from families For their hero Who now is also ours.
Almighty and eternal God Your prophet promised your people of old A name and a place That they might be remembered.
We hold the names before you Names etched in granite Names carved on our hearts. We stand in the place Which we know is holy ground Because you are there. We stand mindful of the sacrifice Aware no words of ours are sufficient. We stand committing ourselves To follow the ways of the Prince of Peace.
We stand in silence Before an empty cross A sign of a God who loves his world And who wants for all his children The peace that the world can neither give nor take away.
Another post that I wanted to write last week but did not have time for! On Wednesday night last week we had a gathering of folks in the Nazarene Hall to hear Lindsey Cooper talking in more detail about her trip to Kenya during the summer.
We even got to try out some of the "porridge" that was a staple for the young kids in the slum in Kiberia, but not porridge like you or I know it. This was just flour, water and sugar. Despite this meagre dish, we were all left with much food for thought in how we can encourage and support Lindsey in her challenge to do something to support the young children who wander the slum all day while their parent(s) are trying to earn enough to survive. Some of the guys in the Beer 'n' Bible group I know are thinking about this at the moment. We'll keep you all up to date with what is happening. [There's more...]
At Cosy Café Sundays last weekend (I'm catching up with blog posts I had hoped to post but had not time to do last week!) we talked about learning and wisdom. We had a very fun "Generation Game" activity with Giovanni, a pizza chef from The Golden Fry who showed us how to make the pizza base, including twirling the dough around in the air - very impressive!
Three teams of two then had two minutes to try to make their own dough bases, with Giovanni giving a score at the end of the time.
The point, of course, was that we are not born knowing everything, we have to learn and grow in knowledge and wisdom, in skill and ability. We may have lots of potential, but unless that finds an expression (and it can do so in a myriad different ways) then the potential is wasted. We learnt from Giovanni a new skill on Sunday night, emphasising that the role of those we learn from is crucial. [There's more...]
It has been one busy old week and I dread to add up all the hours, but it is certainly worth it with a bumper 92 page Issue 2 of Spill the Beans now complete, edited, typeset and available to download by pressing the button on the left sidebar and handing over a very reasonable £12 securely via PayPal or by visiting Spill the Beans where we hope there will be growing chat and sharing of resources week by week.
This issue will take you through all of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany with ideas and resources for worship and age group materials. New in this second issue are resources aimed at 12-15 year olds, which was something that folks who used Issue 1 were asking about.
As ever, it is a real privilege to be able to shape together so much creativity from friends and colleagues. I have enjoyed working through all the weeks, and now have a real headstart in thinking about the worship in St Andrew's over the next few months!
Every blessing to all of you who lead worship and lead children's and youth groups, what you do is a special ministry. I pray these resources will be a good source of encouragement, creative catalysis, and challenge.
Many months of planning led to today's "What kind of church?" conference in Edinburgh, organised by OneKirk, a network I've been involved with since its inception some five years ago. The day was a tremendous blessing for, I pray, all of us who attended and participated. Certainly the buzz of conversation at lunch time, and the discussions in the eleven different groups were testament to the way that everyone wanted to use this time to talk through some of the issues raised by today's speakers.
The day began and ended with worship, the image above taken just as we set up the communion elements on the Communion Table, with one of the discussion groups in mid-conversation in the background.
Most encouraging were the comments received at the end of the day from people who had deeply appreciated being able to set aside some time and space (safe space, in that people could say what they liked, albeit with a sense of grace and sensitivity to each other) to talk passionately and coherently about the big issues that face the Kirk, from what kind of community are we (in a radically different and more secular culture than would have been the case even 50 years ago), to how we read the Bible, make sense of it, and let it shape the lives we live. [There's more...]
It has been a quiet blog following the half-term holiday which I took off to be full-time dad with the family, and then this week trying to catch up with work.
This week, amongst all the regular ministry of the week, I've inevitably being led to thinking about the church; and to do so on three different levels. Thinking about the church at a national level, at a presbytery level and in our own local community there are striking parallels that have been going through my mind in terms of how we move forward, albeit the issues that face each level are different. [There's more...]