I can't quite believe it, but our wee puppy Keely is no longer a wee puppy. She turned a year old today and with an hour to spare this afternoon I treated her to a lovely walk around Redlees Quarry. She was bathed and brushed and blow-dryed (I kid you not, all that fur can be high-maintenance!) just last night so I was hoping she would keep herself from her usual habit of finding the muddiest puddle to stomp straight through... Just as the sun began to set I managed to get a snap of her.
I must say, as the months since she arrived in the family have passed, I have been so pleased with this wee doggy. We really have got ourselves a lovely dog with a wonderful temperament. Much as though I loved our previous dog, she was a lot harder work...
On Sunday night it was our final Cosy Café Sundays for 2012 and we went completely crackers with a special Christmas night. After an afternoon of preparations, including picking up two of the minibuses from the Blantyre Volunteer Group, we all met at Hillhouse for the start of a pilgrimage as we moved around Hamilton and Blantyre stopping off at each location for a course of our evening meal and to add another group to our journey.
We had one of our largest groups this week, filling both buses and a car, as we followed Lindsey Cooper's hand made star from place to place - oh the creativity that comes with an old broom, tinsel, sparkly card and some fairy lights! This was a very special moment for Lindsey as she finally was able to satisfy her life-long ambition to be "the star" of the nativity. [There's more...]
Yesterday we finished the fifth year of running "Bubblegum 'n' Fluff", the chaplaincy event we run each Christmas for Primary 6 pupils in all the associated primary schools to Calderside Academy. By my rough and ready calculations, that is 35 days and around 1,500 pupils talking about the Christmas story and why our celebration of the birth of Jesus is still important. It was more noticeable to me this year than in previous years (and this will only become ever more the case) that there were more children who said they had never heard the story of the nativity. They knew more about it after our time together.
One of the things we build into the morning with the children is some understanding of the context, both within Judea at the time to give some understanding of the expectations of the people at that time, but also an idea of who baby Jesus grew into to connect the importance of this birthday celebration to the man who made such a difference to people's lives. To do that we tell a few stories: the changes to Simon Peter, the story of Jairus' daughter and the story of wee Zacchaeus. A conversation after one of the days has had me thinking a lot about that last story over the last few days... [There's more...]
As many of you will know, music is a great passion of mine. There are a number of bands that have in recent years exploded onto the scene from rock/folk roots in London. I've loved listening to Laura Marling and Noah & The Whale, and with them also the band Mumford & Sons. With the recent release of their second album, Mumford & Sons have affirmed their rather unique position as purveyors of theologically literate folk rock that can fill arenas.
Hall 4 of the SECC was jumping and singing along to the band as they brought their "Tour of Two Halves" to Glasgow on Wednesday night. I know of many folks who were there tonight, scattered across the hall, and no wonder as the tickets sold like hot cakes. With David Burt and Jonathan Fleming, I took up our seats for the concert. We had a fab time, and you can get a rather scary taste of that from the video above of the closing two songs from the concert, with Mumford's own song "The Cave" and a cover of the Beatles "A Little Help From My Friends". I suspect that both Jonathan's and my own voice will be a little the worse for wear at tomorrow morning's "Bubblegum 'n' Fluff" event... Personally, I wish I had been in the middle of the heaving mob on the floor, but in deference to one of my more aged companions we had the benefit of seats. [There's more...]
I had to make a bit of a mad dash after our first morning of this year's Bubblegum 'n' Fluff mornings with all the Primary 6 children (on Monday from High Blantyre Primary) exploring the real heart of the Christmas story to get to the Parkville for the Christmas Lunch for all our pensioners. As we packed up all the paraphernalia that follows every event the chaplaincy team are involved with and starting loading it into the car the sleet started to descend rapidly turning to icy cold rain. I was dressed in suit ready for the lunch and within ten minutes was soaked through! Definitely not the right clothing!
We unpacked and setup at Livingstone Memorial Church and then I zipped along to the Parkville, a little late but not too late to miss the soup! It was a lovely afternoon, and we certainly had a lot of laughter around the table... Thanks to Elsie Balneaves for picking up the reins to organise this year's lunch and entertainment. It is always so much appreciated.
At Cosy Café Sundays on 2 Dec we had one of those really simple ideas that just worked brilliantly. When we were planning what to do we talked about advent calendars, which then transmogrified through creating individual advent calendars through a single mega advent calendar to the idea of creating 4 doors to represent the four Sundays in Advent. Each door was themed (Hope, Joy, Peace and Love) and decorated by everyone together before we then travelled through each doorway to hear about an aspect of each theme as it relates in this Christmas time.
Travelling through the Hope doorway, Drew Gebbie told us about the organisations that try to bring some sense of hope into the lives of those who are particularly vulnerable during the winter. Charities like Shelter, or organisations like Hamilton Churches Drop-In Centre were mentioned. Each group expressed a practical way of bringing hope. [There's more...]
A big well done to the Blantyre Community Committee for all their hard work and preparation for the first Blantyre Christmas Event and Festive Market. I heard that around 800 people attended, and certainly when we were down there was a great crowd for the singing and to see the lights officially turned on for the tree and on Glasgow Road. And you never quite know who else you might meet...
As you will know, there is an ongoing debate within the country both here north of the border and in England and Wales about extending equality within the legal definition of marriage to allow same-sex couples to move beyond the current civil partnerships and be married. Whereas it is illegal to have a civil partnership within a religious context at the moment, this would allow the possibility for such ceremonies to take place in a religious setting, if a particular denomination allowed for this. Some denominations have expressed an interest in doing so and others have not at this time.
There are a number of petitions doing the rounds at the moment, both pro and against these changes. You might be interested to find out more and add your voice to the debate.
Arguing against these changes is a group called Scotland for Marriage. More details here including an online petition.
Promoting these changes is a group called Equal Marriage. More details here including an online petition.
At a meeting this evening with representatives from Larkhall, Hamilton and Blantyre, after many months of talking about the growing needs (particularly with the changes to the benefits system that will take effect next year) that many people sadly have in our communities, it was decided by the group that we had talked enough about it and it was time to do something. A steering group will shortly be formed to begin the process of forming a foodbank that will serve these three communities (with the possibility of growing beyond this if and when other churches from other towns want to come on board).
It was decided to use the expertise offered by the charity The Trussell Trust and to seek partnership with them to do this. You can watch a video about the Salisbury Foodbank, a well-established group, to get a sense of what is being aimed at. Needless to say, this will start small and will no doubt grow within our own area over time, but the sense of wanting to do something positive and with compassion to help individuals and families who are genuinely in need was clear tonight. [There's more...]
This morning was the Official Opening Ceremony for the new Auchinraith Primary School building. It was a good morning with pupils participating and fabulous performances by the school choir. A large number of guests were present from various official bodies, with the address and ribbon-cutting for the plaque by ex-pupil of Auchinraith Primary, Councillor Hugh Dunsmuir.
There was joking reference made in the presentation by the pupils that they had thought they had been forgotten about, and one cannot help sympathise as the pupils moved into the new school nearly two years ago now! I remember thinking it was crazy that it took a year for the council to mark the official opening of the new Calderside Academy building, but this was even more bizarre. However, it allowed the pupils and staff a chance to give thanks again for a fabulous new environment in which to learn and study. As we were reminded this morning: to light the flame of learning, catch it and share it.
We guests were given a guided tour of the school by a swathe of sash-bedecked guides who did so with obvious pride in their school - which was encouraging to see even two years down the line.
Tonight was the Ordination and Induction service for Rev Jonathan Fleming to Erskine Parish Church, pictured in the social following the service being robed and looking quite the part. It was a lovely service and an emotional moment to see Jonathan move on now to his own charge with a wee babe in arms, Hollie. I couldn't help but be brought back in my memories to first coming to Blantyre when Katherine arrived only a month after my own Ordination & Induction.
I don't think anyone will forget Alan Sorensen's illustrative instruction to Jonathan that he should not be a tube, instead he should be a tub! There was more to it than that, but...
Karen Harbison did a grand job in speaking at the social about Jonathan and his final placement at Hamilton Trinity and I loved the look on Jonathan's face when Calum Harbison and I got up to sing a song that Karen had penned (with apologies to Fischy Music) about Jonathan - it was priceless!
Our very best wishes to Jonathan, Karyn, Rachel and Hollie for the years ahead. It is an exciting journey. I will certainly miss having Jonathan around, as I know will both Karen and David Burt within the chaplaincy team - we have greatly benefitted and enjoyed having Jonathan as part of the team for the last year and a half. We won't be working together any longer (well, never say never), but our friendship and support remains.
Thanks to all those who trekked over in the Blantyre Volunteer Group bus with much song and laughter despite the late hour of our return! The Johnston clan will be over again to Erskine on Sunday when I will be 'preaching in' Jonathan to his new charge, and I will leave everyone in St Andrew's in the capable hands of Steven Preston on Sunday.
The next issue of Spill the Beans is now available for download. This is the festive edition that sees us through advent, christmas, epiphany and all the way to the transfiguration, or from December through to 10 February, if that makes more sense to you! As an additional bonus there are also ideas and resources for a Blue Christmas service of remembrance for those who have lost someone special in their lives during the year.
Inside you will find worship ideas and resources, including Bible notes, stories, prayers, reflections, music suggestions, and more, and for age groups you will find suggestions for activities, crafts, games and teen discussion resources.
If you have already used Spill the Beans, you will know what a great resource this is, created by folks here in Scotland. If you haven't, but are intrigued, have a look at this sample.
If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 6 for use in your church or
personally, then click the button below. It is a positive steal at
You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then the file should wing
its way to you.
Please follow the instructions carefully. The Adobe
pdf file is approximately 6.5 MB.
You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans blog, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too.
you would like a print copy of Spill the Beans, Issue 6, then this can
be arranged. The cost is £20+P&P and these can be arranged directly
with the office at Lanark Greyfriars Church. Each issue is in full
colour and comb bound for ease of use. We have had to raise the costs of
the print copy from our initial issues as we have found the original
costs were not covering the costs of producing the copies.
This afternoon and evening was spent in Peebles where David Burt and I represented Hamilton Presbytery at a Presbytery Conference hosted by the Ministries Council of the Church of Scotland gathering folks from across the country to think about the future of ministry within the Church of Scotland beyond the year 2020. It was an eye-opening day picking up on a number of things I have read elsewhere but bringing them together in part to help understand what is going on in the Kirk, and particularly within ministry at the moment.
Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you will be aware that the numbers of people entering ministry has dropped considerably over the last decades, but this is particularly the case amongst the latter generations that are usually labelled the Gen X (approx. 30-48 years old) and Gen Y (under 30s) where there has been a collapse in people entering the ministry.
I took a snap of one of the charts we studied, shown above. This charts the number of ministers in the Church of Scotland according to their age. As you can clearly see for the over 50s upwards there is a relatively consistent number (around 40 ministers serving in each year group) showing some variation but it is pretty even. Go younger and at 48 years old you see the line collapse down and then sink throughout Gen X until you get to the Gen Y generation where there is an average of 1 minister per year serving. In the past this chart would have looked much more balanced with many, many more ministers doing what both David and I did and going pretty much straight into ministry. That is no longer the case and what it means is something that must cause us to stop, reflect and think about the shape of the church we envisage for the future. [There's more...]
We created an earth respendent with "flocks and the herdsand all the wild animals,the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,and everything that swims the ocean currents" (Psalm 8:7-8) this morning in our harvest thanksgiving service. The creatures added for which we gave thanks included electric eels, lots of giraffes and even a couple of mermaids! There was a lot of paint which is drying at this very moment. Hope we can put this up somewhere, perhaps even with a lamp inside it!
A thank you to everyone who donated food this morning for the Hamilton Churches Drop-In Centre. This will be delivered during the week.