Minister’s Blog

22 July 2019

Recently, David was invited to make a film about a choir for people with learning disabilities and a mental health issue or long term medical condition. It was given a public viewing last Monday.

The choir is called ‘Positive Notes’ and is sponsored by the Dundee Learning Service. It has been singing for the past three years and judging by the comments of the choir members has made a big impact on their lives not least in building confidence.

On the film, one woman confirmed this view. ‘What I like about performing on stage is that it has given me confidence to stand up in church and do a reading by myself.’ she said, ‘And this has meant a lot to me!’ And to everyone in the church, I am quite sure!

Minister’s Blog

21 July 2019

Photographed by David P Scott. All rights reserved.

When we were getting work done to our house, there was a skip in the driveway to collect all the debris and waste materials. Our elder son, David, spotted some wood which had been thrown out.

He retrieved it and with great imagination used it to make a press for screen printing as well as a squeegy for clearing the ink from the surface of the press. This was made with recycled wood and a redundant piece of rubber.

Recently his wife used it to produce eight prints of her design, ‘It’s Always Sunny In Dundee’. The print was cut using a scalpel knife on thin A4 paper. After eight prints, the paper began to disintegrate.

The image is full of fun and the message is optimistic. It is an encouraging self-image for any city, greatly enhanced by art which makes something new out of something old, celebrates the value of the moment in a life-affirming way and invites us to view the world from a sunnier, friendlier perspective!

Minister’s Blog

20 July 2019

The child psychoanalyst, Adam Phillips, has a different approach to parenting. When he was asked, ‘Can you give a child too much attention and what’s the danger in that?’ He agreed that you could and being over-protective creates fear within the child.

He went on to say, ‘As a parent, you have to let your child teach you what kind of a parent they need you to be.’ We are surprised because our natural instinct is to be more directive and even authoritative about parenting.

Afterall, a child needs to know what is dangerous and what is not, what is right and what is wrong, where to play safely and what to do for the best. Or so it seems until the child’s character begins to emerge and you realise that some ways of parenting are not as effective as you first thought!

With grown-up children, I see the wisdom in Phillips’ approach for this is inevitably how parenting develops. You cannot be as directive with a teenager or an adult as you were with a child. And maybe, the lessons learnt as parents gain more experience would have made us fitter to parent our children in infancy?

What I like about Phillips’ comment is the fact that children do need parents! We should value that insight. But they also need parents who listen to them and relate to them as individuals.

It is a real blessing when children want to share their inner thoughts with us. We should tread softly, as WB Yeats said so beautifully in one of his poems, because we tread on their dreams!

Minister’s Blog

19 July 2019

The Scottish composer, James McMillan, was interviewed for the Herald recently as he approached his sixtieth birthday. It is a landmark which apparently merits a national celebration of his work.

In the interview, he was asked about the widely reported speech which he made some twenty years ago at the Edinburgh International Festival entitled, ‘Scotland’s Shame -Anti-Catholicism as a Barrier to Genuine Pluralism’.

Reflecting on his speech, he said, ‘I think I genuinely felt that anti-Catholic feeling was not good for the entire society in the same way that Islamophobic attitudes aren’t good for the bigger society today.’

When he was challenged about attitudes to Calvinism in liberal Scotland, he conceded that modern Scotland is embarrassed by its Christian heritage both pre and post Reformation.

Surprisingly, he went on to say, ‘…. I recognise a great strength in the Protestant Church in Scotland and what it has given to the Scottish character….. Maybe the treatment and disdain for the life of John Knox is as unfair and self-debilitating as our negativity towards pre-Reformation Scotland.’

The composer has grown older and the Catholic Church in Scotland and internationally has had deep-seated problems to face over the last twenty years but I warmed to his more accurate assessment of religious life in Scotland.

The contribution which the Protestant Church has made to Scottish life and character and the need to value our different but ultimately common traditions is crucial in shaping our attitudes to people of other faiths and none so that all may ‘sit under their fig trees and no one shall make them afraid’.

Minister’s Blog

18 July 2019

Recently Mairi Leach has been playing the organ and piano for the Sunday morning services at  Stenton. She has a remarkable imagination and works very hard to create moving and imaginative voluntaries especially at the offering.

She loves the Scottish fiddle and is able to weave Scottish Psalm tunes into old Scottish music  composed by the likes of Niel Gow and Scott Skinner and create a tapestry of engaging music at a point in the service where we are ready to listen and reflect.

Just before I went on holiday, she decided to play Niel Gow’s ‘Lament on the Death of His Second Wife’ and followed it with one of her own compositions –  a song celebrating the creative genius of Gow  entitled, ‘The Finest Fiddler’.

The words  were written by her husband, Robin and Mairi accompanied herself in the singing of its three verses. It was beautifully enfolded into the theme of the day – the important place which older people have in nurturing younger people as they bring to birth something new.

Minister’s Blog

17 July 2019

Even in his childhood Samuel is celebrated in the Old Testament. Towards the end of his life, he says, ‘See, it is the king who leads you now; I am old and grey, but my sons are with you. I have led you from my youth until this day.’  says Samuel, no longer a boy but an old, old man.

Samuel’s greatest contribution to the development of Israel was as a king-maker. On two occasions, he anoints God’s chosen people with a horn full of oil. But initially, he wasn’t keen on this major change.

He didn’t want Israel to have a king because he thought that God was their King and any attempt to create an earthly monarch was an attempt to usurp the place of God in the hearts of the people.

But he comes round to the idea. Saul is anointed. And when he proves unworthy of the office, Samuel is directed to the sons of Jesse. Seven are presented but it is the eighth  who was ignored by his father, the youngest of them all, who is chosen.

‘The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’  is how Samuel understands the actions of God. And it’s with this insight that we must discern the vocations of other people.

Much damage is being done to our kirk by its failure to acknowledge the worth of younger people and to see that new ways of being the church are as necessary today as they were when Samuel was dedicated to the Lord with a brand new robe handmade by Hannah, his devoted mother, who let him go to do the work of God!

Minister’s Blog

16 July 2019

In the Radical Action Plan approved by the General Assembly this year, it has been agreed to completely restructure the Kirk Session. Apparently one in six of our active members are elders. This cannot continue.

Because of increased longevity, a lot of our elders come from the post-war builders’ generation. They have a particular generational characteristic. ‘They have a marked commitment to  stick with the task they have been given.’ They don’t give up!

Some people think that they can still do the job. Others think that they are indispensable. Others fear that no-one else would want it. But all of these positions fail to recognise that God is the one who calls. And he calls younger people too!

And they have different generational characteristics which are just as valuable. And they have different ways of working which are just as effective. The church must change to enable their ministries to flourish.

The Radical Action Plan wants to reduce the size of the Kirk Session and to encourage a wider sharing of ministry across the congregation. It wants to enable shorter terms of active service with the possibility of appointments spanning three to five years instead of thirty, forty or even fifty!

Minister’s Blog

15 July 2019

I think some older people are a bit like King James VI. In 1601, he attended the General Assembly at Burntisland and was influential  in suggesting a new translation of the Bible and the metrical psalms.

Things moved slowly on the latter front and so he decided to make a metrical version himself. Rather than recognising the rare ability of more able men, he claimed  the field for himself.

One of those more able men was the Scottish poet,  Alexander Hume, my predecessor at Logie. His poem, ‘Day ‘Estival’, is still anthologised. It was his friend, Sir William Alexander of Menstrie, who tried to salvage the king’s poor efforts.

A few made their own translations secretly. One sent a copy of a Psalm to Sir William Alexander. ‘Brother, I received your last letter, with the Psalm you sent, which I think very well done.’ wrote Alexander in a reply quoted by Millar Patrick.

‘I had done the same long before it came; but the King prefers his own to all else; tho’ perchance when you see it, you will think it the worst of the three. No man must meddle with that Subject and therefore I advise you to take no more Pains therein.’

Minister’s Blog

14 July 2019

In the Old Testament tale about the boy Samuel and the old priest Eli,  it is said that Samuel’s vocation came to him before he knew the Lord. This is not as surprising as it might first appear.

There is anecdotal evidence to support the view that vocations to the ministry emerge when people are young and before they have the intellectual equipment to understand it. The call is fragile and prone to damage.

‘Samuel, Samuel!’ It was such a quiet, inconsequential beginning. And Samuel mistook the voice for the voice of another. But Eli  was a wise man. He  recognised the voice as the voice of God and brought the boy’s  vocation to birth.

This is the ministry of older people to nurture growth and opportunity and discernment in young people. ‘Which one is going to be the minister.’ said the older women to my mother who was holding my younger brother and me in her hands!

It wasn’t uncommon in West Highland villages to hear people talk like this. If there were boys in the family, one of them would surely become a minister. I heard the comment but didn’t understand what it meant. Now, of course, I do!

Minister’s Blog

13 July 2019

For forty years, I have never wavered from the importance of inter-generational work. In every charge and in every thought, I have made it  my goal to provide opportunities in worship and congregational life for all ages.

One of the first projects we did at Forth  way back in the eighties was environmental. A member of the congregation had spotted an advertisement for an ‘Environmental Award Scheme’ run by Clydesdale District Council.

The idea was to  do something to improve the local environment. We put in £50 to the project and the council put in £450! We decided to renovate the church grounds which sat in a very prominent position on the Main Street.

All the organisations who used our kirk hall participated. The Sunday School took the bird table garden, the Guides planted the heather garden, others took the rose garden, the butterfly garden, the wildflower garden and so it was done.

All ages working together to enhance our local environment was rewarded with first prize in the competition. The project was later highly commended in a national initiative organised by the ‘Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland’.

The gardens are still attractive and the spin-offs within the community have been surprising with community poly-tunnels and other initiatives at the school. It lives on over thirty-five years later!

Minister’s Blog

12 July 2019

One of the most memorable experiences which I had as a child was engaging in a BBC Radio Broadcast called ‘Singing Together’ at Primary School. This was complemented by the work of our itinerant music teacher who continued to teach these songs when he visited.

It built up an amazing repertoire within the mind and heart. As well as national songs from all four corners of the United Kingdom, there were songs from different parts of the world, operatic arias, German lieder, sacred solos, fun songs and all sorts.

A generation later, singing did not constitute the core activity of school music teaching. With the advent of electronic keyboards, it moved to instruments and composition etc. Not that these activities were unhelpful but they were not communal  but solitary activities.

This came home to me when I read that a recent project monitored the effect of corporate singing over a term in twenty-four schools. Interestingly, there was a marked improvement on learning and self-esteem.

Reporting in the Church Times, Rebecca Paveley wrote, ‘...teachers recorded a ten per cent increase in listening and reading skills and an 11 per cent increase in the pupils’ performance in maths as well as an increase in the children’s self-confidence’.

The researcher identified two important reasons for this. Firstly, singing together helps to bring about social cohesion. We see that in the church as much as the football stadium. Secondly, singing together has a positive effect on our well-being.

No wonder it has been such an integral part of  worship  in the Reformed tradition where the people’s part was almost exclusively confined to  communal singing. And, of course, we value listening above all else for the Word of God is ‘our supreme rule of faith and life’.

Minister’s Blog

11 July 2019

Instead of using our tongue to hurt other people, we can use our tongue to build them up. There are four important words which we can keep by our side to encourage other people.

The first is thank-you! When someone does something for you, it is always good to acknowledge their gift with a word of thanks. Gratitude lies at the heart of the Gospel, our gratitude to God for what he has done for us in Jesus.

The second is sorry! This is one we often forget to say. When we are unkind to another in word or deed, we need to be ready to say, ‘I am sorry!’ It is the only way to heal and mend and bring peace.

The third is remember!  Remember all the good things that you have done and that we have done together. They will build us up and make us feel good to be alive.

The fourth is love. ‘I love you!’, ‘Love you!’,  ‘Love David’, ‘I will love you always!’ are words which make everyone feel good about themselves. It’s love which makes the world go round. No wonder because God is love.

Minister’s Blog

10 July 2019

St. Paul says, ‘Think about these things!’ What things? ‘Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’

We always have a choice. We can look for the good or we can look for the bad. We can fill our minds with dishonesty, impurity, suspicion, hatred and greed and we can view the world and everyone in it through these distorted lenses.

But we can also look for beauty, goodness and grace, generosity, integrity and joy. If we fill our minds with these things, we will discover a rare peace, ‘the peace of God which passes all understanding’.

Minister’s Blog

9 July 2019

We will never be content if we are always striving to create the conditions which we would be happy to face. For Jesus says, ‘God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends the rain on the just and the unjust!’

Misfortune is no respecter of persons. We do not live in an ideal world. We can never create our own Utopia. The conditions for our own happiness can never be self-generated.

If we are going to learn the secret of contentment, we must first limit our expectations. ‘In life,’ we must learn to say, ‘we will have to face all conditions and not just those we would like to face!’

Minister’s Blog

8 July 2019

Throughout his life, St. Francis encouraged his fellow brothers to cultivate what he called ‘spiritual gladness’.  He often gave them a row for looking sad or exposing their grief or drawing attention to their troubles by the look on their faces.

He desperately wanted them to cultivate a joyful spirit which would be a protection against those who would seek to harm them. Instead, he argued that they would say:

‘Since this servant of God has joy in tribulation as well as in prosperity, we can find no way of entering into him nor of hurting him.’

And that’s perfectly true. Someone who is joyful not only in prosperity but also in tribulation has certainly discovered a secret worth  possessing for it doesn’t make sense to be joyful when things are going wrong!

And yet, isn’t this what St. Paul wrote to the Philippians? His equilibrium was unaffected by having too much or too little because he had learnt the secret, ‘to be content with whatever I have’.

Minister’s Blog

7 July 2019

Walking round the Smeaton estate, you will see a lot of animals in the fields. The other day, I saw a fieldful of shorn sheep, another of highland cattle and passing me on the open grass was a gaggle of seventeen geese.

Most surprising of all was the sight of cow inside the Smeaton van! I have heard of a bull in a china shop but a bull in a worker’s van was certainly different. It was a photograph of one of their Highland cattle looking out of a van full of plants and foliage!

It was very cleverly done and arrested my attention immediately. For a second or two, I thought it was real. It made me ask a question or two and made me think about the Smeaton Nursery and Tea Room when I was otherwise engaged.

It was a very effective advertisement – distinctive and engaging. We need more of that in the kirk. Maybe not a bull in a tea shop but a baby in a cowshed! Something to arrest attention and engage the viewer instead of letting them pass by on the other side?

Minister’s Blog

6 July 2019

Arriving at the crematorium, I was astonished to see a dozen red admirals feeding on the blossom of a viburnum hedge. Their vibrant colour was a welcome introduction to the proclamation of the gospel of new life  which was about to follow.

Standing in the entrance of the crematorium waiting for the mourners to arrive, I noticed a framed certificate celebrating an astonishing £30,000 or so which had been raised by the crematorium for the work the children’s hospice!

Beside the certificate, there was a misleading collecting can for the hospice. ‘Did you raise this sum from collecting boxes?’ I asked in amazement. ‘No,’ said the steward. ‘The money comes from the metal which cannot be burned in the cremators.

Of course, families give permission for metal joints and accessories to be retained for recycling purposes. It is sent to a Dutch company which recycles the metal into useful road signs which help us all to find our way and drive safely.

The money raised by this process is returned to the crematorium and given to charity! It’s another celebration of the Easter gospel! When I said to Mary-Catherine that the metal band which helped to heal her broken wrist could  become a continental road sign, she was pleased.

However, she did go a little further and made an interesting request. ‘Can I ask that it goes into a ‘Take your litter home!’ sign because I dislike those who throw their litter out of car windows!’ I am sure it can be arranged!

Minister’s Blog

5 July 2019

My elder son, David, encouraged me to participate in the ‘Fun a Day Dundee’ project this year. I enjoyed it immensely, creating a visual blog from my work in January! Recently, he gave us the celebratory catalogue of the event.

One of the projects involved the creation of a set of chess pieces. When I was at the exhibition, I was struck by them and took this photograph. They were made by Maureen King using left over corks.

In her description she reassured us. ‘Just to be clear,’ she wrote, ‘I didn’t drink all the bottles they came from … I’m more a red wine kind of gal.’ With a brilliant piece of lateral thinking, she recycled the old corks in a very creative way.

The pieces are beautiful in all their detail and would enhance any game of chess. But what struck me more than anything else was the reason given for choosing such an imaginative  endeavour.

I decided on the chess set as my Dad was a HUGE fan of the game .. and he’s always in my thoughts this time of year.’ Although she didn’t say, it is implied that her dad is no longer around to play chess and she has taken her grief and turned it into something beautiful!

Minister’s Blog

4 July 2019

Far from remembering all his personal achievements and experiences, St. Paul  deliberately forgets them and instead he remembers the thorn in his flesh. ‘I am most happy to be proud of my weaknesses,’ he says, ‘in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me!’

It’s not in the successes but the failures. It’s not in his strength but his weakness. It’s not in his achievements but in what he has yet to achieve that St. Paul discovers a deep and satisfying and yet paradoxical faith in God.

And so do we! Hard as it may seem, we have to press on despite all we have achieved in the past. These things may have been valuable in their day but now they must be forgotten lest they encourage us to distract our attention and slacken our pace, weaken our resolve and diminish our energy so that the race is never finished.

Forget the distance travelled. Look ahead and see what is yet to be done! And find some comfort in Robert Frost’s midnight traveller. His horse is weary and so he stops to rest for a while in a wood on a snowy evening. The horse is puzzled. Where is the farmhouse? Where is the warmth? Where is the hospitality?

The darkness and the loneliness of the woods filling up with snow remind the midnight traveller that his journey is incomplete and he has far to go before he can enjoy his rest. ‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep,/ But I have promises to keep,/And miles to go before I sleep,/ And miles to go before I sleep.’

Minister’s Blog

3 July 2019

‘I live a good life and I do all the good I can – surely that’s what God demands?’ Strangely enough, it’s not! If this is what motivates your life and if this is how you hope to find peace then think again! It doesn’t work. Remember what St. Paul says? He describes himself as ‘not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law …’

Doing good, obeying the law, choosing right over wrong doesn’t put us right with God. It’s more likely to make us feel good about ourselves at the expense of other people especially those who don’t make the grade or keep the law. And, worse than that, it makes us feel badly about ourselves when those who do no good actually prosper by their apparent unrighteousness!

The truth is that we cannot be put right with God by our own effort nor by obedience to some external law for St. Paul  describes this righteousness as ‘the righteousness of God based on faith’. In other words, the best way to feel good about ourselves is simply to experience it as a gift of God!

True peace is to be found in our relationship with God – the knowledge that his Son suffered and died for us and the power of his undying love to forgive the unforgivable, accept the unacceptable. And in this undeserved forgiveness and gracious acceptance, we find peace!

Minister’s Blog

2 July 2019

There is a spiritual freedom which enabled Jesus to embrace the cross and St. Paul to write  joyfully  to the Philippians from a Roman prison and people like Nelson Mandela to endure thirty years in jail on Robben Island before emerging from that soul-destroying experience to liberate a nation from the prison-house named apartheid.

How did they survive if not  because their freedom was independent of their external circumstances and more dependent on their inner life – their values, perceptions, understanding, faith. All the things which  nourish the spirit. All  the things which we celebrate  in the Kirk!

Minister’s Blog

1 July 2019

Recently, I attended a cremation in a newly built crematorium north  of Dundee. It was in a beautiful rural location with well-landscaped grounds and a fine water feature which could be seen by the mourners gathering for the service.

During the worship, we were invited to stand for the words of committal. Thereafter, the stewards brought forward the family flowers and placed them on the catafalque where the coffin had been placed prior to its descent.

As they did this, the organist played some very quiet but fitting music on the organ. I instantly recognised it as the traditional music for the Aaronic Blessing. These ancient words are three thousand years old and are located in the Book of Numbers.

Traditionally these words, which were first formed in the mouth of Aaron, Moses’ brother,  have been sung  in the Church of Scotland at rites of passage – baptism and confirmation, ordination and sometimes holy matrimony.

‘The Lord bless you and keep  you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.  The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.’ What timeless words and sweeter music  to accompany us on the final steps of our earthly pilgrimage!

Minister’s Blog

30 June 2019

When we were in America, we went to an Episcopal Church on the Sunday morning. Like everyone else, we went up to the altar rail to receive the Sacrament. I knelt down beside Mary-Catherine.

The associate priest was dispensing the host in a silver ciborium. We had met her at our nephew’s funeral the day before. As she approached my kneeling frame, she gave a start and dropped the host back  into the ciborium.

She exclaimed, ‘Oh dear, I didn’t recognise you!’ Of course, I was expecting her to say, ‘The body of Christ which is broken for you!’ For a moment, the solemnity of the moment was broken and we were transferred from the altar to  the high street!

Perhaps holy things can become sterile if they are divorced from the realities of the high street and the importance of human contact and personal relationships. The bread and the wine belong to the high street as much as the House of God.

And if there is to be a deeper communion, we need to recognise the other preferably by name. A holy communion should not lose the intimacy of a real encounter with the other as much as  God. We take the lead from him who says, ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’

Minister’s Blog

29 June 2019

Tragedy befell the family. His wife suffered from a serious accident which left her debilitated. Two things happened. An estranged member of the family was reunited and faith in God was strengthened. ‘All things work together for good …’

Minister’s Blog

28 June 2019

I suppose it is inevitable that parents feel that they could always do more for their children or when things happen, they feel they could have done more. The truth is that parenting is an art and not a science.

As they grow up, our children depend on others more than us and that is as it should be. We are leaving their world behind.  

What we do is often neither right nor wrong but just the best we can do at that moment in time! And if everything we do is done in love then what more can we say or do?

Minister’s Blog

27 June 2019

Last Saturday, we had a very successful Strawberry Fayre in the Community Hall, East Linton. It raised over £800 for church funds. This was largely due to the enthusiasm and imagination of our hard working committee. There were two striking features.

The first was the contribution of two teenagers who played piano and sang throughout the whole afternoon. They won spontaneous applause on several occasions and encouraged people to remain in the hall. It was just as full at the end as it had been at the beginning!

The second was the presence of several members of our neighbouring congregations at Athelstaneford and Whitekirk. They were accompanied by a former minister and remained in the hall for most of the afternoon.

Their presence was striking given that our Kirk Session had voted recently to form a parish grouping with them rather than the union which they had overwhelmingly endorsed. The generosity of their presence was the most eloquent challenge to our more measured response.

Minister’s Blog

26 June 2019

We are due to celebrate our thirty-ninth wedding anniversary. Inevitably, some things have changed since we were first married. Others have not. We have never mastered the art of getting ready to go out together at the same time!

If I get ready first, I fill the waiting minutes with another pressing piece of work. By which time, Mary-Catherine is ready – and because I am not, she does the same. And so it continues in an endless cycle!

 It is the Protestant work ethic celebrated by Kipling in one of his most famous poems. ‘If you can fill the unforgiving minute/ With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,/  Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it …  Quite a prize!

So I smiled recently when I read about Solomon Schechter, the Jewish scholar. Towards the end of his life, he collapsed in the street.  Waiting for assistance to come, he asked his wife for a book. In her puzzlement, he replied, ‘But I just can’t lie here doing nothing!’

He died there reading one of his favourite books!  It turned out to be ‘The Antiquary’ by the Scottish historical novelist Sir Walter Scott. I wonder what mine will  be?

Minister’s Blog

25 June 2019

As you can imagine, Mary-Catherine got quite a number of cards from colleagues, clients and others on her recent retirement. There was one which was particularly striking. It features seven butterflies in flight.

Although 7 is a prime number, in the Biblical context it is the number of perfection. Hence the seven days of creation and the seventy times seven  which we are expected to forgive another who does us wrong.

But the butterfly in our contemporary world  is a symbol of new life. It has a striking history – the egg, the caterpillar, the chrysalis and eventually the gloriously coloured butterfly. It is a symbol of Easter and the resurrection of Christ.

However, Mary-Catherine’s well-wishers went a stage further for they celebrated her retirement not only with seven butterflies but seven butterflies which were dressed in the tartans of seven Scottish clans.

Curiously, the one on the top right hand corner is almost the Green Scott which we wear in our family. But for a white line …. But the white line is extremely important for it makes our tartan and our clan distinctive. It lifts up the design from two to three dimensions!

And this is what the gospel of new life does. It lifts us up through Easter from our three dimensions into a fourth where space is transformed by the miracle of the resurrection and time has an eternal significance!

Minister’s Blog

24 June 2019

On Father’s Day, Sarah sent me this card. It had a touch of humour. Dad hasn’t got the message. His gift is not an apron but a superhero cape! And, of course, the message of the card is that this father is a super dad!

What I liked more about the card was the presence of the green dragon. For in sending this card, Sarah was alluding to a childhood experience almost thirty years ago when she was three – and all the other children in the family had gone to school.

She was home alone so on Mondays, Mary-Catherine, Sarah and I went out somewhere special together. I always took the green monster in my pocket. It was an eraser in the shape and colour of a green dragon! I still have it!

Wherever we went I would plant the green dragon secretly in a place which Sarah could discover for herself. Whenever she did, we got a rare gift – her excited pleasure in discovering that the green monster had come too!

Part of the responsibility of parents is to create  vibrant memories which carry with them the sparkle of love so that in another day when  the green dragon is not to be found, a memory can be relived and the playfulness of love sustain and inspire.

Minister’s Blog

23 June 2019

Mary-Catherine’s favourite bird is the cardinal. It is deep red like the cardinal’s cassock. She has made a feature of it in her North Carolina Quilt because it is the state bird and is commonly seen there.

I saw it for myself when we were there recently. But it is not my favourite. Until recently that honour belonged to the kingfisher which I have seen infrequently down by the Tyne. Its brilliant colour and fast pace make it a joy to see.

However. last week I was standing a foot away from my sister-in-law’s hummingbird table when a humming bird arrived to drink from the nectar which had been placed there. It’s roughly one part sugar to four parts water.

I was astonished at his  beauty. He had a fluorescent red collar around his neck and a green cloak on his back and a disproportionately long sharp beak which he used to suck up the nectar. But what surprised me most of all was his size.

The hummingbird was so small, the tiniest bird I have ever seen!  He looked so fragile. And when he drank from the table he sat in the air fluttering his wings never changing position. Such was his equilibrium. He was neither disturbed by my presence nor  his multi-tasking!

His fragile beauty and obvious equanimity reminded me of Jesus. ‘Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?’ Oh that we could leave things hanging in the air and be undisturbed in flight!