Rector to walk on water #pisky

We had one of those good evenings yesterday at Birnam.

The congregations at St Mary’s, Birnam, and St Columba’s, Stanley, gathered to welcome their new Rector, Revd Shona Boardman. I don’t often preach at Institutions – but I did at this one. This is part of what I said

In our church, we’ve been giving a great deal of thought to the way in which we select people for ministry – and we are encouraged by the number of people who are coming forward. What matters is vocation – the ability of a person to articulate the call of God in their life. But beyond that come character and temperament – for it is character and temperament which are the vessel which holds the gift of calling. Peter exhibits that wonderful tension between success and failure – between faith and doubt. And I think that’s probably what we look for in those who are ordained – a determination to try something which is difficult, trusting in the power of God; a very human willingness to recognise that what we are undertaking is difficult; a readiness to be caught and upheld by the love of a God who recognises our weakness and yet yearns to lift us up to do his well and build his kingdom.

And you can read it all here

Shona’s appointment to this new grouping marks the first stage in the reorganisation of our congregations to the north of Perth – along the length of the A9. The new Birnam and Stanley group looks south – towards Perth – and into the cluster of villages which are seeing growth of population. The second stage of the reorganisation takes effect when Revd Liz Baker is instituted as Rector of the Highland Perthshire Group – Pitlochry, Kilmaveonaig, Strathtay and Kinloch Rannoch – in January. It’s taken a while but it’s about deploying our resources to best effect – and we’ve been able to move to two full-time clergy.

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Future of Scotland – the Smith Commission #pisky #Anglican

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I’ve just been to the launch of the Report of the Smith Commission – setting out the agreement reached by Scotland’s political parties and politicians at Westminster on further devolution for the Scottish Parliament,

Why was I there? We were given the opportunity of making a submission to the Commission – which we did. It’s part of our commitment to being part of public discourse in Scotland. I was interested to find many representatives of the voluntary, social and community sectors also in attendance. So I was able to make some useful contacts.

And the outcome? It’s impressive that this agreement has been reached in five weeks. Where I come from they would still be arguing about the shape of the table. It’s a substantial agreement which will greatly enhance the status and authority of the Scottish Parliament.

Most impressive was the way the Scottish politicians spoke – warm tributes to Lord Smith of Kelvin and strong endorsement of the agreement reached. Yet they were not afraid also to say what they would have liked to see in the agreement and didn’t get.

That’s mature politics and to be celebrated.

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With Archbishop Justin. #pisky

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We really enjoyed having the Archbishop of Canterbury and Mrs Caroline Welby with us on Monday and Tuesday. They stayed with us at Blogstead – noting the quietness and lack of light pollution compared with normal life in Lambeth.

More follows – this was taken at St Andrews, St Andrews

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Launch of Scottish Interfaith Week

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This is Pat Morrissey of the Baha’I Community speaking about his Journey of Faith at the launch of Scottish Interfaith Week in Kilmarnock this afternoon.

I went to represent our church – and I went because this is important to our church. On any level, I think it is significant. As I drove westwards with the radio on, I was listening to the political tide south of the border turning against immigration and multiculturalism. I know that it’s different here – Scotland has not seen immigration on the scale of some parts of England. But attitudes here are warm and accepting – and the ability to celebrate religious and cultural diversity is one of the best things about Scotland today.

So I hope that the programme for this week will be well-supported and successful. Later in the week, I’ll be at a meeting of Religious Leaders of Scotland in Dunblane. It’s a meeting of that character which Archbishop Desmond Tutu attributed to Anglicans. ‘What do we do? We meet’. It’s important to meet and to keep meeting – to keep learning and learning to understand one another

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Casting the Net – Review Day

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Today we gathered people involved in every aspect of Casting the Net – with members of our Diocesan Committees – for a Review Day. We constantly review our progress. I think it is important now and again to have the kind of meeting at which new ideas can float and future possibilities can become ‘things which we talk about’ before they acquire the status of formal agenda items anywhere.

Today was encouraging – encouraging because it was an opportunity for people to hear stories of what is happening in our congregations. We heard about work with children, about community involvement, about evangelism – and what was noticeable was the constant presence of support in prayer for the work being undertaken.

I was encouraged by another constant …. We seem now to have reached the point where people understand that Casting the Net isn’t a rigidly-defined and centrally-directed programme. It is open to being shaped for its context. Parts of it are resourced and encouraged by the diocese. But much of it arises from local initiative.

There was a lot of energy in the room today – and laughter too. We’re on the threshold of a new and exciting phase with the appointment of a full time Diocesan Missioner. New possibilities and plenty of hope

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In Prison

I continued my journey through Prisoners’ Week by spending an afternoon with the Chaplaincy team in Perth Prison.

It’s hard to miss Perth Prison – it’s a big complex just outside the centre of Perth. There are over 650 prisoners at present and much of the prison has been rebuilt in the last few years.

It’s hard not to be disturbed by a visit to a prison. And yet my visit seemed to be about the efforts of the prison community to sustain a sense of humanity in what is essentially a somewhat inhuman situation. I had a meeting with the Deputy Governor who talked with passion about the way in which prisons have become relational places over the last twenty years. I’ve seen that for myself – much of the almost deliberate inhumanity has gone.

So I spent some time on one of the landings. I visited the Education Department. I also had a look at the area where prisoners are prepared for release – learning the skills to sustain their lives on the outside. Everywhere staff and prisoners were prepared to talk to me. Many of them were articulate and interested.

Could I be a Prison Chaplain? I doubt it somehow. But I can see the attraction of developing relationships over a long period and of being with people at what is a crisis time in their lives. I was glad I went and I’ll try to go again before too long

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Prisoners’ Week

This is Prisoners Week – and I attended the National Launch Service last night in Dunblane Cathedral.

I listened to the list of Scottish Prisons being read out and wondered how this society could possibly need so many. Former Inspector of Prisons, Andrew McLellan commented that 27000 children in Scotland have a parent in prison. It’s an extraordinary statistic.

I’ll visit Perth Prison this week. In case you haven’t seen it, it is a huge building. Last time I was there, there were over 700 prisoners. I go because I think it should be a pastoral priority and because I want to support the Chaplains.

My involvement with Prisons goes back a while. In the mid ’80’s, I was a member of the Board of Visitors at Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast. At that time it was a remand prison. It was an extraordinary experience – I remember going into the Exercise Yard with other members of the Board of Visitors and simply waiting to see who would come to talk to us. That was of course wasn’t quite what it sounds like – because the paramilitary prisoners had their own command structure through which they dealt with the prison authorities and with us.

I also had the experience of visiting the Maze Prison – Long Kesh – shortly before the end of Internment. And I was a regular visitor there and at the neighbouring and modern Maghaberry Prison when my parishioners were ‘inside’

What do I remember? I remember greyness, barbed wire, interview rooms with no handle on the inside of the door through which I had just entered. I remember misery and desolation – but also optimism and hope. I remember prison staff who tried hard in near-impossible circumstances to create a humane environment and to go beyond the ‘turn key’ mentality. Prisoners Week is a way of reminding people about our prisons – about prisoners and their families, about prison staff and Chaplains. If you are fortunate enough not to be involved with any of that, it’s too easy to forget that it is there.

But in the end I wonder about it all. I know that there are obviously people from whom society needs to be protected. But our aim must surely be redemption and restoration …

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With 84 Margarets

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St Margaret's Chapel

I am an Honorary President of St Margaret’s Chapel Guild – along with the Moderator and the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. The Chapel is the oldest building in the complex of buildings at Edinburgh Castle – and probably the smallest. It’s used for weddings and other events – and cared for by the members of St Margaret’s Chapel Guild – all of whom are called Margaret.

I was glad to be with them on Monday. I’m still amazed that I managed to get there for the target time of 1150 when I only left Blogstead at 1020. It was a close run thing and it didn’t involve a helicopter. They were a delightful group of people – a wonderful cross-section of Scottish life – linked together by a remarkable building and the history of Margaret.

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Preaching Uphill

Is it my imagination – or are the readings getting more difficult for the preacher?

I certainly thought that last Sunday’s were particularly challenging – as will be obvious if you take a look at what I said in our Cathedral.

But if I was to be charitable to myself … I’d probably say that in earlier life I just wasn’t aware of just how demanding it is!

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Change does come #pisky

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It is the fate of veterans to come home to a land changed – a land where they no longer belong. None more so than the Irish men and women who served in the British forces in the First World War and came home to Ireland after the 1916 Easter Rising. It is only in recent times that Ireland has found the political generosity to recognise their service and their sacrifice – and the Queen’s visit to Ireland was an important step along that journey.

So today for the first time an Irish wreath was laid at the Cenotaph. For the third time, Taoiseach Enda Kenny laid a wreath at the War Memorial in Enniskillen – where I grew up. It seems a long time since the horror of the Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen.

If only we could see the same steady political progress within Northern Ireland ..

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