Tue, 24 May 2016 11:55:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Confirmation at Holy Trinity, Dunfermline #pisky Tue, 24 May 2016 11:55:22 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Confirmation at HT

Last Sunday – Trinity Sunday – was the Patronal Festival for our congregation at Holy Trinity, Dunfermline. But more important than just the 125th Anniversary was the Confirmation Service and a church full … Lots of people, a great diversity of age groups and many children.

I read a comment recently to the effect that the current members of our College of Bishops are ‘positive about Confirmation’ or something similar. I certainly see it like that. Confirmation as a ‘rite of passage’ has been fading – although I think that there is real value in focusing the minds and hearts of young people on Christian faith at critical moments in their growth. So we have some of that – but also more of adults to come at all sorts of times in their lives to make a fresh commitment of faith.

Commitment is not as obvious today as it was formerly. All sorts of organisations find that – political parties and voluntary organisations all find it hard to get people to ‘sign up’. I used to say that it was a challenge of congregational life to help people to move from being ‘welcome visitors’ to being ‘members of the family’. Confirmation – which we sometimes call the ‘Affirmation of Baptismal Vows’ – provides an opportunity for people who have found themselves on a journey of faith to make a specific commitment. I think that is helpful to them and encouraging for the congregation – and it is a real pleasure and privilege for me to be part of it.

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Not in God’s name #pisky Mon, 23 May 2016 18:39:48 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Sacks

It was a great experience to go to the Lecture given by this year’s Templeton Prize Winner, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, in St Andrews University.

‘Not in God’s Name’ is of course a subject which matters to me – since I spent much of my life living with degrees of religiously-motivated violence. The lecture was full of the almost throwaway lines which are entirely memorable – ‘wars are won with weapons – peace is won with ideas’ I’m working my way through the book at present. He has an extraordinary ability to encapsulate in a very few words the biggest changes in human society. And he provides the most comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon of anti-Semitism which you could imagine – that it is not so much about the Jews as a sign that a society is about to break apart.

I was glad to be there .. I should have put this up sooner!

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Festival of the Arts Evensong #pisky Sat, 21 May 2016 21:00:17 +0000 Evensong today in our Cathedral in Perth with choirs from around the diocese gathered with the Cathedral Choir. So I said a bit about the connection – particularly for children – between singing and faith.

Festival of the Arts Evensong

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Churchless Christians #pisky Thu, 19 May 2016 13:08:45 +0000 Continue reading ]]> I’m getting into Steve Aisthorpe’s book, ‘The Invisible Church – Learning from the experience of religionless Christians’

It is of course an alluring prospect – that many of those who may have quietly walked away from the churches or not walked into them in the first place may carry faith which they choose not to express in membership of a congregation; that decline is ‘apparent’.  So we might see our challenges as being as much about belonging as about believing.

There is careful research here – rather than wishful thinking.  But I’ll look forward to exploring the obvious questions such as: is membership of the visible community of faith essential to Christian belief and practice; and how should churches respond to churchless faith.

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Confirmation at Glenalmond Sat, 07 May 2016 20:13:37 +0000 Continue reading ]]> glenalmond_1409235_032_1560x396_Banner

I always enjoy the Confirmation Service at Glenalmond. It’s partly the contact with a group of young people, of course. But it’s also the opportunity of trying to catch and hold the interest of the very diverse congregation – their parents and godparents, uncles and aunts, grandparents and friends. All of those people are there in support – so it’s an opportunity of trying to describe faith in an attractive way.

This kind of Confirmation Service is rare today. I think it was 26 – or was it 27 – young people. More often now, it’s small numbers and diverse ages. Some teenagers – but also adults of every agegroup. It’s people who have decided that this is their way of marking a fresh beginning in discipleship and sometimes a new start in a new community of faith. The stories which lie behind that are always both important and interesting. It seems to me that one of the most important things we can do is to give people the opportunity of marking that new start – or staging post in their journey of faith

So on Friday, we came together in the beautiful Chapel in Glenalmond College – and I hope it was a memorable moment for all of this.

And this is what I said

Visiting Samye Ling.  #pisky Thu, 05 May 2016 20:36:50 +0000 Continue reading ]]>
Photos: At the entrance to Samye Ling; the Temple; with Rt Revd John Chalmers, former Moderator and Principal Clerk of the Church of Scotland.

I spent yesterday with the Religious Leaders Forum at Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre.  This was part of the work of Interfaith Scotland – the kind of meeting which you approach feeling that there are lots of other things you might be doing but go away glad that you went.

Scotland is a big country – so it was 110 miles due south on the twisty roads of the Borders and 140 miles home on the M74 and the A9.  The monastery is extraordinary – a magnificent temple, a conference centre and lots more – all built to the very highest standards.  I suppose it’s the kind of thing you could do if you were able to concentrate all your resources in one place and weren’t trying to sustain a ‘branch network’.  Perhaps we should look for a site near the Ferrytoll or Stirling

The meeting was interesting too.  In this particular interfaith gathering we seem to have reached the point where difficult conversations seem to happen – and what we share is articulate and incisive.  So we talked of many things – particularly of radicalisation and of anti-semitism.

Then we welcomed a group of children from Lincluden Primary School.  They were great and asked us killer questions like ‘How do people worship and why do they worship?’ and ‘Do all religions have religious leaders and why do they have them?’.  A session with staff from the Scottish Government on ‘Getting it right for every child’ and a bit of business and we were done.

So an interesting and encouraging day – some very impressive leadership now in place in the faith communities and all sorts of interesting things are possible

Visiting the Vatican #pisky Tue, 19 Apr 2016 21:37:48 +0000 Continue reading ]]>  

With Archbishop Sir David Moxon, another remarkable ceiling in the Vatican Museum, the Holy Father greets Anna

I used to allow myself to say that the Scottish Episcopal Church is unruly – and the Anglican Communion is certainly unruly.  We swing from crisis to crisis and make huge shifts of policy ‘on the wing’.  The Vatican of course is different.  It’s timescales are different.  Tomorrow will almost certainly be the same as today.  In some ways, it has the feel of a medieval court where nuance and symbol are everything.  
So when Alison and Anna were unexpectedly beckoned forward to be greeted by Pope Francis, we wondered whether this was a way of giving symbolic effect to his recent exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, or maybe a sign of the strength of relationships between Catholic and Anglican Churches.  I could see how Archbishop David Moxon patiently builds friendship and trust – the kind of trust without which everyone will go through the motions but nothing will happen.

Of course that measured face of the Vatican isn’t the whole story – because there are disconnects and dissonances all over the place.  And then there is the extraordinary personal popularity of Pope Francis which simply bursts through the institutional frameworks of the church.

It’s also clear that the church is on the move – moving towards Synods, interested in exploring things which are commonplace in the Anglican world.  They have the problem of all movements which want to bring in a period of intentional change – how to keep control of the movement as it happens.

I did have one question in my back pocket – the question of whether the Catholic Church is prepared to work in ecumenical dialogue with the full range of Anglicanism, including those who commit to canonical change on same sex marriage.  Of course I was never going to get a clear answer to such a question.  All I can say is that I was received with a warmth and graciousness which astonished me – and I learned much.  I hope to return in October for the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of the Anglican Centre

Sua Santita …   #pisky #anglican Tue, 19 Apr 2016 20:57:09 +0000 Continue reading ]]>    

I don’t speak Italian – but I was given a script with which to greet Pope Francis on behalf of the Scottish Episcopal Church.  It went like this:

Sua Santita

So no molto honorato di essere qui a reppresentare la chiesa anglicana di scozia.

Questo e’ un regalo per lei

Le porto I saluti della mia provincia.  Preghiamo per lei

To be greeted by the Pope was of course the highlight of our visit to Rome – but after the audience we slipped into the Basilica behind and had the chance of seeing it empty.

I got the impression that the Anglican Centre in Rome and its Director, Archbishop David Moxon, quite like having visits from Anglican Primates.  They are endlessly hospitable.  But a visit like this gives them the chance of setting up meetings with Vatican officials – and demonstrating the world wide ‘reach’ of the Anglican Communion.  So I went off to meet Archbishop Paul Gallagher who is the equivalent of the Vatican’s Foreign Secretary – keeping contact with the worldwide network of Nuncios.  That was a chance to talk about the Anglican Primates Meeting and the journey of Scotland towards Independence – or not.  I also met Bishop Brian Farrell of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and Father Jim Puglisi of the Centro Pro Unione.  We went to evening worship with the Sant’Egidio Community – it’s a lay movement which arises from the Second Vatican Council.   It’s also the community which has received the refugees who come back from Lesbos with Pope Francis.

An unexpected treat was a performance of Hamlet by the Globe Theatre sponsored by the British Embassy to the Holy See.

We did a bit of tourism as well – not having been to Rome before.  And the underlying connection was that I am a Patron of the Anglican Centre – and that Alison’s cousin, Canon Bruce Ruddock, is a former Director.  I had the pleasure of getting to know Archbishop Sir David Moxon when he was one of the three Archbishops in New Zealand and the Anglican Consultative Council held its meeting there.

St Andrews, St Andrews Sun, 17 Apr 2016 17:55:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Still struggling with the cough and cold I have had for the last two weeks – and still digesting last week’s visit to Rome – we went today to St Andrews, St Andrews. There was time to admire the new open space at the west end of the church – stripping and varnishing a floor does wonders for the amount of light in the building. The building has what many of our churches lack – some sense of space. And that gives all kinds of options for flexibility in the way worship is set up.

But for now I tried to make sense of a very disparate set of readings against the background of the visit to Rome

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Off to Rome #pisky #ACC2016 Sun, 10 Apr 2016 21:12:57 +0000 Continue reading ]]> I’m honoured to be a Patron of the Anglican Centre in Rome – but I have never visited.  Alison’s cousin, Canon Bruce Ruddock, used to be the Director.  The current Director is Archbishop Sir David Moxon whom I got to know when he was one of the three archbishops in New Zealand.  We discovered significant commonality around questions of faith and identity as experienced in the three main communities in New Zealand and the communities in Ireland.  It’s all about symbols and memory – and of course about who is allowed to make jokes about any of it.

I hope to meet Pope Francis on Wednesday – that will be a great honour.  While it will be brief, I hope it will be longer than my encounter with Pope Benedict.  When introduced by Archbishop Rowan Williams, he murmured, ‘ Ah, Scotland’ and moved on!

The publication of Amoris Laetitia gives particular interest to the visit.  The Anglican Consultative Council is meeting in Lusaka.  It will be trying to square the Anglican circle – of how geographical and cultural diversity can be accommodated in the context of a majority view among the Primates of what constitutes doctrinal orthodoxy. 

What is of course particularly interesting about Amoris Laetitia is the suggestion that the response of the church may be affected by matters of cultural context.  Whatever challenges that may bring, one can only welcome the softer tone of the document and hope that it will also make ecumenical engagement more productive,

The baptism of Esme Rose Sun, 03 Apr 2016 21:16:46 +0000 DSCN0842

Today was a special moment for our growing extended family in Scotland. This was the baptism of Esme Rose in our church in Hamilton. Here are the proud grandparents with big sister Eve – and here is the Sermon

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Preaching in Holy Week #pisky Mon, 28 Mar 2016 22:25:05 +0000 Continue reading ]]> To people who ask if I am particularly busy at Christmas and Easter, I tend to say – not. I’m not on the treadmill of congregational ministry as I was for so many years. And nobody wants to talk to me about mission strategy or anything else at these moments.

But this year my Holy Week got very busy. I ended up plugging some gaps – which is only right and proper. And I began to feel that I was about two sermons behind.

However I did arrive on two occasions with an ‘every word’ script and I preached them as well.

I always find the Chrism Mass on Maunday Thursday very moving. Our clergy, Lay Readers and I share a real sense of ‘being in it together’ So here in the sermon

And Easter Sunday in our Cathedral was great. Lots of people, wonderful music, clouds of incense …. And this was the sermon

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The Rising   #pisky Mon, 28 Mar 2016 22:14:03 +0000 Continue reading ]]>   
Alison has been doing some sorting out of the family archives – and came across this contemporary postcard of the 1916 Easter Rising,

It happened a mere 35 years before we were born – both of us remember the 50th Anniversary.  My grandfather, Ernest Batemen records his memories of it in one of his sermons.

The commemorations seem to have taken a more rounded view of the significance of the Rising – national pride of course.  But the other stories have had an airing as well.  Those include the fate of the WW1 veterans who came home – as veterans often do – to a world utterly changed.  And the Civil War – and Partition.  I’ve been reading about the hopes of some – particularly James Connolly – who hoped for a new state built on values of equality between men and women.  What they got was a Catholic confessional state which was mirrored in Northern Ireland by a ‘Protestant state for a Protestant people’.  And they also got generations of conflict.

Those who contemplate partition – India/Pakistan or Sudan – should learn the lessons of Ireland.   It’s about what happens to the people who are on the ‘wrong’ side of the line.  The Northern Catholics struggled against discrimination in housing and jobs – but increased in number.  The Southern Protestants – the root community for Alison and me – were in many cases prosperous and influential in business.  But they were drastically reduced in numbers. 

A wonderful country #pisky Thu, 17 Mar 2016 20:40:12 +0000 Continue reading ]]> St Patrick’s Day – and that means the Reception in Edinburgh given by the Irish Consul.  A wonderful gathering of people -slightly flummoxed by being asked to sing the National Anthem.   It’s people who don’t know each other but think they might – and then give themselves to the serious business of finding out about one another in the way that Irish people do everywhere.

Best bit of the evening for me was the receiving line.  We were introduced to the Junior Minister, Sean Sherlock, from the Irish Government – what they used to call a ‘half car’.   This of course was different.  His greeting was ‘Sure didn’t I see you outside having a ‘conversation’ with your wife about why you weren’t answering your phone’. 

A wonderful country indeed!

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Farewell to Juliet #pisky Mon, 14 Mar 2016 22:55:22 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Today we said our farewells to Juliet O’Connor with a Eucharist in our church in Cupar and then in Kilconquhar.

Juliet O’Connor was special and the story was special. She and her husband Revd Dan O’Connor served in India, in Scotland and then at Selly Oak College where Dan was the Principal. Between them they seem to have tutored many of the people who are now in leadership as bishops and archbishops in Anglican Provinces in the developing world. In that sense, they were instrumental in bringing to birth the present patterns of partnership which are embedded in the Anglican Communion. As I have blogged my way around the Anglican Communion, I have found that Juliet and Dan have been there before me and know and are known by so many …

It’s an inspiring story of faith, mission and post-colonialism. I did my best to tell it here

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