Tue, 27 Jan 2015 13:40:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Holocaust Tue, 27 Jan 2015 13:40:06 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Some things will always be evocative

At certain angles, the silhouette of a jet plane will always evoke for me the memory of 9/11. In the context of Auschwitz, it is the railway tracks which ran into the centre of the camp. In the last day or two, it has been the picture of Chancellor Merkel taken against those same tracks which has gone round the world.

As you would expect, I found my visit to Auschwitz a couple of years ago disturbing, It’s the enormity of it – and the fact that it is so hard to grasp – which disturbs. You look at the cases of glasses and shoes – you remember reading ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’. But in the end I found myself simply sitting on the railway track and trying to grasp it.

One way of thinking about it is to say that this is about things done by other people in other times and other contexts. But that isn’t adequate. The painful reality is that this is the inexorable conclusion of our tendency to wish to identify ‘out groups’ and to blame others for things which cause us pain.

Some of what was experienced in Northern Ireland during the Troubles was in that area – apparently random shootings of people which came about just because of the identity which they were perceived as holding. There seem to be points at which human beings are capable of departing from any moral sense of their actions,

So it’s a day for careful and reflective thinking ..

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In the East Neuk #pisky Mon, 19 Jan 2015 22:35:25 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Pittenweem

If you haven’t visited the East Neuk of Fife, you’ve missed a real treat. Head south from St Andrews for about half an hour and you meet Anstruther, Crail, Pittenweem, St Monans and Elie. Beautiful villages with houses with red tiled roofs – tiles which came as ballast in trading ships. The area reminds me of Cork where I went on childhood holidays – and there is a whiff of Brittany about it as well. The villages are also a bit like villages on the Greek Islands – convoluted streets which make it possible to get lost within the compass of about 100 yards.

We have two faithful congregations there – St Michael’s is in a ‘tin tab’ in Elie and St John’s is in Pittenweem. Alison had a great day with them on Sunday. I enjoyed the moment when I found that the glass in my hand had part of the Declaration of Arbroath etched on it!

And did I mention that they are looking for a part-time Rector?

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Working Together Sat, 17 Jan 2015 17:11:08 +0000 Continue reading ]]> I’ve been in Glasgow this afternoon to take part in the celebrations which mark the 20th Anniversary of Scottish Churches Housing Action

If you look at their website, they do interesting work across Scotland. To keep any piece of ecumenical infrastructure going for 20 years is in itself a significant achievement.

It seems obvious to me that it is simpler to encourage churches to work together when the purpose is something worthwhile which is common to all of them. Far better than struggling with an ecumenical agenda which seems never quite to go anywhere.

We need more of this – and of course food banks are an obvious example where churches and community come together f or a common purpose. At Revd Anne Tomlinson’s suggestion, I’ve been reading ‘The Stop’ which is the story of how a Food Bank in Toronto worked hard to move beyond ‘just handing out food’ to become an agency which was truly transformation in people’s lives – involving, educating, sharing.

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Paperless. #pisky Sat, 17 Jan 2015 14:17:13 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Many of us are constantly defeated by the struggle with myriad bits of paper

Meetings – and there are many of those – all have shoals of it. Minutes of the last meeting demand, usually unsuccessfully, to be linked with the Agenda and other stuff for next. The struggle to have the right bits of paper at the right time and to know how to dispose of them properly afterwards defeats even the best of us.

There is still plenty of paper around our office. But the first stage was the movement towards no longer filing anything in paper form. Today’s photocopiers which scan easily and effectively have dealt with that. And electronic filing increases the chance of finding it again – I remember a session on administration from John Truscott who said, ‘Remember it’s not a filing system. It’s a retrieval system’

But working out how not to carry the paper took much longer. And the answer for me appears to be Dropbox. Anything I need to have with me and be able to refer to can go into Dropbox and be accessed from the IPad. And gradually I find myself arriving at meetings with just the IPad. To dispose of the papers after they are needed is the work of a second

Can it really be as simple as that? Time will tell.

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Clergy Conference 2015 Sat, 17 Jan 2015 09:33:25 +0000 Continue reading ]]> We had our Clergy Conference earlier this week – my eleventh since I managed one before I officially arrived.

Remarkable guest speakers – Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University and David Male with Alistair Warwick working on music.

Most obvious and encouraging was how we were as a group. Last year the empty chairs of losses from our clergy group were all too obvious. This year we had the stimulating presence of newly-appointed clergy and morale is significantly higher. Clergy Conference for us has always been very important. Our clergy don’t get to meet and encourage one another as often as we would like – the content of the Conference is important but that meeting even more so.

The theme of the Conference was Our aim for the conference is to help people to understand more clearly the interface between the
church and the secular world, and to discover how we can be more effective in bridging the gaps.

I offered three homilies in the worship

Clergy Conference 1
Clergy Conference 2
Clergy Conference 3

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Defending Freedoms #pisky Sun, 11 Jan 2015 17:16:34 +0000 Continue reading ]]> I was with the congregation in All Saints, St Andrews this morning. Like a number of our congregations at present, they are beginning the process of seeking and appointing a new Rector. Not that I’m advertising at this moment of course ….

The events of last week in France are much in everybody’s mind – so I did my best to address some of those issues. I find that, as I think about it, there are some aspects of freedom of speech which I am more comfortable with than others.

This is the sermon

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Institution at Highland Perthshire Fri, 09 Jan 2015 23:05:01 +0000 Continue reading ]]> DSCN0479

This was the Institution this evening of Revd Liz Baker as Rector of the Highland Perthshire Group – in Holy Trinity, Pitlochry.

This marks the completion of the re-grouping of our congregations up the length of the A9 – trying to shape our resources on the ground in a way which makes sense in response to the way in which the local communities work. It’s taken a while – moving things with congregations always does. But giving it time means that people have now come to understand that this makes sense. And we have moved to having two full-time clergy. Revd Shona Boardman is now serving in Birnam and Stanley – developing our ministry in the growing communities to the north of Perth. Revd Liz Baker will cover the distinct Highland Perthshire area – Pitlochry, Kilmaveonaig [Balir Atholl], Strathtay and Kinloch Rannoch.

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A New Year article for Sunday Times #pisky Wed, 07 Jan 2015 12:19:10 +0000 I should I have put this article in ages ago – published on the Sunday after Christmas.

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Another thought – about Ebola and the NHS #pisky Wed, 07 Jan 2015 12:14:54 +0000 Continue reading ]]> In the BBC in Dundee this morning at 0722. Dark, wet and bleak it was. On the other hand, one of the things which still lights me up is the presence of the BBC’s analogue clock which moves second by second as you try to get the timing exactly right! It gives me that feeling of being in the presence of Lord Reith.

This is what I said

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Christmas #pisky Sun, 28 Dec 2014 11:19:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> One of the times when I still miss parish ministry. Why? Because as a bishop I miss the build up – and that takes all kinds of forms. I was away for various things in December. So I lost the rhythm of Advent, which is my favourite season of all. And I don’t get to do the unending round of Nativity Plays, Carol Services and Senior Citizens’ Christmas Dinners. So I’m liturgically parachuted into Christmas.

This year as usual, I enjoyed being part of the Midnight Eucharist in our Cathedral and on Christmas morning I went to our congregation at St John’s, Forfar.

Here is the Sermon

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Farewell to Bishop Michael Hare Duke. #pisky Tue, 23 Dec 2014 23:11:07 +0000 Continue reading ]]> We gathered today in St Ninian’s Cathedral to say our farewells to Bishop Michael Hare Duke. He was bishop in this diocese for 25 years and exercised significant influence beyond that.

Here is his obituary

Inevitably – since it was the funeral of the bishop – I did some reflecting on it all while we were in church together.. And two things in particular seemed important,

The first was that we had a proper funeral liturgy – a Eucharist, some wonderful music, reflection on Michael’s life and proclamation of resurrection hope,

That’s important because our funeral rites are under considerable pressure – pressure to have a small funeral service for close family followed later in the same day by a Memorial Service. I am entirely opposed to that. Memorial Services have their place – removed at some distance from the time of death, But they are no substitute for a funeral service with its sense of progression – and its combination of support for the bereaved, thanksgiving for a life and faith-filled proclamation of resurrection hope.

My second reflection was about the nature of episcopal ministry and the mixed feelings with it engenders. I suspect that it is difficult to the point of impossible to exercise authority in the church – however carefully and pastorally – without experiencing conflict.

It was a worthy send-off – a good expression of the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral strengths of our church – a worthy response to a remarkable ministry

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In Dunfermline and Rosyth #pisky Tue, 16 Dec 2014 10:12:11 +0000 I visited our congregations at Holy Trinity, Dunfermline, and St Margaret’s, Rosyth, last Sunday. Last Sunday was all about John the Baptist – one of my favourites.

And this is what I said

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A moment of hope. #pisky Sun, 14 Dec 2014 16:39:26 +0000 Continue reading ]]> You may have noticed that I haven’t been visible here for a little while. Sometimes stuff crowds the diary and makes me lose the rhythm. Four days of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion in London – mainly focused on the appointment of a new Secretary General – immediately followed by a trip to Ireland to conduct the wedding of a friend’s daughter – left me struggling to cope with the everyday

But in the midst of trivial round and common task there were some really significant moments of hope. One was a my meeting with the Vestries of our Central Fife Group in Glenrothes in Fife.

Two and a half years ago, these three congregations received Revd Thomas Brauer as Priest in Charge after a period of three years in which it was impossible to find a priest to go there in ministry. At that point, there was very little hope. These are challenging places for our church – post-industrial Fife – but it is very important that we sustain a presence here.

My visit last week arose because Thomas is about to become our Diocesan Missioner – and yet news of his departure didn’t plunge them into renewed despair. The reason is to do with a pattern of ministry which is becoming common across our church.

We don’t endlessly extend groupings of congregations – our culture is too independent for that. Instead we attempt to establish or recognise some ministry in each of the congregations and then to link them together – partly through the ministry of a priest who exercise oversight, encourages, trains and supports. So each of the congregations – in Lochgelly. Leven and Glenrothes – has a person around whom ministry can grow. That includes a stipendiary priest, a licensed Lay Reader, one or two retired clergy and a Lay Reader in training,

I ask myself how this differs from the patterns of Local Collaborative Ministry which were being promoted when I came to Scotland ten years ago. Well it’s probably more opportunistic than doctrinaire. We make the most of the talents and skills which are available but don’t have a fixed pattern. We have a clear understanding of the complementary of ministries of clergy and laity – not seeming to promote one at the expense of the other.

I went back up the M90 in foul weather but with a metaphorical spring in my step.

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Leadership. #pisky Sun, 14 Dec 2014 16:39:20 +0000 Continue reading ]]> I take a look at the Church of Ireland Gazette most weeks. I was interested this week to see Canon Ian Poulton – who is Rector of a group of parishes in the rural South – questioning the wisdom of the Church of Ireland’s current review of dioceses and episcopal ministry.

We’ve had one or two abortive attempts to do this in the past. I’ve never had much enthusiasm for it in Scotland. That’s partly because experience tells me that this is an area in which one can invest much time and effort in all sorts of plans only to see them taken apart on the floor of General Synod. I also haven’t worked out how one can embark on something which seems to look sensible and in the interests of good governance without it beginning to feel in practice like the management of decline.

But there is another reason – which is to do with the way in which we think about and practice episcopal ministry at present in our church. There are many traditional pictures of what a bishop is for – pastor to the clergy; leader of mission; focus of unity; teacher and guardian of the faith. There are some internal conflicts about the role – most obviously the well-known pastor-manager bind.

In Scotland, we’ve been moving towards a greater emphasis on the bishop as Leader of Mission. That understanding has been reflected in our Whole Church Mission and Ministry Policy which sees the missional energy of the church as located in the diocese under the leadership of the bishop.

It seems to me that the understanding of the role and ministry of the bishop makes us more growth orientated and less likely to want to prioritise what looks like a move to efficiency and rationalisation. The bishop is the encourager of clergy and congregations .. attempts to develop a sense of strategic direction … ensures that there is training and resourcing for ministry.

I think it also means that the bishop has a role in the interface between the church and the world If you look around our church you can see that role being worked out in terms of media profile. As larger churches decline, we are becoming more ‘mainstream’ in terms of our visibility in local communities. In some places, our bishops are being seen as leaders of the Christian community which ways which are almost post-denominational.

I have a feeling that it is this kind of episcopal ministry which Canon Ian Poulton is asking for. It’s hard to plan. It grows in response to the gifts of individuals and the opportunities which context provides.

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Rector to walk on water #pisky Thu, 27 Nov 2014 22:30:21 +0000 Continue reading ]]> IMG_1518.JPG

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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