We’ve had the third of our Cascade Conversations in the diocese this evening – they’ve been in Perth, St Andrews and Stirling. Numbers have been strong. People want to talk about human sexuality.

We’ve tried to re-create something of the atmosphere of the Pitlochry Conference. We’ve modelled ‘honest conversation across difference’ and tried to engage with diversity.

For me, all this is part of the way in which our church engages with human sexuality questions in general – and same sex marriage in particular. We’re opening up a space in which difficult conversation can take place. I’ve watched people searching for the words in which they can articulate deep feelings.

It’s that space for dialogue which our church needs at this point. We’re preparing for the time when we shall address the same issues synodically. Speaking to the Church of England General Synod about his travels to every Province of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Justin Welby said that the prize was ‘visible unity in Christ with functional diversity’

Visible unity in Christ transcends our diversity and makes possible a church in which functional diversity becomes possible.

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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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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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