Election encapsulated

Well – what does one say?  I offered this for the Scottish Episcopal Church website:


The outcome of the General Election of 2015 has delivered a result notable both for its clarity and its complexity.  The people have spoken through the ballot box.  They have expressed hopes, aspirations, needs, passions – and some fears.

Those of us who live in Scotland must recognise that we are living through times of profound change.  Our prayer for Scotland, its people and its leaders, must be that we shall find at the end of our journey new and creative ways of relating to the peoples and nations with whom we share these island.

Democracy in operation has a cruel face.  Political careers of those who have served their country faithfully have been brought to a premature end.  We honour their commitment and their service.

It is the duty of Christians to honour and to pray for those who exercise authority in the state.  Those who now take office as MP’s or in government are assured of our good wishes and our prayers in the days to come.

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Confirmation at Glenalmond

This is an annual highlight – this year 23 young people prepared by Father Giles Dove.  And they are welcomed into Communicant membership of the Church of Scotland by local Church of Scotland minister, Rev Philip Patterson – whose Northern Ireland accent is in better order than mine.

These days, Confirmation comes in small numbers – people at all stages of life who want to make an explicit commitment of faith.  Others want to do something which affirms their move from another Christian community into the Episcopal Church.

So this is different – more ‘rite of passage’ – more like my Confirmation in far-off 1964

I enjoy being with the young people – just as important they bring with them a diverse community of parents, uncles and aunts, grandparents and godparents.  It’s a great challenge and one which I relish.

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Does the Gospel push us towards particular voter choices?

I went over to the BBC in Dundee this morning to take part in a discussion for the Sunday programme on BBC Scotland.  Basically we were talking about whether there are underlying or core values which should shape the way in which we vote.   Given that we couldn’t mention candidates or parties or policies …. this was a little problematic.

The pretext www a paper from the think-tank Ekklesia.   Click on the link to read it.


You may find their ten core principles interesting.  In the background, you will hear Bishop David Shepherd’s ‘Bias to the Poor’

  • A commitment to favouring the poorest and most vulnerable
  • Actively redressing social and economic injustices and inequalities
  • Welcoming the stranger and valuing displaced and marginalised people
  • Seeing people, their dignity and rights as the solution not the problem
  • Moving from punitive ‘welfare’ to a society where all can genuinely fare well
  • Promoting community and neighbourhood empowerment
  • Food, education, health, housing, work and sustainable income for all
  • Care for planet and people as the basis for human development
  • Investing in nonviolent alternatives to war and force as the basis for security
  • Transparency, honesty and accountability in public and economic life


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Evidence to Action again

I’m about one third of the way through this BIG document. It’s tough going and maybe worth it. Always a bit oversold … And of course it’s Church of England so the context is very different,

The key paragraphs in the Executive Summary say this:

1) The reason for decline in affiliation and attendance is the failure to replace older generations of churchgoers.
The problem is not adults leaving the Church: it is that half of
the children of churchgoing parents do not attend when they reach adulthood.

2) This key finding has important implications. Retaining children/youth is critical; it is easier to raise people as churchgoers than to turn the unchurched into attenders.
There is no harm in pursuing programmes aimed at former or non-churchgoers (Back to Church Sunday, Alpha, etc.), but expectations need to be realistic.
Recent history suggests that gains and losses during adulthood are roughly in balance; the challenge is to retain the new generation

I can see that. Many of our congregations have a core of devoted and faithful people. They are my age and older. There is a new generation coming after them – but not nearly enough.

So the thrust of the Report is that we need to grow a new generation. Gains and losses among adults will largely cancel each other out. Time for a new focus on children and young adults ..

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In between the hailstones today, I’ve declared the coming of spring, end of the gym and the start of the cycling season. We did Loch Katrine last Saturday with friends – magnificent.

Meanwhile I happened upon ‘The Wheels of Chance – A Bicycling Idyll’ by HG Wells. It’s very evocative of the early days of cycle touring – on uncrowded roads and all that.

In the middle of the night I happened upon this:

‘To ride a bicycle properly is very like a love affair – chiefly it is a matter of faith. Believe you do it, and the thing is done; doubt, and for the life of you, you cannot.’

I haven’t got the faintest idea what that means. But it sounds as if it means something.

More sensible to me was the attempt of my friend Fr Oliver Crilly to describe the spirituality of cycling – the combination of solitariness with locomotion. Now that does mean something to me

If you are into all this, take a look at Glenalmond-resident Mark Beaumont on Facebook. An hour ago, he was changing his chain in Kenya. He is trying to cycle from Cairo to Cape Town averaging 150 miles per day.

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Institution of Revd Alison Cozens


We were glad to see the Institution of Revd Alison Cozens as Rector of Holy Trinity, Dunfermline, and St Margaret, Rosyth, last Saturday. Our vacancies are often far too long – this one was exceptionally so. The cost to congregations is very great. Without the willingness of retired clergy to provide interim ministry, it would be far greater.

I sometimes have a flutter of nostalgia about congregational ministry in these moments. But there is plenty in this particular place to fire the energies.

The new Forth Crossing is just down the road. It means that the movement of families into Fife from Edinburgh because of lower house prices will continue – and it secures industrial development and jobs in Fife as well. That’s why we have given so much attention to this area – the All Souls Fife Church Graft on the other side of the M90 is another example of this.

In Rosyth, we are in partnership with the local Methodist congregation. So there is an opportunity to develop that partnership and to explore shared local mission. So lots to do … and then there is the proposed Western Expansion of Dunfermline.

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Becoming Mayor of Chicago

I surfaced this morning – in Scotland but reading the Irish Times on the app. Fintan O’Toole, who is one of their best, writes about the demise of the Irish political machine. He describes Ireland’s main contribution to world politics as being ‘transactional politics’ – by which he means ‘the creation of parties that could hold power by trading votes for favours on a massive scale – you give me your vote, I get you a public job or a house or access to health care.’ We used to call that messenger boy politics – public representatives seen as being in office to pull favours for the electorate and with a good deal of nepotism on the side.

O’Toole suggests that this has had its day. He quotes as evidence the place where this system has been seen at its most effective. That’s not in Ireland but in Chicago where it ensured the election and re-election of Mayor Richard Daley for 21 years to 1976 and then for his son Richard Michael Daley for a further 22 years. But the anointed successor Rahm Emmanuel was only elected in a run-off – because the system doesn’t work any more.

All of this is just one more example of the way in which systems, patterns and paradigms – call them what you will – change. Those of us who believe that the church is similarly challenged by changing patterns think about how we might respond.

I’ve been reading ‘From Anecdote to Evidence’ which you will find here

But I started with the critique which is called ‘From Delusion to Reality’. You will find it here

It’s not hard to see what works in congregational life. But it’s hard to see how what seems to work well can be replicated …

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The Holy Week lump in the throat

It’s hard to worship when you conduct worship. But I find that the repetition of the story in Holy Week in the end always ‘gets to me’

This year there were three …

The first was actually in Passiontide – early morning worship in the Chapel at St Andrews House, the Anglican Communion Offices in London. I was with the staff group who are a remarkably talented and very international community of people. ‘Which part will you sing?’, I was asked on the way in. So we sang ‘When I survey … ‘ without accompaniment in four part harmony. Quietly. And at the end there was one of those pauses which says that ‘something happened’

The second I was ready for but it still caught me. Peter goes out and weeps bitterly and so do I. It’s the story of the person whose reality couldn’t match their aspirations. Or to bring it closer to me .. the person who thought they could fly but who crashed to earth.

The third was last night’s Easter Vigil. I’ve been with our congregations in Auchterarder and Muthill this week, rediscovering my soul as a parish priest. Darkened church .. Paschal Candle .. story of God’s faithfulness read by faithful people in the timelessness of semi-darkness. Its the story of hope gradually emerging from despair – the triumph of soul over mind. We hugged each other at the end and went home.

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Chrism Mass

We gathered on Thursday to renew our Ordination Vows and be anointed for ministry. Always a moving moment – particularly so this year when we have quite a number of clergy who have joined us since last year.

This is what I said

I believe ever more strongly that the sustaining of vocation is at the heart of clergy life – sustaining with resilience through the up’s and down’s of ministry; living out of it so that we are defended against anger and bitterness; standing back from it and wondering so that we can walk the way of love That’s why the ministry which our Diocesan Director of Ordinands exercises on behalf of all of us is so important. That’s why the establishment of the post of Provincial Director of Ordinands as a 2/3 post is equally important.

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With our students

I was glad to be able to meet our students from the Scottish Episcopal Institute in Saturday. It’s all very new. We’ve moved on from TISEC to a new training institute with its emphasis on formation.


Well for me that means just about everything. It’s about how vocation is nurtured. It’s about the shaping of future clergy and Lay Readers in the spirituality on which they can draw as they face the demands of ministry. It’s about the skills which they need to offer pastoral care and leadership which is both authoritative and collegial. Ministry is a demanding calling and we owe it to those who make this commitment to give them the best training possible.

I went to talk about Mission and Evangelism with them – to learn as well as talk. I could have spent time on ‘what we do and how we do it’. But I reckon that that is for other people at other times. I think it’s important to help people to reflect on the nature of our church – its culture and context. Our future clergy need to understand that and to work with the grain of it if they are not to be disappointed and frustrated as they help our church to grow.

Ah well … more after tomorrow’s Chrism Mass

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