John the Baptist strikes back

Interim Ministry is a strange thing – it’s seven months now since I went to St Peter’s, Lutton Place, in Edinburgh.  It wasn’t an easy moment and I had some fairly difficult times at the beginning.  The Annual General Meeting was particularly memorable.

Interim Ministry isn’t really just about filling a space until a new appointment can be made.  It uses the space as creatively as possible – partly to calm things down and partly also to provide the best possible starting point for the new ministry which will follow.  That’s the John the Baptist bit – always having an eye towards the one who is coming.

I have quite enjoyed undertaking a series of development initiatives at about three times the speed which one would approach the same things in a long term ministry.  But there is very little at stake for the Interim Pastor.  I can revert to the retirement armchair any time.

At the moment I’m enjoying running some ‘Looking to the Future Groups’ – twenty five people have volunteered to take part in two groups.  We are looking at – call it what you will – the future of the congregation or the vocation of the congregation or the beginnings of a mission plan.  Of course I won’t have to turn any of this into policy and attempt to do it.  But I think the material which comes out should go into the Congregational Profile so that ‘the one who comes after’ can see that the congregation is ‘up for this’

But this is a sort of high speed ministry.  And after seven months, I’ve probably now done most of what I can.  People have responded well and have be prepared to journey with me. And I have learned a lot too.

Looking to the future at St Peter’s

I’ve mentioned before that I am doing a period as Interim Pastor at St Peter’s, Lutton Place, in Edinburgh. As a congregation, they have had some difficult times and feelings run high. I’ve been doing quite a bit of listening – but the time has come now to begin to shape future direction.

So this is the first of two sermons which I am preaching – one about faith and the other about growth.

I delivered this one this morning and we had some discussion afterwards – which in the way of these things barely touched on the sermon at all yet was positive and helpful

Here is the sermon

Remembering ….

I was back in St Peter’s, Lutton Place, in Edinburgh this morning – as I am about two Sundays a month during my time as Interim Pastor.

We used Wilfred Owen’s ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ as they did in the Festival of Remembrance in the Albert Hall last night. I am one of the most unmilitary people you could meet – but I find today always deeply moving.

Read the sermon and you’ll find out why

Love God and Cross the Road

The picture – by Hector McDonnell – is of Her Majesty the Queen’s visit to Enniskillen. She comes out of the Church of Ireland Cathedral and crosses the road to the Catholic Church – a historic ‘first’. By a slight piece of artistic licence, a dove of peace hovers overhead.

I preached there last Sunday morning and worked in the ‘Love God and Cross the Road’ theme.

It was a remarkable day for me – meeting people whom I had known in early childhood in the ’50’s and not had contact with since. But now of course through the wonders of social media ….

This was the sermon

400th Anniversary of the Royal Schools in Ireland

This is a kind of time travelling experience. I went back to St Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen, to preach at the service which commemorated the 400th Anniversary of the Charter which established the Royal Schools in Ireland – as part of the Plantation Settlement. In this case, the school was Portora Royal School, Enniskillen. I became a Choirboy in the Cathedral in about 1957 but I hadn’t really been back since 1967 when we moved to Belfast.

Portora was a kind of Glenalmond, set in the beautiful lakeland scenery of Co Fermanagh. I have pretty mixed feelings about all the schools I attended. But I can’t get away from the fact that my grandfather, my father, my uncle and I were all pupils at Portora Royal School. My father and mother both taught there.

But as always this is a time of change. The boarding school that Portora was is no more and a merger has just taken place with the Girls Collegiate School at the other end of town. The merger has been something of a bumpy ride but it will sort itself out in time.

The picture is with Dean Kenny Hall of the Cathedral – and the sermon honours among others former pupils Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde and Henry Francis Lyte – whose hymns we sang yesterday.

I met old friends, more from my Primary School than from Portora – but it was extraordinary

Interim Pastor at St Peter’s, Lutton Place, Edinburgh

So how am I getting on with retirement?

Time I wrote about that – but some of my time is now being taken up with interim ministry at St Peter’s, Lutton Place. It’s all the familiar stuff – AGM next Sunday when we run the gauntlet of ‘Any other Business’ as clergy have for generations!

I’ll say a bit more in a while


The Church Times had a special edition on Brexit recently and they asked me to write about how Brexit is experienced in Ireland and Scotland.

So I wrote this about the journey from Donegal back to Scotland – through the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland and Scotland – each of which experiences Brexit in its own way.

Here it is

850th Anniversary of St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick

Long past time that I put up this posting about my visit to St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, for their 850th Anniversary. Our own Bishop Anne Dyer said that this was a moment when various bits of her life came together – so here we are with Martin Brown OSB of Glenstal Abbey where she was on retreat.

And this was the sermon