Looking through other’s eyes

I’ve just had the rather strange experience of looking at somebody else’s holiday video of their time in our cottage in Donegal. I know it is beautiful – but I also grumble about how much it has been spoilt, about over-development and carelessness about the environment. What I saw was [apparently endless] lingering shots of heather and hillsides, crystal clear surf breaking on clean and empty beaches, amazing sweeps of scenery, small children building sandcastles, a rather ‘stage Irish’ village with enough pubs to float off the whole of Ireland. Sadly there are no direct flights from Perth.

Ah, Bisto!

I’ve been enjoying Alan Bennett’s ‘Untold Stories’

He reflects on a friend’s funeral Mass: ‘the Catholic Mass … is open to anybody who just happens to be passing. There’s almost an ‘Ah, Bisto!’ quality to it so that even at the smartest requiems there are these oddities who, not having anything better to do, just wandered in. And that way, maybe, salvation lies.’

I have a similar test

Sermon at Alloa 8th January

The word ‘about’ is a dangerous word. Bishop, what do you think about …. Do you think the church should be doing more about …. How do you feel about …. Charles Kennedy’s resignation, Celebrity Big Brother, the current level of interest rates, the war in Iraq. Sometimes I think it is a bit like watching the tide washing in and out, carrying with it all kinds of stuff.

This medical problem

It is – but of course it is more than that. Charles Kennedy’s use of the term attempts to make alcohol dependency sound as emotionally neutral as diabetes or a broken leg. Those who have dealt with alcohol dependency among the circle of family and friends know about the enormous secrecy and denial which it engenders. They know about the anger which rises up among those who try to cut through and challenge that denial. And all of us who use alcohol socially are uncomfortably aware of the narrow space between enjoying, wanting and needing alcohol. There but for the grace of God …

Beatitudes for the New Year

Blessed are those who have new ideas – because there aren’t many new ideas
Blessed are those who have many new ideas – but know how to discard most of them and concentrate on one or two
Blessed are those who have the grace of turning the new ideas of others into reality
Blessed above all are those who, while liking what is old and familiar, are ready to talk about, consider and do what is new.
Blessed are those of warm heart, clear mind and calm speech who know how to reassure and encourage others.
Blessed are those who can take disaster and confusion and out of it create something unexpected and wonderful.
‘Behold I make all things new’

The Miners

It doesn’t get much worse than the story of the West Virginia miners and their families.

I went downstairs to feed the cat this morning – listening to the BBC reporting that all but one had been found alive – referring to the ‘power of prayer’ and how well it had worked. I pondered how the family of the one miner reported dead might feel about the power of prayer and why it hadn’t worked for them. And by the time I came back upstairs it was being reported that they were all dead. It doesn’t get more tragic that that.

Am I being grudging about the power of prayer in these circumstances?

A word from the pew

‘Are we going to church today?’ – the sign that we are truly on holiday and that the professional church-goer has the same luxury of choice as everybody else. So it’s best navy cords instead of all the episcopal gear and [another luxury] arrive just in time rather than 30 minutes early.

It’s Holy Communion in Dunfanaghy – north-west Donegal where we have had a house for almost 15 years and feel very ‘at home’ – both known and knowing people.

So, without doing a ‘mystery worshipper’, how did it feel?

Life moves on

A fleeting visit to Portadown is a chance to visit all the complicated feelings about the place in which we lived for 19 years, where so many of our friends are, where the children grew up, where ministry was more intense than it is ever likely to be again ..

Life does move on – but I missed it on Christmas Eve – missed the midnight service when young people whom I have known since they were children come home and come to church with their families. [More than Christmas Eve sentiment there – visit Belfast Airport at any time in the week before Christmas and you, like me, will be moved to tears by the sight of the best of Northern Ireland’s young people coming home from all the other communities to which have chosen to bring their talents and energies.] Names and faces of people are still pretty fresh in the mind – I was afraid that they would have shifted from the front of my mind into the archive section. Terence, my successor, will be instituted at the end of February – a year after we left. It’s a bit like how it must be when a former spouse remarries. It produces complicated feelings of regret, shifting loyalties and [quite properly] of doors closing firmly.