Assembly ripples…

Have rather neglected the blog of late, partly because I have been at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh and am only now getting back into some sort of routine. I didn’t take my laptop with me so I didn’t blog during the Assembly.

It was, however, the turn of my congregation to send an elder to the General Assembly and he has put a summary of proceedings on the church website thus saving me a bit of work (and there are pictures).

There is also a full report (That was the week that was) here if you want to read a more personal perspective from a Minister in Hamilton Presbytery. The four posts preceding this one on Peter’s Blog also refer to events during the General Assembly week.

There are also official statements on the Church of Scotland website from the Moderator regarding the outcomes from Monday’s debate on the Report of the Special Commission on Same Sex relationships and the Ministry – these can be found  here as can statements on the other key issues/debates from Assembly Week. So if you read the newspapers or followed the media reports and thought there was only one issue discussed at this Year’s General Assembly –this is the place to go to find all the other equally …or arguably MORE… important stuff!!)

It was quite a week… and the repercussions of some of the decisions are only just beginning to be felt.

I am pulling together a service for this coming Sunday on the theme of being ‘living stones’ to give my congregation a flavour of what went on during Assembly week.

“…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ

you are a chosen people… a royal priesthood… a holy nation… a people belonging to God… that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”

One of the acts of worship at Roll away the Stone (on the Sunday of Assembly week) was the building of a cairn composed of stones that people had brought from their part of the world.

There were big stones and small stones…pebbles and boulders… all different shapes and  sizes and colours. And as you can see from the picture … the stones also carried the name of the congregation from which they originated.

At the end of the service in Princes Street Gardens, people were invited to come forward and take away another stone with them and to remember that church in their thoughts and prayers. The elder from my congregation picked up a stone from Ayr’s St Quivox Church and we will be praying for them this Sunday.

Our stone was picked up by an Elder from Lhanbryde Church in Moray… a nice coincidence as the minister there is Rev Andrew Robertson, formerly of Kilwinning Mansefield Trinity and a friend from my training days. Our stone is now sitting on the steps to their pulpit as they continue to pray for us.

All will pass…

“The things of Time are in connivance with eternity. The shadows serve You. The beasts sing to You before they pass away. The solid hills shall vanish like a worn out garment. All things change and die and disappear. Questions arrive, assume their actuality, and disappear. In this hour I shall cease to ask them and silence shall be my answer. The world that Your love created, that the heat has distorted, that my mind is always misinterpreting, shall cease to interfere with our voices.” (Thomas Merton)

I like the transitions in Merton’s piece… the sense of movement. Everything has its moment and then it passes. The things which dominate today will soon pass; they will be yesterday’s news. We humans tend to forget that everything is transitory as we get fixated on things or issues or interpretations.

But one day (but probably not today despite predictions in some quarters) all the noise and confusion… all the sound and fury of this earthly life will pass away. Nothing will block our dialogue with God when time passes into eternity.

Photo is ‘bench’ by Jonny Baker on Flickr

The journey…

Time for some Mary Oliver.

This poem is called “The Journey”. I like the imagery and the sense of struggle and movement.  It works on so many levels… letting go (perhaps of abusive relationships) … dealing with change… discovering your own voice or finding a renewed sense of purpose and hope.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice
though the whole house
began to tremble…

and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do
determined to save
the only life you could save.”

Photo is ‘journey’ by Jonny Baker on Flickr

Just imagine…

An appropriate piece for this Christian Aid Week when we see how a coffee bean can transform a village:

They are right,
those who doubt what we do.
It is purely the product of over-active imaginations.

Who but the foolish would look at barren ground and imagine food for all,
see past desolation and believe it will become an oasis,
would not be stopped by war, but live for the day it will be peace,
and reach deep into the world’s fear in the prayer it would bring life.

So if faith is the terrain of the deluded
then may you leave here with the faith of the fools
who have loved the world since it’s beginning
and will live for its redemption until its end.

(From Cheryl at holdthisspace)

Imagine what would change if we had the “faith of fools” – praying… acting and giving out of love and living for redemption.


A prayer for Monday from Mucky Paws … this covers most eventualities for the week ahead:

May your love grasp us when we feel we are only just holding on
May your voice call us when we seek other pleasures or pain
May your story heal us when ours is too sore to tell
May your patience wait for us when we are not yet ready to hear you
May your spirit fill us when we have been emptied by life
And may all our living find its source in you.

To this I say… Amen!

Photo is: ‘touch’ by Jonny Baker on Flickr

Rumours of hope…

A call to worship for the season of Easter from Cheryl at holdthisspace

We’re here because we’re people who have heard a rumour
that there’s life to be found on the other side of death.

We’re here because just the rumour is enough to bring us hope
and just the hope is enough to bring us a moment of life.

We’re here because even though it is only a flicker, a moment, a breath

it’s changed our death forever.

Photo is ‘Gunnersbury’ by Jonny Baker on Flickr


A lovely prayer for Saturday… for those times when we feel overwhelmed and long for things to change… for those days when we are discontented… restless… doubting or in despair.

This prayer is a reminder that it is ok -even healthy – to feel these emotions if we can also trust in God for what lies ahead…because the times when we are at our lowest ebb can also be the times of growth and change… times when God’s Spirit moves and opens a different door.

Lord, help me now to unclutter my life,
to organize myself in the direction of simplicity.
Lord, teach me to listen to my heart;
teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it.
Lord, I give You these stirrings inside me,
I give you my discontent,
I give you my restlessness,
I give you my doubt,
I give you my despair,
I give you all the longings I hold inside.
Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth;
to listen seriously and follow where they lead
through the breathtaking empty space of an open door.

(Celtic Daily Prayer)

Picture is ‘open’ by Jonny Baker on Flickr.

Breathe Spirit breathe…


maker of chaos
resister of order
she who takes on the world –

wreak havoc in complacency
upturn smugness and self satisfaction
defy authorities that deflate
challenge all powers that squeeze
the hope out of your people
and your church

and breathe life back in
to a world gasping.

breathe, spirit.


A wonderful snatch of liturgy from Cheryl at holdthisspace. It seems appropriate for the day after the Scottish elections and it really challenges me to believe that the Spirit of God can take on the world and breathe hope into the darkest of places.

I have been more than a little devoid of hope recently so this is my prayer… breathe Spirit breathe.

Picture is ‘let your spirit soar’ from Dave at his (old) District Blog

Darkness cannot drive out darkness…

Like many people I have very mixed emotions at the news that Osama bin Laden has been killed. Perhaps it was not so much the news of his death but the scenes of celebration and flag waving and the words of bitter retribution that really disturbed me. Has the human race learned nothing from all our centuries of bloody conflict?

Liz at Journalling says this:

“I awoke, as did much of the world this morning, to the news that Osama bin laden had been killed in the early hours. All through the day, the news has carried further details of the killing operation and reported on the celebrations ensuing on the part of many of those directly affected by acts of terrorism perpetrated by bin laden’s regime. I know that I would feel differently if one of my loved ones had been a victim. Instead, I feel sad that those of us who condemn violence are yet celebrating violence. And I abhor the message that such actions pass on to our children who are our only hope for a peaceful future. One who practiced evil has been eliminated but, in his elimination, what further evil has been set in motion? And how do we break the cycle of violence that prevails?

These words of a hymn by Shirley Erena Murray keep going through my head.

God weeps at love withheld, at strength misused,
at children’s innocence abused
and till we change the way we love, God weeps.

And on Facebook, the most reposted quotation I’ve seen comes from Martin Luther King Jr:

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

It is a pity that his words could not be the final words on this subject – wisdom born of deep faith and his experiences of bitter repression and racial violence.

Picture is ‘groundzero’ by Jonny Baker on Flickr

I cannot do this alone…

I recently came across this prayer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and it seemed appropriate for anyone who is struggling  -with prayer, concentration, loneliness, restlessness, bitterness, confusion – with just being human!

It is called I Cannot Do This Alone… and thanks be to God… we don’t have to!

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.

Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you;

I cannot do this alone.

In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me….

Restore me to liberty,
And enable me to live now
That I may answer before you and before men.

Lord whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised.


Picture is ‘ocean of possibility’ by Jonny Baker on Flicker