In which Ruth remembers her Quali

There has been a lot of talk this week about Proms. On Woman’s Hour there were interviews with Year 6 leavers who talked about being in tears at leaving their Primary School, about the sadness of leaving lovely teachers, of frocks and limousines and all the rest. It was quite a revelation to me.

Let me tell you about the Quali Dance at James Gillespie’s Primary School, for yes, it was not called a Prom in the 1960s. In my day it was the Qualifying Dance (known as the Quali) and I assume it was for those who had qualified to get into the Secondary School. I don’t remember anyone who didn’t qualify but there was a test which was very scary. Did anyone fail it? I don’t know. Of course we left at the end of P7 and I’m not quite sure if it is the same as the current Year 6. Anyone know?

Although there was a James Gillespie Primary School for Boys there was no joining up for the dress patternQuali so it was girls only. I remember I wore a coffee coloured dress which was painful to wear. It had a sticky-out skirt and it itched. I hated it. With a passion. Frou-frou it was. I’d rather have worn my lovely cat-suit and no, there are to be no photographs. No way. There may have been white socks too. Lovely. (Not long white socks, by the way, as those were only worn by the Roman Catholic girls at the Convent next door – ours had to be short, or long grey or fawn.)

Now, my memory of the actual Quali Dance is rather hazy. There must have been dancing but I’m assuming it was of the Scottish Country variety. With girls, yes. That was my life until I left secondary school and then there was a joint dance in 5th Year with the boys of George Heriot’s, but that’s a whole other story and involves Vodka in handbags. The Quali Dance was not nearly so exciting. I don’t remember teachers dancing but perhaps they did.

Nobody cried, that I know of. There was no procession with the whole school waving farewell and parents crying into their iPhones. There were no limousines – I walked over the Meadows as I did every morning and every afternoon. It was held in the gym and perhaps there were balloons but that was probably all the decoration. Most of my friends were coming to the same secondary so we knew we’d all see one another after the summer holidays, so there were no tearful separations.

And if any of my old school friends are reading this and remember it completely differently and were awash with tears then that just goes to show you what a tough nut I was in those halcyon days.

In which Ruth goes on holiday

Does anyone else find it really hard to unwind on holiday? I know of friends who suffer from migraines who spend the first few days of their holiday having a massive migraine attack. It is something about your body relaxing and letting go of a heap of tension and allowing the headache gremlins in. I don’t get a migraine but I do find myself wandering about like a lost soul, picking up books, watching DVDs, needing to tidy the house but reluctant to do the whole lot so just half-heartedly push things around from one place to another. After two days I just wish I was back at work as all the things which need to be done creep back in to my consciousness. And I get bored. Really bored. I get bored because I’m not dealing with people, I think. (Introvert friends look away now!) I want to phone Mrs So-and-so to find out how she got on at hospital. I want to do the baptism booklet that needs to be done on my first day back. I want to plan the Parish Weekend that’s coming up. Let me tell you, I really have to fight those urges when I’m on holiday. So much of ministry involves people and I miss them when I’m forced to stay away from them. Is it just me then?

Ah, I hear you cry, ‘Go way somewhere!’ Well, have you seen the state of my bank balance? This year I shall indeed be going away in September on my D-Day Expedition so this July break was on a severely restricted budget. Now I could stay at home. I love my home and I could potter and read and watch and stuff but when the rectory is next door to the church it makes that more difficult. My little flock are very good at keeping away really but you do get the odd one… “I know you’re on holiday but…” or “Sorry to disturb but my key isn’t working…” And then there are the regular callers: the ones looking for money for electricity or baby food or the bus fare to granny’s funeral. They are a constant in every priest’s daily life when you live over the shop.

2014-07-06 08.25.26So this year I did potter for the first week and then went to stay with friends. First was Fr Alex and Anne at Canty Bay, just outside North Berwick. They are old friends and a great source of ecclesiastical gossip and jolly good at entertaining. For a few days we sat in the sitooterie (Scottish name for a conservatory) and blethered and watched birds at the feeder and marvelled at the skyscapes over Berwick Law and out to the Bass Rock. On Sunday I went to church with them at Holy Trinity, Haddington where Mother Anne fed my soul. So lovely to be pew fodder and relax into the Holy Mysteries.

2014-07-06 11.37.20

Then further down the east coast to stay with Mother Jennifer at Eyemouth where there were more churchy conversations and problem solving and sharing mostly over the kitchen table or out in the back garden (another bird feeder and different birds). We toodled down to Holy Island for the Lindisfarne Scriptorium’s exhibition where I made a Brigid Cross and did some colouring in. We wandered along to the church as we share an adoration for The 2014-07-08 16.50.53Journey, a beautiful wooden sculpture of monks carrying Cuthbert’s body. There was a sign outside to say that Choral Evensong was about to begin with the visiting choral scholars from St Martin-in-the-fields. We were lucky to get seats as the church filled and we were treated to some Parry, Andrewes and Wood. Throughout it all a swallow who has been nesting in the porch swooped and cried along with the singers. A perfect end to the day.

On Wednesday we went to Alnwick where Jen’s daughter lives and met her for lunch at Garter Books at the old Railway Station. If you haven’t been, you must. It is the most extraordinary secondhand bookshop with a model railway round the top of some of the bookcases. We could have spent the whole day there (and the food is great too) sitting reading or having coffee – they really have it all. I was very good and only bought two books but if I’d made sense of the filing system might have bought more.

2014-07-09 15.52.46After that we had a gawp at the castle and then a leisurely drive back up the east coast, stopping at Spittal where we had some very happy holidays as children. The beach was full of people sunning their milk-bottle legs and scoffing ice cream. We resisted both.

Home yesterday via Costco and now I am itching to get back to work. Resisting until tomorrow when I can finally get to work on that baptism…

 

In which Ruth ponders her holiday reading

Did I tell you I’d found a new crime writer whose books are just fabulous? I heard about her from several clergy friends – all women and all from over the pond. The author is Louise Penny and the series of books which I’ve been enjoying are the Inspector Gamache series. So far, I’ve read the first four: Still Life; Dead Cold; The Cruellest Month; and The Murder Stone. They are set in the delightful village of Three Pines in Quebec which is a bit like Midsummer in that many people seem to get murdered there. I kind of want to go there but would be very wary, if you know what I mean. The characters are so real that you feel as if you know them and poetry-loving Inspector Gamache and his wife are just delicious. And the food! Every meal is mouthwatering and there really should be a recipe book brought out soon. There’s not much in the way of churchy stuff but lots of human life is there to be pondered. (By the way, I didn’t read them all in this holiday – just two of them!) Each book is a stand-alone story but it is best to read them in order as the characters develop over time.

I’ve also read The Four Last Things by Andrew Taylor. It is the first in the Roth trilogy but I’m not sure I’ll rush to get the next ones. It is churchy but rather dated now. A little girl is kidnapped from her childminder. Her mother is a curate and father a policeman and the book explores their strained relationship and what a missing child does to your faith in God. The rest of the book explores Angel and Eddie, the kidnappers, and what has brought them to this place. Rather grisly and the church doesn’t fare very well. Perhaps this is more realistic than I’d like to think.

I also read Extraordinary People by Peter May (of the Lewis Trilogy which I loved). This is the first in the Enzo Macleod books, a Scottish forensic expert living in Paris. If you know Paris you will probably love this book. I’ve been but don’t know it well enough so found the constant use of street names a bit of a pain. (However, I realise if it was set in Edinburgh I would probably be delighted so make your own mind up on that one.) Lots of clever clues which of course he manages to solve just in time which reminded me a wee bit of The Da Vinci Code. Good characters and good mystery. Not sure I need to read the rest of the series though. Back to Inspector Gamache for me.

Acts and OmissionsAnd finally I have started Acts and Omissions by Catherine Fox which was waiting for me when I got home. I read all her books when they first came out and absolutely loved them. Being married to a clergyman she knows the church and all its foibles and this is no different. This book actually began as a weekly blog but I didn’t enjoy having to wait each week for the next chapter so am thrilled that it is now in print. It is hilarious and wonderfully observed. If you love the church you will love this. More when I finish it…

The Institution of Fr Martin Robson as Rector of St Michael & All Saints

I’m on holiday at the moment (potential burglars please take note this is a staycation) but on my first day I had to go into Embra for the Institution of Fr Martin Robson as Rector at St Michael & All Saints. Lots of clergy and lots of Martin’s little flock filled the pews as the incense began to smoke its way to the rafters. The choir were in good voice singing the Missa Brevis by Rachmaninov which I didn’t know before but really loved the Agnus Dei. And who doesn’t love a good Litany at an Institution? Parry’s I was Glad always brings a tear to my eye too.

Bishop John preached on the danger of little flocks thinking that Father knows best and leaving him to it. I gather Fr John Penman had preached on the dangers of clergy stress the Sunday before, citing Fr Malcolm Round’s article in Inspires, so I think they’ve got the message by now. There’s a good lay team now at St Mike’s so I’m sure they’ll be fine.

As ever, for me, it is lovely to go ‘home’. The smell of incense, the candles, the stained glass, and the feeling of deep, deep prayer all make it a joy. Even the unexpected bell in the middle of the eucharistic prayer (no, not at the Epiclesis!) didn’t spoil my bliss.

My prayers are now with Fr Martin and his family as they settle in to life at Spiky Mike’s.

Photo pinched from Facebook.

Martin's institution 2014

 

The Giving of Communion

For six months I was Interim Pastor at our neighbouring little flocks of Bo’ness and Grangemouth. While there I helped them prepare their Congregational Profiles which will be given to any prospective priests. I met some lovely and interesting people while working with them and hope that they find the right person to travel with them.

At Easter I found that it was just getting too much for me. Caring for three churches was becoming a real struggle and I take my hat of to those clergy who do this, and more, on a day to day basis. Getting cover was the really time-consuming part of it, as many city-clergy seem to be reluctant to travel a few miles out of town to help out. I could spend two days a week easily phoning round old friends trying to call in favours. Even the Supernumerary system which is meant to provide cover in emergencies didn’t seem to work. (I’m told now that this system is now changing and cover is being arranged from the Diocesan Office which seems to be a much better plan. I just wish it had been in place back then!)

When I left I was given generous book tokens from both churches which was a lovely surprise and always much appreciated. One of the books I ordered was Unfolding the Living Word by Jim Cotter who recently died. It is a book of new Kyries, Canticles, Gospel Acclamations and Collects and already I have found some beautifully poetic pieces which I shall use. In the Appendix I came across a little paragraph for use in a communion service which reads:

On a church door there was this notice:
Everybody is welcome to receive communion here.
Only one thing is asked of each and all of us, that we be hungry.
However, some people prefer to come to the altar for a blessing:
if so, please incline your head rather than holding out your hands.
Or you may prefer to sit quietly where you are.
May there always be pillars to hide behind for the shy, the puzzled, and those
who are searching and seeking.

Lovely.

pillars church-of-our-lady-liebfrauenk

In which Ruth ponders General Synod 2014

I seem to be the last of the Pisky bloggers to get around to writing about General Synod this year. I’ve been off Synod for the past two years after many years on, so this was an exciting return for me. For I do love General Synod. I love meeting up with Provincial pals who we see less and less these days. In days gone by there used to be Provincial Conferences where we all met up and made new friends, shared stories and ideas, socialised and partied. Sadly we don’t have them any more so there is less opportunity to meet with folk from other dioceses. Of course, I don’t just love Synod because of my social life, it is also an honour and privilege to be someone who plays a small part in the future planning of our wee Church.

There are other good reports on Synod over on the following blogs: Kelvin, Beth, Malcolm, Samantha and Christine. I notice that Chris didn’t like the seating at P’s & G’s, our first time venue for General Synod. We followed the model we use at our Diocesan Synods where everyone is seated at round tables (8 to a table allocated randomly). To begin with I wasn’t sure about that either – especially as I didn’t get to sit with my old pals in what was strangely known as the ‘naughty corner’. However, it means that I have met new people with whom I would probably never have spoken and it also allows those who never would have the courage to speak at Synod to have a say in the small group discussions. And instead of itchy horsehair cushions in pews with no leg room, I much prefer comfy chairs and tables on which to put the copious quantities of paper which go along with Synod business. However, I agree that it did make a faff of voting because the tellers couldn’t easily count when we weren’t sitting in serried ranks.

At my table I think every diocese was represented and we also had the delightful company of Bishop Bob of Aberdeen, past curate of Christ Church Falkirk, so it was good to catch up with him again after our recent 150th celebrations. I also had the joy of meeting Fr Simon of Argyll & The Isles, complete with ponytail and monocle. We Piskies certainly do style and eccentricity in equal measure.

 

But what about the business? Well, we had the usual reports from Committees, some more exciting than others. You want to hear about the exciting ones, don’t you? Well, Bishop Kevin brought us up to speed with the new Scottish Episcopal Institute which replaces Tisec, our current model of training ordinands. It was such an enthusiastic presentation and our prayers are with Rev Dr Ann Tomlinson who will be the new Director. We were told that the new Institute will have cost implications of course and I feel passionately that we must invest as much as we can into training our clergy. Bishop Kevin pointed out that if every member of the SEC were to give an extra £10 per year we could cover it. How easy would that be? I sprang to my feet and threw my last tenner in the air to kick off the collection. (Then Synod told us we can’t have impromptu collections and it all deflated rather suddenly, which was a shame. However, reluctantly, they did allow a retiring collection after Evening Prayer which produced £200 so that’s a start.)

The most contentious issue was the subject of equal marriage. We are not allowed to talk about it in Synod. Even though it will become law in Scotland later in the year, our Church thinks we should take our time. You see, we are not to be trusted to talk about it in Synod because we might say hurtful and triumphalist things. This has apparently happened in the past and some folk don’t like it. (Not when I was there, it has to be said.) So instead the Church held a conference in Pitlochry a few months ago where specially invited folk, from both sides of the debate, were invited to listen to one another in a nice friendly way. And they did. It was all about the listening. And we were told at our pre-Synod meeting that people who’d never talked to one another before became friends. I don’t know who these people are that don’t talk to one another are, because I talk to anyone. I even talk to people I don’t agree with on many subjects but that doesn’t mean to me that we can’t be friends. It would seem that not everyone feels like me. Gosh. At our pre-Synod meeting we heard about these enemies who’d become friends which was all rather lovely and how Pitlochry had given them a nice space to listen to one another. They were quite evangelical about it, in fact. Not so good at listening to those who hadn’t been there, mind you.

I was one of the people who signed a Rule 10 motion to ask that it could be discussed at Synod. It has been one of those subjects that we’ve never really been allowed to talk about. For years we’ve talked about not talking about it. So I thought that Synod ought to get the chance to talk and listen. Those who make up the agenda thought not. We are to follow the process mapped out at Pitlochry where the lovely way to talking and listening has to cascade ‘down’ (yes ‘down’ to us mere mortals who didn’t get to go – and yes, I asked if I could but was refused) to Area Councils and churches. We still haven’t been told how or when that will happen, btw. The Rule 10 motion needed 2/3 of Synod to agree and although we got a majority it wasn’t enough. You can read more about this in the comments on Kelvin’s blog. I thought it quite interesting that Kelvin wasn’t invited to take part especially as he has probably been most vocal about this issue in the past and is an out, gay priest. I also have campaigned on this issue for many years but wasn’t invited. Interesting that the three big evangelical parish priests were all invited. Hmm. Even one of them came to me after and said it wasn’t fair.

So instead of discussing it openly and having it minuted, we were to discuss it in our table groups. I felt very uneasy about that, as did many of my gay friends. It was like we were to talk about my colleagues’ sex lives, because that’s what it boils down to, in little secret huddles where nothing would be minuted. What made it even more difficult was that I could see some of my friends in tears in their groups, and some deeply upset and angry. It was a horrible experience. Then we all had to write a secret letter saying what our hopes were about this subject and put it in an envelope, then pick up someone else’s to keep. That felt very manipulative and contrived.

What was interesting was that so many people came up to me and my friends after to offer support and ask what had gone wrong. I’m not gay but I guess people know I support justice and have many friends who are gay, and even some Bishops were asking what it was all about. And as I said before, some of my ‘evangelical’ friends were lovely about it too. All in all, it was not very nice. And I still don’t know how this Cascade is going to happen other than we will talk (again) about it at our Diocesan Synod meeting in November. Nobody knows when we will ever get to talk about it in Synod and take a vote – perhaps next year or the year after folk were saying. Perhaps.

And what else was discussed at Synod you might wonder? Statistics gathering, budgets and finance, moving Saints days, and the other usual business. My blog wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the worship of course. I believe that as P’s & G’s were hosting the Synod they were asked to offer Evening Prayer in their own style of worship. I’m all for variety and in the past have learned some fabulous new hymns and mass settings at Synod. You won’t be surprised that the music in the evening was more of a modern style with a praise band. The sad thing about it was that we weren’t taught the tunes first, as we were with other new stuff. And the screen which contained the words of the songs didn’t always match what we heard, but that was a minor blip.

So it was a funny old Synod really. Looking back a week later I remember the trams (yes, I did the Park and Ride thing on the new trams) and the tears. I remember mirth and monocles. I remember passion and psalms. I remember voting and vetoing. I remember friends and fencing (you had to be there!)

 

In which Christ Church Falkirk celebrates 150 years

In 1864 Christ Church Falkirk was consecrated on the 13th of April by the Rt Rev’d F B Morrell, Bishop Coadjutor (eh?) of Edinburgh. The site of the church was given by William Forbes of Callendar and subscriptions to the extent of £1350 were obtained. Episcopalians in this area had been served by St Andrew’s Dunmore from 1850 and prior to that in various meeting places.

2014-05-31 11.53.43On Saturday 31 May we held a Festival Eucharist to celebrate our 150 years here in Kerse Lane. (13 April being Palm Sunday and rather wet so were we glad we’d moved the date for we had the most gloriously sunny day.) The planning for our big day has been going on for about a year, with Gill McMillan at the helm of the planning group. Invitations were handmade and sent to clergy past, Bishops who were once curates, old friends, ecumenical friends, Area Council colleagues, and the great and the good of Falkirk and surrounding areas.  All altar servers were invited to take part – well, you can’t have too many servers in a procession I say. Last year everyone was asked to donate £150 if they could, either as a one-off gift or as a tenner a month, and we raised over £10,000.

2014-05-31 13.27.08Bishop John came to celebrate and we had two old curates there too: Bishop Douglas Cameron (retired of Argyll & The Isles) to preach and Bishop Bob Gillies, Aberdeen and Orkney to read the gospel. Past clergy included David Bruno, Duncan McCosh, Rodney Grant, and John Penman. We had asked folk to bring along old photos of the building and the people and greatly enjoyed reminiscing about the good old days (and laughing at those perms and full heads of hair!) Bishop Douglas’ sermon was pitched perfectly and I know a lot of folk want to read it again so it will go in our next magazine for those who missed it too.

2014-05-31 15.29.08The sun shone, the bishops arrived wearing shades, and our new St Andrew’s chapel was blessed too. This little crypt chapel had fallen into serious disrepair and been used as a workshop by a past priest who was also a handyman and had become a dumping ground for all sorts of rubbish. Over the past few months we’ve had it rewired, painted, carpets laid, furniture gifted by Erskine Parish Church which recently closed, and it is now a beautiful worship space. Lots of volunteers have worked really hard to make it work and I am so proud of them.

Lunch was catered by our local College which gave the students practice to show off their skills and Elaine made us a splendid cake with a gingerbread model of the church. Everyone agreed it was a great day and so good to catch up with old friends. Let’s hope we manage another 150 years.

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