In the past I have faced a bit of prejudice about being a priest who happens to be a woman. I say ‘in the past’ because, for me at least, it all seems to have blown over. People who were once agin women priests either have changed their minds or have moved to worship with fellow-haters. On the whole it just doesn’t seem to be an issue any more. I suppose my gay sisters and brothers are the ones getting the flak at the moment. Well, the ones who want to get married or be bishops at any rate.
However, this week I came across this letter from the Hebrides News. Let me print it here in full:
The pulpit is no place for a woman 17/5/13
One cannot help but sadly see that the Church of Scotland continuing her downward spiral when she gleefully and shamefully supports bizarre unions and appointments that the Bible clearly opposes. The continuing appointments of women at skyscraping levels in the church is not just wrong but very wrong, just as it is unbiblical for a woman to be a minister in any church denomination or congregation. There are around 196 women which are now ministers in the Church of Scotland. This is 196 too many. There may be only a few women ministers in our Highlands and Islands church congregations, but these few are still a few too many. The very fact that they are women debars them from the Christian ministry.
The pulpit is no place for a woman minister, however elegant she may be in public speaking or proficient in her knowledge of Biblical theology. She may rise up and hold high office in a nation, just like Queen Elizabeth and as the late Mrs Margaret Thatcher did, but not the steps that lead up to any Church pulpit, whether in Inverness Ness Bank Church or St Peter’s Episcopal’s Church in Stornoway.
Yes, women are to remain silent in every church assembly, and that includes pulpit, presbytery and the annual General Assembly. It is best to hear what absolute truth has to clearly say: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church” (1 Corinthians 14v34-35).
The truth is that God has never ordained or anointed any woman to be a preacher or teacher. If it were God’s will that women should hold such a post in the Church, Jesus Christ would have shown an example by choosing one woman, at least, to be an apostle. But he did not, and even when he selected 70 disciples whom he sent out, two by two, no woman was included. Although Jesus had many women ‘disciples’ He certainly did not send any of them to go about preaching.
God has ordained that only men are to serve in positions of spiritual teaching authority in the church. This is not because men are necessarily better teachers, or because women are inferior or less intelligent (which is not the case). It is simply the way God designed the church to function. Men are to set the example in spiritual leadership—in their lives and through their words. Women are to take a less authoritative role. Certainly women are encouraged to teach other women (Titus 2:3-5). The Bible also does not restrict women from teaching children. The only activity women are restricted from is teaching or having spiritual authority over men.
Yes, a woman, by reason of her faith, knowledge and good understanding, can rise to a place of honour in the church but there are certain offices and privileges which God never assigned to women: no women apostles, no women bishops, no women elders, no women pastors, no women evangelists, no women deaconesses, no women priests, no women moderators. Clearly, the Bible has nothing to say in support of any of these appointments despite what many undiscerning women and unspiritual men may claim, whether in the church or out of her.
Mr Donald J Morrison
85 Old Edinburgh Road
I was so shocked and although I had heard that a friend who is the Episcopal priest in Stornoway had met with some prejudice I had no idea it was as blatant as this. To use the bible (and incorrectly at that) to justify misogyny is even worse. A friend on Facebook asks if censorship is the answer, and I keep thinking that if this were about black or Asian or gay people it just wouldn’t be printed. So perhaps censorship has to be considered. However, I suppose it has exposed this vile prejudice and made me realise how awfully hard it must be to live and work with this all the year round.
The funny thing is that although I suppose I am considered a Spiritual Leader in some circles, I have never really felt like that. My church is much more round-tabled. So if the only thing that women cannot do in this man’s church is teach men and have spiritual authority over them, then that’s fine. I share things and listen to peoples’ stories. It seems to be that it is his church who has turned it into a hierarchical model, not me. And whatever happened to making use of our spiritual gifts?
“Oh sorry Holy Spirit, I can’t lead the church as you ask and inspire me because I’m the wrong sex?”
“Oh sorry God, I can hear you calling me but I must say no. I’m a woman, you see, so you must be mistaken.”
My action has been to let her know that I am praying for her and to write a letter to the newspaper. Would you consider doing the same?
When I was a theological student I did an attachment in Homerton Hospital in Hackney, London. It was quite a modern hospital and one of the first to have a purpose-built multi-faith Chaplaincy Centre. Of course in the old days it would just be called a Chapel, but I suppose that implies that everyone who uses it is Christian. In that part of London the rooms were mostly used by Muslims and Hasidic Jews. I remember it being gorgeous modern stained glass, modern lines and no atmosphere whatsoever. I can’t remember the name of the nearby hospital which we visited one day but it was very Victorian and had a traditional chapel with candles to light and a statue of the BVM. I was told that none of the Muslims complained about any of it, they just faced east (with their backs to Mary) and did their thing.
Recently I was in the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank. On the way home I saw the sign for the Chaplaincy Centre and popped in for a wee nosey. The Chaplain was just coming out of his office to go for lunch but stopped to speak to us and offered us a guided tour. The focus seems to be less on religion and more on comfy sofas and armchairs. There was one dark room with an altar but I don’t think there was a cross. The Muslims had their own dedicated space. It all just seemed rather bland. And I really didn’t get a feeling of prayer at all. But that could say more about me, I’m afraid.
Today I was visiting someone in the Forth Valley Royal hospital so I thought I’d pop in to the Chapel there to say a wee prayer. I wasn’t sure if I’d been in before but it didn’t look familiar so I guess not. Again it was dimly lit and there was an altar with a bible on it and some artificial flowers. In fact there was not a ledge or window sill or wee table that didn’t have some plastic flowers on them. And pebbles. Many, many pebbles. Pebbles in bowls. Pebbles on scarves. Somewhere there is a beach bereft of its pebbles. In the dim room there were lots of little circles of chairs round a wee coffee table (with pebbles or flowers, or both). It felt a bit strange to sit at one of those wee circles on your own. There was a man in there putting his shoes on who left quickly. I think he’d been saying his prayers in the corner. There was also a lovely banner in memory of the children killed in Dunblane and Books of Remembrance which I think must be for stillbirths etc. (The photo shows a candle but I didn’t see one anywhere.)
But I’ve come away feeling a bit unsettled. None of these places felt like places I’d want to go to for spiritual sustenance. I didn’t feel the presence of God in any of them, except perhaps the old-fashioned one in London which has probably been ‘modernised’ by now. Would soft music have helped? Some candles to light? The smell of fresh flowers? More books to read? Icons? The Reserved Sacrament? Or would they all offend people of other faiths? But even when the chapel did have a special room for Muslims they chapel was still very bland. Surely even people with no faith would expect to see religious symbols in a chapel, whether they believed in them or not.
What do you think?
Annabelle, I don’t think you are going to understand what I am going to tell you this morning.
But I hope your mummy and daddy and granny and granddad and uncles and all the rest will remember a wee bit of it and tell you from time to time.
Because today I want to tell you that you are unique.
You are special.
Of all the people who have come and gone on the earth, since the beginning of time, not ONE of them is like YOU!
No one’s hair grows exactly the way yours does.
No one’s finger prints are like yours.
And just like your fingerprints, your lips have little markings on them, little grooves in the skin … and everyone has a different pattern, so no one’s lips are like yours.
No one smells just like you.
And no one’s eyes are just like yours.
No one is loved by the same combination of people that love you – NO ONE!
No one before, no one to come.
And as you grow up I want you to enjoy that uniqueness.
You do not have to pretend in order to seem more like someone else.
You weren’t meant to be like someone else.
You do not have to lie to conceal the parts of you that are not like what you see in anyone else.
You were meant to be different.
And if you did not exist, there would be a hole in creation, a gap in history, something missing from the plan for humankind.
Treasure your uniqueness.
It is a gift given only to you.
Enjoy it and share it!
So many people these days feel like they are nothing more than a number on a computer card somewhere in a government file.
But God says you are more than that.
You’re a special design.
You were made special.
Because that is the way God created you.
You are different.
You are not just a number.
And because you’re different … YOU are important.
Maybe not important to the government but you are important to God.
Because He is the one who designed you.
He is the one who made you different.
He is the one who made you unique.
(Along with your mummy and daddy of course.)
Scientists have only just recently discovered how unique and special each one of us is — how special you are.
But God has known this all the time.
God knows all about you.
She knows what you need.
She knows what you feel and what you think.
She knows exactly what you have done.
And She loves you in a way that is only for you.
Because God made you special, She has a special interest in you.
Her love is for you and it is special.
Her plan for you and your life is unique too.
That’s something worth thinking about.
I have a little present for you.
It is a zebra.
Because recently I found out that all zebras are unique – just like you.
Each zebra has different stripes so mummy and daddy zebra can tell which is their baby in a crowd of baby zebras.
Each baby zebra is unique and special.
So mummy and daddy Gray have the job of telling you all about the stripey zebra and why it is unique.
And they will also tell you how special you are, because that’s what mummies and daddies do too.
And to finish I have another surprise.
Because each bubble is unique too.
There are no two bubbles the same.
Each one is a different size or shape or colour.
Each is special.
Each is unique.
Just like you.
I’ve been thinking lately about the people who have inspired me. This came about when I heard the sad news of the death of John Maitland Moir last week. When I was a teenager growing up in Tollcross, Edinburgh John was a well-kent figure cycling about town on his old black bike in his flowing cassock with long white beard. He was an Episcopal priest who eventually converted to the Orthodox faith in his fifties. (I’m sure at this age he actually looked about 70, or is that just the perception of a young person?) He looked eccentric in his ‘funny’ clothes but he also had the look of a holy man. For a while Fr Gordon Reid of St Michael & All Saints, my home church, allowed Fr John’s Orthodox church to use our side aisle and altar for their services. Then he used a building in George Square near the Meadows, I think. And now the church has grown so much they need a larger building and have just purchased a disused church nearby. A saintly man.
On Thursdays at our midweek service I have been telling the stories of the saints each week in place of a sermon. Some of the saints are well known and others are unknown to most of us. Those often are the most interesting ones! Last week we learned about Isabella Gilmore, Deaconess and had a great discussion about Deacons and Deaconesses and holy women. This week I noticed that the SEC was commemorating Canon Albert Ernest Laurie, late of Old St Paul’s. Canon Laurie is one of those names that is spoken about in reverential tones. Although I’ve never been a member of OSP, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t heard of him even although he died in 1937. He became a Lay Reader at OSP when he was studying theology to finance his studies and was ordained in 1890 and continued to serve his curacy there. When Canon Innes (no relative as far as I know) left Laurie was unanimously elected rector of OSP and remained there for all of his ministry. Imagine never leaving one church for the whole of your working life! Another saintly man, still spoken of reverently, who worked with the poor and had an intense devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He received the Military Cross for his bravery in caring for the wounded at the Battle of the Somme.
So who are your saintly people? Most of mine are still living so I won’t embarrass them here. But among them are priests, both male and female, conventional and unconventional. There are lay people, eccentric and homely. There are saints in books and whose shrines I have visited and adored. And there are people like Alan Ecclestone whose story I read when at Theological College and would practically have traded in my bible for his autobiography if it had been allowed. And there are many who have been in my little flocks and who serve as models of the faith to me. I still have so much to learn.
So, come on. Who are yours?
Today is the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. I was not a fan but I’ve always been taught that ‘if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all.’ I don’t always manage to hold to that tenet but today I shall.
Today instead, I shall think of Ivy. Ivy was an elderly member of this congregation. Ivy was lost. I mean that when I first came here Ivy was not at home and we had no contacts to find out where she have moved to. I think it took a year to find her in a local care home. She was estranged from a nephew, the only member of her family left. By the time I got to visit her she was very deaf and had dementia so could not understand who I was or why I was there. We held hands instead.
Ivy died a few months ago and we learned from her lawyer that Ivy had planned her funeral, chosen her hymns, and even sending a car to the care home to pick up any staff who’d like to come. I think about 8 members of staff came which was pretty impressive, I thought. The only other people there were members of Christ Church, many of whom had never met her but knew her name from the prayer list. Usually at a funeral my homily tells the story of the deceased for it is there we learn all the things we wish we’d known before they died. I do this in the hope that we do tell the stories before its too late. But sadly, for Ivy there was little information. And even better, the stories we did have all conflicted with one another. One story was that she had lost her hearing during the war. Another that she had contracted measles as a youngster which left her deaf. Another that she inherited it from her mother. And her parents died either in a plane crash, or on holiday, or when they moved to Falkirk. I think Ivy enjoyed telling stories. And I’m told she did it well.
Later the lawyer contacted us to say that Ivy had left all her money to Christ Church. Ivy loved her church and I think it became her family. She had no children of her own and she felt that the relatives she did have were only ‘friendly’ because they wanted her money. Ivy was very fond of a previous Rector and knew that if it weren’t for the church she wouldn’t have any friends at all. The lawyer did tell us that it probably wouldn’t amount to very much. Ivy didn’t own her own home so it would be just savings after all the other agencies had their cut. The lawyer also said that there some personal effects which were to come to us.
So this week, before the Vestry meeting, we gathered to look through the contents of an old suitcase and a large brown box. It was full of paintings which were done by Ivy’s late husband. Mostly they were copies of other paintings, including a ‘Renoir’ and the ‘blue lady’. But there were also some of flowers and landscapes. One of the portraits had us guessing who Masel was until someone pointed out it was a self-portrait. (Get it?!) There was also an album of cigarette cards, full sets. And an album of photos and cuttings from the newspapers of events that obviously meant something to her. And of course, there was a photograph album and that is the saddest thing of all. We don’t know who the people are and it seems so hard to just throw them away. The paintings can be sold at the summer fair, the cigarette cards perhaps sold, but the photos which tell Ivy’s story lie on the meeting room table waiting their fate.
Any suggestions what to do with them?
So today while the country focuses on a very large funeral which costs a lot of dosh, let us think of Ivy. A woman who was someone in her day and ended up with dementia. By circumstances alone, Ivy ended up alone with just a few visitors and a few mourners. I wish I’d known her before she became bewildered. May she rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.
Many of my friends are sad today because the Church of England has said No to equal marriage. It is an argument which just won’t go away. And in a way, I’ll be honest, I’m getting a wee bit fed up fighting it. I seem to have been doing that forever. Ever since I joined the church I seem to have been on the side of the people who are signing petitions. First it was against women priests. I know, can I ever be forgiven about that one? Then it was Changing Attitude and we held meetings and we tried to help people see that there was another way. Then it was gay Bishops and poor, dear Jeffrey John. Then it was equal marriage. Always I seem to be signing petitions and Liking some gay-friendly group on Facebook and wearing rainbows with pride.
Because all my life I have known gay people. No, I don’t mean that. All my life I have known people, some of whom happen to be gay. (My ex-husband was a hairdresser so honey, I knew where the in-crowd, the fun-crowd, was hanging.) Since I joined church I’ve met as many gay people as I did in those hairdressing circles. And if you think that’s an exaggeration then think again. Sadly, in the olden days they had to keep it a secret. And some still do, the ambitious ones, because we still haven’t got the bishop thing right. But gradually in our wee Episcopal church many have been able to come out and a few congregations are now quite used to having two men living in the Rectory. Most of them have entered into civil partnerships. Sadly some of them had to do it secretly and with closed guest lists. But things are changing. And perhaps in Scotland legislation will be passed which will allow gay people to marry in church one day. And I will rejoice and hope that this is the end of all the petitions.
But then I’m left thinking that this is not the end. Because there are still a whole lot of people in our churches who are not happy if that happens. There are still lots of people who would not want two men living in their rectory openly as a couple. And there are a whole lot of young people who never darken the door of a church because they are pretty sure they won’t be welcome. Of course, some churches have got this right. I can think of two who actually openly welcome people who happen to be gay on their website. And dear Kelvin, at St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, is tireless in his promotion of equal rights using every form of social networking known to man, woman, gay or straight. This does not always make him Mr Popular.
Then today I read Benny’s blog and was directed to this blog which has an Open Letter to the Church from my Generation. It is American, yes, but it reads to any church. It also directed me to this song which I’d never heard before. Not my kind of thing normally, but I did find it extraordinarily moving. We need to get this right if we want our church to grow and continue. To the younger generation we are just so irrelevant.
No freedom until we are equal, the man sang. Amen.
You might also want to read what Bishop Alan Wilson has to say on the matter over on his blog too.
So you have a Sunday off and where do you go to church? Always a tricky one for clergy. You want to go. You want to receive the Sacrament, if possible. You want to check out what your sisters and brothers are doing out there in the vineyard. One of the difficulties I have here is that I am next door to two parishes where I used to be Rector and it is rather frowned upon to ‘go back’. Especially as they have a new Rector this year. I used to go back to my home parish in Edinburgh but things change and at some point it doesn’t really feel like home again. And if I was a bit braver with driving then I would venture west and try out a certain cathedral there, but that day hasn’t come yet.
To digress a moment, one of my little flock has just left us to go to the Quakers. She has always wanted to be a Quaker since she was a teenager and as she is now retired she feels that she can finally do that. (There were a host of other reasons why she couldn’t do it sooner.) We have given her our blessing and she returns once a month when she is on the coffee rota and keeps in touch with old friends. Over a coffee she was explaining to me the preparation process and I heard myself saying, “Can I come with you on Sunday then?” (Well that’s receiving the Sacrament done for, I thought.)
I should perhaps say at this point, that I have worked in the past with many Quakers. When I worked for the Rock Trust with young homeless people we always had a Quaker on our Management Team and they were great contributors. Renowned for their interest in Justice and Peace, I met many in the Voluntary Sector and always had great respect for them. I always intended going to a meeting one Sunday but it just never happened. (Of course, I do know that they do silence rather well and I am not exactly renowned for it.)
And off we set on Sunday morning to the local Quaker Meeting House, which happens to be in a local community centre. As it was the first Sunday in the month my friend told me that the meeting would be slightly different. There would be silence but there would also be a discussion after so there would be an opportunity to talk. However as the group gathered a young woman arrived with two very young children and announced that she was meant to be doing the discussion but hadn’t been able to get anything together so there wouldn’t be one. It was all very relaxed. (How different in our church, I thought. Imagine if I turned up at 10.30am and said I hadn’t had time to do the sermon… Round of applause, perhaps?) There was a low coffee table around which the chairs were set. On the table there were some books about Quakers or Quaker sayings which I was invited to read if the silence got too much. There was also a plant which I took to be the equivalent of an icon or cross – it was our focus for the meeting. We numbered about 9 plus the kids.
The meeting began with no announcement so I nearly missed it (and spoiled it because I was going to ask where the loo was) and suddenly we just lapsed into silence. I was kind of hoping that the Holy Spirit might encourage somebody to ‘witness’ or ‘minister’ or whatever it is they do but sadly She was very quiet herself that day. Some sat with eyes closes, some with eyes open. One man read almost everything on the table. Another woman clutched a small piece of paper with something written on it. The rest of us sat and tried to avoid eye contact. The elderly woman next to me got very quiet and then did some gentle snuffly snoring before going completely silent. So silent, in fact, that I took to checking she was still breathing. The others took it in turns to go and look after the children in the room next door. Near the end the new Evangelical church which also uses the community centre struck up with High Five for Jesus, or at least it sounded like that. It was very jolly. And loud.
An hour later, during which I may have dozed off myself and dreamt or was visited by the Holy Spirit who showed me some birds of prey (? I know, go figure) a woman shook hands with the person next to her and we all joined in and that was it over. (You only shake hands with the person next to you, not like the Peace and go trying it with folk opposite. Oh no.) A wee bit of an anti-climax, I have to say. And then it was coffee time. I expected lots of conversation and interest as to why I was visiting but no. Not one person spoke to me other than to offer me coffee (no decaff available. Who ever heard of Quakers with no decaff?). Now, as you know, I am used to being the centre of attention so it did not sit well with me to be so completely ignored. Perhaps it is not part of their ethos to welcome the stranger. Maybe they don’t do Mission. (How refreshing, not to have to worry about Mission… ) Anyhow, they chatted among themselves about Quakery things and local concerts and Christian Aid. And then we left.
Now one must not make generalisations after only one visit and with only one group… you sense a BUT here, don’t you? No, I shall resist. But I will say that I was surprised that the hour passed quicker than I thought. I did manage some prayer. My observations lead me to believe that most, if not all, Quakers are probably introverts. I missed all the trappings of church to look at : icons, statues, smell of incense, pictures, etc. I missed the liturgy. But I’m glad there are Quaker Meeting Houses for quiet people to go to. Unfortunately I didn’t get to ask lots of questions, like Do you still quake before God or are you more on speaking terms now? Why is nobody wearing a stove-top hat? Why no sacraments? You could do them in silence, if you wanted. Why was your bible the Good News version and have you ever tried something better? (oooh, get her! I’d make a dreadful Quaker.) What’s with the silence anyway? Is it for prayer? Dialogue? Listening? Waiting? How often does the Holy Spirit lead you to speak up?
If you know the answers, please do comment below. I have bought a copy of Quaker Faith and Practice so one day I may get around to reading it myself.
1 star from this mystery worshipper. (If you’d spoken to me you’d have got a whole lot more.)
As readers will remember, I give up reading fiction in Lent and read lots of theology instead. And jolly good it was too. The theology, that is. But I don’t half look forward to Easter Day in the afternoon when I can sit and doze with a good bloodthirsty whodunnit. Unfortunately I woke up this Easter Monday with a horrible virus and have been ill all week which has seriously curtailed my reading ability. Every time I opened the book or the Kindle I seemed to fall asleep! However, I did manage to finish a couple:
Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death by James Runcie. You may know that James Runcie is the son of Robert Runcie, once ABofC and good egg. At least he seemed like a good egg when I met him at our Provincial Conference many, many years ago and he turned out to be really quite amusing. James Runcie has written a few books but this is his first in the clerical detective genre. Sidney Chambers is a 32 year old bachelor and vicar of Grantchester and friend of the local police Inspector. He likes jazz, cricket, cycling and people. Somehow he seems to get involved in many police cases via his Inspector friend. This book was set in the 1950s although somehow it seemed so much older than that! I’m told it is the first in a series involving Sidney Chambers which will end in 1981.
And it was lovely. Quite lovely. Just not terribly exciting or bloodthirsty. It was very much in the genre of Father Brown and was made up of six little individual stories. As always in these kind of books, real clergy are left wondering when the sermons got written and the admin done. It was probably as much as my mushy brain could cope with, mind you. The test will be whether I’d buy the next one and at the moment I’m just not sure. 3 1/2 stars. Och that’s mean. Give it 4 stars.
The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid. Now this is more like it. A really bloodthirsty whodunnit by the Scottish author. I don’t know why I haven’t read any of her books before but I did enjoy the Wire in the Blood which was on TV a few years ago with the clinical psychologist Tony Hill. I think this is the first in the series in which he features and was free with Good Housekeeping a month or so ago. I didn’t realise it was quite old – written in 1995 – and it is amazing how quickly some books can date. For example, the police didn’t seem to have mobile phones in this book and regularly had to go hunting for a phone box.
But the story was really good and really gory. A serial killer is mutilating and murdering men and leaving them in the gay ghetto. Tony has to quickly come up with the profile of the killer, working with Carol, detective inspector, and facing prejudice daily because of her gender. I told you it was dated. So those bits felt a wee bit clichéd but only because we’ve seen it on TV in this and in Jane Tennyson. There is also the added frisson of attraction between Tony and Carol which is not resolved in this book and I can’t remember if it ever does in the series of books. Nice twist at the end and superbly written. 4 stars. I’ll go and read more but the recent ones, I think.
I’m now half way through The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. This has to be one of the most surreal books I’ve read in a long time. The old man in the title climbs out of the window in his twilight home, in his slippers, and keeps walking. Half of the book is then about his adventures as he meets other misfits on the road which involve murder, kidnapping, an elephant etc. The other half of the book looks back at this old man’s life story and the people he met. These include prime ministers, presidents, and all the great and the good. It is quirky, eccentric and one of those books which probably stay with you long after you’ve read them.
Oh my goodness! How exhausted are you? Let me tell you, I am absolutely worn out. Anyone who travels Holy Week and Easter with us, or with any others of course, will know exactly what I’m talking about. I always tell my little flock that you can’t turn up on Easter Sunday if you haven’t been through some of the agony of Holy Week – preferably ALL of it. This year was quite different for us for in the past we have hosted an ecumenical Holy Week with various Presbyterian ministers coming to lead our nightly services. However, this year one of them decided that this should come to an end and we should all go our separate ways. On Monday in Holy Week our local RC church always does Stations of the Cross so we left them to it.
Tuesday and Wednesday in Holy Week = We had been having Compline from the Scottish Prayer Book every Sunday night in Lent with meditations and music. So we kept the theme going and used the Compline service but added in the theme of the day, ie The Woman with the Alabaster Jar on Tuesday and Judas on Spy Wednesday. Rev Tim Tunley, the local Chaplain to the Mission to Seafarers in Scotland, is churchless so he came along to help out and we took turns in leading each evening and doing the meditations. Our choir did a lovely piece each night and who can resist more Passiontide hymns?
Maundy Thursday = We had our usual 10am Eucharist with the oldies (and the not-so-oldies, just in case they read this) after which I dived (dove?) into my car and hotfooted it to Edinburgh to the cathedral for the Chrism Mass. Nobody had thought to mention all the roadworks and building work going on around the cathedral so parking was a nightmare and I only just made it as the Bishop processed in front of me. Lovely to catch up with clergy and newborn babies. Quick visit to Dad on the way home with his Easter Egg. (Note: there is no point in telling someone with dementia that the egg is to be saved until Sunday.) Then back to Falkirk to see how two members of my little flock had done with making the Garden of Repose for the first time without me bossing them around – and it was beautiful. Then the marathon that is Maundy Thursday: the footwashing (and kissing) and this time Rev Tim did mine; the stripping of the altars which we did differently this year and involved the whole congregation taking the items to the choir vestry at the back of church; Last Supper (on this night); prostration and prayers in the Garden of Repose. It was dark and lovely and stark and lonely, all at the same time.
Good Friday = We blessed our new Stations of the Cross (donated in memory of Fergie Stewart) and walked the Stations through the eyes of Mary the mother of Jesus. Then from 1-3pm we had a series of meditations on people who were at the Cross with hymns and silence. At 3pm we all piled into the hall to enjoy some of Oliphants’ hot cross buns (a local bakery who only makes them in Holy Week and they are much nicer than supermarket ones). This year I didn’t do anything in the evening because the Church of Scotland were offering services, but I might next year for folk who have to work.
Holy Saturday = The last of our daily Morning Prayers which we’ve enjoyed throughout Lent. We’ve been using readings from Br Ramon’s book When They Crucified My Lord (excellent choice). Then a glorious number moved over to clean and decorate the church for tomorrow. There was dusting and polishing and scouring and flower arranging and brass cleaning and candle-wax removing and Easter Garden creating. I just got in the way really but had fun putting lots of little mini foil eggs in the rood screen.
Easter Sunday = Clocks went forward and my alarm didn’t. Thankfully I had been in bed at 9pm the night before so stirred at 6.15am which just gave me time to leap out of bed, throw on some clothes, brush my teeth and get downstairs for the arrival of the fire. It was cold and crisp and wind-less so perfect for lighting the paschal candle and processing it into the dark church. As there were only 6 of us it was a small and intimate service but the bacon rolls were great after. Then back to church for 9am service which was larger than usual because of a visiting family. At 10.30am we welcomed baby Lyall and his family for a baptism and the church was full. The Gloria was made all the more wonderful because I had handed out party tooters, rattles, whistles and clappers at the beginning and we made a really joyful noise. I preached on penguins and love and God. (You had to be there.) As we all renew our baptismal vows at Easter I wondered how I could reach everyone with the sprinkling. (We don’t have a holy water bucket and sprinkler here at Christ Church.) But we now have a pump-action water pistol and it worked a treat. There was screaming and squealing and I managed not to take any eyes out. Handy tip: do not direct AT people but way above their heads. They will still get wet but not soaked and hurt. This is always good in church. As is the laughter that it generated. After the service there was a lovely Easter cake made by the great-granny of baby Lyall and a wee sherry.
And after that the Rector collapsed in a heap. Her boys came through and made dinner. Lindt stuff was exchanged. Dreams were achieved.
And the day after that I woke with a sore throat and thus it has remained throughout my holiday. Meh. This happens every time!
This is doing the rounds just now so I hope I have permission to reproduce it here. For all my friends who care…
A Love Offering for Marriage Equality, U.S. Supreme Court
(An occasion-specific paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13:1-13)
Interfaith Service of Love and Justice
Church of the Reformation, Washington, D.C.
If I speak like I know everything, like the world revolves around me, but I don’t love, I am nothing but a fool at a microphone.
If I can talk about The Scriptures, and preach better than all the other preachers, and get everybody and their sister coming back to church, but I don’t embrace love, then I’m just a silly dude in a robe.
If I give away all my best stuff, and have all the “Rev. Dr. This and Thats” in front of my name, but I can’t recognize love, then I haven’t learned a thing.
Because love, she is amazing. Love is relentless. Love is extra-generous.
Love looks out for the interests of other people, not just one’s own self.
Love doesn’t reserve rights and privileges just for some. Love doesn’t promote hierarchies, to the expense of equality, because love just doesn’t think that way. Love doesn’t work that way.
Love doesn’t hurt people. And love never leaves people out.
No … Love goes all the way. Love removes every obstacle. Love appeals to the highest court in the land, when necessary.
Love gets up really early in the morning, after having stayed up really late the night before.
That’s how love is. Love always does the right thing, even when it’s hard. Love is fair and just, extravagant and wasteful. Love can never be depleted.
Now as for long speeches and oral arguments and amicus briefs, they’ll play themselves out. And fanatics can cry, ”Surely the world will come to an end!” and they, too, have their rights. But your loved one’s embrace at the end of a hard day? … The dreams you share … The plans you’ve made … The inside jokes … The kisses goodnight … Till death do you part. That will never pass away.
When I was a scared, uncertain, disempowered gay person, I thought and reasoned like a scared, uncertain, disempowered gay person. I thought this day could never come. But now, I’ve put all that behind me, every limiting thought.
Yes, we see through murky waters. We’re trying to discern every 5 to 4; 6 to 3; 9-to-nothing scenario. But the day is surely coming, when we will be seen, and see each other, as God sees us — through love, because God is love.
We have a lot of things to sustain us in this life. There’s that quirky optimism that, with God, all things work together for good. And there’s always hope, and hope never disappoints. And that’s all nice. But most importantly, we’ve got this big, expansive, inclusive love. Love! And isn’t that the greatest thing? Isn’t it?
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of the United Church of Christ’s Local Church Ministries and member of the denomination’s five-person Collegium of Officers, offered this prayer in Washington, D.C., in support of marriage equality. He spoke during an interfaith prayer service before Supreme Court hearings on marriage equality.
A love offering for marriage equality
Written by The Rev. J. Bennett Guess
March 26, 2013