Author Archives: revruth

About revruth

Priest, mother and lover of purple things.

In which Ruth ponders why congregations don’t like new hymns

Two complaints came to my ears this week. The first was that we didn’t know the last hymn. Indeed, when I announced said hymn I did ask Mad Margaret, our deliciously eccentric organist, if it was a new one as I didn’t recognise the first line. Half the congregation shouted NO and the other half shouted YES, so just so be on the safe side MM played it through first. Indeed we did know it, except, it would seem, the person who complained. And her friend.

This is an ongoing problem. New hymns. And I wonder why it is that so many people don’t like them. If I thought it was because they like to sing everything with gusto and not hesitation then I wouldn’t mind. But it is rare that a congregation really lets rip with joy and abundance when singing. (Easter and Christmas being the exception and strangely enough we only sing those hymns once a year.) We like familiarity in Church. We like things to be the same. We like the same liturgy, the same pew, and it would appear, the same hymns. Nothing to disturb us. Nothing to upset us. Tosh!

hildegard-musicI mean, if we never learned any new hymns we’d still be singing some Gregorian Chant with a bit of Hildegard of Bingen for the girls. And I have one person who can’t stand the modern Iona hymns set to well-known tunes. ‘Hymns should never be set to folk tunes,’ they say. Like Vaughan Williams never did it! Ha!

Then there’s the words, the content. Some of the modern hymns (and I don’t mean those banal choruses) are really powerful and far more relevant to some of us. But its like the bible, isn’t it? Some still prefer the King James version to the NRSV – until you ask them to read it aloud, that is. We want to encourage new folk into church but we also want them to sing ‘consubstantial co-eternal’ and understand what its all about. 

Of course not all congregations are like this about new hymns. Actually, that’s not true. They are all like this. But teaching organist with fagthem takes great skill. Now, I don’t sing. Actually, that’s not strictly true – I do sing, perfectly in my head. It just doesn’t always come out the way I’d hoped. So my method for teaching new hymns has always been to get the organist to play it through first and then we all have a bash. It works. Not always well, but in time we all catch on. And often some people do know the hymns anyway. I hate it when organists or choir leaders say ‘Oh we don’t know that one’ as if they speak for everyone. They may never have sung it in that church before but people do visit other churches and places and do pick up different hymns. (I’m starting to get really angry now – teeth clenched etc.)

In Christ Church they only teach new hymns if the choir can sing it first, perhaps a few times, before the congregation is ‘allowed’ to join in. Now the choir sing/lead one hymn and that’s just after communion. And frankly, not all hymns are suitable for the post-communion slot. When I first came here I was told that nobody knew Sweet Sacrament Divine and the choir would have to sing it a few times first. How smug was I when everyone joined in? (Yes, that was considered one of the ‘new’ hymns a few years ago.) A friend was visiting a church in Fife a few weeks ago and told me, in shocked tones, that the Rector had taught them three new hymns in one service. Three! I ask you! How brave is that man?

Anyway, back to the other complaint… that the hymns were too long. This poor person was exhausted by the end of it. Really? For those of you who don’t do liturgy or choose hymns to go with it, let me give you a few hints:

  1. The Introit hymn (entrance) should be jolly and majestic, suitable for a procession, long enough to get the altar party down the aisle and to their places. Sometimes, if there is incense, it needs to be a little longer to allow the Celebrant to cense the altar too and find their seat which make time with all that smoke about. 
  2. The Gradual hymn (just before the Gospel) can be short and snappy and preferably the words should suit the reading of Scripture or fit the theme of the readings. This is not always possible but the Lord knows we try.
  3. The Offertory hymn (when the bread and wine is brought and the collection taken) should be long enough to allow all this to happen. In some churches it involves more incense and there might even be two hymns (eg St Michael & All Saints). Bonus points are given if it also fits the theme of the service.
  4. The Communion hymn(s) are just as people are coming for communion or going back to their seats. The choir may do a beautiful piece as a solo, or in our case the congregation can join in if they have got back to their hymn books. The second one is usually when everyone is back in their place and is slow and reflective and usually sacramental in nature. It may have to be long to allow the priest to also get out to those in wheelchairs and unable to get up for communion. (Unless you have an organist who can ‘twiddle’.)
  5. The Recessional hymn is the one the altar party march out to and might have ‘sending out’ words to encourage us. It should be a bit like the coming in one – fast and uplifting. You Shall Go Out With Joy is a good and bad example of this. Good because of the words, bad because it is only one verse and you’d have to make it a sprint which is never dignified. (Yes, we sometimes play it three times.)

In my defence, the hymns last Sunday had (1) Jesus is Lord! (3 verses with chorus); (2) God of mercy, God of grace (3 verses); (3) All hail the power of Jesus’ name (6 verses with chorus – but the verses had 3 lines); (4) Such love (3 verses) and then O God who at thy Eucharist dids’t pray (4 verses) and still not long enough; (5) O Lord all the world belongs to you (5 verses). Well I managed them and I have COPD and Asthma! 

So there we have it. Rant over. Want to share your love of new hymns? Any suggestions on how to share your enthusiasm?

PS MM is a lovely organist and is extremely obliging and willing to have a go at anything. Anything.

Homeless in Falkirk? Forget it.

We clergy who live over the shop (ie next door to the church) are used to callers. These can vary from photocopier salesmen (yes, all men) to those men (yes, all men) who have some tarmac ‘left over’ from a job down the road that they could use to pave my carpark at a very reasonable rate to those who need something. The latter are in the majority. The ‘something’ they need can vary too. Usually it is money.

begging-cup1Each week I probably have about 5-10 callers who need money. Money for electricity cards, for food, for baby food, for train fares because a close relative has died far, far away, for phone cards for that urgent phone call, for all manner of things. All of them look down on their luck and some are more sober than others. Some are so stoned they can hardly stand or speak. All of their stories begin with “This is the God’s honest truth” and often it isn’t.

It is a tricky situation. They have come to me because they believe that as a representative of the church, I will not say no. That as a representative of the church, my job is to help those less fortunate than myself. But usually I suspect that the money I might give will be spent in the local off-licence or junkie. Perhaps you think that this is okay. That it is their choice and that the good Samaritan gives without question. I don’t believe I’m a very good Samaritan. And I don’t often have any money anyway.

The stories they tell are sometimes long and elaborate. They are often heartbreaking. Remember I used to work with homeless people and I’ve heard some of those stories before. Some, I know, are tall tales. Tales spun out of desperation for the alleviation of their addiction. Tales which I often admire for their creativeness. Sometimes they tell me they have a faith or are born again and that this should count for extra consideration. Some want me to let them in so they can tell their story in peace.

My Vestry are concerned for my safety. Not long after I came here a man tried to kick my front door in because I wouldn’t give him money. I now have locks and chains and a sign on the door which says I don’t give out money. I feel bad about that sign in my door but I know it is for my own safety. I do give out food and drinks. I make cups of tea and fill bags with food which might fill a gap. I refer folk to the Salvation Army up the road who provide hot meals, clothes and washing facilities, and give out food parcels when the Foodbank is closed, but often people come to my door when the Sally Army are closed or at the weekend. And often they tell me its not food they want, its cash. I wonder what other clergy do?

Early on Sunday evening a man came to my door called David. He wanted me to pray for him. Now that I can do. But first he wanted to tell me his story. He wanted us to go somewhere, perhaps the church, where he could tell me what he wanted me to pray for. David is from Lithuania and his English wasn’t very good. He was tall and looked quite clean, with a small backpack and an umbrella. There was no smell of drink and no signs of drug abuse. I asked him to tell his story on the doorstep which didn’t please him but he reluctantly agreed. He’d come over for work which was promised but didn’t materialise. He was sleeping rough in the park when he was beaten up and had spent four days in hospital. (He showed me his hospital wristband, his bruises, his loose teeth.) I think he wanted money for a phone card but I truly didn’t have any money in my purse. He wanted food and coffee and I gave him some and I prayed with him. On the doorstep. The hospital had given him clean clothes and the backpack but no socks and he wanted some but mine were too small. “No man?” he asked incredulously. He wanted me to write down the name of the hospital because he was to go back the next morning at 9am for a follow-up appointment about his ribs, I think. Translation was not easy. (The hospital is over 4 miles away.)

In my heart I knew I should have done more for David. But where could I take him? There is nowhere in Falkirk which does emergency accommodation. And would I be brave enough to get in my car with a 6′ man and drive anywhere? I ended up suggesting the Roman Catholic church because I know they have a big Presbytery and there are plenty men around. But I should have taken him myself. I was too scared.

Yesterday I phoned the local housing department and asked what I could have done. They said he wouldn’t get a house anyway unless he comes from Falkirk or unless he could pay. “No point in giving a house if they can’t pay for gas and electricity,” they said. There are no hostels in Falkirk, no places where someone can sleep out of the cold and rain. Their advice to me was to phone the Lithuanian Embassy in London. “Nothing we can do if he’s come here with no return ticket.”

So my question is: what do you do? If you don’t live in a big city with hostels and temporary accommodation, where do you refer people to? Because nine times out of ten, they come in the evening or at weekends out of office hours. I sometimes suggest the Police but I’ve never had anyone take my up on that suggestion once. They may say they’ve been there already, but often I suspect it is the last place they’d go. In retrospect perhaps I should have phoned the police about David.

He’s still in my mind and my prayers. What would you have done?

feet poor

Whitchester Parish Weekend

In all the churches I’ve been rector, I’ve led silent retreats. They have never been over-subscribed but usually appreciated by the dozen or so who do attend. Even those who have never been silent before often become devotees and persuade others that they should try it. Readers will know that I myself struggle greatly with silent retreats. There are probably more blogs about my catastrophes than any other topic and I invite you to go seek them if you want a laugh. However, I do find that leading them is not quite so difficult for me – probably because I get to speak and listen and have enough in the organising to keep me busy.

Since I’ve been at Christ Church many have said that they wouldn’t come on a silent retreat and that’s fine (and quite understandable). And often the feedback after a retreat is that people just wished they had got to know one another better. Mind you, I think you can find out a lot about folk watching them in silence but that’s another topic… So this weekend we had a Parish Weekend. Not a retreat. Not silent. Just a weekend for us to get to know one another, enjoy conversations, and have fun. Hopefully.

We went back to Whitchester Christian Guest House just outside Hawick because they are trying to encourage more visitors and it is a lovely house. A bit too close to nature for my liking but I know others like that sort of thing. I’d planned to go from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon so that any who worked could join us. The majority were probably in the 70-80 age group but that was offset with one family with 3 year-old Eleanor. I’d planned on worship morning and night, and took along some crafts for those who didn’t want to go out hiking or whatever folk do when they go off into nature.

Unfortunately it rained all day on Saturday and although some did go out (mostly looking at overpriced cashmere) the rest of us learned how to do encaustic art and produced some masterpieces. We also made our own labyrinth which took up most of the day but everybody painted at least one leaf on the fabric. It can now be used in our own church – or if you would like to borrow a 12′ square labyrinth, do let me know.

2014-08-02 19.56.29  2014-08-02 19.55.06

Worship didn’t go as well as I’d planned because I’d printed the booklets incorrectly. Page 1 was at the beginning and the correct way up, but Page 2 was at the back of the book and upside down, and so on. It was a test of ingenuity and caused some pauses in unexpected places as some shuffled back and forth with puzzled expressions. On Sunday we had a Eucharist to remember the beginning of WW1 and everyone was invited to bring a flower from the garden and lay it on the altar. (We’d pretty much got the hang of the booklet by then!)

2014-08-03 10.35.38  2014-08-03 13.12.42

The only problem was nature, and I feel just a little smug about this. Breakfast was delayed by some time while the staff leapt around the dining room with a net trying to catch the two bats who had swooped in. At night they were back and forth like busy bees and this rector certainly did no wandering about outside after dusk.

We had a lot of laughs and did indeed learn more about one another. Perhaps every alternate year we ought to forgo the silence and just have fun instead.

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 Barter 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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