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 Ruth ponders Cascade Conversations

Next week 50 people from the seven dioceses of the Scottish Episcopal Church will meet in Pitlochry to discuss Equal Marriage. Each bishop chose seven people to represent views from his diocese. I asked if I could go but was turned down. I only know of two people from Edinburgh who are going – the rest is a mystery.

These people will meet and listen and talk to one another with a bunch of facilitators and speakers. Only one of the speakers is from the SEC. Then they will decide how the discussion should continue to ‘cascade’ down to the people in the pews. I’m not sure what happens after that. I’m not sure how feedback from the pews will happen. I’m not sure about much, to be honest.

It seems a funny way of doing it really. Usually when something needs to be discussed in our wee Church we do it at Synod. For some reason this seems to be an inadequate way of talking about this subject. Perhaps we are not to be trusted to listen and talk in a civilised manner? That’s funny because we seem to have been discussing this subject (or rather, pussy-footing around it) for years.

I’ve been wearing a rainbow dog collar for a few months now in support of my gay sisters and brothers in the Church. It has attracted lots of attention from clergy (lots of thumbs-up), from congregation members (why? what is that for?) and from members of the public (Oh I like your rainbow collar!) Some conversations have led to discussions about why gay people would want to get married. A few folk have said that they thought Civil Partnership was enough, and why would ‘they’ want to marry in a Church, especially a Church who doesn’t want them. I usually ask if they got married in Church and why they chose that over a Registry Office. The responses I’ve had after that have all been positive. And of course, not all churches are anti-gay.

I know that some of my gay friends are disappointed that they won’t be going to Pitlochry to share their views and be part of the process of Cascading Conversations. People like Kelvin and Beth who are open and honest about their feelings and blog about them regularly have not been asked by their Bishop. It does seem a shame that those who have been most involved in this subject dear to their hearts are being excluded. It does seem a shame that those who will be affected most won’t have the opportunity to share their stories. We are told they will have a chance later on when the conversations have cascaded ‘down’ to their level. But wouldn’t it have been much better to have had them involved in how that happens in the first place?

So we wait with bated breath to see what will happen next. I pray for those who have been overlooked in the process and their hurt, and for those who will attend and have a huge responsibility on their shoulders. I pray for those who will attend who are gay that they will be treated with respect and have the courage to speak out without it affecting their future in the Church. I pray for any Bishops attending that they will remember those left behind and be pastorally sensitive to all who risk telling their stories. And I pray for those who are opposed to Equal Marriage. I do. I really do pray for them all.

Bishop Mike Henley RIP

bishop%20michaelFourteen years ago I was made a deacon by the Rt Rev’d Michael Henley. He was Bishop of the Diocese of St Andrews, Dunblane and Dunkeld and I was about to begin my curacy at St Ninian’s Cathedral in Perth. I knew he was retired from the Navy and at the rehearsal I learned that he called everyone “My dear”. I, in turn, call everyone “Darling” so I knew we’d get on fine. That became even more evident when I sneaked round the back of the cathedral for a sneaky cigarette and found him puffing away on one too. On the day itself he told everyone in the cathedral that he’d never been called Bishop Darling before.

The curate’s flat in Perth was above the Diocesan Office so we’d bump into each other often, usually when he was out for a smoke. One day he was standing on the doorstep as the hearse that was about to pick me up for a funeral drew up outside. I ran downstairs in my cassock, cotta and stole over my arm, and he said he wasn’t surprised it was me doing it. The coffin had a large stuffed Old English Sheepdog sprawled on top of it, with googly eyes and a red tongue hanging out. (A long story which I’ll tell you one day!) I think he thought I was bonkers.

By the time I was due to be priested he invited me into his office and asked if I’d mind if there were two bishops at my ordination. He joked about one bishop not being enough for me! The other was the Bishop of Meath & Kildare, our link diocese in Northern Ireland. It was said that the link came about because the two bishops shared a love of whisky and fishing, and not much to do with church matters. Either way, I was delighted to be ‘done’ by two bishops.

I remember one Christmas party arriving at the Bishop’s house in St Andrews. The door was opened by his wife Rachael, who informed me that she was ‘Darling Number One’ and I wasn’t to forget it. I think she was joking!

Throughout my curacy I served at the altar for +Mike many times. He was gentle and kind and always appreciative. He died on Friday. Rest eternal, +Mike, and may your fag never go out.

In which Ruth ponders the life of an Interim Pastor

I am about five months in to being Interim Pastor at Grangemouth and Bo’ness, my neighbouring churches. Their rector retired at Harvest time last year and they have been my foster-flock ever since. It is the first time I’ve ever done the job so there has been a bit of learning together along the way.  Unfortunately it was only this week that I found the guidelines for the vacancy were lurking on the SEC website all along. Pity nobody told me about them earlier!

It has been lovely to meet some new folk, and to get to know some better. For years I have met the Lay Reps at our Area Council meetings but there are not really chances to get to know one another. I now know who to go to to get the best cupcakes in Grangemouth. (PS I cupcakesalready have my own source in Falkirk of course!) Many moons ago I was rector of Linlithgow and Bathgate, another joint charge, and they were very different churches. My observations so far have led me to believe that this is true of Bo’ness and Grangemouth too. Quite different little churches, each with their own style and character.

The guidelines state that I should be with them about once a month taking the service on Sundays and I have managed to do that so far. I have also chaired all the Vestry meetings because we are still using them to cover some of the preparation for the Congregational Profile. Once we are at the advertising stage perhaps I can take more of a step back. We have also met for longer meetings to go through the process of looking at what kind of new rector they would like.  Sadly the weekday services have had to be reduced to monthly and the early morning service done away with all together. This is mostly because it is so hard to get cover for churches outwith Edinburgh. You’d hardly believe it only takes 20 mins to drive out on a Sunday morning. Sometimes we’ve had to have joint services and at other times I’ve had to say “Come to Falkirk if you want!” and some have.

Working on the Congregation Profile has been a very interesting exercise. For a few weeks I encouraged both congregations to write up what kind of priest they would like and then we went through the list together. I imagine it is a bit like doing the profile for online person specmatchmaking – good sense of humour, family man, good communicator, healthy, own teeth (no, that was a joke), good with children, good mediator (blimey! what do they get up to, these Christians?), good preacher, good at visiting – all the sort of stuff you’d expect. Sometimes these lists look as if they really want Jesus as their next priest, or the Archangel Gabriel if JC is not available. They have to be paragons of virtue, these men (and yes, we’ve had that put on the list too!) and prepared to work 100 hours per week by the sounds of things. We do all make unreasonable demands on our rectors.

Of course these little flocks want the best. They want someone who will invest time and love in them. They have high expectations and so they should. So they should dream of the most perfect priest. They are elderly congregations with one or two young people being nurtured children in churchand loved as much as they can, but that doesn’t stop them wanting someone young to be their pastor, with energy and liveliness. They want someone who will bring hoards of children and young families into their midst so that their future is guaranteed. Sadly, life is not like that. Clergy don’t usually bring loads of young families into church, nor do they bring in children. The people who already come to church are the ones who do that but they just don’t get that yet. All the statistics I’ve heard on Back to Church Sunday are that people come to church with a friend or family member. Nobody comes because they met a priest. And where is this encounter meant to happen? Are we expecting our clergy to go round the community knocking on doors? When are they going to do that, for heaven’s sake? So my job is to help these little flocks think more realistically about what kind of priest would be good for them. Sadly, sometimes there isn’t even a choice but let’s not go down that road yet!

I have noticed before how liturgy is dictated by the geography of the building. Neither of my foster-clocks have Altar servers so we muddle along keeping an eye out for collections approaching and frantically searching for the big brass plate! At Bo’ness they have only recently pulled the altar out from the wall to make it west-ward facing. Now if someone could just take 6 inches off the width of the altar that would be lovely and I wouldn’t have to take a big deep breath before I squeeze in between the credence table and the altar. It is not a good look! Yet the altar and credence table at Grangemouth and miles apart and you end up running back and forth up and down the step until you’re quite out of breath. The pulpit at Bo’ness is also for a very skinny person so that will have to be taken into account when they do the Person Specification – Clergy of Dress size 10 or Waist 32 need only apply! old lady heatingOne great selling point must be the heat in both churches, unless you are menopausal of course! You could worship in a t-shirt all year round here! No need to bring your own hottie.

So there we have it – the interregnum so far. This week I had a meeting with my own little flock and someone said, “It feels as if we are in an interregnum too.” Of course I am not around as much, not there every week to see who’s missing or hear the latest news. That made me sad so I baked a squishy chocolate cake for them to make up for it. Handed the cake tin to one of my little flock and he turned the tin upside down and ruined the lot. Such is ministry!  It is eating squidgy choc fudge cake topping from the bottom of a cake tin with a teaspoon. That’s life!choc cake

Not being at Synod

For the last umpteen years I have been a General Synod member. This is the first year in a long time that I’ve not been there. Thankfully there is an opportunity to hear it on the SEC website and to engage via Twitter and Facebook in an informal way. Surprisingly, the greatest pleasure has been taking part with the worship, albeit 25 miles away. As someone who does the Office alone (except in Lent and Advent), it is always a treat to join in with others.

Yesterday I heard someone saying that they thought Twitter should not be allowed at General Synod. This person had been brought up to listen attentively when someone is speaking, which seems to imply that the rest of us weren’t. Indeed some of us can multitask – can read, listen and type at the same time. As Christine said, at university we listen and make notes (copious in some cases). True, there was a time when Twitter at GS was used to be amusing and perhaps a little bit subversive but those days are long gone. So it seems sad that as soon as someone moans about Twitter everyone stops using it. This means that those of us at home are left without means of joining in with our friends. Yes, when at home I can watch it on my computer, but when I’m travelling or out and about catching up makes it rather difficult.

Is social media to be condemned by the church? Well, all I can say is that there are still many new people coming into our churches via websites, Facebook pages and Twitter.  In fact, there are few new people coming into church who haven’t used one of those inlets.

And yes, I do have some members who say, with a little pride I suspect, that they will never use Facebook and then constantly ask, “Where did you see/hear that?”  Doh.

I’ve missed not being at Synod this year. I’ve missed seeing friends from around the Province. I’ve missed catching up with the good Cursillo folk who do the tea and coffee (even though I prefer Starbucks). I’ve missed not winking across the floor to Bishops old and new. I’ve missed sitting in the ‘naughty corner’. I’ve missed not being able to take part in debates, something which I don’t often do but wish that I could when I can’t. Does that make sense?

I’ve missed lots, however without social media and the internet I would have missed a lot more. Thanks to those who made it possible for us to hear and to see.

New Bishop for Edinburgh

The Very Rev Dr John Armes was today elected as the new Bishop for the Diocese of Edinburgh. Dr Armes succeeds the Rt Rev Brian Smith who retired in August 2011.

Dr Armes is presently rector of St John the Evangelist Church, Princes Street, Edinburgh and Dean of the Diocese of Edinburgh. Before moving to Edinburgh in 1998, he was Area Dean of Rossendale and Priest in Charge of Goodshaw and Crawshawbooth in the Diocese of Manchester. His biography is detailed below.

On hearing the news of his election the Bishop-elect said “I am both delighted and honoured to be elected the new Bishop of Edinburgh, especially as those who have elected me are people who know me and have worked with me over a number of years.  I see this as an exciting challenge and look forward to working with my colleagues as we continue to develop the work and life of the Diocese of Edinburgh. There are obvious gains and losses and one of the difficult things will be to leave St John’s Church, which has been the most rewarding place I’ve ever worked.  Everything I’ve learned at St John’s will strengthen me as I enter this new phase of ministry”.

The election of the new Bishop was carried out by the Electoral Synod (comprising representatives of clergy and lay church members from the Diocese of Edinburgh), which was chaired by the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Rev David Chillingworth who says “I congratulate John on his election and am delighted to welcome him to leadership in the Diocese of Edinburgh and to share in the life of the College of Bishops.  John has had a distinctive ministry as Rector of St John’s Church, Princes Street and has placed the ministry of the Scottish Episcopal Church at the heart of the City of Edinburgh.  He now has the opportunity of exercising a wider leadership role in the Diocese of Edinburgh.”

Dr Armes is married to Clare; they have four children (youngest is 19; oldest is 25).  His interests include theatre, cinema, walking, reading novels, watching sport, travel and humour.

The service of consecration and installation of the new Bishop will take place in the Cathedral Church of St Mary, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh at a date to be agreed. Further details of this service will be available in due course.

Biography:Born 1955. Cambridge University BA 1977, MA 1981. University of Manchester PhD 1996. Salisbury–Wells Theological College.  Deaconed 1979.  Priested 1980.

Currently Rector of St John the Evangelist Church, Princes Street, Edinburgh.  Formerly Area Dean of Rossendale in the Manchester Diocese; priest-in-charge of Goodshaw & Crawshawbooth (1994-1998); Anglican Chaplain to University of Manchester. Team Vicar and then Team Rector of Parish of Whitworth (University Parish),  Convener of Chaplaincy Ecumenical Team (1986-1994); Chaplain to Agriculture and Rural Life in Cumbria (two-thirds time) and Team Vicar in Greystoke Team Ministry, looking after Watermillock parish (1982-1986).  Curate, Walney, Barrow in Furness. Chaplain, Barrow Sixth Form College (1979-82)

I have worked with John when he was Chair of the Mission and Ministry committee and he was very good at keeping me in line, in a gentle but firm way. He is well known at the annual Clergy Conferences as someone who likes to dialogue fairly with folk from all kinds of churches. And he is openly supportive of women in ministry, and gay people in all aspects of church. So that’s all good then, yes?

Episcopal Election

Here is the latest news of the Diocese of Edinburgh’s Episcopal Election:

The Preparatory Committee met last week to consider the applications submitted for the role of Bishop of Edinburgh.
A number of applicants have been invited to attend interviews, which are to be held on Monday, 12 December and
Tuesday, 13 December.  The names of those selected to be Candidates at the Electoral Synod in February will be
announced on Tuesday, 20 December.

Please continue to pray for all those involved in the Election process.

I would also ask your prayers for those who already know they have not been successful, whose calling has not been recognised and affirmed.

What qualities do you look for in a Bishop?

For the first time I will shortly take part in the process of selecting a new bishop. Tonight at our Area Council we will start the discussion by looking at the qualities we’d look for in a bishop.

I have worked under 3 Bishops: +Richard Holloway; +Michael Henley; and +Brian Smith. I have also worked closely in parish work with a few retired bishops: +Michael Hare-Duke; +Douglas Cameron and +Alan Smithson. And really you couldn’t get more diverse people than those six. Each has particular gifts and strengths, some led from the front and others from the rear, and they were a good mix of introverts and extroverts.

So let’s start off this discussion with what qualities I’d like to see in my new Bishop:

  1. I think I need a Bishop who is approachable. Someone I wouldn’t be afraid to go to speak about problems or to explore new ideas.
  2. I’d like my Bishop to have plenty (diverse if possible) parish experience so they are aware of the problems we face in the front-line.
  3. And I think a Bishop shouldn’t be afraid to admit their weaknesses and delegate certain parts of the job if they are not up to it.
  4. In my dreams I would like my new Bishop to be a woman but gender (or sexuality) are as irrelevant as hair colour. However, I do need my Bishop to be affirming of gender and sexuality issues.
  5. When I met a Swedish Bishop recently I asked her if she missed parish work and having a little flock to tend. She said that all the diocesan clergy were now her little flock. So I would like a Bishop who is pastoral and really cares about her/his clergy.

Over to you now. What qualities do you look for in a Bishop?


Putting on the Ritz

I have just returned from 3 days at General Synod. It wasn’t the most controversial Synod, nor the most amusing. There were highlights, as ever, and lowlights for sure. It was my last Synod too for I have served 2 terms of 4 years now. And next year I know that although I may grumble I shall sorely miss not being there. I shall miss seeing the people from around the Province, chatting with Bishops over coffee from Starbucks (and getting to know the staff there too), learning some new and inclusive hymns, worshipping with others at the Daily Offices, and wondering who the new faces are and putting names to them.  This year I missed the tweeting community that we’ve had in past years. We were mostly scared off this year which was a pity.

On the Saturday night we always have a dinner at the Caledonian Hotel which is always fun and the question goes round, months ahead of time, ‘Who will be the after-dinner speaker?’ This year it was our very own beloved +Brian Smith who retires in August and he did indeed do us proud.

But let me tell you a little bit about the hotel that put me up for the night. (For those of us who live out of town, one must find somewhere to lay one’s weary head and get changed for the dinner for trains end just as the after-dinner speech is going on.) Months before Synod I had a long trawl with Google’s help looking for that accommodation that you see advertised so often at £19 per night. Of course it doesn’t exist. At least I have never found it no matter how early I look to book. That £19 per night in reality is £89 – at the very least. But sometimes you come across a little hotel right in the perfect location offering a single room WITH a four-poster bed and breakfast for under £60 and you snap it up. It looks homely on the website and homely is good, you think.

Homely is one word to describe it. Tartan is another. Chintz is another. Let’s go for tartan chintz and colours that clash. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that all shades of green go together? Not true. You might wonder at someone who thought red flock wallpaper might go with deep pink. Well might you wonder. And my room was a delightul floral tribute to William Morris on the walls, the ceiling, the four poster drapes, the pictures and the ironing board cover. But let us not forget the turquoise scatter cushion depicting many dachshunds. I fear I shall never forget that.

Dogs were also a theme in this hotel. There was a lovely print of a little girl in Victorian dress with a St Bernards on the staircase, and many doggie paintings in Reception. There was even a bowl of doggie water in the bar. And indeed a real live doggie wandered about throughout our stay. As I am allergic to dogs we didn’t actually make friends but I’m sure one could have if one had wanted.

Let me take you back for a moment to the four-poster bed. It caught your attention too, didn’t it? I’m afraid I don’t know how to transfer photos from my phone but let me assure you it was quite dramatic. And single. Yes, a single four-poster bed. Now, I don’t know why I was surprised at that but I think I just assumed that all four-poster beds were double in size, at the very least. But this was a rather cute little brass-effect number with drapes which did not appear to move which was rather a pity as I did fancy coorying down at night and pulling them round about me. However, dear reader, I must say that it was rather comfortable, although the pillow less so.

I could go on… at length… about the large Buddha at the foot of another set of tartan stairs, of the strange wrought-iron tray ledges cut into the banisters on the landing for what purpose I am not sure, the television with no BBC 1 or 2 but several channels with strange ladies trying to get me to phone them, and the avocado bath suite and utility furniture. But let me briefly touch on breakfast for it was a meal not to be missed. (To be fair, I had been warned but all I can say in my defence is that I was rather peckish.) Down, down into the bowels of the earth we went and were greeted most charmingly by our tattooed waitress, who turned out to be most attentive. (The basement dining room decor was a strange choice of dark maroon retro floral wallpaper everywhere and many chandeliers.) I ordered the Scottish breakfast and waited while it was freshly made, I was told. I especially looked forward to the homemade tattie scone. Well I don’t know in whose home it was made, or indeed how one defines freshly made, but suffice to say I did not finish the breakfast and for several hours after I either had a bad case of indigestion or the beginnings of heart trouble. (I should say that I couldn’t fault the fried egg which was indeed fresh.)

So there we have it. A jolly Synod and an interesting hotel in the perfect location and enough entertainment to keep me going until next year, I reckon.


Ideas for future Diocesan Conferences?

For the last few years we have been treated to some excellent Diocesan Conferences. Sometimes they are held on one day, sometimes two. The speakers have been of a high calibre and it is always good to meet up with folk from the diocese. I didn’t go to last year’s conference because it was on the King James Bible and I’m not really into that. Give me a modern version any day. (And yes, I love the poetry of it but frankly I don’t understand most of it.) This year’s conference is on David Hume, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of the philosopher. I’m giving it a miss too. Philosophy is not my thing either and I’m more focussed on the future these days, not the past. Then I heard that next year’s conference is going to be on the Scottish Prayer Book of 1929. Jings. I see a pattern emerging.

Now I’m not casting aspersions on those who come up with the topics and indeed I know not who they are. But I did email one of the organisers this week to say that perhaps they were all a bit… dare I say it… backward looking? Couldn’t we have something that caused us to look forward in an exciting way? The answer was that next year’s will look at liturgy today as well, but I bet it is not billed as that. And it is the billing which draws us in. Judging by the age range of the participants over the past few years I’d say that the over 60s were terribly well represented. Nuff said?

So I’ve been asked to come up for suggestions for 2013.  Of course I’ve no idea what will be relevant and topical in two years time and I understand that forward planning means that you can’t keep completely up to date. But having said that, there must be something that needs to be explored as a diocese that doesn’t involve going back 300 years.

I’m thinking Richard Giles and moving furniture in church. I’m thinking Fr Simon and Blessèd and experimental catholic liturgy for young people. I’m thinking Anne Lamott and living out your faith in the real world. I’m thinking Mary Portas and making our ‘shop fronts’ more inviting.

What are you thinking?