Saying farewell to Tim Morris

Worship building of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Edinburgh

This morning Jane and I attended the farewell service of The Revd Canon Tim Morris, from his position as Rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Murrayfield, Edinburgh. He’s retiring from The Scottish Episcopal Church and heading over to The Anglican Church of Canada for a year or two … for an adventure in mission.

Backstory

For those who don’t know, I was a member of the ordained ministry team at both the Church of the Good Shepherd, Murrayfield and St Salvador’s, Stenhouse from 2003-2006 before I moved to Fife and took up my current post at the University of St Andrews as Assistant Information Architect/Web Manager. An obvious move, I won’t bore you with the unnecessary and intuitive details suffice to say that I always explain it by beginning: “There comes a time in every priest’s life when he reaches a crossroads: down one path lies becoming a bishop, down the other lies information architecture and Web management …!”

Arrival

As we walked up the beautifully tarmacked path towards the church building I couldn’t believe that it was nearly two and a half years since my own leaving service there. It doesn’t feel that long ago. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun!

At the door we were warmed greeted by Tim with a bear hug each. Tim was resplendent in his white cassock alb, green stole and bright red Kickers shoes.

That was the first of many reunions. Some names I remembered immediately, some took a while to be conjured up, others I had to ask for; but I recognised every face regardless of whether I could put a label to it or not.

“You won’t remember me, but you visited me in hospital and it really made my day as I was feeling so low that day.”

Amazing and humbling that that one visit, probably over three years ago now, should be recalled with such fondness. A less not to underestimate the simple gifts of presence and listening. And I did remember her, by the way, … just not her name. Or which hospital it was — I visited so many. But I remembered her and was delighted that she was there today.

“I had to come and say hello. You visited me in hospital after I had my heart attack, and your prayers really helped.”

Another face that I remembered, and history. I just couldn’t bring his name to memory quickly enough, so gave in and asked. So lovely to see these people looking so well.

Good news and sad news

It was lovely to be amongst friends and fellow members of the church family.

It was especially lovely to catch up with folks from St Salvador’s, the church that I had most involvement with during my three years in Edinburgh. Warm hugs and handshakes, cheeky comments and smiles.

The news of our expectant twins was received joyfully, and in good time it would seem as there has been too much sad news of late with the sudden death of one long and faithful member of the congregation (MP) and another struck down with a heart attack (MB).

I also got to meet for the first time the minister of Saughtonhall United Reformed Church, the Revd Susan Kirkbride, who arrived in post just after I left — nothing personal!

Demission of office

The service was a slightly extended 1982 Scottish Liturgy with a liturgy for the demission of office and prayers inserted between the post-sermon anthem and the offertory.

When a priest newly arrives to take up responsibility of leading a congregation there is a special service, during which he receives symbols of that office: keys to the church building, chalice and patten (cup and plate for communion), congregational role (impressively now held on an USB drive!) and deed of institution (the paperwork!).

Today’s service was very similar, but in reverse with Tim handing these symbols back: a letting go. It was very poignant and meaningful, concluding with Tim completely stepping out of his cassock alb (the white vestment) and retiring to sit amongst the congregation, next to his wife Irene, to allow the rest of the service to be conducted by the remaining members of the ministry team.

Reflections

Tim’s last task before being stripped of the elements of his office was to preach. The readings were Isaiah 61:1-3, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 and Mark 8:34-38, although he didn’t stick to these. Instead he asked for forgiveness for anything left undone or unnoticed, and encouraged us to keep on pressing onwards.

What really spoke to me in the service, however, was the second reading — read by Tim’s wife Irene. It was from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (the text below is taken from The Message translation):

  1. You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy.
  2. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did — Jesus crucified.
  3. I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate –I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it —
  4. and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it,
  5. which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.

That’s exactly how I felt when I arrived at the Church of the Good Shepherd and St Salvador’s in 2003. I felt totally inadequate, scared to death at times, embarrassed for the times that I really messed things up (remember that awful sermon about liturgical colours, anyone?) but … I tried to live out the love of Jesus in the way that I conducted myself; and that’s also what I still try to do in my current job. From the kind memories of those few folks I spoke with today I felt affirmed that I had walked something of that path.

As I sat in the congregation this morning reflecting on where God has brought Jane and me these last two and half years I realised and remembered two things.

I realised that something in me really misses living and worshipping as part of a parish ministry team; that I kind of felt incomplete. It’s real privilege that is incredibly difficult to explain on a blog in just a few sentences, so I won’t even try.

But then, at the same time I remembered too that when I was in that situation, in full-time parish ministry, I felt incomplete and frustrated that I wasn’t able to be as creative as I can be in my current job.

An affirmation, perhaps, that I’m in exactly the right place; that I am where God wants me to be. And that has to be a good place to be.

Afterwards…

We all retired from the church building to the hall for drinks, speeches, a few amusing songs from the choir, and the handing over of gifts.

This caricature of Tim was gifted by the other members of the ministry team. Ah … how others see us!

Cartoon of Tim Morris

And the remaining time in the church garden was spent dodging rain showers, enjoying a BBQ and catching up with folks. All in all a lovely day with friends and family in Christ.

If it’s your discipline, please do remember Tim and Irene as they prepare for their long journey to Canada, for their safety and that they will quickly and ably settle into their new life and ministry in Manitoba in the Diocese of Rupert’s Land.

Kenny and Chris

Regular readers of this blog may remember that in September 2006 I conducted the wedding of our good friends Kenny and Chris. Well yesterday they came to visit, for about 24 hours.

We took a walk down to the harbour in Anstruther, which is usually such a peaceful place to take visitors. Not yesterday, there were two petrol-fuelled generators powering something on a very busy small boat, with four or five folks climbing up and down the harbour wall ladders dressed in wetsuits looking very industrious.

I had the wee camera (Fujifilm FinePix A920) with me so captured the atmosphere on video, with a short impromptu interview with Jane and Kenny; Chris was obviously agreeing.

We had great fun. There was much fine food, great company and lots of laughter.

Meet @documentally …

When I visited London all those weeks ago — mid-May, although according to The Other Place it was Yesterday — I met a bunch of kindly geeky, social media types in a posh hotel next to the Beeb in central London.

For most of the meet-up I sat between @solobasssteve and @lobeliasabo and cracked on with some Web design bits and pieces on my laptop. I got involved in the conversation once or twice but mostly just listened in while trying to sort out a CSS issue I was struggling with.

Our Man Inside

One of these fine fellows was a photographer/documentary maker called Christian Payne, who goes by the moniker @documentally on various social media sites.

When I got back to @solobasssteve’s in the evening I duly added @documentally to my list of Twitter followees and have been … well, I guess eavesdropping on his public internet conversations and twitterings. And I have to say that I really wish that I’d been less reserved and engaged in a deeper conversation with Christian because his Tweets, his Qik postings and Seesmic natterings are fantastic!

Qik

Qik is an online service that enables you (with an appropriate phone, such as the Nokia N95) to stream video directly to the internet. It’s @documentally’s Qik posts that I’ve enjoyed the most. I described them recently as being like a Quentin Tarantino film with all the beauty of the minutiae but without the extreme violence and swearing!

Over the last couple of weeks he’s Qik-ed about taking his dog for a walk, petrol prices, he’s interviewed Tony Benn at Euston Station, chatted with the owner of a pipe shop, been to the O2 Festival and opened a couple of exciting parcels — including one containing a Special Forces watch and, this one above, unpacking an Eye-Fi SD card.

A lot of blogging and video blogging gets criticised — often rightly — for being mundane. Who wants to know what you’ve had for breakfast or that there are 139 cracks on the pavement between your house and the bus stop?!

But Christian’s posts are interesting, humorous, intriguing, enthusiastic and professional. I really look forward to reading in my Twitter stream that there’s another Qik video from Christian, because they sure are better than almost anything that’s on telly right now … the Tour de France aside, of course!

We wants a training day!

Diary

[Long sorrowful exhale]

It’s been a long day today. It felt like I was never going to get home once I eventually got on the road. Those familiar ten miles seemed to stretch on forever. How did it take me about 30 minutes to drive home?!

The day’s first obstacle was getting into work before nine am. We have quite a relaxed setup in our office and find people wandering in any time up to about 11am! So long as you put in the hours and get the job done.

On average I seem to arrive around 9:11. I know, that is pretty exact. But that’s what time I clock when I get into the office. It probably means that I should leave the house eleven minutes later than I normally do, but I’m usually not out until about 17:30 every day anyway, so they’re getting their money’s worth.

Training day

But today I had a training course (09:00 – 15:00) which was hindered only in the minor detail that it was on a product that I have no involvement or (to all intents and purposes) understanding whatsoever: e:Vision or SITS:Vision.

It’s the Web front-end to our student record system called SITS.

The training session was on how to create Vistas (views on the data). Which is really useful if you understand what data is there, and why you’d want to create a view on it. Which I didn’t, so understandably felt at somewhat of a disadvantage.

I was there to understand the system enough to know how to customize its look and feel; it uses simple HTML 4 and CSS. They covered that in about five minutes.

At the end of our six hours training session.

And then finished off by saying that if we wanted to customize the whole look and feel of the product, essentially ‘re-skin’ the whole shebang — which we do — then we’d best go on a training course. But not this one.

Ah … oh well. Still it was a pleasant day in an overly warm room with some nice colleagues and university-made sandwiches. Tuna and olives anyone?

CMS Upgrade

Add to that the fact that our enterprise content management system, the mighty TerminalFOUR SiteManager, was being upgraded from version 5.3.0017 to version 6.0.0014 and you might understand why my colleague and I were a little distracted.

Looking on the bright side, I did get Firefox Portable 2.0.0.14 installed on my personal network space as well as the usual array of essential add-ons (Firebug, Web Developer, Twitterfox, Tab Mix Plus, Google Toolbar, etc.).

Friends Reunited

This evening I had intended to spend being efficient and productive. I actually spent it mostly replying to emails.

The weird thing is that in the last week or so I’ve been contacted by numerous friends — and not via Facebook!

Tom and Rory both live in New Zealand, in Christchurch and Auckland respectively, and are both coming back to the UK this year for 12 months. Margaret Jane is now an English teacher in my old school in Selkirk!

Today I phoned an old school friend Kevin, who lives in Glasgow. Remarkably the mobile phone number he’d given me years ago still works. Had a lovely catch up. I do miss his friendship. We used to spend hours sitting on his bedroom floor — his bedroom was on a balcony above the sitting room! — listening to metal (Flotsam & Jetsam, Megadeth, Metallica, Iron Maiden) and it was he who introduced me to Senser, Portishead and a bunch of other cool sounds.

And now to bed … tomorrow’s going to be another crazily busy day. I’ve got some website code that I need to explode and deposit in our content management system. And a sermon to write by Sunday morning.

p.s.

The title of this post comes from a sketch on The Million Pound Radio Show, which you can download here in MP3 format: Pirate Training Day (2.3 MB).