“Talking faith” article by my Mum in local newspaper

talking-faith

Every week my Mum faithfully sends me the local newspaper, the Selkirk Weekend Advertiser.

This week, on page two, was a short “Talking faith” article by “A member of St John’s” (the Scottish Episcopal Church in Selkirk). That member was my Mum, and her thought for the day ‘column’ was inspired by two of my beautiful children, Reuben and Joshua.

“Just you and me!”, said one of my three-year-old twin grandsons, contentedly trotting off to play tennis with his Mummy.

“Just you and me!” said the other twin going to the shops with his Daddy. They were experiencing individual quality time… attention… being loved. Let’s enjoy ‘just you and me’ quality time with God.

Come to me with your ears open, and you will find life. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised. Isaiah 55:3 NLT

Christmas 2011

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Above: Isaac gives a knitted Santa a cuddle a few days before Christmas.

Christmas Eve

“I was very surprised that you agreed to preach at the midnight mass,” said Jane on Christmas Eve, “after you’d said last year that you were going to take a year off this year.”

“Did I say that?” I asked.

Apparently so, but I’m glad that I had forgotten because the midnight service at All Saints’, St Andrews was beautiful. The nave (where the congregation sits) was in darkness, lit by hand-held candles, there was a procession during which the baby Jesus was placed in the crib, which was then blessed. The choir was small but enthusiastic; and daring (In dulce jubilo in German). My sermon was warmly received, with another member of the clergy team saying to me afterwards that he thought that it was “spot on”, which I found encouraging.

I drove back to Anstruther around a quarter past one, glowing and thanking God. While I was waiting for the toast to pop-up at home I tweeted:

Fabulous midnight mass at All Saints, St Andrews. The good news of Jesus preached. Feeling very blessed. Happy Christmas one and all. x

I retired to bed for about four-and-a-half hours.

Christmas Day

The drive to Selkirk wasn’t quite as I had planned; particularly the 30 mph winds. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared while driving. The Forth Road Bridge was closed to high sided vehicles, buses, cars with trailers, caravans, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians: pretty much everybody apart from us. I crept across the almost deserted bridge at 30 mph, driving mostly down the line between the lanes.

Just south of Edinburgh, at Newtongrange we discovered that Isaac had a very dodgy tummy. And that we’d forgotten to pack a change of clothes. He turned up to St John’s in Selkirk wearing his pyjamas: a George Pig (Peppa’s brother) fleecy sleep suit. Very sweet.

Jane stayed at my Mum’s to prepare Christmas lunch while the rest of us (minus Reuben, who wanted to stay with Mummy) went to church.

We had Christmas lunch round a wallpaper-pasting table covered in a table cloth, which was a great idea and fit the space perfectly. Jane’s lunch was cooked to perfection—even the parsnips in honey and mustard which always go wrong for us.

Before and after lunch presents were opened, mostly by Reuben and Joshua regardless of whose name was on the label—they were so excited, it was great. And all too soon we were packing up bags and boxes and loading up the car again for the equally-windy drive back to Fife.

Once back home the boys all transferred effortlessly (and for us thankfully) from the car to their beds. We unpacked the car, reheated some Christmas dinner and crashed out in front of the telly to watch the season finalé of Merlin that we’d recorded from the night before.

Then bed.

Boxing Day

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Above: Joshua (left) and Reuben rip open a present on Boxing Day morning.

This was our stay-at-home day, with the majority of Reuben, Joshua and Isaac’s presents still to open. It was nice to stretch out their presents over the last two days rather than overwhelming them with everything all at once.

Jane had picked up a big box of action figures: underwater, mountain, space, etc. which you can see Reuben and Joshua opening in the photograph above. They have loved playing with them all day. At one point they were both lying on top of the dining room table totally engrossed in their play: fabulous!

It was also a tired day, as the busyness of the last few days caught up with us. Jane crashed out on the sofa around mid-day; I went for a sleep mid-afternoon; Reuben fell asleep on the armchair just before dinner.

That said, bedtime still took about three-and-a-half hours. And everybody wanted Mummy to put them to bed.

And to be honest, that’s where I should be now, so I’m going to be uncharacteristically sensible and catch up with as much sleep as I can get. That is, after all, the only thing that I asked for for Christmas: a sleep.

Night, night! And Happy Christmas!

Isaac’s baptism cake

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On Sunday morning we set off at 07:35 for Selkirk in the Scottish Borders—where I grew up, and where my Mum and sister still live—to celebrate Isaac’s baptism.

We chose Selkirk because my sister is really unwell and is unable to travel long distances, and so wanting her to be a part of it we travelled to her, to the church of St John the Evangelist where I had been baptised around 14,450 days earlier.

After the baptism the cake appeared: a magnificent Noah’s Ark cake <whisper>from Marks & Spencer</whisper>.

Reuben, Joshua and Isaac were absolute stars the whole day, I was so proud of them all.

A lovely day with friends and family, and many prayers of thanks to God.

Commissioning of the Ministry Leadership Team

Bishop Brian preaching at St John's Selkirk
Bishop Brian preaching at St John’s Selkirk.

On Saturday Jane and I drove down to Selkirk — via Kirkcaldy to pick up a pram, via South Queensferry to have lunch with my brother, via Hermiston Gait (Edinburgh) to buy winter supplies for the car, and via Gilmerton (Edinburgh) to help set up Jane’s sister’s new broadband connection — to visit my Mum, sister and nephew.

The reason for going, other than simply because I love my Mum and it had been too long since I’d been to visit, was that Mum was one of seven being commissioned by Bishop Brian as part of a Ministry Leadership Team at the Church of St John the Evangelist, Selkirk.

St John’s

It was a lovely service, lovely to be back in St John’s (who encouraged and sponsored my own ministry) amongst friends. Bishop Brian preached a great sermon about the need to share in ministry rather than share out ministry. It was encouraging, insightful and realistic.

One thing he said, which stuck with me (if I remember it correctly) was that these seven people were not being commissioned to wow! with their competence but to be obedient servants and just get stuck in and do what they could.

Then minutes after the comment about not wowing with competence Bishop Brian stepped out of the pulpit, knocked over a banner which tumbled onto the window ledge upsetting a flower display.

It was a genuinely beautiful moment of humanness, which was received by the congregation and reflected as a warm and delighted laugh. Brian, one of the seven to be soon commissioned, leapt to the Bishop’s aid and between them they re-set everything as it had been.

“There’s collaborative ministry in action”, David, the Priest-in-Charge affirmed.

Commissioning

Bishop Brian commissioning the Ministry Team at St John's Selkirk
Bishop Brian (in the pointy gold hat) commissioning the Ministry Team at St John’s Selkirk; Mum is in the bright pink top.

Following the creed and a re-dedication of the people of St John’s:

Brothers and sisters in Christ,
will you renew your commitment
to the loving service of God,
of one another
and of your fellow men and women?

and confession the seven were introduced to the Bishop by my sister Jenni and Annie, one of the servers, where he commissioned them:

Brothers and sisters in Christ,
you have been entrusted with the leading of Christ’s people
to fulfil their baptismal calling to ministry in this place.
Are you willing to undertake this service,
under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit;
following the example of Jesus Christ,
who came not to be served but to serve?

I was so proud of Mum, who has been such a role model and encouragement in my own journey of ministry. It was a joy, delight and privilege to be there. It was lovely to share that too in the company of Jane, who had only had two hours sleep the night before.

The Peace

When the Bishop introduced the peace:

“Where two or three are gathered together in my name,” says the Lord, “there I am, in the midst of them.”

It occurred to me that “Where two or three are gathered together…” could easily describe Jane just now!

Pick and eat

After the service, after the coffee, many of the congregation retired to the church hall for a buffet (my brother as a child called these a ‘pick and eat’), which was served by our newly commissioned team, ably demonstrating their servant natures.

Sitting at a table with my nephew Benjamin he asked: “Which places would you like to visit before you die?”

Jane thought for a moment before saying “the doctor’s, the hospital and the operating theatre!”

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).