End of an era?

For the last 9 months or so I’ve been privileged to have a Communications Assistant at Gartcosh Church, employed for just a few hours a week, but making a massive difference in terms of helping with admin, organising the office and also with this blog, with the church social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, and with the ongoing saga of our new church website…

The practical help has been massive, enabling the preparation and printing of weekly service sheets for the church service, the quarterly newsletter and so much more – but in fact beyond that has been the sense of having a colleague.  After training as a student and probationer, almost always working alongside an experienced minister, being ordained is different.  Usually (in the Church of Scotland at least) the minister is the sole paid person around the church – with the exception of the Organist, and Cleaner or Church Officer, of course! Everyone else tends to be volunteers – who give so much of their time and talents to serving the church, whether they are Session Clerks, Clerks to the Board, Bible Readers, Sound Desk operators, Property Team members, Social Committee people, or whoever.  It does mean that ministers can be reluctant to ask for any additional time or tasks to be done by those who do so much.

To have someone with me at a regular time in the office has imposed (a little) discipline on my sometimes chaotic life and work patterns!  It’s also meant that my work time has been a little more sociable – a reminder of my days working in open plan offices with many colleagues!

It’s an open question whether the church (or churches) employ someone to fill this role again – this will be decided over the summer.  But meantime it feels a bit sad, especially because it’s been factors outside their control that have meant my two Communications Assistants have had to move on.

So thank you, James, for establishing the role, and Lily, for continuing and developing it.  I trust that God is leading and guiding you in this move, that he has exciting plans for you in the future, as I trust and pray he leads and guides each of us, into new things.  Meantime we have to accept that situations have to change in order for new life and growth to appear.

24 Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24 NIV)

We are privileged to have some guest preachers in the next couple of weeks: Rhona Cathcart, who is in training for the ministry, on 5th July, and local representatives of Gideons International on the 12th July.  Come and join us if you can: 10.15am at Gartcosh, or 11.45am at Glenboig.

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Social Media

Some of those in the church may be strangers to ‘social media’, though if you’re reading this blog on-line it’s a fair bet you have at least heard of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram (or from several years ago, MySpace and Bebo!).

But all of us might recognise the point made by sardonic cartoons, which satirise the amount of time people now spend staring at the gadget in their hands rather than looking around the real world. (e.g. the ‘new pattern’ of suntan/sunburn where the ‘shadow’ of one’s hands and tablets are imprinted across their chests, or the one where St Peter comments to an angel in heaven ‘the new arrivals seem a little disorientated, just staring at their hands in despair’!)

Yes, gadgetry and the internet can have its downside.  But there is also much of benefit – keeping in touch with far flung relatives and friends, being able to reunite lost people, pets or property with their family/owners in a short space of time, or among ministers, sourcing that hard-to-find hymn tune or share a brilliant idea for a holiday club, children’s talk and so on

In the case of Twitter, a site that I use either extensively or very little, there’s the attraction of potentially immediate and direct access to the famous (and not-so-famous).  It’s also a quick responding site for news and was, I believe the main source of information at the start of the ‘Arab Spring’.  Again, as with other sites there are a noisy minority who use its anonymity to be obnoxious to others without much accountability, but fortunately I have not come across this in my own use of the site.

For a week from Monday 21st June (or probably from the Sunday evening) I will be taking over as ‘curator’ of a shared Twitter account, ‘Church of Scotland Voices’ – see twitter.com/churchscovoices and churchscotlandvoices.wordpress.com for more information.  It’s basically a ‘window’ into a week in the life of different ministers and other workers in the church – the initiative of a couple of ministers that started just before the General Assembly; not officially sponsored by ‘121’ but certainly promoted by them on their ‘Church in the News’ feature.  If you are a Twitter user then please follow and tweet as I go through one of my busier times (it’s the last week of school term so expect lots of chaplaincy related tweets!), and forgive me if I am even more sporadic than usual on @daveslate and @GartGlenChs!  If you are not a Twitter user – why not consider signing up, even to be a ‘lurker’ and simply read and follow what a week in the life of a minister can (sometimes) look like!

And whatever you do or say – online or off, on social media or comment boards, in a letter or in person: remember to THINK – is it True, is it Helpful, is it Inspiring, is it Necessary, is it Kind? (see James 3: 2)

Every blessing,
Your friend and fellow-minister, Dave

In It Together

This week Rev Dave is getting by, with a little help…

As many of you will know, at home we have a new baby in the house which is still something that we are getting used to but enjoying very much indeed and she is doing well.

In my church life we have, in the next 10 days, a funeral, a wedding, two communions services and a baptism. At the same time in the other church I’m looking after, Campsie, we have just formed a nominating committee and are looking to seek their next minister.

There are many things to be doing, and many occasions. Some in which we celebrate and some in which we commiserate but I cannot do it all alone. I am there to provide support but I also need support. Support from my wife at home, support from volunteers and office bearers in the church, support given to and from families who are celebrating or commiserating.

The most important thing to remember is that God plus one is the majority, our support should always and primarily come from Him and be shared amongst us through his love and grace.

I pray that you find all the support that you need in the days and weeks ahead.

If you are looking for support in your life, you are welcome as always to come along to church on Sunday and join a community of support givers and receivers.

Busyness vs Business

Today Rev Dave is looking back and forward at the life of a minister and his in particular…

I can hardly believe we are now approaching June – it’s been a busy year so far!

Personally I’ve had a visit (with my daughter) to New Zealand, for my sister’s wedding; and of course the arrival of our third child!

In church terms this time of year is always busy – behind the scenes, preparing accounts and annual reports, as well as, of course, up front – Easter celebrations in church and schools, and following (from afar this year) the General Assembly.  Our congregations have also been going through the 5 yearly Local Church Review (replacing the former Quinquennial), a means for Presbytery to help us think through where we are at as local churches and what our plans for the next 5 years might include.

I have also been acting as Interim Moderator for Campsie Parish Church in Lennoxtown, helping them after their minister retired due to ill-health, and guiding them through the vacancy process.  We hope shortly to appoint a Nominating Committee to begin the search for their next minister.

All of this ‘busyness’ can of course be a good thing, as we echo the young Jesus’ words from Luke 2:49 that we are ‘about our Father’s business’.  But there is also a warning – for me and for all of us, that our faith is not simply about busyness and doing, but about ‘being’.  The words of Isaiah chapter 40, and Psalm 46 keep reminding me that we are to be strong, indeed to seek strength, by waiting on and resting in and hoping on the Lord – something Jesus also modelled, by often withdrawing to quiet places for prayer and contemplation.

But we are different types of people.  One ‘Personality Typing’ system suggests that people either get their energy from being around others (and dislike time on their own), or they find their batteries recharged by taking time to themselves (and find it tiring being with others for too long).  In reality, most of us are probably a mix of these two ‘types’ but with a slight preference to one or the other.

Whichever you are, I trust and pray that you, and we together, can both find the time to withdraw and pray (building up our spiritual resources) – and also be able to be energised and among people – health and other circumstances permitting, of course!  In this way, I believe we can help to both grow our faith, and grow our churches – without getting either too worn out, or too bored!
Let’s be about His business, and avoid busyness simply for its own sake!

Every blessing this ‘summer’ season,
Rev Dave

If you need help to break up your busyness, come along to church this Sunday and get down to the Father’s business.

New Zealand Tales Part 2

Read on to hear more about our Rev Dave’s thoughts as he journeyed through New Zealand and the thoughts they prompted about experiences of years before…

When we were in New Zealand we were in the fortunate position of having hired and been insured on a couple of vehicles so we had our own means of transport. New Zealand is a country where they drive on the left, the same as in the UK, which is very helpful.

However there were some substantial differences between driving in the UK and driving in New Zealand. Differences such as the fact that the motorway signs were in green and primary route signs in blue: the  opposite to the UK. There was also the fact that the windscreen wipers and the indicator were the opposite way round to most cars I have ever driven in the UK. Therefore I perpetually turned on the windscreen wipers when I was trying to turn a corner.

New Zealand also has a slightly different way of operating traffic lights, particularly with regard to filter lanes when turning right across the stream of oncoming traffic. They don’t have the same rule about moving to the centre of a junction while waiting to turn right. All in all it could be a little confusing. These similarities and differences meant that it was an odd experience to be driving. I could recognise that I was driving in a similar manner to the way I would drive in the UK and also because I had to be on my guard for these differences popping up at any point.

During my training for ministry, people often spoke of that feeling of disconnection that a large number of people experience when trying to relate to church. In some cases, unlike in the past,  one or two, three or even four generations, have not been familiar with church. This means that stepping into a church is not a familiar experience nor always a comfortable one.

The comparison was drawn that many Christians would be uncomfortable walking into a bookmakers and in fact in some cases we were encouraged to enter these places to experience the same level of discomfort that someone might feel entering a church for the first time. Not knowing where to go, where to sit. Perhaps sitting in a seat someone who attends regularly likes to sit in. Not knowing when to stand and when to sit down again.

So as we seek to encourage and welcome more people to come and join with us in worship, to come in and be honest about their journey, whether or not they believe in God yet, whether or not they have serious challenges and doubts about how to follow Jesus, we should be ready to welcome people like Jesus did and put them at their ease (or put you at your ease if you feel unused to church). Hopefully we can overcome any discomfort and enable a greater welcome to not-yet-believers and fellow explorers of truth.

So whether you are an explorer, believer or a not yet either we look forward to welcoming you at church on Sunday and to trying our best to make you feel comfortable.

If you are coming to church for the first time, please don’t be scared to ask us what to do. We would love to help you.

New Zealand Tales Part 1

Rev Dave is back in Scotland and has some exciting tales to tell…

I recently got back from a holiday/family wedding in New Zealand and we did many things during that time. One of them was a pre-wedding trip as a family and group of friends to an island called Tiritiri Matangi.

It is an island which had been used for agriculture in the past. Its natural habitat had been stripped back for farming but in recent times, specifically the last few decades, it has been re-seeded and re-planted with about 60% becoming woodland and the rest remaining grassland.

This has enabled it to become an open sanctuary for a whole host of rare and native species which otherwise would be lost. These species include the takahē, the north island robin, the little spotted kiwi and the paradise shelduck.

The day was nicely begun with a beautiful ferry trip to and from the island. We enjoyed a pleasant day full of sunshine and heat walking around the island and were lucky enough to see some of these rare birds including the north island saddleback and the rare ‘morepork’ (ruru in Māoriwhich is a type of owl and was hiding in the trees nearby. This caused lots of excitement.

It made me think that perhaps we don’t always give top priority to being stewards of creation; a call humanity can trace back to Genesis 2:15 –

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Perhaps we shrug and say ‘Well what can one person do?’ or perhaps we take hope in the fact that when Jesus comes back there will be a new heaven and a new earth.

But the reality is that the command has not been rescinded we are still called to steward and look after the environment that we have, to do the utmost and best for the patch that we are responsible for, whether that is a window box or a whole estate.

So I trust that as we continue to go through our lives in this world we will be ever better stewards of our natural environment and think about the impact that our actions have on those creatures and plants around about us.

So as the warmer weather begins to come out and play lets take this opportunity to really look at the creation around us and decide what we can do to make it better for everyone.

A Long Distance Letter

This week we join Rev Dave in an unusual moment where, like many books of the Bible, in the midst of busyness he finds time to write a letter.

Dear Friends,

As I write, I’m in the final throes of getting ready to go on holiday.
A big holiday, this one – far away, for a family wedding – and one where I’ll be away from some of those I love.

There is much to do – both for things to take – clothing, gifts and things to do on the plane – and things to finish getting ready at home, not least because of our impending new arrival!

Getting ready is important and something that perhaps I often fail to allow enough time for.
But the church recognises both important days and festivals like Easter and Christmas, and the times before them as being important for preparation – Christmas has Advent, while Easter has Lent.

This time – echoing Jesus’ 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness [excluding Sundays] is a time often associated with ‘giving up’ something – chocolate, perhaps, or bad habits.  More recently people might suggest ‘giving up’ social media such as Facebook and Twitter, or even taking up something, like a regular daily prayer and Bible time (try using UCB’s ‘Word for Today’?) or a ‘Random act of kindness’ to a stranger or friend.

Communion, too, is an occasion worth preparing ourselves for.  Are there any outstanding debts of money we need to settle, or relationships we should try to mend?  Anything we need to confess to God (there’s always something!)

However you mark Lent, and the time before Communion, I hope that you will find yourself ready to encounter the Lord in worship and in the fellowship we share with one another – every Sunday, Communion Sunday, Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday – join with us and come back to God!

And be prepared!

Every blessing,
Dave

Are you giving something up or taking something on this Lent? Whether you are or whether you have forgotten to begin don’t forget to spend your Sundays at church with us where we will be following a great series of reflections about the body we walk around in. Look forward to seeing you there for worship, fellowship and tea.