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On Monday at Messy Church our focus was heroes – specifically the heroes of the Bible and how we can all be superheroes for God as we respond to the command: Love God, love others.  We encouraged our young people to dress up in a hero costume and so we had – Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, we had Superman, Batman, various princesses, Captain Jack Sparrow, Mulan, SuperSmurff, Harry Potter, Wonder Woman, Cat Woman, to name but a few.  We had fun games, made crafts based on various stories of Bible heroes, heard the story of the greatest Superhero ever – God’s son Jesus, and shared a meal together at which over 90 were served … a great time was had by all.

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9/11 – 10 YEARS

10th Anniversary of Ordination & Induction

This amazing cake was made by an amazingly talented member of our congregation, it marks the 10th anniversary of my ordination and induction to Banchory-Ternan East.

Some anniversaries are ones of joy and celebration, while others, especially the anniversaries of tragedy, are particularly difficult.

When you say the ‘9/11’ people instantly know what you are talking about as they recall harrowing pictures of planes flying into the twin towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania.

So every year, as the anniversary of my ordination and induction comes around. I have mixed feelings: There is joy as I remember a special event in my life, but it is also tempered with a sense of sadness, because I also remember that there was another event that happened, which touched and shaped my ministry, and which touched and changed our world.

We pray for our world.

We pray that the fellowship of the church will stand as a sign of the possibility of barrier-breaking.

We pray for those who mourn and those who suffer – especially those who mark today an anniversary of loss.

We pray for peace.

And all God’s people said … Amen.

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We have just returned from visiting family in California.   During our time there we spent a couple of days in Santa Barbara.   On our first day we went for a walk along the pier and on one side there were a group of people hanging over the rail.   So, being naturally curious, I went over to have a look, and what I saw were people trying to throw coins into a small bucket, placed on blanket, on the beach below.    

Make a Wish

The blanket had a card at the front which said – “Make a Wish”.  In the middle of the blanket was the bucket which people were trying to throw their coins into.  And at the back of the blanket there was another card which said – “Get it in the bucket, and all your dreams will come true”.   And people were raking through their change to find coins to throw; to make wishes and have their dreams come true.

 

Just Plain Hungry

Now just a little further along there was another blanket, another bucket, and another sign which said – “Just plain hungry”.  Now very few coins had been thrown there , and there certainly weren’t people queuing up to do so. 

Two homeless people, two different approaches.   One appealed to the selfish superstitious nature of people, who hoped to get something in return for their few coins.   The other, appealing to the generous, hospitable and caring nature of people.  To put it mildly, I was dismayed at people’s response to the second blanket and it’s plea.   In fact the image and the feeling stayed with me throughout my holiday.    Maybe, it was because just before I left we had started a short series on hospitality and I was somehow more aware, but everywhere I looked I saw and heard the poor, the refugee and the homeless being berated, discounted and marginalised.

In the early second century … Aristides (c 125 AD) commended the Christians on how they lived their lives:

They love one another,

and from widows they do not turn away their esteem;

and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly.

And he, who has,

gives to him who has not,

without boasting.

And when they see a stranger,

they take him into their homes

and rejoice over him as a very brother;

for they do not call them

brethren after the flesh,

but brethren after the spirit and in God.

It appears the early church was known by the way she loved strangers.  She was known for the way she loved and cared for those forgotten and pushed aside by society. and those who found themselves alone and vulnerable.

If hospitality to the poor and needy, the homeless, the troubled and the stranger distinguished the early Christian communities from their surrounding society, and became a characteristic of authentic discipleship, then perhaps that is what the church should be reclaiming in our day and age.  

Perhaps hospitality and reaching out to people in need should once again become our focus.

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Recently I was speaking to a minister friend who was feeling exceptionally low, and questioning why he was still in the ministry.   He felt he had no support from his congregation; that all the things he did, both seen and unseen, were taken for granted.  Nobody seemed to be encouraging him or looking after him and his family.   But I think the thing that was making it almost intolerable was the fact that the only time people wanted “a quick word” was to say something negative.  It reminded me of a story I used at the ordination of one of my friends …  

A new minister preached a sermon on the parable of the talents … He urged his people to place at God’s disposal the gifts and abilities given to them by God.  After the service a man came up to him and said “Minister, I’m not a particularly gifted man.  I don’t really feel capable of teaching in the Sunday School, or visiting the sick, or any of the other things you talked about this morning.  But I do have one talent that might be of use to the church.”

 “And what is that?” asked the minister.

“Well” said the man … “I have the talent of criticism.  I can criticise your sermons.  I can criticise the organist.   I can criticise the choir.   I can criticise the work people do for the church.   What should I do with my talent?”

The minister remained silent long enough to pray for wisdom then he replied … “Do you remember the man with one talent in the parable?   He buried his talent … I suggest you do the same.”

Part of me wanted to go to my friend’s church and (as they say) “give them a good talking to”.   To remind them they called this man and his family to be part of their church; that at his induction they promised him their “encouragement and support”, just as they promised to work alongside their “minister in Christian witness and Christian service”.

So if you are reading this and wondering what you can do to support your minster, why not ask this simple question – “What is the best way I can support you?”  Why not invite them and their family to your home for a meal? (Don’t assume everyone else is doing this).   Or why don’t you write them a letter telling them that you appreciate them and all they do?   

And here are a few things you can do that there should be no question about: Pray for them –  Ministry is a big job with big expectations and big stresses. Whatever strength your minister has, it will be unequal to the task.  They will need power from beyond themself.  Love them – The call of a minister is a covenant, not a contract.  A contact is when we hire someone. A covenant is – for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.  Remember the concept of team ministry – the minister can’t do it all on their own.

Baillieston: St Andrews

Me, I’m off to write to the minister* who was leading the church I used to belong to as I was growing up, to thank him for his contribution to my journey of faith.  It’s never too late to say thank you.

*Rev Tom Houston (now retired) came to Baillieston: St Andrew’s in 1980.  His teaching, example, encouragement and quiet faithfulness influenced me greatly, and it was during his ministry, and through his Bible Studies that my understanding and faith began to grow.  

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Banchory Joint Youth Programme

Here in Banchory the decision was made about 18 years ago that rather than the two Church of Scotland congregations in the village running their own Youth Programmes, they would come together and fund a joint Youth Ministry; after all, the kids all went to the same school, why should it be the churches that split them up.  During that time we’ve had two youth co-ordinators for The Rock and The Edge, their aim – to make contact, make friends and make disciples.  

Each year there are gap year “Rookies” taken on to work alongside the Co-ordinator and the team of adult volunteers, to experience Youth Ministry for themselves, to learn, and to contribute.  This past year we’ve had 3 – Cheri Torrence from Washington State, USA, Tom Spencer from Stoke, England, and Will Rowett from Banchory.  And suddenly their year with us is over.   They have given so much, not only to the youth work, but also to both churches as week by week they have worshipped alongside us, contributed to our services, and become part of our lives.  For the next two weeks they will be in Seattle with The Edge working alongside the Edge from University Presbyterian Church in Seattle on local projects, then they will take their next steps on their faith journey and we will be looking for the New Rookies for this coming year.  

Here’s what Cheri said about her move to Banchory … “Banchory is such an easy place to move to. I think every place I move to after this will pale in comparison to the hospitality and warmth I’ve experienced here.  I’ve been truly blessed by the wonderful people and community here and motivated to show the same love and openness in the future. Hospitality sometimes seems like a lost art, but it is a trademark of Banchory.”

Here’s Tom’s response to a question about suggestions for improvement … “The only suggestions I would make would be to have the Rookie position for 2 years instead of 1 as it is amazing. But on a serious note I really don’t know anything I would change. The whole year has been fantastic and I really can’t say there would be anything I think could improve the year. Maybe getting to play football more regularly on a Friday with the teachers.”

Here’s what Tom said about highlights … “The retreats have almost certainly been one of the best parts of the year. Getting time to do things like; playing games, raft building, dressing up and making silly videos with the kids, but more importantly for me to further build relationships with the kids here in Banchory has been amazing. It has been a real surprise to see the after effect of retreats as well. Having spent a weekend together to see the kids relaxed enough to talk to me when walking past on the street or in the school corridors is a real delight which I had never thought of. “

Our new Rookie for this year is Helena Counsell, and we are delighted to have her as part of the Programme, but we are still looking for others to come and work alongside Helena and Tony.   So if you know anyone who would like to be part of our Youth Programme and spend a year with us as a Rookie, then please get in touch, either with me or with our Youth Co-ordinator Tony – tonys@edgerock.org

http://www.banchoryeastchurch.org/youth.htm

Recently, in preparation for looking forward, we looked back at what those who have been connected with the Youth Programme in Banchory have done and are doing now, and so many of us were more than stunned and humbled at the contributions of our young folk … And remember this roll call of young people comes from a whole community of just over 7,500.  

Previous Rookies and Further Service

Caitlin Marno – Pais Project in Calgary, Canada ;  Fizz Wann – Youth worker, Greenbank Church, Edinburgh;  Gavin Marshall – Youth Coordinator UPC Church, Seattle;  Robbie Morrison – Internship – Colorado;  Brioni Bradbeer – Youth worker, Killermont Church, Glasgow;  Hannah Wilson (nee Simpson) – Youth and Children’s Worker, Bushmill’s Church, County Antrim; Craig Jefferson – UCCF (University and College Christian Fellowship) in Scotland; Amy Pierce (nee McGraw) – Mission Trip to Kenya and served on CU Executive at St John’s College, Durham University, Completed divinity degree & now a Church of Scotland Probationer Minister; Craig Watt – Full time staff with The Foyer and soon moving on to take up full time post at Holy Trinity Brompton Church, London; Cameron Abernethy – Studying theology with a view to the ministry; Kate Mechie – Church Youth Worker – Edinburgh; David Young – Youth worker for Drumoak-Durris Church and soon moving to take up full time post in Mercer Island, Washington; Robbie Morrison – Youth work intern for 1st Presbyterian Church, Bellevue, Seattle.

Those who have been part of the Youth Programme currently in Service

Colin Gillies – Leader of Navigators Student Ministry, Edinburgh; David Hughes – now in Malawi as Country Director for Goal , an NGO involved in development work; Chris Carter – Agape, Israel and Birmingham; Nicola Davidson – Youth Leader – Mercer Island Presbyterian Church, Washington; Malcolm Jefferson – Divinity student and training for the ministry; Clare Edwards serving as Chairperson of a Management Team for a youth work initiative called SCYI (Stewarty Churches Youth Initiative); Gillian Chalmers – Youth worker for Aberdeen Christian Fellowship; Joanna Jeffries – Missionary in Ethiopia; Laura Marshall (Worship Leader at Greenbank Parish Church, Edinburgh); Kirstin Harvey (Children Familiies Ministry, University Presbyterian Church, Seattle); Alex Stockdale – going to Chogoria Hospital, Kenya;  Karen Taylor – Intern working with churches, schools & Youth Groups in Tranent, near Edinburgh;  Rev Jera Blomquist – Missional Communities Director, Union Church, Seattle; Rev Laurie Wheeler – Associate Pastor, American Church in Paris.

Previous Service of those who have been part of the Youth Programme

Paula and Stuart Glegg – Built and run 4 childrens’ nurseries in Malawi; Susan Sugden (nee Bell) – Missionary in Cambodia and St.Kitts; Claire Bell – Bible translater with Wvcliffe; Claire Marshall – Head office staff with World Exchange; Ewan Walker then Robbie Brodie – Zengamina Hydro Project – Zambia; Hannah Walker – Physiotherapist – Kalene Hospital Zambia; Jamie Morrison – Working full time for Signpost International; Lynsey Robertson (nee Brown) & Claire Marshall – Gap year in India with World Exchange; Michelle Davy – Gap year in Trinidad with BMF; Robbie Brodie – Missionary in Japan with OMF; Steven Blanche – Missionary in Cairo with OMF (3 years); Paula Glegg (nee Scott) – 1 year teaching in Malawi with World Exchange; Rachel Lamb – Gap year in Lima, Peru, with Tear Fund; Clare Edwards Mission Trip to Kenya and served on CU Executive at St John’s College, Durham University; Amy McGraw, Pete Brodie, Kyle Scott – Internships at UPC Seattle; Ed Rowatt – Summer mission in China; Sean Mechie & Ian Melvin – Summer mission in USA; Rhiannon Seymour & Alison Stroud – Glenshee Christian Centre.

Projects

Bucharest (Romania) Care – building homes for street kids – 27 young people; Seattle – working with Seattle Edge and local projects – every two years; Tijuana (Mexico) (x 4) – house building for homeless; Guatemala – Village reconstruction after Hurricane Mitch; Thailand – OMF World Christian football tour; Colorado (USA) – Habitat for Humanity – house building project for homeless; Malawi and Kenya – Red Ribbons (Aids education); Belfast, Aberdeen (x 3), Glasgow – city outreach.

There are numerous other who are currently involved in the local churches they now find themselves in.  So although we have been planting the seeds, the benefit of the harvest is being felt across the world.   If I have missed anyone – please accept my apologies and do get in touch.

  

 

 

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Some time ago a minister was approached by a couple who expressed a desire to become members of his congregation.   The man said of course he wanted to join the church, but the minister must understand he was rather busy and couldn’t give any time to anything like teaching the children or singing in the choir.   The wife added that went for her as well, and not to look for them too often on a Sunday as they both played golf and spend a lot of time away at their weekend cottage.   Of course they couldn’t join the envelope scheme or commit to a set amount of money every week because of all their many other financial obligations, but they would give whatever they could whenever they were there.

 

Gone out of business

The minister thought for a moment and replied, “I think you stopped at the wrong church.   We understand the purpose of our church somewhat differently here.   The church you want is in the next village.”  The couple got in their car and drove to the next village.   They found the other church – abandoned and boarded up – “gone out of business”.

 

Back in May I was at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.   It was, in my opinion, an Assembly that if you weren’t paying attention you could be forgiven for thinking nothing much happened.   You see on one hand it was a very muted affair, on the other hand, the change that was agreed was almost unparalleled in recent times.   Why?   Well, I guess because the National Church is trying to ensure that we don’t “go out of business”.   However, I feel the coming changes, are something that should encourage us all, rather than frighten us.  

 

Many of the reports at the Assembly focused on what it means to be the Church and reminded us that the work of the church isn’t just for the one (the minister), or the few (who faithfully volunteer), but for all the members.   You see the church, the family of God, was designed by Him to be a team working together, in unity, for one purpose:  to share His message in our community, our nation, our world.  This is a biblical model: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are a team! They work together as one, in relational harmony, to bring about God’s plans and purposes.  And we, the church, are part of that team. The Apostle Paul describes the family of God here on earth as the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27), and he reminds us that when each vital, and separate part of the body works as it is intended, ‘the whole body grows and builds itself up in love’ (Eph 4:16), and when that happens – nothing can stop us.

 

So, in the weeks and months ahead, prayerfully consider where God might be calling you to do your part, to ensure that His Church (wherever it might be in the world) continues to fulfil its mission.   And let our response be – “Here I am, send me”, rather than, “Here I am, but please send someone else I’ve just got so many other things going on in my life”.

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Over these past couple of weeks there have been several documentaries to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Evacuation of Dunkirk.  This was an event that took place long before I was born, but one of which I have always known, as my Grandmother often told the story of the “ragtag armada of little ships” sailing down the estuaries of England and round the coast of Britain, all responding to the call to help those facing certain death.  And as they met up with others they not only became part of something bigger than any of them imagined, they were also able to achieve more than if they sailed alone.

Troops on the beaches at Dunkirk

The spring of 1940 saw Hitler’s army moving through France and the retreating British and Allied troops found themselves trapped on the coast of France in the channel port of Dunkirk; bottled up in a corridor to the sea, about 60 miles deep and 15–25 miles wide, flanked by two massive German Armies.   Almost a quarter million young British soldiers and over 120,000 allied troops faced certain capture or death.

Vice Admiral Ramsay – who was in charge of Operation Dynamo – had sent destroyers and transport ships to try and evacuate the troops, but they only expected to have time to lift off about 30,000 troops, and the House of Commons was told to brace itself for “hard and heavy tidings.”

Due to war-time censorship and the desire to keep up the morale of the nation, the full extent of the unfolding “disaster” around Dunkirk was not publicised.  However, the grave plight of the troops led King George VI to call for an unprecedented week of prayer.  Throughout the country, people began praying on 26 May for a miraculous delivery.  Then, just as all hope was fading for those on the beaches of Dunkirk, a bizarre fleet of ships appeared on the horizon of the English Channel.  

Open topped fishing boat "Tamzine"

This strange armada was made up of trawlers, tugs, fishing boats including the 18 ft open topped “Tamzine”, lifeboats – the smallest only 15 ft, sailboats, pleasure craft, an island ferry named Gracie Fields, Tom Sopwith’s America’s Cup challenger “Endeavor” , and even the London fire brigade’s fire-float “Massey Shaw”; 861 boats of all shapes and sizes, including a number from as far away as the Isle of Man and Glasgow.   Although a large number of these ships were taken across the channel by navy personnel, many were also taken over by their owners and other civilians.   They sped to the rescue; all eager to help in the unfolding catastrophe.   And because they did, in the nine days from 27 May to 4 June 1940, this ragtag little armada eventually helped rescue more than 338,226 troops, including 139,997 French, Polish and Belgian troops, together with a small number of Dutch soldiers, and took them to the shores of England.   All this unfolded as pilots of the Royal Air Force and the German Luftwaffe fought in the skies above the channel; thousands died but many more thousands lived.    It was one of the most amazing naval operations in history, and at the time the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said it was “a miracle of deliverance”.

The church, likewise, is God’s ragtag armada; a group of flawed individuals of all ages, stages and abilities, on a rescue operation commissioned by God to bring people back to him.  Sometimes it’s good for us to remember not only that we too are being asked to be part of “a miracle of deliverance”, but also if we respond that we become part of something bigger than we ever imagined. 

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