Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Quiz Answers

Event Year

1 Conquest of Everest 1953

2 The Royal Wedding 2011

3 Sputnik 1 1957

4 JFK shot in Dallas 1963

5 Scotland’s Grand Slam 1990

6 Michael Fish and the hurricane 1987

7 Tony Blair’s first election win 1997

8 The Forties field is opened 1975

9 Edinburgh’s first Commonwealth Games 1970

10 The investiture of the Prince of Wales 1969

11 The Berlin Wall comes down 1989

12 Elvis arrives at Prestwick 1960

13 Britannia comes to Leith 1998

14 The Eiffel Tower celebrates the Millennium 2000

15 Nelson Mandela is released 1990

16 Sandy Lyle wins the US Masters 1988

17 The first Hillman Imp at Linwood 1963

18 The first moon walk 1969

19 Virginia Wades wins Wimbledon 1977

20 The 3 Tenors 1990

21 The knighting of Francis Chichester 1967

22 The Forth Road Bridge is opened 1964

23 Monty Python hits the screens 1969

24 The first Star Wars film 1977

25 The Queen starring Helen Mirren 2006

Friday, 4 May 2012

Being Church together

Follow the link and have a look at Jon Birch's little animation; the characters are slightly off-the-wall, but I can guarantee that you will recognise yourself somewhere along the way.

More and more, I am convinced that we need to understand what being "church together" means. We think of ourselves as a friendly church and those who come to visit will reinforce that; people are made to feel welcome and at home; we speak to them and invite them for coffee; we send them a Christmas card if they have signed our visitors' book. Brilliant!

Being Church together, however, is bigger than that. I read something today that said "Discipleship is a God's family affair" - in other words, being Christian and following Jesus as His disciples is something that we do together. That is a huge shift in our thinking: we usually think of discipleship and following Jesus as being about "my faith" and "my response", but actually it is better to be disciples together, encouraging one another, learning from one another. I'm told by some that they don't come to Bible Study or group prayer time because they don;t want to show their ignorance; another recent conversation with someone who comes to Bible study group, but who very rarely speaks, revealed to me just how much he is learning about the Christian life just by being there.

Ask questions; listen to one another; respect one another; care for one another. Don't think that one person knows it all, whether that person is you or someone else. Equally, don't rubbish someone else because you take a different opinion.

A community of faith? Or a collection of disparate individuals who just happen to share a common interest in religion? The Church should be a community of faith.

The 5 "let-us"-es of Hebrews 10:19-25
  • "let us draw near to God"
  • "let us hold unswervingly to hope"
  • "let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds"
  • "let us not give up meeting together"
  • "let us encourage one another"

Reflect on the "us" - something to do together!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

whoever said change was easy?

I woke up this morning with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Last night the Kirk Session decided to stop Sunday@Seven as a weekly evening service at Easter and run it as a monthly event thereafter. Let me think aloud about that decision.

Why it is a sensible decision:

  • The group of people who attend our evening service is small; when everyone comes, we are a group of 15 or 16.

  • There have been a couple of occasions, since Christmas, when the group has numbered 6 or 7.

  • Something of this feels inevitable, that if we hadn't taken the decision now, we would be taking it at some stage in the not too distant future, given the fact that the group is quite static in its membership.

  • Group dynamics suggest that the smaller the group becomes, the more demanding it is of those who are its members and the more difficult it is for new people to break into it and become part of it.

Why it is a difficult decision:

  • Those who do come value the style and opportunity of worship that an evening service gives; it is more informal; we sing a different balance of songs from the morning; there is more time and space to reflect on a Bible passage or a theme. So there is a sense of disappointment around. It's just a pity that there are not more of you!

What of the future?

  • The service will be run once a month for the time being; here are 3 dates:

  • April 22nd,

  • May 13th,

  • June 10th.

  • The second Sunday of the month will become its normal home, assuming that the monthly event is one that people will attend.

I would like to try to develop the best of what we have in Bible teaching with some new things. I'm not quite sure what these are yet, but there will still be an interactive element to it and I'd hope to develop the worship and prayer times a little bit more.

A Church light on its feet?

That seems to be a contradiction in terms. Churches and Christian organisations generally, are amongst the most conservative groups you will find; change is hard to accept for many of us. When something comes to the end of its natural life, we find it enormously difficult to accept that without a sense of failure or guilt. But the Church needs to become lighter on its feet, more adaptable, more willing to experiment, ready to try things and if they don't work, move on.

Times have changed; there is no doubt about that; fewer people are willing to come to Church twice on a Sunday; Sunday has become a day for other things as well as church; Messy Church works for us on a Saturday, partly perhaps because it is not Sunday! Church is swimming against the culture in so many different ways; it is harder and harder to be Church in our society. Perhaps this is one decision that reflects that tension and difficulty.

Thursday, 1 March 2012


Something I was reading this morning sparked off a question in my mind about Church. It is about maturity and how much we understand of God and the Christian faith.

The link is to the Wordlive website; watch the little video called 'Raspberry Coulis' and reflect on it in the light of Hebrews 6:1-3.

When we put this into a Church-based context there are some questions and concerns:

  • Only 10% of Christians in Scotland regularly read their bible.

  • Even among Christians, there is a lack of understanding of what the Bible says about many of the current, controversial issues, such as same-sex relationships.

  • Our Church library is rarely-used and part of the reason for that is a generation of people who have stopped reading books.

  • There is an appetite for worship that is exciting and vibrant, but not always thoughtful and provoking.
I know that maturity is also about character and the way in which we live, but so much of our Christian character is based on what we understand of God, Jesus and the Christian life. There are some who take this seriously and are dedicated to growing in their understanding of Christian faith; there are others for whom they just don't have the time and space in their lives to do this, even if they want to.

My question is this: how do we as Church provide good opportunities by which people can mature in their faith? What kind of opportunities will you take, if you don't already come to Church Wednesday? Even more basic, I suppose, is this question - how do we inspire people to want to grow in faith?

In 10 years time, lots of Church of Scotland congregations will depend more and more on local people for their leadership. People like me are becoming more and more thin on the ground. For these congregations to survive, never mind grow, they will need people who understand the Bible well and who have a grasp of some of the important theological themes. Without that, we will have Church-lite and run the risk of superficial and shallow Church, in danger of being swept in one direction and then the other by the latest theological or social trends of the day.

Food for thought!

Friday, 24 February 2012

The local Church is the hope of the world

This is a rough text of my talk to the Men's Dinner at the Golf Club last night!

I just wish this story is true; I heard it told a few weeks ago. It is the story of a police exam question: there is a house fire that you are called to attend, the smoke is billowing across the main road, which then causes an accident and a car swerves across the road and goes into the river; a man emerges from the car and you recognise him as a major criminal wanted by the police who then runs away. What do you do? Some bright spark wrote: take off my uniform and merge into the crowd!

There are times when merging into the crowd seems a good idea and yet..

When Ian asked me to speak, he suggested I reflect on the Church nationally a little; so I will, but the title I've given is this: “The local Church is the hope of the world.” This a quote from Bill Hybels, one of the moving forces behind the Willow Creek association in Chicago. He tells the story of being in San Jaun Airport, Puerto Rico, watching 2 boys fighting, 9-year old battering a 7-year old, whom he then went to rescue. On the flight home, he came to the conclusion that the gospel is the only force in the world that can change the make-up of the heart; it is the only hope of world. The local church offers the gospel to the world.

The Church in Scotland in 2012: there are 3 issues:
§ Same-sex relationships & ministry debate; what will happen to the Church; there is a great deal of concern; can two views live together? There is a great deal of uncertainty for future. The Theological Commission will report 2013. Some have left the Church already; some will leave when they see what happens in 2013; others will stay.

§ £6.8m hole in budget, where will the money come from to sustain the ministry of the Church? Will we have a balanced budget by 2018? The Presbytery plan is to reduce the number of ministers by 14 in the next few years! There will be gaps and black holes in the city, where there will no church presence. We have an equation: Church = building + minister + congregation; we need a new one! This is not just Church: there are other Christian organisations where opportunities and people but no money!

§ Leadership – in 10 years something like 50% of ministers will have retired; we're not recruiting enough and couldn’t afford them anyway! (Ian later added that there are 50 ministers under the age of 40!)

“What will the Church do?” we will wait forever for the centre to act. The denomination in almost in melt-down; should we preserve the institution? Is it worth saving as it is?

I'm hopeful for the Church! There was a TV programme in 2010 that showed empty pews and told us that the Church would have gone by 2030. I wanted to make another one all about the growing churches; we have life beyond 2030! We won't look the same; Church will be different, but we'll still be here.

I want to focus on the LOCAL Church – it is up to us to have bright ideas, to plan for mission, to work for the future. No-one do this for us; we have to work out how to develop, grow, nurture, plan, equip, do the building.

“I will build my church” said Jesus, but not what we mean by church. The DNA of the Church is simple: a people committed to Jesus; a people committed to one another. How do we do that?

HOPE – there is no other force than the gospel that can change people; the way we think, speak, behave, act. “You have words of eternal life” said Peter to Jesus – our challenge is to be a conduit for these words into our community and society.

We can talk down the Church, we listen to the publicity of Secular Society and the atheists who want rid of Church and religion; you see it in the letters’ pages; in the issue of council prayers; sometimes the Church wants to become like the world and almost secularise itself and take its attitudes from the world; I think that a secularised Church is empty.

God is still at work – why should 8 parents decide to come to Messy Church on a wet Saturday afternoon in February , to something with 'Church’ in the title and bring their young children? What does that?

The Spirit is still at work, we have to run to catch up.

“There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. It builds bridges to seekers and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, and the disillusioned. It breaks the chains of addictions, frees the oppressed, and offers belonging to the marginalized of this world. The potential of the local church is almost more than I can grasp.” (Hybels 2002)

Friday, 3 February 2012

Risk Taking?

Risk is part and parcel of life. For some of us, the biggest risk we take is getting out of bed in the morning!

Statistics suggest that being a cyclist in the city is a risky business!

The FA has decided not to take the risk of John Terry being captain of the football team at Euro 2012 with a court case hanging over him.

I am a part of some of the biggest risk-averse organisations in Scotland: the Church is not renowned for being quick on its feet and willing to take risks; we feel the need to know the answers to all of the questions before we take any kind of decision!

I'm chairing a meeting this afternoon in Glasgow as part of Scripture Union to consider a proposal for a piece of work in the city under a multi-faith banner. Will SU take, what is a huge risk and dip our toe into the water? Or will we consider the risks too great? Time will tell.

This morning, our Bible reading passage was in Joshua 3, the story of God leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land. They had to cross the Jordan - in spate! How? Well, God said, put your feet in the river and it will stop flowing! Risk: trust God's promises, or get swept away in the flood if it didn't work! Well, God kept His promises (of course, He did; He is a promise-keeping God), the risk paid off and the rest is history.

The promise God makes to us is to be with us in every day and every circumstance of our lives and that He will guide us, lead us, strengthen and help us. Dare we take the risk of taking Him at His word? At face value?

Do we consider prayer a risk? Here are some words I found recently.
"Why is there so little anxiety to get time to pray?
Why is the so little forethought in the laying out of time and employments so as to secure a large portion of each day for prayer?
Why is there so much speaking, yet so little prayer? Why is there so much running to and fro, yet so little prayer? Why so much hustle and business, yet so little prayer? Why so many meetings with our fellow-men, yet so few meetings with God?
Why so little being alone, so little thirsting of the soul for the calm, sweet hours of unbroken solitude, when God and His child hold fellowship together as if they could never part?
It is the want of these solitary hours that not only injures our own growth in grace but makes us such unprofitable members of the Church of Christ, and that renders our lives useless. "
(Horatious Bonar)

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Who else...?

Who else will tell the community of the love of God?
Who else will tell the world that it is good to take time out to be quiet at Christmas time in the midst of so much busy-ness?
Who else will let people see that words can be full of grace and kindness, even when we are harassed?
Who else can show the world that faith brings strength, help, a rock-like solidity to life when life is at its hardest?
Who else will tell the world that the Bible is full of wisdom and insight, a treasure beyond price?
Who else will try to persuade the world that prayer is an entirely natural conversation with God?
Who else will take the kingship of Jesus seriously enough to live life in a way that is distinctive from the world's attitudes and values?
Who else will know that everywhere we go the presence of God is with us?

Each of these lines is prompted by a conversation I've had over the last two weeks.
Each of these presents a challenge for us as part of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Each of these is a responsibility that falls upon us, and we fulfil these responsibilities by our words, by our individual attitudes, and by our actions as a congregation.

No-one else will do this for our community. If we don't do all of these, our community will be the poorer for it! The community may not recognise its need of these and may not want them, but it is for us to recognise spiritual values and see what it good and keep what it good and godly before the eyes of others.

As the year changes, take time to reflect:

  • What has God given to me in the year that is past?

  • What do I hope God will give me in 2012?

  • What can I give to God in the next 12 months?

  • How can I serve others more effectively in 2012?

Happy New Year! May the blessing of God rest upon you and those whom you love.