Holy Trinity

  Scottish Episcopal Church

Monifieth

 

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Thoughts on a Journey

 

It is now just over a year since I took up my appointment as Priest-in-charge here at Holy Trinity.  In many ways it has been a very interesting and challenging experience. Alongside the more obvious, though essential, aspects of parish ministry such as visiting parishioners, leading worship, chairing meetings etc. there is that more subtle and quieter task of discerning the signs of Godís presence among his people. This, for the sake of explanation, can be seen as having a three-fold nature to it.

 

 

There is firstly the task of understanding what God has done in the past. Discovering the path that Holy Trinity has taken to arrive at the present necessitates a great deal of listening. By this I mean attentive listening to pick up where God has been leading and prompting. It involves hearing peopleís stories, both individually and collectively, and sifting through it to hear that often quiet voice of God. Like much of the past, the story of Holy Trinity is an intricate mixture of things that were good and of God and that need to be treasured and nurtured. An example would be the genuine warmth and support and exists among our congregation. There are though those aspects of our story that, though right and good for their time, need to be viewed as important parts of our story that now require to be reverently laid to rest. Many of us at times yearn for the church to once more be what it was at some significant point in the past: the church when it had lots of children and a Sunday School; the church with a choir, the era of LCM dare  I say. We all have our cherished memories in this regard. It is though regrettable but true that when on a journey many things have to be left behind otherwise you can never travel forward.

 

What though is God doing among us now? This is the second part of the three-fold process of discerning. This requires that the eyes and ears of our hearts and minds are open, alert and attentive. Where is the evidence of Godís blessing for us today? The continuing hunger among many in the congregation to explore the mystery of prayer and faith as evidenced in the monthly Prayer Workshops, more regular attendance at Sunday worship and  Advent and Lent courses, all of this speaks of a congregation eager to explore their spiritual life and to find new ways of experiencing and expressing their faith. The on-going generosity of the congregation in its support for the Starfish Project, The Food Cupboard at St. Salvadorís, the Angus Food Bank etc. speak to me of hearts and lives that have been touched and are being transformed by Godís love. It is like an outpouring of grace. Wow!!  The newly formed toddler group is just one other sign of Godís gentle activity among us. These are all things that deserve our attention and support.

 

 

The third aspect of this process you will have guessed by now. What of the future, where is God leading us at Holy Trinity? In this regard none of us has a crystal ball with which to see the future. What we can do is to follow Godís lead by asking where are the opportunities among us and around us for compassion and love to flow? You would have to be deaf not to hear the cries of pain and suffering all around us and within our congregation. Many of us still need to be loved into the future that God has for us. Hurts and wounds, physical, emotional and spiritual, cry out for healing and restoration. Perhaps as a church we need to take more seriously the call to be place of healing and peace. Is God calling us to be more intention in praying for one another and the community in which we are set? The church is called to be more than a place full of nice folk who are nice to each other, we are called to be community that sets before the world an alternative way of living and being that undercuts and challenges the prevailing cultural world-view around us. How are we to do this? That is why the third part of this trinity is open ended. The future is not fixed or simply laid out before us to follow. God invites us to a work of co-creation as we prayerfully and faithfully work together to venture down the road as we are caught up in that yet and still yet to be place called the kingdom of God.

 

Anyway, it is time to stop pondering for today and go and do something else. Look out for more of the same sometime soon.

Revd. Ken

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts at the turn of the year 2018-19

The turning of the year often leads us to reflection and reminiscing. This becomes more pronounced as the years pass and there seem to be more years behind us than lie before us. You may have noticed that even Scotlandís alternative National Bard, Billy Connelly, has been smitten by the reminiscing bug. Billyís latest TV offering sees him returning to his roots in Scotland, to re-visit the places and people, that were important in shaping who he was to become.

Never known as being overly sympathetic to organised religion, Billy was often scathing in his critique of the seeming hypocrisy and foolishness of religion as he saw it. Admittedly, much of his experience of religion, predominantly Christianity, was gained Ė suffered as he would put it Ė through the prism of the sectarianism and, often, undisguised bigotry of the religious scene in the Glasgow of his youth. Having grown up in the West of Scotland, but a few years behind Sir Billy, I too can recall the narrow-minded and blinkered views that were current at the time. I know, therefore, where Billyís wrath and venom is coming from having been nurtured within the same cauldron of fundamentalism exhibited by both sides of the great religious schism that went for Christianity in Scotland in those days.

I have, though, long suspected that there was more to the ĎBig Yinísí take on religion than his public utterances would have us believe. Faced with the slow and inexorable decline in his physical and mental capacities brought on by Parkinsonís Disease, Billy has begun to speak publicly about the way that this has affected him. He speaks of losing parts of his life, of how aspects of who he was are slipping away from him and of how he can do nothing about it. The experience is likened by him to becoming less of who he was, his gifts, talents and attributes dissolving before him. The memories that sustain him now are those that reach far back into his past. The present is becoming a strange land in which he increasingly feels lost.

While Billy admits to dark times in his struggles with this new reality, he confesses to ultimately having reached a place of acceptance. Indeed, he talks of the process of loss as being in some way a preparation for what is to come. He describes it as being on one side of a hill and waiting to gain the summit and the other side. A journey that can only be made, he suggests, if he loses what he presently has.

Now, I donít know about you but to me this sounds suspiciously similar to the language of a maturing Spirituality that has grasped the core message of Jesus. Shocked!! Well let me explain. Jesus had no time for hypocrites and those who accused or abused others. He gave short thrift to those who were puffed up by their own spiritual pride and whose pomposity needed bursting. Jesus had all the time in the world for the excluded and downcast of this world, for those who had little to laugh about. He gave their lives meaning and dignity. More specifically, Jesus spoke often of how we gain our lives by losing them, of how we are not to grasp too firmly to the things of this world if we are to gain those things that are eternal. Indeed, Jesusí whole life demonstrates the truth of how we all are called to make the journey of life, death and resurrection. We can only gain by letting go, we can only win by losing, we can only live by dying to our false selves. In the end we must learn not to take ourselves too seriously and be ready to laugh at ourselves and with others.

Could it be that once again the God of Surprises has chosen what it apparently foolish, scandalous and totally unexpected to be the means by which we are to be shown something of Godís ways. If so, then the last laugh, as always, is with God.

 

May 2019 be year in which you discover more of Godís loving ways in your life.