Import SEC dates and readings into Microsoft Outlook (2008-2009 version now ready)

Outlook

Update: Correction of readings for this Sunday – new version now uploaded

Friday 20 February 2009 — well, that wasn’t a great start! I’ve just noticed that the readings for this Sunday were incorrect in the original version. I’d mistakenly entered the readings for the Sunday of the “Week of Proper 7 (Sunday between 18 and 24 Feb)” when it should have been the readings for the Sunday before Lent. Apologies.

The uploaded version is now correct. Apologies for any incorrectly preached sermons this coming weekend!

Well, it’s only taken me about 3 months longer than I had meant it to — which funnily enough coincides with how old my twin sons are! — but I’ve finally completed the mammoth task of compiling the import files that will provide you with the saints days, festivals, Sundays and readings for daily eucharists and daily prayer within Microsoft Outlook (and your PDA if you sync it with Outlook).

Versions

Current version: 2008-2009 version 2
Released Friday 20 February 2009

As last year I’ve created three files:

  1. Standard
    Contains details of all saints’ days and festivals, but details of no readings (my usual file).
  2. Sunday readings
    Contains details of all saints’ days and festivals, and readings for only Sundays and Major Festivals.
  3. Complete
    Contains details of all saints’ days and festivals, and readings for all Sunday, Festival and Daily Eucharists, and Daily Prayer readings, as well as new for this year: which Daily Prayer set to use (e.g. Week A, Week B, Festivals, Incarnation, etc.).

Readings

In the “Complete” version, the readings for ordinary saints days and lesser festivals are simply those for that day of the week in relation to the previous Sunday rather than specifically for that minor saint/festival. For example, the readings given for Colman of Lindisfarne (Friday 18 February, today) are those for the Wednesday after Epiphany 6.

In other words, I’ve used only readings from The Lectionary and the Readings for Festivals, and not those from elsewhere or from the Readings for Special Occasions or Common Readings for Saints Days.

Download

Download your file of choice on the Saints and Festivals of the SEC in Microsoft Outlook page.

Report all errors

As always, if you spot an error please let me know so that I can fix the source file for other users. Thank you.

An emotional day two

Reuben and Joshua nose-to-nose
Jane spotted Reuben and Joshua lying nose-to-nose just before I left last night and captured this photo.

Looking back over my life I can see certain periods where I’ve just gone ahead and done what needed to be done first and dealt with the emotional consequences later, usually in private. The births of Reuben and Joshua have been just like that.

Yesterday was an emotional day. The reality of what’s happened hit me yesterday, like an emotional tsunami. I did a lot of crying yesterday: tears of joy, tears of relief. My poor human body just isn’t big enough to contain the love that I have for Jane, Reuben and Joshua and so it all came spilling out.

When I got back to the car I wept. I howled deep groans from my gut as it all came spilling out, eight years of wondering, eight years of supporting one another, and the yearning and hoping and praying that one day we would have children. And now we have two, in one go; I always did love efficiency.

As I drove home I remembered all those negative pregnancy tests during our time in Inverness and Edinburgh, and the wonder and delight of seeing a positive result earlier this year. My mind thought back to last year’s journey through IVF, and the long sleepless nights that Jane has endured this year (so far!). And I praised God.

This morning has been difficult. I’ve had various bits and pieces that Jane asked me to do, but all I’ve wanted to do is climb into the car and go and see my beautiful, amazing wife and our two babies.

Still, I’ve appreciated the space as I’ve changed bed clothes in preparation for any visitors who need to stay over, done some washing, and rang the Registry Office to arrange an appointment to register Reuben and Joshua’s births (I’m still waiting for the call back). A spot of lunch in a minute, and then I’ll head back to Dundee to see how Jane is.

Jane is doing amazingly well; she was up and about yesterday, which is remarkable not even a full day after major surgery. We’re not sure when she’s be discharged, so we’ll still take every day as it comes.

By the way, there are more photos on Flickr.

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!”

How I took back my life

Filing

On the whole, over the years I’ve managed to keep myself pretty well organized. As a child growing up I was always reorganizing my room: rearranging the order of books, folders, stationery, … everything! If it wasn’t nailed down I moved it. It’s probably inevitable that I should get a job working as an information architect!

A few friends have been urging me for months to blog about how my organizational method works for me, so here it is. But before I get onto that, here’s a little of the journey that led me to where I am.

A short history of organization

I always knew there was room for improvement. I’d adapt and improve my methods for filing documents, managing tasks, keeping a diary. At Selkirk High School I had my trusty school diary — when it wasn’t being stolen and scribbled on by Phil Graham — which recorded what I should be doing and when.

In 1989 I moved to St Andrews and I bought myself a cheapish Filofax clone, which I loved and cherished and packed full of useless stuff that probably made me less productive. But it did have tabs, and a lot of coloured paper — that’s got to count for something, surely.

In 1996 I bought my first Psion, a Siena 512KB. It was a life-saver: now I could keep everything in it, neatly organized. No more scribbling out entries, no more running out of contact sheets because everyone listed under “S” had moved and moved again.

My Psion became central to how I organized my life. And then I discovered that I could synchronize it with Schedule+, and then Microsoft Outlook 2000. The joys!

Crisis

Fast forward to 2003 and you’ll find that Jane and I have just moved from Inverness to Edinburgh. I’m now working with two parishes and I’m beginning to panic. The organizational methods and techniques that I’ve evolved are now being stretched to the limit and I’m beginning to panic.

Really beginning to panic. I just couldn’t keep on top of everything that I needed to do. I remember one morning where I was sitting at my desk in the study and my head was spinning. I had so much to do, but really didn’t know where to start.

I needed assistance, and I need it immediately.

Take Back Your Life

I found it in a book called Take Back Your Life by Sally McGhee, as documented on my blog entry of 25 January 2005.

Take Back Your Life book cover

It’s a really fantastic book, that draws on David Allen’s Getting Things Done techniques but instead of notebooks and diaries and baskets McGhee advocates the use of Microsoft Outlook and a PDA. Works for me!

So this is what I do:

1. Collection points

From my blog post of 2005:

One of the first steps, McGhee says, is to work out how many collection points we use. That is, how many locations do you collect information and tasks from? I was amazed to discover that I had 28 different locations. I’ve now reduced this to eight, which is far more manageable.

Three years later and I now have four (give or take):

  1. In-tray
  2. Mobile phone/PDA
  3. Telephone/answering machine
  4. Email

In tray

My in-tray at home

Pretty much everything goes into my in-tray at home:

  • all mail
  • books
  • CDs
  • contents of my bag
  • documents
  • magazines
  • scribbled notes
  • telephone messages

Really, whatever I need to deal with or sort or tidy away. It all gets dumped into my in-tray. It’s reassuring to know that anything that I’ve not processed yet goes into my in-tray, into the one location that is my main collection point.

At one point in Edinburgh I had no fewer than eight in-trays in my study. It was totally unmanageable.

You’ll notice that there are two in-tray stacks — the one on the left is mine, the one of the right is Jane’s. My in-tray has three levels:

  1. In
  2. Post out
  3. Waiting for

PDA/Outlook

Anything that doesn’t go into my in-tray goes directly into my PDA (O2 Xda Orbit running Windows Mobile 6) or into Outlook Tasks or Calendar — and since my PDA synchronizes with Outlook at both home and work everything ends up in Outlook.

So when I sit down to work out what I need to do I really have to look in only two locations:

  1. My in-tray
  2. Outlook

2. Processing my in-tray

In-tray contents moved to my desk

The next thing I do is begin to process my in-tray. I know from experience that even if the tray is stacked 12 inches high I will still get through it in under an hour. It doesn’t intimidate me how much stuff is in the tray. In fact, quite the opposite, I’m reassured that everything I need to deal with will be processed in one sitting.

I move the contents of my in-tray onto my desk, and starting at the top work through it piece by piece making a decision on every item. There are four options:

  • Do it
  • Delegate it
  • Defer it
  • Delete it

A lot of stuff I can do in less than 5 minutes. Some things just need reading, or throwing into the recycling, or filing away in my filing cabinet:

Filing cabinet

Anything that needs to be deferred for later I add to my Outlook Tasks. Sometimes I’ll add it to Outlook and file the documentation in the filing cabinet (because at least I’ll know where it is when I need to find it later).

3. Processing Outlook Tasks

Usually within 30 minutes I have a clear desk, a few items in my Post Out tray and it’s time to move onto my Outlook Tasks. This is to deal with tasks that I’ve promised to do when I’m out and about, or at work, or have entered into Outlook while processing my in-tray.

Screenshot of Outlook Tasks 2003

Outlook allows you to categorize your tasks, there is also one, default uncategorized group into which any new item is automatically added. Following the guidelines in Sally McGhee’s book I have categories such as:

  • Home Projects
  • Work Projects
  • Blog
  • Computer
  • Desk
  • Home
  • Phone
  • Shopping
  • Waiting for
  • Someday Oneday

Download your head

Before I go any further I often start by ‘downloading my head’: getting out of my head those things that I said I’d do but haven’t recorded anywhere else. This is a great opportunity to stop relying on my memory — that’s why I used to get so stressed.

The first time I tried this exercise I ‘downloaded’ over 85 items … and then was amazed at how relaxed and calm I felt. But it stood to reason that since I was no longer relying on my memory to hold everything it freed my brain to do what it does best: think and plan.

Process

Using similar criteria for dealing with my in-tray I’ll start at the top and work my way through the list, making a decision on each item:

  • Do it
  • Delegate it
  • Defer it
  • Delete it

Some items I do immediately, then delete from the list. Other items get deleted immediately, usually because I’ve decided that it’s no longer a priority. Further items may get delegated to someone else so I’ll either write to them or email them.

If I defer an item in my task list I’ll usually do one of two things:

  • Categorize it within Tasks — these I think David Allen calls “contexts”: where do I need to carry this out? At home, at my desk, on my computer, when I’m shopping? Or …
  • I’ll schedule a time for it by moving it from my task list into my calendar

4. My calendar

This last step was one of the most significant when I moved to this method. Now I have everything in one place: in Outlook (and synchronized on my phone/PDA), I know what I’ve said I’d do (my tasks) and in many case when I’ll do them (my calendar).

Further improvements

I’ve been using this method now for about 3.5 years and I keep refining it, tweaking it to make it a little better and more effective, particularly as my responsibilities change and as I respond to the different tasks and projects that I take on, both at work and at home.

I know when I need to go back to my task list and calendar and start planning again because it’s at those moments that I begin to feel stressed and overwhelmed. It’s during those moments that I realise: I’m not managing my tasks, they’re managing me. Then half-an-hour later once I’ve processed my in-tray and Outlook tasks and scheduled things I feel relaxed and in control once again.

That’s about it in a nutshell. The only really significant thing that I’ve missed out is how I manage my projects within Outlook, but perhaps that could be a post for another day.

A very creative year so far …

Right Twin - week 19
Right twin at 19 weeks

In many ways 2008 has been a very odd year for me, for many reasons. Of course it opened with the IVF procedures that led to Jane discovering that she was pregnant, that led to us discovering that she was pregnant with twins.

During the last six months we’ve been filled with delight, trepidation, excitement, nervousness, wonder, a whole spectrum of emotions. And here we are now at week 27.

For those who don’t know, a full-term pregnancy is generally regarded to be 40 weeks. Twins, we’re told, generally make an appearance early, round about weeks 35-37. So we could have another 10 weeks; we could have more, we could have less. We’ll continue to trust God, and wait in quiet expectation.

I was born to reflect and not shine

It’s been a funny year where I’ve blogged a whole lot less, but gone out and done a whole lot more — but then didn’t come back here and share it with you all … sorry about that, but I guess I’ve needed that time to reflect. I’ve felt myself go deeper within myself — go into my ‘cave’, Jane might say — and reflect on where I am, who I am, and what it means to be expecting children: two, at once!

I’m not entirely sure where I am, or what to expect, it’s all a very new experience for me. But one thing I can say with certainty is that I’m really looking forward to meeting the boys now, and I’ll certainly give it my best shot.

I learned a lot of good things from my own dad, hopefully I can pass some of that love and laughter on to my own boys, and make up some weird nonsense of my own to hand on to them!

I just really wish that Dad was still here to meet them too when they arrive. (Again, for those who don’t know: my Dad had a triple brain haemorrhage in 1983, was really quite ill for about 15 years and died shortly after New Year in 1998. Ten years ago: another contribution to the oddness of 2008.)

New design

But 2008 also opened with another creative process: the redesign of the University of St Andrews website, which was launched to the public (having been in what I guess we could call ‘closed beta’ if we wanted to go all Web 2.0 with y’all) last night.

Here’s a screenshot of the external homepage:

Screenshot of University of St Andrews website
Screenshot of the new design for the University of St Andrews website.

“But… didn’t you just launch a new design last year?! Why do you need another new design?” Quite a few folk have asked us that over the course of the last few months, and it’s a good question to ask.

When we did the first relaunch of the University site it was more than just a new visual design, it was a completely new website: new design, new architecture, new way to update and manage the content, new … everything.

We designed and built the site according to the excellent wireframes that had been developed in collaboration with us by Dynamic Diagrams, an information architecture company from the States. They were great, we learned a lot from them, and for me that was one of the most exciting parts of the project.

Listening

But like any design, the then-new design was a “best bet”, it was the closest that we got to what we perceived we would need from the site. So we built it, launched it and let it settle in for six months while all the time listening for where the design wasn’t working properly, where we needed more flexibility, and crucially: what the users were asking for.

We got a little more explicit by inviting both staff and students to feedback sessions over lunch, where we bribed them with food to tell us what they really thought of the site, what they liked about the site, what they felt could be done better, and what was missing.

I went into those sessions expecting to feel very defensive, but came out of all three sessions feeling quite buoyed and encouraged. It felt good to listen to our ‘customers’, and from the feedback from those sessions mixed in with our own collation of ideas from helpdesk calls, as well as our own thoughts and observations we set about redesigning the site. And this time we didn’t touch the structure (much), we looked instead solely at the visual design and its functionality.

New design

We wanted something that was:

  • Clean, fresh and contemporary
  • Not too far from what we already had
  • Easy to maintain, and extend
  • Compatible with the most number of browsers (old and new)

The site itself is built on the Blueprint CSS framework, with a number of tweaks, which helped us address most of these requirements.

What was particularly impressive about Blueprint was how it allowed us to ‘sketch’ designs in code faster than we were able to do it with a graphic design package. And nothing looks more like a web page than a web page!

So for the last seven months or so I’ve been diligently working on the code, often times taking it home to work on in the evenings and at the weekend. I’ve working on it some nights past 01:00, and some mornings before 05:00.

It really has been a labour of love, but then … I believe in the University of St Andrews, and I love my job. St Andrews is where I did my undergraduate degree, I feel an incredible loyalty to the place and sincerely want to do the best for the University.

Launch

So at five pm last night we scheduled the new site to launch … and ran away!

At home we waited with baited breath while the new design for the University of St Andrews website was published to the public web server, and then breathed a sigh of relief that we’d got most of the planning right.

There were a couple of sections (sport, music, UTREC) that we’d overlooked and had published out with the wrong design, but on the whole it went without a hitch.

… until there was a serious power outage in St Andrews during the afternoon today and all our systems (including the web server) went down! You can’t have everything … like a new design and the ability to look at it!

And relax!

Saying farewell to Tim Morris

Worship building of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Edinburgh

This morning Jane and I attended the farewell service of The Revd Canon Tim Morris, from his position as Rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Murrayfield, Edinburgh. He’s retiring from The Scottish Episcopal Church and heading over to The Anglican Church of Canada for a year or two … for an adventure in mission.

Backstory

For those who don’t know, I was a member of the ordained ministry team at both the Church of the Good Shepherd, Murrayfield and St Salvador’s, Stenhouse from 2003-2006 before I moved to Fife and took up my current post at the University of St Andrews as Assistant Information Architect/Web Manager. An obvious move, I won’t bore you with the unnecessary and intuitive details suffice to say that I always explain it by beginning: “There comes a time in every priest’s life when he reaches a crossroads: down one path lies becoming a bishop, down the other lies information architecture and Web management …!”

Arrival

As we walked up the beautifully tarmacked path towards the church building I couldn’t believe that it was nearly two and a half years since my own leaving service there. It doesn’t feel that long ago. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun!

At the door we were warmed greeted by Tim with a bear hug each. Tim was resplendent in his white cassock alb, green stole and bright red Kickers shoes.

That was the first of many reunions. Some names I remembered immediately, some took a while to be conjured up, others I had to ask for; but I recognised every face regardless of whether I could put a label to it or not.

“You won’t remember me, but you visited me in hospital and it really made my day as I was feeling so low that day.”

Amazing and humbling that that one visit, probably over three years ago now, should be recalled with such fondness. A less not to underestimate the simple gifts of presence and listening. And I did remember her, by the way, … just not her name. Or which hospital it was — I visited so many. But I remembered her and was delighted that she was there today.

“I had to come and say hello. You visited me in hospital after I had my heart attack, and your prayers really helped.”

Another face that I remembered, and history. I just couldn’t bring his name to memory quickly enough, so gave in and asked. So lovely to see these people looking so well.

Good news and sad news

It was lovely to be amongst friends and fellow members of the church family.

It was especially lovely to catch up with folks from St Salvador’s, the church that I had most involvement with during my three years in Edinburgh. Warm hugs and handshakes, cheeky comments and smiles.

The news of our expectant twins was received joyfully, and in good time it would seem as there has been too much sad news of late with the sudden death of one long and faithful member of the congregation (MP) and another struck down with a heart attack (MB).

I also got to meet for the first time the minister of Saughtonhall United Reformed Church, the Revd Susan Kirkbride, who arrived in post just after I left — nothing personal!

Demission of office

The service was a slightly extended 1982 Scottish Liturgy with a liturgy for the demission of office and prayers inserted between the post-sermon anthem and the offertory.

When a priest newly arrives to take up responsibility of leading a congregation there is a special service, during which he receives symbols of that office: keys to the church building, chalice and patten (cup and plate for communion), congregational role (impressively now held on an USB drive!) and deed of institution (the paperwork!).

Today’s service was very similar, but in reverse with Tim handing these symbols back: a letting go. It was very poignant and meaningful, concluding with Tim completely stepping out of his cassock alb (the white vestment) and retiring to sit amongst the congregation, next to his wife Irene, to allow the rest of the service to be conducted by the remaining members of the ministry team.

Reflections

Tim’s last task before being stripped of the elements of his office was to preach. The readings were Isaiah 61:1-3, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 and Mark 8:34-38, although he didn’t stick to these. Instead he asked for forgiveness for anything left undone or unnoticed, and encouraged us to keep on pressing onwards.

What really spoke to me in the service, however, was the second reading — read by Tim’s wife Irene. It was from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (the text below is taken from The Message translation):

  1. You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy.
  2. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did — Jesus crucified.
  3. I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate –I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it –
  4. and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it,
  5. which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.

That’s exactly how I felt when I arrived at the Church of the Good Shepherd and St Salvador’s in 2003. I felt totally inadequate, scared to death at times, embarrassed for the times that I really messed things up (remember that awful sermon about liturgical colours, anyone?) but … I tried to live out the love of Jesus in the way that I conducted myself; and that’s also what I still try to do in my current job. From the kind memories of those few folks I spoke with today I felt affirmed that I had walked something of that path.

As I sat in the congregation this morning reflecting on where God has brought Jane and me these last two and half years I realised and remembered two things.

I realised that something in me really misses living and worshipping as part of a parish ministry team; that I kind of felt incomplete. It’s real privilege that is incredibly difficult to explain on a blog in just a few sentences, so I won’t even try.

But then, at the same time I remembered too that when I was in that situation, in full-time parish ministry, I felt incomplete and frustrated that I wasn’t able to be as creative as I can be in my current job.

An affirmation, perhaps, that I’m in exactly the right place; that I am where God wants me to be. And that has to be a good place to be.

Afterwards…

We all retired from the church building to the hall for drinks, speeches, a few amusing songs from the choir, and the handing over of gifts.

This caricature of Tim was gifted by the other members of the ministry team. Ah … how others see us!

Cartoon of Tim Morris

And the remaining time in the church garden was spent dodging rain showers, enjoying a BBQ and catching up with folks. All in all a lovely day with friends and family in Christ.

If it’s your discipline, please do remember Tim and Irene as they prepare for their long journey to Canada, for their safety and that they will quickly and ably settle into their new life and ministry in Manitoba in the Diocese of Rupert’s Land.

Wordle clouds

The book of Jude as a word cloud

Two colleagues from work told me about this today: Wordle.

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.

There are three ways to create the word cloud:

  1. Paste in a bunch of text
  2. Enter the URL of any blog, blog feed, or any other web page
  3. Enter a del.icio.us user name to see their tags

The wordle cloud above is from the whole of the text of the book of Jude, the penultimate book in the Christian New Testament. Pretty cool, huh!

The site allows you to save wordle clouds to the gallery, where you can also see other wordle clouds created by users, such as those created by me: garethjmsaunders.