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!”

A day of Metallica on TV, visitors we never saw and Jane in hospital

Bucket in a well
Nice bucket!

Well, that’s been an interesting day. It began with me staying up far too late (past midnight, no less) to watch Metallica perform at the Reading and Leeds Festivals on BBC 2 and ended with me leaving Jane in hospital in Dundee overnight for observation.

I woke this morning with a start. Somehow (unconsciously?) I was aware of Jane sitting on the edge of the bed. She wasn’t moving much, except for the gentle rocking of someone crying. She had a pain at the top of her bump, she’s had it for a few weeks now, but this morning the pain was more searing than ever, ‘excruciating’ you might say if you could spell it.

Once I got Jane to her feet and she started moving about, slowly the pain began to subside. Jane called the hospital’s emergency number for pregnant ladies: 0800 MY-BUMP-SAYS-OUCH! They listened, pondered and asked her to call back at 14:00 for an update, at which point they decided that Jane should be seen, just to be on the safe side.

The visitors we never saw

Now, in the meantime, my brother Eddie had decided that they’d like to visit, and estimated their arrival at 14:00. “Sure”, we said assuming that the hospital would say “Look, I’m sorry you’ve had a bit of a pain in the bump, but since it’s eased off now there’s no need for you to come for a check-up, sit up with a good book and ask your husband to cook dinner tonight.”

Of course, they didn’t. They said “Come in!”

So I called Eddie. They were on their way, but could make a detour through Dunfermline to buy a hair-dryer.

We’ll be just a couple of hours, I assured him. We’ll be back in time for tea and tiffin. I’d bought tiffin specially, even if my spell-checker wants to call it ‘griffin’.

A couple of hours later I phoned him again. They’d just pulled up outside our house. By this time Jane had had various scans and lots of medical staff poking and prodding her, and they had decided to keep Jane in for 24 hours for observation.

The good news was that Jane’s BP and pulse was good, and the babies appear to be okay, with good strong heartbeats and a propensity for kicking each other! They needed to get to the bottom of the painful bump.

Operation Bags Packed

Eddie had keys so let himself in and I guided him around the house while he and Rebecca packed an overnight bag for Jane … once I’d flipped between the phone and Notes mid-call on my Xda Orbit. With the bag packed and left in the hall I then phoned Jane’s Mum.

“Erm, there’s been a change of plan!” We were meant to be going there for dinner this evening, could she erm … instead pick up the overnight bag that’s standing in our hallway and drive up to Dundee to visit Jane in hospital, please?

They arrived about half an hour after we’d been shown up to the post-natal ward (as there was no room at the inn!). It was lovely to see them. Jane was in a ward bay. The two beds closest to the door were occupied, the one on the right by Jane, the one on the left by a girl who’d clearly had a baby girl. How could we tell? Balloons! Tethered next to the bed were about 1,000 helium balloons that would have made the Montgolfier brothers run away in terror.

Half an hour later Jane’s room in the ante-natal ward was ready and we were moved. And what a lovely room — there was more room there than in our £130 per night hotel room in Inverness the other night! And it had a DVD player.

Prayers of the saints

When I’d nipped out of the labour suite to call in support from Eddie and Jane’s folks I’d also sent a quick Twitter update: “Jane is being kept in overnight for obs; prayers please. xx”.

I stepped out of the hospital around 20:00, switched on my phone and was greeted by a text message and some Twitter updates (some from as far away as Florida) assuring me of their prayers. The wonders of technology and Christianity coming together in harmony.

And that’s where we’re up to. I prayed with Jane before I left the hospital, asking God to hold Jane and the babies. Neither of us were particularly worried to be honest, and Jane was actually more upset about not getting steak pie at her Mum’s for dinner tonight than about having to stay in hospital overnight! But that’s why I love her: because she’s willing to put her love of pie before her health!

And on that bombshell … thanks for the prayers, good wishes and love. Hopefully we’ll be welcoming Jane and her bumps home tomorrow afternoon.

Update

Thanks for your prayers, folks. Jane got out of hospital on Sunday, shortly before midday.

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.

Waiting for buses …

London buses
Non-identical buses

So, the observant amongst you will know that I’ve not been blogging quite as often as I used to, or would like. We’ll here’s the reason: I’ve been waiting for a bus. Of sorts.

This is the blog post that I’ve been longing to write for ages, and it even has a neat twist. But before I get ahead of myself, here’s the good news: the IVF worked!

For those of you watching in black and white and haven’t a clue what IVF is, Jane is pregnant.

Today we had the 12 weeks’ scan, which was our own personal non-disclosure deadline and so we can now share the great news with the world … albeit admittedly those citizens of the world with Web access.

The longest wait

I’ll probably blog later about my/our reflections on the IVF procedure, suffice to say here that the staff at Ward 35 (Assisted Conception Unit) at Ninewells Hospital were absolutely wonderful; we couldn’t have hoped for better.

We had the embryo transfer on Wednesday 19 March which was followed by the longest 17 days wait we’ve probably ever experienced.

Six weeks

On Saturday 5 April Jane took a pregnancy test and to our delight (and, to be honest, amazement) it showed that Jane was pregnant.

Twelve days later we had our first scan at Ninewells (still at Ward 35). This was a six weeks’ scan. I’ve no idea how these weeks are worked out. It would appear that doctors use a different kind of maths to the rest of us!

(Update: actually I do know, I was just teasing. As far as I can ascertain it’s so that the total pregnancy adds up to a nice round 40 weeks!)

Week 6 scan

The midwife who was doing the scan told us that she’d get her bearings and then show us on the monitor what she could see.

She sat down, got her bearings and told us that she could see the monitoring machine.

“Have you been drinking?” I asked. No, not really. I’ll get back to the proper story now.

“Will we get to see it’s heartbeat?” Jane asked.

“I’m not sure,” said the midwife. “Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t.”

And then she showed us our baby on the monitor. It was 6mm long.

And then she showed us our other baby. It was 4mm long.

“You’re having twins!” the midwife said.

We were so delighted. We’ve been joking since about 2000 that we’d have twins. In the previous couple of weeks I’d been joking that it was quads. So the news of twins came as a delight and some relief.

The really amazing bit was that we could indeed see their heartbeats and sat watching their tiny, two-chamber hearts beating away; it looked like a really fast flicker on the monitor. Amazing, and reassuring.

Seven weeks

A week later they had us back in for another scan just to make sure that everything was going well.

It was. Both twins had grown to 10mm. They looked a bit like seahorses at this point.

Week 7 scan

Both embryos/babies were doing well with strong heartbeats. We could relax a bit and allow Jane to enjoy the next five weeks of so-called ‘morning’ sickness that is actually all-day sickness! We’re informed on authority that the symptoms of multiple pregnancies are generally worse than for singletons.

Except Valerie Singleton.

This was our final visit to Ward 35.

Twelve weeks

And so today we were back in Ninewells, this time at the Antenatal Clinic for the twelve weeks’ scan. Which looked like this:

Ultrasound scan of twins

They now look a lot more like proper babies. And not like Roswell experiments, as somebody kindly pointed out!

So, meet the family! At the moment they’re called Left and Right, but I’m sure we’ll come up with better names before December.

Both looked well, with strong heartbeats, and it really was absolutely amazing to see them moving about. “Baby Right” was doing somersaults, which was really impressive but he/she was probably just showing off cos he/she was on the telly.

Typical! Just like buses: you wait ages for one (in our case, eight years) and then two come along at once.

But how cool is that, and how blessed are we! Praise God (and the lovely staff at Ninewells Ward 35).

Writing and transformation

Writing

Tomorrow, I’m preaching once again at St Mary’s, Newport-on-Tay so having had a full and busy week I’m sitting at my PC on Saturday morning/afternoon pouring over the gospel reading (John 4: 5-42) searching for inspiration.

I already have a sermon that I’ve preached on this Sunday in the lectionary (Year A, Lent 3) but I’m keen to write something else, something new. Despite feeling quite exhausted, dizzy and in need of a long and welcome sleep.

One of the threads that is woven throughout the opening chapters of the Gospel according to St John is that of transformation, starting with Jesus’s changing of water into wine. I could do with some transformation this afternoon, starting with the changing of my blank word processor document into a sermon!

Carol services

Vestments hanging in my office
My clerical shirt and vestments hanging in my office.

This evening I’m preaching at the Alumni Carol Service at St Salvator’s Chapel, University of St Andrews, starting at 18:30. So my clerical shirt and vestments are currently hanging up in the office.

I would have hung them all behind the door but unfortunately I’m too tall for the coat hook and my cassock was dragging on the floor. That’s what white boards are for, though, I guess.

This will be my second carol service this year. I conducted (most of) the carol service at St Mary’s, Newport-on-Tay on Sunday evening. I say “most of” because I had it in my diary as starting at 18:30, while the rest of the congregation had 18.00 in theirs. I missed only two carols and a couple of readings.

When I got home I checked my emails to see what time they’d given me. It turns out that was the problem: they hadn’t given me a time, just said “early evening” and I’d guessed 18:30 based on previous experience of early evening services.

This evening’s service is definitely starting at 18:30. Besides, it’s just across the quad from my office. Literally a hop, skip and a genuflect away.

Prayers please that my sermon goes well and that God speaks through me (but not in a weird, Hollywood style!).

Update: Oh for goodness sake! It turns out that the carol service begins at 19:00, not 18:30!! I was told 18:30 … can no one tell me the correct time that I’m supposed to turn up to these things?! ;)