I’m running the Men’s 10k on Sunday in Glasgow in support of SAMH.

I’m almost at my £500 target!!! Thank you so much to everyone who has donated so far. Your contributions with help SAMH to do some much needed work with children. Their Going to Be campaign is highlighting the lack of support for children and young people who have mental ill health.  You can donate HERE.

Young people need our help now.  Here’s why:

  • Three children in every class will have experienced mental health problems by the time they’re 16.
  • Every day, 20 young people don’t get the help they need for mental health problems.  That’s 7,248 young people last year.  These young people were rejected from receiving a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) usually following a referral from their GP, but we don’t know why or what has happened to them.
  • When it comes to finding help for your mental health, only a quarter of young people know where to go.
  • One call every thirty minutes to ChildLine is from a young person experiencing suicidal thoughts.
  • Last quarter, in Scotland, almost 7,426 young people were on a waiting list to be assessed for CAMHS.

Please help if you can.  Thanks.

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Why? How?  What?

Why do we do the things we do in the way we do them?

I wonder what the most important part of the question is?  Is it the things that we do?  Is it the way that we do them?  Or is it the why?

For me the ‘why’ is the most important part but it’s also the part that I fear we think about least.

I have this picture on my whiteboard to remind me.

As a church, both in the local and the larger scale, we are known for what we do and how we do it.  So, at St Ninian’s when I ask about who we are the answers might be ‘friendly’ or ‘hospitable’ or ‘welcoming’.  The how and the what of that look like weekly coffee mornings and the Guild and the Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Brigade and hosting the Hope Cafe and the Folk Club.  As far as worship goes we have a pretty standard hymn/prayer service with a sermon in the middle, and morning prayers on Monday and Thursday and Night Church through the darker winter months.

Those are good things.  They are our ‘doing’ church.

But what do they say about ‘why’ we do or are church?

Making a case for  being ‘friendly’, ‘hospitable’ and ‘welcoming’ is pretty easy.  Loving you neighbour surely involves putting the kettle on.  But friendly to whom?  Hospitable to whom?  Welcoming to whom?  Do we just put the kettle on for people we know?  Do we bake just for our friends?

We’ve actually been talking about our ‘Why’ at St Ninian’s for a year now.  We started the day I started.  That’s what all the questions are about.  That’s what all the ‘so, you think this is about this… but what if it is about that…?’ has been for.  To help us think about what we believe and about why we believe it.  A safe space to be free to think and question and doubt and change our minds and play with new ideas and keep some of them and throw other ones away.

Over the past few weeks we’ve been looking at the 10 Commandments.  I’ve suggested that they might be our high level strategic plan because they tell us how we should relate to God, how we should relate to each other and what it means to be fully ourselves.  These 10 words from God create a space for all of us to be free.  

All of us.

Not just some of us.

All of us…

Free from fear.  Free from violence.  Free from worry.

I wonder if creating that kind of space is our ‘why’?

And if it is our ‘why’ then surely that pushes us out beyond what we do now to bring that freedom to more and more people.

The next question is ‘how’?  How do we know who we are dealing with?  How do we make contact and build relationships?  How do we choose our priorities?  How will we work?  Will we do things for people or should we do things with people?

And only then, once we have worked out our ‘why’ and our ‘how’ do we think about the ‘what’.  

What will we do?  What will we need?  What will it look like and smell like and taste like and sound like and feel like?

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I wonder how often we say ‘Thanks’?

I wonder how often we say it to the people we are really thankful for?

The practice of gratitude is a simple way to completely change your outlook on life.  It’s the start of that radical life-change we talked about last week.  Thankfulness.  Gratitude.  Whatever you want to call it, it’s a powerful practice.  It’s all about recognising the good news right in our midst.

Paul starts his letter to the Philippians (we’ll read some of it on Sunday) telling them how grateful he is for them.  He sees the blessing that they have been to him.

Give it a try.  Start now.

Each evening… 3 things… what are you grateful for today?

It’s that simple, and completely, radically life-changing!

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We come to the end of our journey through the Gospel of John this Sunday as we tackle john 20:19-31.

It’s evening on Easter Day, the disciples are scared and locked in a room.

Apart from Thomas.  He’s somewhere else.

And Jesus appears.

A whole load of stuff is happening in this short passage.  Jesus gives the disciples the Holy Spirit by breathing on them, just like Genesis 2:7.  There’s some talk about forgiving sins and retaining which is something we really need to discuss because it doesn’t mean what it says, at all.

And then a week later Thomas finally gets his own encounter with the risen Christ.  His encounter is much more like the encounters with the people who met Jesus earlier in the story; the man born blind and the Samaritan woman at the well.  Thomas gets what he needs after expressing his questions and doubts.  There’s something in that for us, I think…

So, what are your questions and doubts?  What do you find hard to believe about Jesus?

 

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The Gospel of John is about revelation.

Who is Jesus?

Who are we?

All the encounters we have witnessed as we journeyed through this Gospel tell us the truth about Jesus, the people he met, and about ourselves.

The trial before Pilate lays bare humanity.

Our humanity.

It shows us just where power really lies

what love really looks like

and just how much we need God’s grace.

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Several years ago I began a chapter in a book about the state of the Church of Scotland with these words, “This isn’t working!”.  I was talking then in particular about how as adults we don’t take learning very seriously in the church, but I think the statement applies more widely to the general malaise we find ourselves in.

And that bothers me.

A lot.

Because it’s not the case everywhere… but we seem to be plunging headlong into policies that will make things worse, not better.

Multi-church pastorates or hubs or groups or whatever you want to call them are only about spreading a resource (ministers) more thinly.  There is NO evidence that they stimulate church growth.

2, 3, 4, 5 or even 6 sets of everything.

No room for relationship.

No space or time for innovation.

Just spinning the every more wobbly plates of what is.

The Church of Scotland wants every parish to have a fresh expression of church by 2020.  The URC is promoting fresh expressions with great enthusiasm.  Brilliant.  Except the timescale shows that there is no real understanding of what a fresh expression is or how developing one works.  A truly new expression of church is a community that gathers and grows to a point that they might want to create their own culturally appropriate version of church.

There are two parts of that which are vital; creating community and innovation.  Those take time, lots and lots of it, and space.  (And coffee)

So, I’m now a minister.  I’m not about to complain that I’m too busy.  If I am then that’s my fault.  But I work with just one church.  Just one set of meetings, one building, one set of organisations and one place to be on a Sunday.  And I could spend as much time as I have just keeping that all working.

Throw in another church and all space for creating community goes out the window.  Throw in any more and innovation goes too.

Of course we should involve people in helping lead worship.  Most Sundays I announce the hymns and preach.  Other people do almost everything else.  But the preaching part is the bit I’m trained for.  Not that others can’t do it.  They can.  Of course they can.  But what’s the point of me if not to do that.  I’m a minister of word and sacrament after all.

Perhaps it comes down to this…

Spreading a limited resource ever more thinly has never been the solution to anything.

Should we deploy some ministers to one church and have others to maintain the rest?  Like a midwife and palliative care model?

Should we hold our hands up and admit that training people as theologians with skills in Greek and Hebrew but no community work training or serious input on work with children and young people might not be the best model of training, important though those things are?

Should ministers be facilitators?  Has the one person show de-skilled and debilitated our churches to a point where we are so stuck we are paralysed?

The answer to all this lies somewhere in our experience.  I wrote a series of posts a few years ago where I wondered if the church was similar to someone living with the symptoms of depression and anxiety.  Interestingly people who had experienced those thought I was onto something while those who had not thought I was completely wrong.  I mention this because recovery almost always begins with a decision to get well.  To change.  To take control.  Without that decision things often stay the same.  Often that is helped by talking to people who what already made the same journey.

So, are we ready for recovery?

What do you think?

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The questions we ask expose our priorities.

Are you the king of the Jews?

That’s Pilate’s question to Jesus in John 18:28-40.  That’s the only question that matters to a political governor.  Are you a problem for me?  But Pilate is asking the wrong questions… so Jesus asks some of his own.

The exchange ends with Pilate asking the right question… ‘what is truth?’

I wonder…

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