Sunday, 27 January 2013

Where's the invasion?

January is coming and going with blurry speed.

Some of my colleagues in the Church of Scotland asked the above question when I said that we were installing canons on the Isle of Cumbrae in the Clyde this weekend.

The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Cumbrae, was packed for the occasion.  Given it is the smallest cathedral in the UK (maybe even wider) this is not TOO hard, but a wonderful occasion nonetheless. Goforchris caught the moment the bishop popped me into the dean's stall from her choir stall across the chancel. (photo from her Flickr photostream)

My colleague Nicki McNelly, Provost of Oban Cathedral, was also installed as a canon.  Bishop Kevin did the deeds, Bishop Idris, lately Primus and of Glasgow and Galloway preached. Here are Nicki and I (photo thanks to Provost Kelvin Holdsworth), smiling away:

Question: do things like this matter? A cathedral chapter, robing canons in copes, processing in and out of the place.  Does it make any difference?

Of course it does.  Many of the congregations of Cowal and Bute came for the day, and spent time in fellowship with each other, members & friends of the cathedral and other visitors.  Our diocese is small, our charges are relatively few.  It would be all too easy to feel sorry for ourselves and feel that we were without a future.

But on a day like Saturday Argyll and The Isles is as much a diocese as any English, American, Nigerian or any other part of an Anglican Province.  We install canons in our cathedrals and grasp the need for mission, purpose and direction.  We have a cathedral chapter and a wider college of clergy that spends time together, that worships, prays and works together.  We look for the signs of God's work in our context and try draw others into that relationship of love and grace.

Self confidence in a church is not to do with money, or numbers, or political power or any of these things.  It is living in a tradition that feeds, with a history that roots us, and a desire to proclaim the gospel again and again, as long as we have breath.

So put those copes on, light those candles, and let's get stuck in!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


The is a great deal of driving in ministry in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Not motorway stuff like I used to gobble up in my former occupations, going round and round the M25 to try and achieve escape velocity. The commuting up here is a mix of single track and double (not dual) carriageway roads. They twist and turn, and offer a few elusive places to overtake that slow car or truck. The wind blows trees over them, the snow lies across the middle of them. Water pools from overflowing burns and splashes up as you pass through them. It's actually rather good fun to drive on such varied and interesting roads. And, of course, you can stop and look out of the windows as you go. Sometimes it catches your breath, sometimes you just smile. And every once in a while you have to stop (safely) and take a photograph. This does not do justice to the smoothness of the water or the richness of the sunset over the Lenach and down to Bute. But you have to try and catch a sense of the God-given beauty that surrounds these places!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

A new year is here...

2013 has arrived, an arbitrary line in our western keeping of time, but still a new beginning. What does this year hold?

Family: eldest sits her Highers, so will start to set her course for her life for next decade or two. Youngest will move from primary to secondary school. That means all three children, for one academic year, will be at the same school! Remarkable!

Churches: who knows what God, the bishop and the congregations might have in store for us this year. The church building in Dunoon should (all being well) be significantly restored over the summer months with a lottery and heritage grant. It will still need a never-ending programme of development, decoration and repair, but this will be a step change in the dryness, soundness and in rottenness of the place. On a smaller scale, Rothesay will be going down the same route, with grants, repairs, maybe even a new heating system.

But it isn't about the buildings. Repairing and upgrading them is a symptom of what I pray will be happening in them. There is only any point in having a building if there is a living community to meet, worship and grow within them. The episcopalians of Cowal and Bute will continue to gather, to support each other and to worship in our tradition.

Wider matters: the Archbishop of Canterbury doesn't matter too much up here, but the flavour of the Anglican Communion matters to us here. Our own province will continue to grapple with mission, finance, Scottish independence (or otherwise), and, as ever, issues of sexuality, marriage and so forth. Our business may be growing local communities but the wider context affects how and why we do this.

Personal: I end my first three years in the charges, the diocese and the province this June. The canons allowed me three years as priest in charge (renewable) to see how we would get on. I suspect the three years will be renewed, or maybe even the suspension on the charges lifted (if not this year, in the next year or two). My new duties as the dean of the diocese will be a new challenge, trying to help and encourage charges in a wider context. There are some issues, some unhappiness, some things that need to be discussed and agreed. So I look forward to getting to grips with these issues after the New Year break. It is all about God's plans for us.

So an interesting 2013 awaits, in a very positive sense.