A large group of visitors from the US of A showed up at church this am. They were visiting as part of a missions trip. They were noticeable for two things.
1. They came 15 minutes early. This is very unusual for us. For a while, I feared that they might outnumber the regulars.
2. They spread themselves around the building, rather than sit together in a big group.
Groups from their organisation, NieuCommunities, have visited before. They have always been a blessing.
Among them was Marion, who came and introduced herself afterwards. She was a great encouragement and one of the things that was interesting was her appreciation of the liturgy we used (it was from Common Worship this morning). It's always good to hear that our worship has been helpful.
ROCKHARBOR, where she is on the staff, is a non-denominational church which, by the look of their website, shares many of the values of St Silas'. One thing they don't do is use written liturgy. Marion shared a little bit of her story with me, and it makes perfect sense why written liturgy might not have featured in her life for a long time.
Amongst evangelicals, there is a belief that using written prayers aren't quite good enough. It's spontaneity that counts! At the other extreme there are many Anglican priests who can't say a prayer unless it is written down. One colleague at theological college told me after one morning prayer service I lead how amazing it was that I could pray without a book!
We need to be able to pray in both ways, don't we? To spontaneously express our love for God in prayer, and recite scripture and prayers that the church has historically used in worship. The latter is especially useful in those times when it is hard to articulate our prayers. The problem comes when either form of prayer is formulaic, dull or both.
I have two pet hates when it comes to others leading in prayer. Firstly, ministers who sound like they are so bored by the whole thing. A priest saying the eucharistic prayer in a bored manner does not help one be thrilled at what God has done in Christ. This happens way too much!
Secondly, people praying extemporary prayers in which the word 'Lord', 'Father' or 'just' are interjected repeatedly. Not only is this often learned behaviour, it is also distracting and not particularly honouring to God. It wouldn't be so bad if their normal speech pattern reflected this trait. But most of the time it doesn't. When talking to me, these people don't repeat my name lots and lots. Or use the word 'just' too much. Don't get me wrong. I'm sure that these pray-ers are sincere. It's 'just' that in public prayer, we need to be encouraged and led.
A few days ago, I had a vivid recollection of an incident that happened to me at Lagos International Airport on the evening of the 18th June. A tall African man, approached me, looked me in the eye, and made a strange hand gesture. He said nothing and moved on. I put it down to him being a bit odd or ill in some way, and thought nothing much about it.
However, the ongoing stomach problems that I've experienced since the 19th June, and the inability to cure it with antibiotics, has made me ask, 'Is there a spiritual component to this?', and brought this incident to mind. The doctor who treated me in the USA also prayed about such things, and I've had some Glasgow church leaders pray generally for me.
Yesterday morning, I met with my prayer triplet, and mentioned this incident to them. They prayed specifically about this as did our senior members at our monthly communion in Strathblane. The result has been...........I've had two good days, even managing to dine out with the lovely Ms GadgetVicar last night.
So, maybe those 'explorations' at the Brownlie Centre won't be necessary, after all, and I'll be able to really enjoy the Auvergne and Rhone Valley next week (taking 'a little wine for the stomach'!).
Today is the wedding anniversary of Revd and Ms GadgetVicar. We met in January 1981 and married on July 27th 1985. The marriage ceremony took place in Queens Park Baptist Church with the then Bishop of Glasgow, Rt Revd Derek Rawcliffe, officiating and the Revd Edwin Gunn, Senior Pastor of QPBC, preaching.
I can't believe so many years have passed. For some inexplicable reason she is wearing much better than I am. She was a babe when I met her twenty five years ago, and she still is now!
I was back at the GP today, as my stomach has been unwell again. He was somewhat nonplussed. I've had three shots of different antibiotics, and they seem to be have effective for a while, only for the symptoms to recur.
There's nothing more to be done save for taking Imodium, and going to the Brownlee Clinic for further 'investigations'.
St Silas' multi-media big cheese, Graham Lynch has been blogging here for a while. Funny how I missed it. Check him out. I particularly enjoyed his take on the mighty TV series, 24. (Jack Bauer's days and mine are curiously similar).
Discovering Graham's blog makes me ask two questions:
Are there any other St Silas' bloggers that I don't know about? Please let me know if you do.
Secondly, I wonder which church congregation in Scotland has the most bloggers? There are eleven at St Silas that I am aware of.
The Episcopal Church (formerly known as the Episcopal Church USA or ECUSA, but now known as TEC), is beginning to further fragment in the wake of its General Convention in June.
Yesterday came the news that the Bishop of San Joaquin, John-David Schofield (left), is under threat of being deposed (removed from office). By all accounts, he is a godly man. This move was made by four other Californian bishops, and appears to be an attempt at a surgical strike, as if they brought a presentment, it would require a lengthy legal process. This way, all that is required is a straight vote in the House of Bishops. Read the full story here.
Later in the day came the news that the Diocese of Fort Worth's Standing Committee has voted for a resolution to be brought to its diocesan convention in November, which, if carried, would mean they would leave Province VII of the Episcopal Church.
These would seem to be some of the opening moves in the endgame. Sad though all this is, it would be far more sensible to negotiate a 'velvet divorce', where each party is allowed to go amicably: 'Go in peace.....'
On my visits to the USA in recent years, I have met many good people from both sides of all this. What has become clear to me is that there are two different faiths at work. At one conference centre I sat in a dining room for a meal with priests who espoused the use of new-age spirituality, yoga, wicca and were universalist in their outlook. At the next meal, I ate with people who believed in the uniqueness of Christ and the need to respond to God's offer of salvation. It sounded like two different products to me, and I wondered how one would go about selling two very different products from the same company, particularly when significant parts of the sales force has no confidence in one of the products.
One can workshop, dialogue and listen for as long as you like, but at some point one has to get on with the job at hand, and stop wasting everyone's time. Minds and hearts are not going to change. Unless one side backs down, and acquiesces, there will be blood on the carpet. An example: Hezbollah want Israel gone. Israel wants security. Some temporary peace to the current crisis between them will eventually be found, but unless the radical Islamists relent and give up on their zealous pursuit of Israel's destruction, a lasting peace will be unachievable. Someone will have to give ground. In the conflict facing the church, it now appears unlikely that anyone is willing or able to do so. The reappraisers believe their actions and beliefs are prophetic, and want total control. The reasserters view them as heretical, and no longer wish to fund their agenda, be associated with or be embarrassed by them.
The Bishop of San Joaquin is not in favour of the ordination of women, which is a stance that is almost anathema in TEC (and certain other Anglican Provinces too!). It was only a matter of time before moves were made to eradicate such 'aberrant' beliefs.
Much prayer is needed, for it seems that the Anglicans in the USA are resigning themselves to going through a messy and costly process of separation. There are irreconcilable differences, and it would be better to allow each other to go and do what they believe they are called to. 'All or nothing' legal action, is not the way of Jesus.
Attorneys will be wringing their hands in anticipation.
Next Monday, the GadgetVicar Family is going on holiday for two weeks. For the first time in ten years, we are going outside the UK. The youngest members of the family are very enthusiastic about this.
We'll be based in Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France. Chris and Susie Martin lead the Anglican Chaplaincy, and we'll stay in their house, in return for me leading two Sunday services.
Lyon is a beautiful city, has a fascinating history, and appears to be a good place to be based in. The only downside is that it will be very, very hot. The BBC weather site predicts that it will hit 41 degrees C on Thursday this week. I think we'll be rising early and taking siestas in the afternoon.
We're driving all the way, and we're looking forward to communal singing in the car (not), my soundtrack of music ('I am the driver, so I get to choose what we listen to!'), lots of sunshine, autoroutes, the French Alps, good food and simply being together. Mercifully, I believe that our kids are now of an age where they are unlikely to ask, 'Are we there yet?' (I hope they are reading this!).
In our absence, the rectory will be protected by an elite group of ex-special forces operatives from various nations, as well as our highly trained attack guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits.
It was Christmas when we last had time off, and it's beginning to feel like we all need a good break. I've been travelling a lot in the last six weeks, with trips to Nigeria, North Carolina, Cambridge and Manchester. While it seems adventurous, it certainly hasn't been very restful. The allure of travel soon wears off when it is work-related.
There is still time to brush up on my meagre French, get some £s transformed into Euros, and psyche myself up for driving on the right.
What a wonderful wedding on Friday. The sun blazed away and the bride and groom beamed all day. (Apologies for the strange geezer in the kilt, spoiling the photograph above - he kept popping up everywhere)
I've known Joanna since she was about ten years old. Children grow up into beautiful and intelligent young people. Unfortunately, this makes me feel really old!
Many things were memorable about the day, but here are a few. Firstly, Joanna, singing her heart out in church, arms raised high in worship. Secondly, a wonderful peripatetic speech from the bride's father, Paul. He was relaxed, funny and just about perfect. Then, there was the sight of a group of St Silasites dancing on the lawn outside the reception hall.
Lastly, there is this photograph which includes the present and two previous treasurers of St Silas' - Chris (with the camera), Robert (our current treasurer, with yellow tie) and Tracy (in blue, behind Robert). Apparently they found time to discuss the current status of church funds. Also present were the first couple that I married at St Silas', Morag (in the lovely blue hat), and Gwilym (appearing from behind his wife!). I'm afraid that the brightly-coloured tie I wore that day has never been quite forgiven!