Ordinary Sunday in Eastertide

We’ve a rare ordinary Sunday tomorrow – looking at the diary for the next few weeks it is one high festival after another.

Next Sunday 19 May is Pentecost. The invitation is to everyone to wear national dress if they have it and on that day we all say the Lord’s Prayer in our language. There will be a ceilidh in the evening after Choral Evensong.

The week after, it is Trinity Sunday which will be marked, not least, by a Te Deum at Evensong. After the morning service, Prof John Curtice will be speaking about public opinion and the current proposals to change marriage law to allow same-sex couples to get married.

Corpus Christi follows on the Thursday after that. Some brothers and sisters in the faith seem intent on moving this to the Sunday – don’t know why, we’ve no trouble gathering a crowd for the festivities. We’ll be celebrating with the full ceremonies of the feast, flower petals, procession, Benediction and all and the Bishop of Argyll and The Isles will be with us to preach the word.

Once we’ve enjoyed that delight, we are straight into a month of great wonders as it is the West End Festival. The brochure is out now and I’ll be getting the details all up on the website in due course. There will be more forum meetings than we’ve ever had before (including one with Frikki Walker, who is world-famous around here as our Director of Music) and wall to wall gorgeousness from the choir.

It is hard work having so much fun!

Sticking with being a welcoming church

There’s been a post on another blog that has been doing the rounds over the last week or so which really made me think. Indeed, I lost count of the number of times I saw people refer to it on Facebook and every time, it made me think some more.

It was entitled: “We will no longer be a welcoming church” and it can be found on the website of Robert Moss, who is pastor at Lutheran Church of the Master (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) in Lakewood, Colorado.

You can probably see straight away why it grabbed my eye. The slogan we’ve been working with since I came to St Mary’s is “Open, Inclusive, Welcoming”. It is one of those claims that is easy to make and harder to live up to. If you say on every bit of paper that you ever produce that you are welcoming then that has to be backed up with some sense of reality. However, St Mary’s generally is a friendly place and I find that lots of people who come do find it very welcoming. That won’t be true for everyone of course but it is true more often than not. Being in Glasgow makes it easier to be a welcoming church of course. When folk round here are not trying to murder you they are the friendliest people in the world after all.

Generally speaking, I can see what Robert Moss is getting at when he says that it is time to stop focussing on being a welcoming church in favour or thinking about being an inviting church. However, I’ve a feeling that the whole “inviting church” thing may be in danger of putting the cart before the horse.

I used to think that what we needed to do was teach people how to invite people to church. That’s the essence of so many worthy church growth strategies and mission plans. It is at the core of the much-lauded “Back to Church Sunday” initiative and is at the heart of what http://www.unlockingthegrowth.com/ is up to.

It isn’t just them, it is lots of people. The theory is, if you can teach people to invite people to church then they will do so and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.

I used to think this was the answer but I don’t any more. I’ve become convinced that if you want people to invite others to church you’ve got to begin by giving them something really great to invite them to. The thing is, if what you are offering is on the button, you don’t need to teach anyone how to invite people to church. They’ll do it anyway. Indeed, if they are having enough fun, if it meets their spiritual needs, if it is a place they have a chance of making friends, if it teaches them something good about how to live in this crazy world and make sense of it then they won’t be able to stop themselves. They’ll invite people anyway.

We don’t need to teach people how to invite others to church. We need help congregations to become such that people will do it anyway.

The trouble with things like Back to Church Sunday is that it invites people to come back to something that they probably had good reason to leave.

Let quality, friendship, love and joy loose and you don’t need mission plans. And within that vision is a taste of heaven.

So, good luck to the Lutheran folk in Lakewood, Colorado. I hope the initiative works. For now, here, I think we need to stick with being a welcoming church whilst working at being a church which is a barrel so full of delights that people can’t stop themselves from sending those Facebook invitations, tweeting those tweets about what their church experiences and from gossiping that they’ve seen the church, that which they thought was dead, alive and dancing.

(And before anyone starts wittering about cathedrals, resources, & congregational size, this is exactly what I tried to do in a much smaller church than I work in now).

Pilgrimage

Here’s a video featuring Bishop Kevin and a fine hat.

Sign seen

I’m currently on holiday and so spending quite a lot of time going in and out of churches. (What else do you think I would do on holiday?)

In one of the many churches I’ve visited, I caught sight of this.

Welcome notice

Thoughts?

Inspection of TISEC

TISEC – the Theological Institute of the Scottish Episcopal Church has had the inspectors in (from the Ministry Division of the Church of England, since you ask) and they’ve just released their final report.

There is not much for anyone’s comfort in the report as the inspectors indicated that they had no confidence in the governance of TISEC and in its formational ability. Both of these are hugely significant. The later means the ability of the institution to form people appropriately for the ministries that they are being trained for.

I’m not going to say much about this at the moment. There will be many things said and many words spilled over this before the year is out. It is minority interest no doubt for most people who belong to the Scottish Episcopal Church. However, how we train people for ministry is fundamental to who we think we are. There’s a sense about, that this report means significant change – not only for TISEC but also for the church, not least for the Mission and Ministry Board who have the responsibility for overseeing this work. There are funding implications and pastoral implications to this and that’s why, even though I’ve never been shy of speaking about TISEC, at the moment, I’m saying little other than to suggest that anyone who cares about the Scottish Episcopal Church needs to read the report in full for themselves.

And it can be found here:

http://www.scotland.anglican.org/media/organisation/tisec/resources/TISEC_Final_Report_18_Feb_13.pdf

Under attack

Some people will have noticed that some of the websites that I look after have been under attack this week. Naughty people are trying to gain control of a load of web servers and mine has been one of the many targeted.

What has been happening is that someone has had the great idea of trying to crack as many WordPress sites using a brute force attack. That means setting computers up to try to log in to a site automatically using a computer program to try as many different password combinations as possible. The same technique was a feature in the film War Games of some years ago – the computer in question being the one which controlled US Missiles. My computers have slightly less power.

People do this to gain control of servers so they can do naughty things like use them to send out lots of spam all at once. (Ever wondered where it came from?)

The consequence for my readers this week is that at some times, my websites have been showing up in various security systems (Norton, AVG) as infected and this meant that people couldn’t get access to the sites whilst this protection was in use.

I think I’ve nipped it all in the bud.

For anyone experiencing the same trouble, here’s some of what you can do to help.

  • Change the password combination on your server.
  • Change the password combination on your blog/WordPress installation.
  • Install a plugin like Anti-Malware and use it to scan and remove malicious code that has been injected into your site.
  • Install a plugin like Better WP Security and word through what it recommends. At the very least, make sure you don’t have your administrator account in the name “admin” and use the plugin to lock down your login screen – you can set it to ban an incoming IP address after 10 failed attempts to log in, for example.
  • Don’t panic.

For anyone who isn’t having the same trouble, consider doing the security things anyway.

Something Joyful

Watch this video if you’ve not seen it already to see the power of song.

Actually, if you’ve watched it already, watch it again.

A big joyful shout out to New Zealand and all the New Zealanders that I know.

Rejoice. New life comes. And it comes singing.

As I listen to this, and I’ve heard it over a few times today, I find myself hearing the Great Music behind the singing. It is the sound of Love singing harmonies with Justice – something that is not merely promised in scripture but is also part of what inspires scripture in the first place.

Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtle-dove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.

(From Song of Songs 2)

As I listen to that singing from New Zealand, I realise afresh that I don’t just want to change the law on marriage. I want to change the world so that that singing is heard day after day after day.

How to be remembered

I hope when I die I am mourned more by the poor than by the rich.

I hope my coffin is carried by friends and not by soldiers.

I hope the clocks keep chiming for the world only spins forwards.

I hope that money is not wasted on my obsequies which could be better spent on doing good.

I hope that an Easter mass is celebrated not state-sanctioned pomp and pride.

Sermon preached by Peter Elliott

Here is the sermon preached last week by the Very Rev Peter Elliott, the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver.

Our own little Anglican Communion

We had a great day yesterday at St Mary’s with the Very Rev Peter Elliott visiting from Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver. The way that the rotas resolved themselves meant that we had a preacher from the Anglican Church of Canada, a celebrant (me) from the Scottish Episcopal Church, a deacon, Chucks from the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the Scottish Episcopal Church and a subdeacon (Akma) from the US based Episcopal Church. Fluttering delicately around all of that were servers who bring skills and experience from the Church in Wales via the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, the Methodist Church in the USA and the Roman Catholic Church in England. And that isn’t to start on where the congregation came from.

We are at St Mary’s sometimes our own little Anglican Communion and it is lovely.

Peter Elliott and his congregation in Vancouver showed me great kindness when I was travelling in North America on my sabbatical last year and it was a delight to have him here in Glasgow.

Peter and his husband Thomas were travelling to Iona in the company of other North American clergy who are heading off for a time of refreshment and renewal with one another and a few of them were around in St Mary’s on Sunday too.

The world of deans and rectors of larger churches is quite different in North America to the world of Provosts here in Scotland. Generally speaking, their world has far greater financial resources to draw on and it can be quite seductive. Not a few people have asked me since I returned, “ooh, aren’t you tempted?”

However, it is not simply a case of the grass being greener. Having travelled over there I know that quite well. Those who have roles equivalent to mine in ecclesiastical terms do some things the same and other things quite differently. Many, for example, on the other side of the Atlantic need to spend their time on fund raising in a way that would be unimaginable here. (Scheduling several fund-raising visits or lunches a week is not that unusual). I’ve learned that those jobs are very different to my own. Here in Scotland we tend to do things much more on the cheap. It is a very different fund-raising culture. That isn’t to say there are not important lessons to be learned from those on the other side of the pond on this topic, but things are very different.

Here in the UK though we have differently developed key skills. Not least, clergy here in larger places need to be very skilled at building a community where people want to serve and want to offer something. Helping people to offer their gifts is a core skill and not always one which we think about enough. If we have any expertise, it is in gathering a congregation that is so focussed on a vision of life-enhancing and world-renewing worship that they want to join in and collaborate in bringing that vision of the kingdom in.

It has its own excitement and yesterday at St Mary’s was one of those days where that excitement was tangible.