For the next three months, I’m on sabbatical from St Mary’s, enjoying the freedom that Bishop Gregor and the congregation have given me to think and reflect and grow.

The last formal thing that I did as Provost of St Mary’s before sabbatical time started was to go to the start of a new ministry – the installation of the Very Rev Nicola McNelly as the new Provost in the Cathedral in Oban.

It was a very splendid affair indeed. St John’s was as spruced up as St John’s can be and the place was nice and full to welcome Nicola. There was a good turn out from the Province too and Bishop Kevin preached an excellent sermon. The gist of it was that people treat the words ‘We’ve never done it this way’ as being somehow equivalent in their thinking to the seven last words of Jesus and then proceed to crucify the church over them. In passing, he made reference to the analogy between the way God loves us and the love that human beings have for one another. And yes, he was quite explicit that this means the love that men and women share, that men share with men and women share with women.  (I hinted afterwards to him that one of our Scottish newspapers has a new devotional slot on its front page just crying out for a sermon like that and that he should send it in).

Jolly party afterwards at which old friendships were made and new one’s kindled. Always fun to meet people whom you have seen and hear about online but suddenly meet in the flesh. (Or indeed, fun to hear a twitter contact singing Calon Lân at the start of the liturgy – which happens to be one of my favourite tunes).

So then on to sabbatical time.

And the first thing I go to on sabbatical is…?

Yes, the start of a new ministry with an induction service for a new Rector. Different bishop (This time the Bishop of New Westminster) but so very much the same that it was uncanny. Same opening hymn, same joy, same sense of purpose and same kind of happy crowd of people enjoying being together and celebrating the hope and expectation that a new ministry can bring.

One of these services did have a handbell choir as well as a choir of voices and one did not though.

Interestingly, both services managed to make sense of the now ‘traditional’ giving of gifts (keys, bible, oil, bread and wine etc) to the new provost/rector. In each case, the giving of each gift was followed by a statement from the person concerned inviting the congregation to share with them the giving of the gifts for the sake of the world.

I can sometimes come away from such services depressed for it feels as though we have encumbered the incumbent with more than they should decently be expected to bear. In both these services though it felt as though purposeful, healthy leadership was being seen as part of a healthy collaborative endeavour of God’s people.

So, blessings to the new ministries I’ve seen commence this week. God bless them one and all.