Peter's Blog

Tiny Little Seed

Written by Peter Johnston on .

With many folks possessing a musical interest, I have been pondering how we can use technology to our advantage during the pandemic lockdown. An idea that has been around for quite some years now with Eric Whitacre taking a lead is the virtual choir. So, a few of us gathered online yesterday via the now ubiquitous Zoom to explore how we might do it. Alas it is not as simple as gathering online in a chat space like Zoom and hitting the Record button. Latency issues as signals from computers zip around the world mean it is quite a mess. We did have a bit of fun trying it, but, no... that is not a possibility.

What we did was to talk through what we were going to do, listen to the music together going over some of the parts, then we all went our own ways and recorded ourselves singing our parts. These video files were then sent to me where I edited them together along with the backing track. 

The song is a new one from Fischy Music, one of the songs we in the Spill the Beans Resource Team have worked on with the Fischy team. 

The result of our endeavours is above. It came out okay for a first effort though we learnt a lot of lessons. Primarily, it takes a lot of time to pull together. And, despite my desktop computer being absolutely top of the range when I built it... that was eight years ago and it was really struggling with the 9 video tracks and seven audio tracks. It got the job done, but only just. 

In case you are pondering this yourself. We gathered online around 2 p.m. Spent an hour or so talking through how we were going to do this, getting settings and apps all in place for people recording. Then about an hour for folks to record themselves. There was a vast difference in the speeds of the files then getting to me, the last two coming in probably a couple of hours later, which was just in time for the editing process. 

That process, using Adobe Premiere Pro, started around 4 p.m. and the bulk edited by around 10 p.m. when I started a render (when the computer, instead of creating an output "on the fly", pre-renders the audio and video mixes and transitions) because we were really struggling to edit any further by that stage as the computer was having so many difficulties giving us a usable preview. But... that took two hours to finish. Time to take dogs out, watch some Parks & Rec, and then we finished the edit and began some tweaks to the audio. Another render took us to around 3 a.m. when I did a last round of now much smaller tweaks (for instancing panning the audio slightly left and right to spread out the voices and to match the imagery on screen). I set the computer off doing a final render of the whole 4 minute clip around 4 a.m. and went to bed, cursing that we lost an hour! The file was ready when I got up, inserted into the Powerpoint for the service and all went fine. 

It does show you that there are no easy ways around this kind of collaboration. The technology is great and allows us to do things that you could not dream of doing twenty years ago, but there is a lot of work that still needs to go into it to make it work.

Which is not to dampen anyone else's desire to get creative and try something similar! It is more by way of alerting you to the time involved (and, let's be honest, you need some tech skills here too). 

But, all that being said, now that we have done it once... I am sure we will do it again!

From tiny little seeds...

 

Community Resilience

Written by Peter Johnston on .

What a crazy time we are all living through. When I wrote the “Minister’s Message” almost two months ago for the cover of Parish News, our parish magazine, with the title Tryin’ Times I was not anticipating where we are now. It should not come as a surprise for the threat of a pandemic such as that posed by COVID-19 has long been warned about, but we are very good at filtering out messages that seem a distant threat. Now we are having to think differently.

In tryin’ times such as these we have an opportunity, as a world, I hope, and certainly as local communities to reveal our true mettle. We need each other (from a good physical distance) more than ever.

At Ferryhill Kirk I will continue to lead worship (though not public worship) and we will live stream that via our webcast on Sunday mornings from 11 a.m. and it will also be available anytime thereafter. That will be supplemented by Rev Mary Whittaker with BSL for the deaf community from Sunday 29 March.

We are also going to try video conferencing for the remainder of our Lent Study series (details are on the home page for how to log in for that), and we have plans with neighbouring churches for other ways to continue our engagement on matters of faith over these next months.

Equally important is how we support our community and particularly those who are self-isolating and alone. We have taken a lead, again with our neighbouring churches, to form a community of volunteers via https://www.facebook.com/groups/covid19riverside/. Please join, if you can. We are building a team of volunteers who can look out for those who may be in need in their neighbourhood, to keep in touch by phone or email, to offer practical support (running simple errands to the shops, for instance) should the need arise. The first task from the weekend on into next week will be delivering leaflets to every home from Ferryhill to Garthdee.

If you are able to help in that endeavour, then please contact Julie in the church office on 01224 213093 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Amidst all the strange mixture of busyness and isolation, we also need time to centre ourselves on what really matters. Below is a prayer for our times which you may find helpful.

Keep safe!
Peter

A Prayer for Tryin' Times

God,
we are living through tryin’ times,
when fear and worry can overwhelm some,
while others ignore good advice,
may we all work together
to get through this pandemic
as safely and as carefully as we can.

We are thankful for all those people
whose job it is to help and assist,
particularly for doctors and nurses,
carers and support staff
in surgeries and hospitals,
putting themselves at risk
in order to fulfil their calling
to bring healing.
May they know that their work is life-affirming,
and may they be resilient and resourced.

We are also thankful for those people
who, often under the radar,
make society work:
from delivery drivers to supermarket stockers,
from school staff to volunteer visitors,
and all manner of other roles in-between.
May they know they are valued and honoured,
and that we uplift them for the cohesion
they bring to our communities.

We recognise that we are called at the moment
to look out for ourselves and those closest to us,
we are challenged to keep a healthy distance, physically,
from each other,
but may that not deter us from making connections,
building new friendships,
tending existing relationships,
through all the tools we now have to hand,
from a phone call to a WhatsApp,
from an email to a postcard.
May we use this opportunity to build community,
to look out for one another,
not to be blind to the needs of our neighbour,
but to find ways to help.

We know that there will be lots of people and families
who will be struggling over these next months,
with tensions due to family circumstances,
with loneliness and isolation,
with money worries and job security fears,
and we hold them close in their anxiety.
May we provide encouragement and support
as best we can in these tryin’ times.

We also pray for those who are unwell at this time,
for those with raised anxiety
due to their age or to underlying health conditions,
for those who are currently infected with COVID-19,
and for the families of those who have died.
May we offer kindness and hopefulness,
even in the darkest of moments.

And when we emerge from the other end
of this pandemic,
a vaccine having been found,
may we not lose sight of the power that comes
when we work together
to be good neighbours.

Let us remember Jesus’ answer to the question,
“Which of all the commandments is most important?”
He replied:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind
and with all your strength.
The second is: Love your neighbour as yourself.
There is no commandment greater than these.”
Amen.

 

Misinformation and Disinformation

Written by Peter Johnston on .

I sent off the master artwork for the next issue of Parish News earlier, in which I mention an article in The Atlantic in my covering message. There wasn't space to link to it in the magazine itself but having a link to it is probably a good idea. The article is by McKay Coppins and is available here: The 2020 Disinformation War. It is a long-form piece so make a cuppa before you sit down to read it, but it is worth the read as it gives a nuanced and relatively full story of where we are at the moment with ever-escalating disinformation assailing us, particularly if we use social media.

To clarify: disinformation is the deliberate spreading of false stories - what was called "fake news" until that term was hijacked by Trump to mean anything he doesn't like - whereas misinformation is the spreading of inaccuarate stories because of a misunderstanding or an error. The latter is not what is proving so damaging to our discourse at the moment, it is the former. Disinformation is nothing new, but it is being weaponised and has new tools to aid its dissemination that have never existed before thanks to social media sites and the failure of their owners to tackle the problem meaningfully. Profit comes before the wellbeing of society, alas.

Lent & Easter Worship Resources

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Beans Issue 34

We continue our second cycle through the Revised Common Lectionary with the next issue of Spill the Beans, Issue 34.

In our annual pattern, this Lent, Easter and Pentecost issue is always a bumper one. You will find 190 pages of resources in this issue including some extras to the usual Sunday worship and age group ideas. We have included ideas for Ash Wednesday, an intergenerational event for Holy Week, materials for each day of Holy Week and two liturgies for Holy Saturday. So much to get your own creative juices flowing!

Collaboration with Fischy Music

We continute our collaborative work with Fischy Music with a new song titled "Tiny Little Seed" which beautifully captures gospel imagery into a song for the Lent and Easter season. There is a score for the melody and chords within Issue 34 and along with the pdf copy of the issue you will find audio tracks (full and backing) for "Tiny Little Seed".

Sampler

Created by folks here in Scotland, this issue has lots of ideas and resources for you to inspire, adapt, use in leading worship or for age groups in Junior Churches and youth groups. If you have not used Spill the Beans before then please have a look at this sample.

If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 34 (including audio files) for use in your church or personally, then click the 'Buy' button below. The cost is only £12 (GBP). You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer as soon as you have downloaded it. We recommend first downloading to a laptop or desktop computer before moving to phone/tablet.

Please follow the instructions carefully. The compressed zip file is large at approximately 30 MB so it may take some time to download. Please be patient as your computer does so! Once it has downloaded (you may want to check your "Downloads" folder) you will need to extract the contents (this option may appear at the top of the window or if you right-click on the file).

Spill the Beans Issue 34

Spill the Beans Issue 34 Cover

Buy Now and Download

You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans blog, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too. There is also a facebook page in which we share ideas and we have introduced a new facebook group which you can link to from the facebook page and which we hope will provide a place of mutual support, ideas and encouragement as we trek together through this new adventure.

Print Copies

If you would like an additional printed copy of Spill the Beans, then this can be arranged. Please note that this is an extra to the download copy, please download a copy first. The cost is usually around £22+P&P and these can be arranged directly with the office at Ferryhill Parish Church. Note this cost is just for the printing expenses. Each issue is in full colour and comb bound for ease of use. We can only send these within the United Kingdom.

If you would like to order copies (which are all printed to order so there may be a short wait before you receive yours) then you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your order details. An invoice for the printed copy(ies) will be issued with dispatch of your order.

 

The Overview Effect

Written by Peter Johnston on .

I'll be mentioning the Overview Effect on Sunday morning. Here is an inspirational film that touches on this transformative experience that astronauts who have had the blessing to experience seeing the earth from space had for them.

Spill the Beans Returns to RCL

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Beans Issue 33

Having completed our own lectionary (bible plan) with the previous issue of Spill the Beans, the team has gone back to the Revised Common Lectionary with a commitment to create a further twelve issues to cover another three year cycle of the RCL from Advent 2019 through to 2022. We formerly completed a cycle of the RCL in the years 2011-2014.

We hope that the break from the RCL has refreshed us ready for the challenge of exploring the bible passages used in this lectionary in the months ahead.

Today the first issue, our 33rd in total (where have the years gone?!), of this new series is available and covers all of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany through to Transfiguration Sunday.

We also have some fabulous extras in this issue over and above the usual wealth of ideas and resources for the week by week material. This includes an intergenerational event for Christmas titled "Jump for Joy", two Blue Christmas liturgies and two new songs for Advent and Christmas.

Collaboration with Fischy Music

It is a great delight for us to have begun a piece of collaborative work with Fischy Music which will unfold over the next few years. We are hoping to introduce new songs with each issue and have two songs included in this current issue.

A sample audio for these new songs is available here:

In the download pack you will receive a full audio track and a backing track for both songs along with your pdf copy of Issue 33.

Sampler

Created by folks here in Scotland, this issue has lots of ideas and resources for you to inspire, adapt, use in leading worship or for age groups in Junior Churches and youth groups. If you have not used Spill the Beans before then please have a look at this sample.

If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 33 (including audio files) for use in your church or personally, then click the 'Buy' button below. The cost is only £12 (GBP). You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer as soon as you have downloaded it. We recommend first downloading to a laptop or desktop computer before moving to phone/tablet.

Please follow the instructions carefully. The compressed zip file is large at approximately 34 MB so it may take some time to download. Please be patient as your computer does so! Once it has downloaded (you may want to check your "Downloads" folder) you will need to extract the contents (this option may appear at the top of the window or if you right-click on the file).

Spill the Beans Issue 33

Spill the Beans Issue 33 Cover

Buy Now and Download

You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans blog, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too. There is also a facebook page in which we share ideas and we have introduced a new facebook group which you can link to from the facebook page and which we hope will provide a place of mutual support, ideas and encouragement as we trek together through this new adventure.

Print Copies

If you would like an additional printed copy of Spill the Beans, then this can be arranged. Please note that this is an extra to the download copy, please download a copy first. The cost is usually around £22+P&P and these can be arranged directly with the office at Ferryhill Parish Church. Note this cost is just for the printing expenses. Each issue is in full colour and comb bound for ease of use. We can only send these within the United Kingdom.

If you would like to order copies (which are all printed to order so there may be a short wait before you receive yours) then you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your order details. An invoice for the printed copy(ies) will be issued with dispatch of your order.

 

New Presbytery Plan Proposal

Written by Peter Johnston on .

This past week the Proposed Presbytery Plan for Aberdeen Presbytery, a plan to cover the next decade, was circulated to presbyters and ministers. It is now publicly available and you can download a copy of it here.

When I was ordained as a minister it was pretty much assumed it would be as the sole minister of a parish church. Rapidly I realised that this had to change and we had to start working towards a system of team ministry if we were to have the capacity to enable the church to develop and grow into new areas of ministry and mission. I have been very encouraged by the proposals contained in this plan which would allow for team ministries to develop across the city, and, should we choose to capture the vision, enable all church members to find new opportunities to serve our Lord Jesus.

The document attached is in two parts. The main body of the document is the proposed presbytery plan which splits the presbytery into a number of areas. The area that affects us at Ferryhill also includes South Holburn, Garthdee and Ruthrieston West, the parishes that form the area north of the river Dee within the city. The second part of the document, the appendix, is a separate report on the complete building stock in the city (churches and halls, not manses) the results of which have helped to shape the proposals in the plan.

The plan is a far-reaching, ambitious and challenging one that deals head-on with many of the issues we have been talking about ourselves as a Kirk Session in Ferryhill over the last few years. It has many exciting new proposals such as new church buildings in Cove, Countesswells, Stoneywood/Dyce, Mastrick, and near the University, along with the invitation to create new forms of church in other areas such as Garthdee. In order to allow these exciting proposals to happen it also means having to let go of many older buildings that are now no longer fit for purpose. In other areas it will mean seeing current buildings such as our own and South Holburn develop further.

As you read the presbytery plan you will realise that the big shift that will allow much of this to take place is from the traditional model of “one minister to one parish” to a model of team ministry in larger parishes. This is akin to the model adapted for pastoral care in Ferryhill many years ago. For our own situation at Ferryhill this would mean we become part of a new congregation that covers a parish consisting of the whole area from Garthdee to Ferryhill, retaining the buildings at South Holburn and Ferryhill, and with a team of two ministers and one full time mission development staff post. Currently this area is served by 3 ministers and a part time mission development staff worker based in Garthdee.

What that would mean if the proposed plan is agreed is that we would be working towards becoming a single congregation with one Kirk Session, albeit using two suites of buildings and with an additional focus on the Garthdee area, including, of course, Robert Gordon University.

We have known that change was coming. You will see in other parts of the city that the proposals in those areas are even more far-reaching than for our own area. Every part of the city is being asked to think more creatively and collaboratively about the future.  

You will no doubt have lots of questions. Please do them via email or in conversation either with Lorna Glen or with me. There is going to be ample opportunity for discussion before the proposed plan will come to presbytery for approval in early 2020.

 

Spill the Beans Issue 32 Is Here!

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Beans Issue 32

The final of five issues using our own lectionary (bible reading plan) is now published for Spill the Beans. It has been a tremendous journey through parts of the Bible and Apocrypha which we don't usually spend time with and we hope this final chapter of that journey is as fulfilling as the previous four.

Issue 32 covers from Pentecost 12 to Reign of Christ Sunday (1 September to 24 November 2019). This issue includes:

  • Space To Be A Hero: intergenerational event (provided by Jen Robertson from the Scottish Bible Society)
  • The Judges (the final three weeks of the series begun in Issue 31)
  • Double-Take Tales (three stories that make you stop in your tracks and take another look)
  • A Revelation For The Church (a four week series on Revelation's message to the church)
  • Closing Stories (a final three weeks of stories we just had to include, including for Remembrance Sunday)

Created by folks here in Scotland, this issue has lots of ideas and resources for you to inspire, adapt, use in leading worship or for age groups in Junior Churches and youth groups. If you have not used Spill the Beans before then please have a look at this sample.

If you want to have a look at the full lectionary of which this issues is a part click here.

If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 32 for use in your church or personally, then click the 'Buy' button below. The cost is only £12 (GBP). You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer as soon as you have downloaded it. We recommend first downloading to a laptop or desktop computer before moving to phone/tablet.

Please follow the instructions carefully. The Adobe pdf file is large at approximately 25 MB so it may take some time to download. Please be patient as your computer does so! 

Spill the Beans Issue 32

Spill the Beans Issue 32 Cover

Buy Now and Download

You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans blog, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too. There is also a facebook page in which we share ideas and we have introduced a new facebook group which you can link to from the facebook page and which we hope will provide a place of mutual support, ideas and encouragement as we trek together through this new adventure.

Print Copies

If you would like an additional printed copy of Spill the Beans, then this can be arranged. Please note that this is an extra to the download copy, please download a copy first. The cost is usually around £22+P&P and these can be arranged directly with the office at Ferryhill Parish Church. Note this cost is just for the printing expenses. Each issue is in full colour and comb bound for ease of use. We can only send these within the United Kingdom.

If you would like to order copies (which are all printed to order so there may be a short wait before you receive yours) then you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your order details. An invoice for the printed copy(ies) will be issued with dispatch of your order.

 

Disinvestment Debate

Written by Peter Johnston on .

One of the debates that took place at this year's General Assembly focussed on the progress of the engagement that the Church & Society Council, of which I am a member, has had with the oil and gas companies BP, Shell and Total, all of which the Church of Scotland held investments with during the previous year. This was an instruction given to the Church & Society Council following a passionate debate at last year's GA when the Council reported. The instruction to engage was instead of a move to disinvest from oil and gas companies.

Over the course of the year that has followed, the outcome of that engagement has been negligible. We should not be surprised by that. Some call it "green-washing": the attempts of the oil and gas majors to project a message of their support for renewable energy when they are investing hugely in further oil and gas reserves. The Church & Society Council reported back on this and was seeking to bring a report to next year's GA on the matter. With support from a group of youth representatives, a move was made to push a decision about whether the church should be holding investments in firms that are selling products that we now know are harmful to the environment.

We already do this over alcohol, tobacco, armament manufacturers, gambling and pornography, for instance. This is not the same as saying we must stop using oil and gas products immediately, which is often the argument that is thrown back. Just as I enjoy the odd pint or G&T, I also know that alcohol products are the source of terrible pain and abuse by others, and that we, as a church, should not be profting from the harm that is done to others. So it is the same, I know that it is going to take time to move away from using oil and gas products. Yes, personally, I use an electric car for most of my driving around, but we still have a diesel car for the whole family. We are moving towards the end point we seek, and it is a process. But, when we acknowledge the pain and harm that is being done to communities and the world by the current climate mergency, then should we be profiting from it, as we do when we are shareholders in companies that produce the world's oil and gas?

The countermotion that was moved at the GA stated:  “Note the disappointing outcome from the engagement to date with oil and gas companies and in order to support a just transition towards a sustainable carbon neutral economy urge the Investors Trust to disinvest from oil and gas companies by the end of 2020.”

This is what I said as part of that debate:

Commissioners at GA

General Assembly 2019 Summary

Written by Peter Johnston on .

This year's General Assembly in Edinburgh is still taking some processing for me, personally. Some major decisions were taken that will, if implemented successfully, change how the national church works with far greater devolution of responsibility and decision-making to the regional and local level. This is to be wlecomed, though not without some caution, because the transition process is bound to be challenging. However, there was a continuing mood from last year's GA that the status quo for the way the church works is no longer working effectively.

The Life and Work team have produced a very helpful summary supplement that I would strongly urge you to read both to get a flavour of what was decided and some of the issues that arose around those decisions.

However, there were a number of other issues that came up during the week that revealed a lack of desire to put words into actions. For instance, after having acknowledged that we are now in a environmental and climate emergency, when given the chance to remove the Kirk's investments in oil & gas companies (profiting from the industries that enable that climate emergency), the GA did not do so. This was a source of great lamentation for, in particular, many young people present who spoke and worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make the case for disinvesting.

This was compounded later in the week when, despite the urgency in the action plan to focus on engaging with people under the age of 40, it became clear that the church has not been investing in young people adequately and is not going to hold a National Youth Assembly after 2019. The NYA has reported back to the General Assembly over the past two decades and more with the perspectives of young people on many important issues. There was a sense of the church refusing to disinvest in oil and gas multinationals, but choosing to disinvest in young people.

This last issue, which happened to be some of the final decisions made during the GA left a very sour taste in my mouth and in the mouths of others, particularly some of the young people who expressed their heartache that the church does not want to hear their opinions. There are plans for something much smaller that may, in part, replace the NYA, but it will not have the same impact.

Hence my very mixed reactions to this year's GA. At the beginning of the week I was encouraged, by the end of the week I was deflated and somewhat distraught.

One of the most important themes for me that came out of the discussions in Edinburgh is that truly the future of the Kirk is going to be in the hands of local churches (more and more in partnership with others) getting on with the mission and minsitry of serving our communities, living out what it means to be a people of God, and following Jesus' way. This is where it is happening. There will be less and less available nationally, as costs are cut, so it is more than ever up to us to be the church.

 

Summer Spill: There Be Dragons!

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Beans Issue 31

The fourth of five issues using our new lectionary (bible reading plan) is now published for Spill the Beans. Issue 31 covers from Trinity Sunday through to the 11th week after Pentecost, 16 June to 25 August. It is the summer issue and we are taking a rather different journey in this issue, picking up on the suggestions of some congregations that we should look at some of the stories contained in the Apocrypha. We do that over six weeks. And this issue includes:

  • A Summer Journey: intergenerational event (provided by Jen Robertson from the Scottish Bible Society)
  • Paul's Journeys (three week series)
  • Apocryphal Tales (six week series looking at Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, and Tobit
  • The Judges (five week series of which we cover two weeks in this issue on Samson)

Created by folks here in Scotland, this issue has lots of ideas and resources for you to inspire, adapt, use in leading worship or for age groups in Junior Churches and youth groups. If you have not used Spill the Beans before then have a look at this sample.

If you want to have a look at the full lectionary click here.

If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 31 for use in your church or personally, then click the 'Buy' button below. The cost is only £12 (GBP). You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer as soon as you have downloaded it. We recommend first downloading to a laptop or desktop computer before moving to phone/tablet.

Please follow the instructions carefully. The Adobe pdf file is large at approximately 25 MB so it may take some time to download. Please be patient as your computer does so! 

Spill the Beans Issue 31

Spill the Beans Issue 31 Cover

Buy Now and Download

You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans blog, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too. There is also a facebook page in which we share ideas and we have introduced a new facebook group which you can link to from the facebook page and which we hope will provide a place of mutual support, ideas and encouragement as we trek together through this new adventure.

Print Copies

If you would like an additional printed copy of Spill the Beans, then this can be arranged. Please note that this is an extra to the download copy, please download a copy first. The cost is usually around £22+P&P and these can be arranged directly with the office at Ferryhill Parish Church. Note this cost is just for the printing expenses. Each issue is in full colour and comb bound for ease of use. We can only send these within the United Kingdom.

If you would like to order copies (which are all printed to order so there may be a short wait before you receive yours) then you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your order details. An invoice for the printed copy(ies) will be issued with dispatch of your order.

 

Who is our neighbour?

Written by Peter Johnston on .

This week has been a literal pain! I've been struggling with a shoulder impingement in my right shoulder which is sore and has made working on the computer very difficult. It also has rather thrown my plans to join the march taking place in London this weekend into some doubt. However, painful though it may be, having watched Theresa May last night on our television screens ramp up the division and try to pin all the blame for the current impasse on our elected MPs I decided this morning that I am going to go, come what may. I just can't watch from the sidelines. Our Prime Minister's rhetoric of being the only one on the side of the people struck me as deeply troubling.

So that is my plan for the weekend. Don't worry those of you at church on Sunday, you are in the very capable hands of Gwen Haggart, Lorna Glen and Yvonne Haig and looking at the next form of love: philia. A special guest will also be joining Ferryhill as Ron Flett of Workplace Chaplaincy will also be present.

As I have said in a previous blog post, things are developing so fast at the moment that you really need to be able to full-time blog in order to keep up which is impossible for me to do. However, I did find a very helpful post from a former Church of England Dean of Durham, Michael Sadgrove, which resonated deeply this morning and wanted to share with you. It resonated as I had responded a couple of weeks ago to an appeal by our own Moderator of the General Assembly that we open the doors of our churches around the end of next week's Brexit Day as places of healing and unity. While in agreement generally with that idea, what concerned me was  that as part of the process of reconcilation, we have to name the truth too, which was part of what I was saying in the current issue of Parish News.

Michael Sadgrove takes up similar themes and asks that same question about who we see ourselves as being today. Please read his whole post.

"Which brings me to the heart of what I want to say. It's St Cuthbert's Day. It's also the spring equinox. If ever a day should put a new spring (pun intended) in our step, it's today. So maybe I'm allowed to nurture a wish (or if you prefer, a prayer, a longing, a hope, a dream). It's this: that on a day when it's finally clear that Brexit has become a national, not to say European, emergency, the UK churches should put muscle into contributing positively to the debate about what kind of outcome we look for in this tortuous process, and what kind of a people we aspire to be."

Who are we?

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Last night I had the proceedings from the UK Parliament on one of the screens on my desk as I finished up some work but the car crash that was the unfolding divisions (votes) down in Westminster kept drawing me away from what I was trying to complete. Brexit is getting in the way of everything!

What the world and I witnessed was a parliament which has been banging on and on about its sovereignty and right to be involved in such a momentous decision for the country given multiple opportunities to grasp that right with tangible amendments that would create the space for parliament to debate and find a cross party consensus on what the country should do next. And one by one those amendments, the most crucial being those moved by Dominic Grieve and Yvette Cooper, were voted down.

Instead the majority went for the Brady amendment. My heart sank. This is a piece of nonsense created to keep the Tory party together and allow the DUP to side with them, but has no concern for the future of the country. It is pure politics. As policy it is nonsensical. What it is asking is absurd. It is intellectually and logically impossible. Hence the language of fantasy, fairy tales and unicorns deployed by those in the media who are trying to report reality rather than wish-fulfilment.

Lent, Easter and Pentecost Spill the Beans Is Out

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Beans Issue 30

The third of five issues using our new lectionary (bible reading plan) is now published for Spill the Beans. Issue 30 covers from Shrove Tuesday (5 March 2019) to Pentecost Sunday (9 June 2019). This issue is huge with 186 pages of resources and has a number of series of services including:

  • Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday
  • Love, looking at the Four Forms (eros, philia, storge, agape)
  • Complete Holy Week 
  • Love Wins
  • Buildings

We have included some service ideas for a worship service focused on Climate Change and how to maintain hope and action when the challenge is so big.

Jen Robertson, Children's Resource Manager for the Scottish Bible Society, provides resources for an All Age Holy Week Communion event particularly suited for Good Friday.

Created by folks here in Scotland, this issue has lots of ideas and resources for you to inspire, adapt, use in leading worship or for age groups in Junior Churches and youth groups. If you have not used Spill the Beans before then have a look at this sample.

If you want to have a look at the full lectionary click here.

If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 30 for use in your church or personally, then click the 'Buy' button below. The cost is only £12 (GBP). You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer as soon as you have downloaded it. We recommend first downloading to a laptop or desktop computer before moving to phone/tablet.

Please follow the instructions carefully. The Adobe pdf file is large at approximately 25 MB so it may take some time to download. Please be patient as your computer does so! 

Spill the Beans Issue 30

Spill the Beans Issue 30 Cover

Buy Now and Download

You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans blog, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too. There is also a facebook page in which we share ideas and we have introduced a new facebook group which you can link to from the facebook page and which we hope will provide a place of mutual support, ideas and encouragement as we trek together through this new adventure.

Print Copies

If you would like an additional printed copy of Spill the Beans, then this can be arranged. Please note that this is an extra to the download copy, please download a copy first. The cost is usually around £22+P&P and these can be arranged directly with the office at Ferryhill Parish Church. Note this cost is just for the printing expenses. Each issue is in full colour and comb bound for ease of use. We can only send these within the United Kingdom.

If you would like to order copies (which are all printed to order so there may be a short wait before you receive yours) then you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your order details. An invoice for the printed copy(ies) will be issued with dispatch of your order.

 

Not Regular Jesus

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Following my last lenghty blog post in which I spent a little of my time exploring how under the cover of a Christianism many in politics (and a good chunk of the church) are turning Jesus' teaching on its head, comes this new video released yesterday which does a pretty good job of summarising what I was talking about, but in a much more approachable and humorous way. Kudos to the Friend Dog Studios team.

And also, as I said right at the start of that long blog post: it is so hard to write anything that is not old and out-of-date within a day, sure enough after posting it we had huge news that Aaron Banks and the dubious origin of £8m spent on the Brexit campaign are to be investigated by the National Crime Agency, which does have powers commensurate with the suspected illegality. Here is Carole Cadwalladr on that subject. And the announcement here. A step closer to the truth, I pray.

Why So Much Trump?

Written by Peter Johnston on .

On my way home from a meeting at 121 George Street in Edinburgh today, I was reflecting on the challenges of trying to use this blog to explore the relationship between religion, faith and politics. Part of my reflection was a self-critique: I feel that I haven’t been able to use this space to effectively examine these relationships and how they impact our society. There are many reasons for this failure. Some are mundane; finding time to write can be difficult and the rapid pace of change in politics these days means that a blog post can quickly be overtaken by new events. Other reasons for this failure are more challenging: the enormity of the upheaval we are currently facing within the United Kingdom, Europe and globally can be overwhelming, and there is always the humbling question of whether the Church, and those within it such as myself, has any credibility in addressing the events currently unfolding.

This confession may come as something of a surprise to those who have listened to some of my sermons over the last few years. I have laughed with some of you that I should label a regular section of the sermon as “The Trump Bit”!

Spill the Beans Issue 29 Now Ready

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Beans Issue 29

The second of five issues using our new lectionary (bible reading plan) is here for Spill the Beans. Issue 29 covers from Advent to Transfiguration Sunday (2 December 2018 to 3 March 2019). We have a number of series of services including:

  • Important Births
  • Christmas Season
  • Parables

We have a new addition with some ideas from Jen Robertson, Children's Resource Manager for the Scottish Bible Society, providing ideas and resources for an all-age event we are calling a Parable Party.

Created by folks here in Scotland, this issue has lots of ideas and resources for you to inspire, adapt, use in leading worship or for age groups in Junior Churches and youth groups. If you have not used Spill the Beans before then have a look at this sample.

If you want to have a look at the full lectionary click here.

If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 29 for use in your church or personally, then click the 'Buy' button below. The cost is only £12 (GBP). You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer or tablet as soon as you have downloaded it.

Please follow the instructions carefully. The Adobe pdf file is large at approximately 17 MB so it may take some time to download. Please be patient as your computer does so!

Spill the Beans Issue 29

Spill the Beans Issue 29 Cover

Buy Now and Download

You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans blog, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too. There is also a facebook page in which we share ideas and we have introduced a new facebook group which you can link to from the facebook page and which we hope will provide a place of mutual support, ideas and encouragement as we trek together through this new adventure.

Print Copies

If you would like an additional printed copy of Spill the Beans, then this can be arranged. The cost is usually around £22+P&P and these can be arranged directly with the office at Ferryhill Parish Church. Note this cost is just for printing expenses. Each issue is in full colour and comb bound for ease of use. Please note we can only send these within the United Kingdom.

If you would like to order copies (which are all printed to order so there may be a short wait before you receive yours) then you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your order details. An invoice will be issued with dispatch of your order.

 

The Narrative Lectionary Overspill Pack

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Bean Overspill Pack for Narrative Lectionary

Buy Now 

From 2014 to 2018 the Spill the Beans Resource Team of which I am part as editor created resources covering a complete cycle of the Narrative Lectionary (created by Luther Seminary). Having completed that cycle, we felt it would be helpful if these were made available as a single pack.

These are presented as is, however, which does mean that if used in the future you may find, depending on when Easter falls, that there is a gap in the cycle. You have been warned! This was the same for the previous pack covering a cycle through the Revised Common Lectionary that we put together.

Nonetheless, we pray the shared creativity will stir your own creativity and that the Spirit of God would continue to bless these resources in your own situation and ministries.

Within this pack are more than 2,000 pages of resources. That is quite amazing. Each issue is provided as a separate pdf file. As a bonus from the previously available downloaded copies, all these are in glorious high quality rendering.

This is a massive pack (around 348 MB in size) so if you purchase a copy make sure to be patient as it downloads and to do that download on a laptop or desktop computer (not a phone or tablet). The file needs to be extracted once you have it on your computer.

A New Adventure with Spill the Beans

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Beans Issue 28

The first of five issues using our new lectionary (bible reading plan) is here for Spill the Beans. Issue 28 covers from Pentecost 13 to Reign of Christ Sunday (19 August to 25 November 2018). We have a number of series of services including:

  • Children and Young People
  • Beginnings
  • Harvest
  • Joseph's Story
  • The Book of Numbers

Created by folks here in Scotland, this issue has lots of ideas and resources for you to inspire, adapt, use in leading worship or for age groups in Junior Churches and youth groups. If you have not used Spill the Beans before then have a look at this sample.

If you want to have a look at the full lectionary click here.

If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 28 for use in your church or personally, then click the 'Buy' button below. The cost is only £12 (GBP). You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer or tablet as soon as you have downloaded it.

Please follow the instructions carefully. The Adobe pdf file is large at approximately 17 MB so it may take some time to download. Please be patient as your computer does so!

Spill the Beans Issue 28

Spill the Beans Issue 28 Cover

Buy Now and Download

You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans blog, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too. There is also a facebook page in which we share ideas and we have introduced a new facebook group which you can link to from the facebook page and which we hope will provide a place of mutual support, ideas and encouragement as we trek together through this new adventure.

Print Copies

If you would like an additional printed copy of Spill the Beans, then this can be arranged. The cost is usually around £22+P&P and these can be arranged directly with the office at Ferryhill Parish Church. Note this cost is just for printing expenses. Each issue is in full colour and comb bound for ease of use. Please note we can only send these within the United Kingdom.

If you would like to order copies (which are all printed to order so there may be a short wait before you receive yours) then you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your order details. An invoice will be issued with dispatch of your order.