This week the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev John Chalmers, is in Aberdeen visiting the Presbytery as part of his official duties. This involves visiting many different groups and organisations and churches over the course of the week, getting a flavour of what is going on across the presbytery.
On Thursday evening it also comprises a Presbytery Service (to which anyone is invited) which is being held at Newhills Parish Church at 7 p.m. At this service five elders from Ferryhill Parish Church will be amongst those receiving long service certificates to mark their contributions to the work of the church.
Yesterday, I attended a Minister's Away Day that the Moderator hosted with support from the good folks of Tillydrone Parish Church (super food!). This was one of those things for me that you see in the week and are just not quite sure how it will turn out. However, it was a great opportunity to meet with folks, some of whom I knew well, others who I have only chatted with a few times. One of the most interesting, daunting and yet ultimately fascinating exercises was a period of reflective sharing before we broke into groups for discussion. We had received an email from the Moderator before the meeting asking us to prepare a few words to say about a passage of Scripture that was particularly meaningful to us in our ministries. Aargh... this kind of thing, when you are busy and know that you have a full meeting all morning allowing no time for preparation, usually fills me with dread, so, of course, I had not spent any time thinking about it.
But it turned out to be a very powerful, personal and interesting way to gather together, and, needless to say, as we shared stories, I also added my tuppence worth into the mix. It reminded me that ultimately this is what the gospel is about, it is the authentic sharing of our stories of how God works in our lives, the difference God has made to us as we grow and learn and serve. There must have been around twenty of us there, so you can imagine it would take some time for everyone to add their input, however the time flew past very rapidly as we learnt something about each other, our journeys of faith and where we find ourselves now.
We then broke into groups to discuss some of the challenges of ministry; in our group particularly thinking about the challenges of how we support the ministries of congregations across the city, with awareness of the challenges that smaller congregations with fewer resources face. We also discussed some of the best things that happen in ministry and it was interesting how in our group the subject of funerals came up, all of us reflecting on the privilege of being able to offer our service to support families in times of bereavement as a tremendous blessing.
We did not really have time to discuss some of the other wider issues on the Kirk as a broad church, and how the Kirk can live at peace with itself and with God, though I suspect that this is always going to be a journey we are on - something I was reminded of having preached on Peter's Vision (from Acts 10) last Sunday and the massive shifts of understanding and the resultant tensions it brought in the early church of the book of Acts.
A good afternoon, however, finished for those who were able to stay right to the end of the day with the sharing of communion with each other.
As much as I tend to groan at the thought of a whole afternoon taken out of the diary, and the prospect of earnest discussion about the future of the Kirk, I was reminded that actually I do love to discuss these things and hear other people's opinions and points of view.
So, a thank you from me to the Moderator, John Chalmers, and to the folks of Tillydrone for hosting us, and every blessing on John and Liz and their family this week.