Peter's Blog

Advent Prayer Pathway

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Last night the church was a haven of peace as the Advent Prayer Pathway took place in the beautiful setting of the sanctuary. It was great to see folks of all ages travel along the pathway following the journey of the nativity story and as they travelled marking each step of the journey by creating a decoration for the tree in the church.

My thanks to Cecilia and Hazel who put a huge amount of work into getting all the craft activities together, to the Christmas Tree team for putting the tree up a bit earlier this year to fit with our plans, and to Fiona, Gwen and Margaret from the Worship Task Group who helped to get the church ready in a rush as we had a very short timeframe as the previous folks using the building overran somewhat!

Below the jump is the tree in all its splendour...

Little Drummer Boy A Capella

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This is pretty wonderful. Kudos to Pentatonix. At the time of posting this the video had gone viral with 8.5 million hits on YouTube in the space of one week.

And for something a little less seasonal for Daft Punk fans they do a pretty fabulous compilation too.

The Doctor Calls

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The Doctor

I had a bit of fun yesterday for an Assembly at Ferryhill Primary themed around The Doctor, remembering the 50th Anniversary of the fabulous BBC show taking place this weekend. I was going for 'The Eleventh Doctor, the extended version' and I think I may just have carried it off. Later in the day going back to the school to pick up the kids, all I heard was "There's The Doctor!!"

There was a reason for it, relating to the Time Lord's ability to go back in time and the advantages that could bring, and the pupils came up with lots of ideas for what they would do if they could go back in time from correcting one's own mistakes, selecting the right lottery numbers (from a keen Back to the Future fan, perhaps), or stopping some of the worst atrocities of the past. However, I have been reliably informed by one of the dedicated Whovians in the family that there is a complication for The Doctor in that he cannot change certain things in the past. She would have to explain the details, but it is to do with certain permanent points in history, or something like that. This has been a recurring problem in fiction, see this wonderful collection of attempts from fiction.

The point for yesterday morning is that we have to live in the present for the future, which means we need to be that bit more careful about the choices we make. Next week the theme of choices will be the focus of assemblies at Harlaw Academy, but I'm not dressing up as The Doctor for those!

Thump!

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NT Wright's Paul and the Faithfulness of God

This evening with an almighty thump a parcel arrived from Amazon containing N.T. Wright's magnum opus, a collosal (a mere 2,263 pages) work on St Paul: "Paul and the Faithfulness of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God" published last month. I ordered it a couple of days ago and at that point it was not available on Kindle... I notice today that it now is available for the Kindle, doh!

A world respected scholar (sometimes a wee bit too conservatively-minded for me, I have to confess) and formerly Bishop of Durham who impressively stepped down from that post in order to finish this work that has been some 30 years in the making, Wright has finally delivered what had long been awaited. Patheos have a very interesting interview with Wright, from which comes the quote below.

"A Whole New World...

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Charging Post

...a new fantastic point of view." So sings Aladdin in the Disney film. But, I feel I am entering that new world, and it really is different. The above machine is soon to become my friend, and a whole new world will open up...

What is it? It is a charging station installed for EVs (electric vehicles) in the parking area at Duthie Park, in other words, just a few doors down from the manse. Ever since we moved up to Aberdeen this box has been giving me the eye, and back in September it went live along with a number of other charging points across Aberdeen installed by the council with funding from Plugged In Places / Transport Scotland. There is increased funding at the moment to start creating a proper infrastructure for charging EVs as this is still very much a nascent technology. That being said, when I investigated the charging point and found that it was now available it opened a door to try something different.

Spill the Beans Issue 10 Available: Biggest Yet

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Spill the Beans Issue 10

This is a week later being released than we had hoped and that I had intended, but my, oh my, it is a good issue. The biggest yet. Last issue I said we were heading towards 150 pages, this time we are over that with a long Epiphany season and lots of ideas for Advent and Christmas.

A big thanks, as always, to all the creative team who added their parts to our communal working documents before they were pulled together into the final form. This continues to be an incredible team effort and a real privilege to be a part of it. Issue 9 has been purchased and downloaded 254 times (as of today), so with all the members of the team also using it, that must be around 280 groups/churches now using these resources as a stimulus in their own setting. Amazing.

So, Issue 10 is now available for download, and takes us from 1 December to 2 March 2014, encompassing Advent, Christmas, Epiphany all the way to the Transfiguration. Over the season of Advent we focus on the bible passages from the prophets, before turning to the gospel readings for the remainder of this issue.

As always, inside you will find worship ideas and resources, including Bible notes, stories, prayers, reflections, music suggestions, and more, and for age groups you will find suggestions for activities, crafts, games and teen discussion resources. In this issue we also have an advent candle lighting liturgy and two "Blue Christmas" service liturgies, which are well worth looking at if you have never done anything like that before.

New Ferryhill Website Launched

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Checking out the new website

During the service this morning on the big screen we had a wee tour of this new website for Ferryhill Parish Church, showing off some of the content and features available. Thereafter we also had some computers available for people to have a wee look for themselves and chat about the use of the internet. It is my hope that this site will grow and grow over the years to come as it becomes more of a portal for getting information out to folks near and far.

Do keep checking back.

 

Victory!

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Pittodrie Stadium action

This afternoon I spent enjoying my first ever game at Pittodrie with Aberdeen playing Inverness Caledonian Thistle who are currently heading the Premiership tables. We were very close to the action. Indeed, even with coffee in hand I was able to get my hand on the ball at one moment when a shot flew into the crowd. Thanks to Andrew, Doug and Mac for the company. The best part being a victory for the Dons. The goal happened right at the other end of the stadium but it looked good from our end!

 

Fundamental Secular Frustrations

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RESPECT Assembly

I had intentions to write a blog post at the start of the week about the situation of school chaplaincy in Kirktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride that was reported in the press over the previous week. A combination of running out of time and that it was a situation unfolding on the other side of the country stayed my hand, though I was not alone in feeling that the repercussions would ripple beyond Lanarkshire. This indeed has proven to be the case and yesterday the Scottish Secular Society sent Freedom of Information Requests to every Scottish school enquiring about the chaplaincies in operation.

During the week I had provided information to the two schools in which I was part of the chaplaincy teams before moving North and in a meeting of the newly expanded chaplaincy team at Harlaw Academy I raised the issue too.

Solidarity

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Gillian after head shaving

I popped down to Ferryhill Community Centre this afternoon but just missed Gillian Anderson getting her hair shaved as a fund raiser for CLAN Cancer Support and as a statement of solidarity with those undergoing treatment. Kudos to Gillian for the efforts made and I do hope a good total was raised. She is pictured above after the deed was done. There was certainly a very positive and encouraging atmosphere down at the centre for the event.

It was good also to meet the manager, Maureen West. and some of the other staff at the Community Centre. I'm sure I will be seeing more of them over the months and years to come.

[Update: The total raised by Gillian was £1,806 - great job!]

Knowing one's limitations

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Teach yourself Doric

I did chuckle when I was handed this book that had been set aside from the Book 'n' Bakes sale on Saturday for me. After twelve years suffused in West coast Scots, the doric is coming back to me, but it has been a long time and there are some phrases when I definitely have to ask people to say it again to get the sense of what they are meaning.

Now I am just waiting for the perfect opportunity to use my practised, "Aat's her upistair hingin her waashin oot on my ropie."

 

'I do' or 'I don't'

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Wedding rings

A wee storm in a tea-cup brewed this week on Thursday when the BBC reported on a session of the Equal Opportunities Committee of the Scottish Parliament that was hearing from witnesses of a number of faith communities as a part of the discussion and consultation on the Marriage and Civil Parnership (Scotland) Bill. The full transcript of the meeting is available and makes for interesting reading if you are so inclined and have an hour free. The headline of the BBC article read: "Church of Scotland 'may stop conducting marriages'" with the subtitle "The Church of Scotland has questioned whether it could continue to offer marriages if same-sex legislation led to expensive court challenges."

Inevitably this led to a brief flurry of angst that the Kirk was retreating from one of the institutions of society that it still plays an important part in (albeit much less so now than in the past) and accusations that the representative, Rev Dr Alan Hamilton, of the Kirk's Legal Questions Committee was either not wise in his choice of words or failing to represent the Kirk properly. When I first read the headline I was shocked, as many of us would be, no doubt, but after reading the article I realised there was much more to this story than the headline promised. Such is indeed the case, but the real story is more interesting, if far less headline grabbing.

Deep canine/feline truths

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This really did make me smile today. So much truth, so simply captured.

 

Getting to grips

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Dream travelling

Dreamscapes

When I was a child for a time I had a recurring dream that was quite surreal (in that way dreams often are) and yet the imagery stuck with me over all the intervening years because of the powerful impact it had. I am sure it is telling of all kinds of subconscious issues, and probably if any of the Nominating Committee are reading this they are thinking to themselves, 'he should have told us about this before hand...'

I have tried above to capture the essence of the dream in an image. The dream always revolved around a sense of journeying, a sense of direction, and here if you think of those arrow straight roads through a place like Utah you get a sense of travelling along a beautifully clear landscape with the road stretching out in front of you. No surprises, and stunning views around you. It was enjoyable and effortless.

So far, so good.

Sharing the Story

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It has been a very busy week or two, filled with lots of meetings (and with lots more to come - I think five meetings were arranged after the service this morning) as I and we, as a congregation, get to know each other. I am still doing my best to remember the names of those I meet, but, I am also having to ask folks repeatedly to remind me of their names, lamenting inwardly that I don't have one of those memories for names that instantly grabs them and stores them. Those folks who can do that I richly envy...

Yesterday, as a wee interlude, Kathleen Hird, one of the team from the Sunday Club here at Ferryhill, and I travelled down to Wellington Church in Glasgow for a world first Spill the Beans Conference. We on the Spill the Beans Resource Team had been planning this for quite some time as a way to get some of the folks who have been using the Spill the Beans Resources together to share ideas, experiences and to enjoy some mutual support. As an opening conference we concentrated on the main driving force behind the resource materials that we have been writing: the importance of story.

Glimmers of light

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An excellent short video and article about the prevalence of depression in Palestine and the work of some young doctors, with external support, trying to develop the Palestine Neuroscience Initiative. With more than a third of Palestinians coping with depression, and in a culture where you do not talk about it, this truly is a glimmer of light. Kudos to Mohammad Herzallah for committing himself to helping his people and using the support available from elsewhere to make it happen and for providing the inspiration for others to bring the skills needed to help people in Palestine back to Palestine after being trained elsewhere, an important step towards preventing 'brain-drain'.

[Source: The Verge]

 

The future is spilled

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Video conferencing spillage

Today was an exciting day for the Spill the Beans team as we began a new stage of the ongoing experiment to create worship and age group resources for both ourselves and others. Through the magic of Skype we met both in Erskine and in Aberdeen with a Skype link between us allowing us very affordably (we did invest in a couple of proper conferencing webcams) to do videoconferencing so that we could all see and hear each other and work together on shared documents that also appeared on the large screens at each venue. Amazingly for a first attempt at doing this, everything worked very efficiently on the technical side. In the picture above you can see on the screen John Murning and Stewart Cutler in Erskine appearing alongside our working document in the manse of Ferryhill! It is like magic!

When you consider the travelling costs for those of us in the North-East to trek down to Glasgow, the costs of the equipment will be paid for within a meeting or two. However, it did flag up some interesting issues with communication that you don't realise until using different forms of communication like this.

Inductions, fractures and boxes

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Induction Cake

Today I felt like I started working properly as the new minister of Ferryhill Parish Church with many arrangements made over the phone for meetings, baptisms and weddings. There is no doubt that being inducted less than a week after moving is tight! We are almost all unpacked now, with the study now usable (we had to get the other rooms organised first), hence being able to blog once more. But I will be glad not to see another cardboard box for a loooong time!

It having been over 12 years since we last moved I had forgotten quite how much administration there is simply in changing one's address. Yesterday was spent entirely on organising those changes which I think I got about halfway through, with all the main things have been changed. This is not my favourite kind of task, it has to be said!

A Wee Care Parcel

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This evening was spent in the company of my friends from Calderside Chaplaincy Team who had excelled themselves in creating a Lanarkshire Care Parcel filled with reminders of Lanarkshire and of all our shared endeavours as a chaplaincy team. Thank you Karen and David!

I am going to miss working together with these wonderful folks a tremendous amount. It has been a lot of work, and sometimes we have taken on more than we can chew, but the laughter has always carried us through, and over the years we have done some truly innovative things together.

In the pictures you will see homage paid to the Bubblegum 'n' Fluff christmas programme we created for P6s (and have hosted around 1500 pupils over the past five years!!), the Easter Code for P7s, our RESPECT week at Calderside Academy for S1s, Cosy Café and of course some rather personal reminders... not the Buckfast, you understand!

A huge thank you to David Burt, Karen Harbison and Steve Younger, and for the opportunities over the years to also work in the team with Jonathan Fleming, Jen Robertson and Fiona Wilson. It has been a true privilege.

 

Bumper Spill the Beans Issue 9 Now Out

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Spill the Beans Issue 9

Timing is everything, and editing together Issue 9 of Spill the Beans in early July has been something of a challenge along with trying to get the house cleared and ready for our move to Aberdeen. The team did brilliantly to get most of the material prepared by the deadlines, so it is a great relief to get this all done now, a little ahead of schedule!

So, Issue 9 is now available for download, and it is a huge edition with almost 150 pages of ideas and resources. This issue takes us through the remainder of the long post-Pentecost season. Spanning 1 September to 24 November 2013, the issue is broken into two sections. In the first we concentrate on the gospel and for the second half we turn to the prophets. We also have included ideas for harvest and a script for a nativity service to get the creative juices for the advent season flowing ahead of time.

Inside you will find worship ideas and resources, including Bible notes, stories, prayers, reflections, music suggestions, and more, and for age groups you will find suggestions for activities, crafts, games and teen discussion resources.