Peter's Blog

Thank you, everyone!

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Leaving Social Musicians

This week has been a real roller coaster ride of emotions. Last night was the social farewell at the church and both Carolyn and I were so touched, a little overwhelmed, by the support of everyone there. Especially with the competition of Robbie Williams at Hampden last night too!

Everyone outdid themselves whether in the preparations for the tea, the musical performances (the performers pictured above) and, of course, Andy's speech (with help from Rev Karen Harbison who valiantly tried to defend the fitness requirements of modern ministry!). I soon realised how dangerous it is to have a photographic record in the form of a blog available to anyone!

My thanks go to everyone who gave towards the gift that was presented last night, it was very generous and will go towards something special to remind me of our time in Blantyre.

Praise in the Park

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This afternoon was the long-prepared for Picnic Praise event at the David Livingstone Centre. Despite some rather heavy clouds and the odd shower or two, around 300 folks from many different churches gathered for a picnic in the park, defyiong the weather to make the most of the afternoon, enjoying music from Fischy Music which had everyone up doing the actions, Victorian games and the old standard of many a Sunday School outing of days gone by... races! Including the three-legged race, always a worry when you have helped organise the event!

Alas I missed all the action within the park having rushed down immediately after the service to be on duty at the entrance to the park guiding cars and coaches in and out. Due to the stage positioning and superb PA system from Great Big Resources (thanks, guys!) I heard everything that was going on. It certainly sounded like everyone was having a good time.

Noah, Pi and Scoughall

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I'm still recovering energy levels after a wonderful weekend away with the young people of Cosy Café Sundays staying at Scoughall SU centre near North Berwick. Yet again we were blessed with superb weather. Only when chomping down on our fish n chips, pizza crunches, etc., sitting on the sea wall was it a little chilly. Needless to say, being so well prepared with all the technical equipment, I had brought neither sun screen nor a hat. Lobster time...

First Guitar God Gig

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Tonight was a very special night for my wee boy who joined David Burt and me for his first ever rock gig. What better way than to see Joe Satriani, guitar virtuoso, and one of my favourite rock musicians (heck, I even have a Satriani signature series guitar in my wee collection)? In the rather pleasant surroundings of the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow (with some very comfy seats - this is most definitely not rock 'n' roll as I remember it) we had great seats, just six rows back from the stage which meant we could see everything.

After a very varied set list with old and new tracks, the encore ended not on the usual thumping and crashing rock number but with the tender and beautiful tune "Rubina" which dates all the way back from the mid 1980s and Satriani's first album. The song is named after Joe's wife, Rubina. The band are on quite a long tour, so no wonder that Joe enjoys playing one of his early songs in tribute to his beloved. Touching.

Dreams, Hopes and the Big IF

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I spoke this morning about Lifepath during the service. Here are some more images from the latter half of the week plus some of the images of the IF logo that the pupils in small groups worked away at creating with whatever they could find (our very own Big IF event - Hyde Park eat your heart out!). They were a marvel and particularly poignant, which I mentioned during the sermon today, was the image of the IF logo made from the two sets of school ties of the pupils from John Ogilve High School and Calderside Academy. It was a powerful moment of working together across the boundaries that others might try and construct. The whole week, on which the sun shone powerfully, seemed to work extremely well. The pupils were engaged in all the activities and made the most of the opportunities, even lugging those kayaks and trunks far and wide across the grounds in the sweltering heat.

After clearing up at the end of the final day on Friday, those of us still remaining had a good debrief with the staff at the David Livingstone Centre. We talked about the different values that formed the basis of the event - namely, respectful, responsible, reliable, resilient - and how these had been explored in each area. We talked about the lasting value of this kind of event that really embeds (as I also mentioned in this morning's service) members of the christian community (not just us clergy in the role of school chaplains) within the wider community. And of course the question was asked of the chaplaincy team by the staff at David Livingstone Centre whether this was a one off event or whether it would be repeated in the future... [There's more...]

Livingstone Lifepath

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A quick blog post with a few images from the S2 event that the Chaplaincy Team and staff at the David Livingstone Centre are putting on this week. The week has been going brilliantly and due in no small part to the glorious weather we have had all week. Indeed this evening after three days in the sun I am positively glowing!

We have had volunteers helping us from local churches, from the centre itself, from the school, the campus cop, and lots of young folks and students who have been participating in the experience as leaders. The programme seems to be working very well with a super balance of different activities and styles. We were fortunate on Monday to start off with a relatively small group including ASN pupils which got us into the swing of things relatively easily. The last two days have been mixed days with pupils from both Calderside Academy and John Ogilvie High School with around 70 pupils each day. These have been very fun and it has been great to see the pupils over the course of the morning together move from sitting on either side of the pavilion where we first gather to working together in their teams.

Preparations and Separations

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Life feels very manic at the moment. Final preparations for the Lifepath week are underway, it begins next week when we will be hosting around 400 S2 pupils over the course of the week at the David Livingstone Centre, and I need to pick up four kayaks tomorrow from the canoe club! The video above is the final edit of the interview between Livingstone and Stanley that I mentioned earlier on this blog which we will be using each day. As you can see, Steve Younger made for a fabulous Livingstone!

That is not all. Preparations are going on for the Picnic Praise event later in June, for the formulation of a new Parish Grouping, for the Cosy Café Weekend Away, for a new issue of Spill the Beans, and so on... Busy enough. And then there is the preparation for a move, for getting the manse ready in Aberdeen, and the change of mental gear that will be necessary at that time. I must admit, at the moment it feels rather like hanging onto a roundabout that just keeps spinning faster! 

Something for everyone?

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General Assembly after vote

Monday was a momentous day at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and the results have been everywhere on the news this evening. The BBC ran with "Church of Scotland General Assembly votes to allow gay ministers" as their article title and also as the rolling headline on their TV news service ticker. The Scotsman has something similar, as does The Herald.

Between home commitments, I tried to watch as much of the debate as I could today. As I knew would be the case, and this I lament, nearly the full day was taken up with procedural discussions, while the debate over the substance of the options was condensed into less than two hours at the end of a long day. The result was that a last-minute option written by Rev Alan Hamilton (convenor of the Legal Questions Committee) and presented by Very Rev Albert Bogle, the Moderator until two days ago when Lorna Hood took over. In an aside, I thought Lorna moderated this debate extremely well and deserves credit and thanks for the way in which the proceedings took place. The communion service at the start of the day set the tone for the rest of the day. When everyone, as she had pointed out during that act of worship, has looked each other in the eye and shared the bread and wine with each other, it inevitably opens up a spirit of grace towards one another.

Without rehearsing the events of the day in their entirety, the net result was that neither of the proposals suggested by the Theological Commission were accepted despite the amendments made to them in the preceding hours. The option moved by Very Rev John Cairns was, as I thought it would be, withdrawn after a passionate speech by John about full equality. I am glad it was said, for what John spoke to was what many of us feel. However, like him, we also recognise that there must be space in an inclusive church for those who have a more 'traditionalist' view. This space was provided by the Theological Commission only in the 'revisionist' proposal which allowed for what became known as the 'mixed economy' where congregations could choose to opt out from accepting a minister living in a Civil Partnership. The premise of this proposal, however, was a 'revisionist' understanding for the Kirk. The traditionalist proposal from the Theological Commission afforded no such space, sadly, and thus it was perhaps inevitable that an alternative proposal from the 'traditionalists' within the Kirk that allowed space for difference would prove attractive to the General Assembly. This is where, despite all that hard work, the Theological Commission failed in fulfilling its remit to the General Assembly for they had not been able to find a 'mixed economy' that worked for all the members of the Commission.

The debate begins

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John McPake speaking at GA 2013

Rev Dr John McPake, a colleague from nearby East Kilbride and the convenor of the Theological Commission, has just finished speaking to the Theological Commission's report and is now taking questions. I suspect it will be a long day.

Some very relevant legal questions being raised, and the procurator has been struggling to give a clear answer to what might happen in the future.

A long day for the General Assembly begins

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Queue to enter General Assembly The live stream from the General Assembly is playing on one monitor at the moment as I follow on twitter the #ga2013 feed in a sidebar, and work on my main monitor. Without being present, I still am feeding my GA needs. The communion service is taking place at the moment, which is always a powerful and meaningful moment during the week. The rousing unaccompanied singing of Psalm 24, Ye gates, beginning the time of worship. 

The rest of the day will be taken up with the report of the Theological Commission on same-sex relationships and the Ministry. The picture was an image tweeted this morning before the doors opened to the public gallery of the queue to get in. People across the world are watching today to see what the General Assembly will decide to do.

There are, at present, three options before the Assembly, with the most likely, I think, being the 'mixed economy' that compromises about enough to allow everyone space within the church and protecting people of different views (though there are legal issues here that I suspect still could be tested if someone was minded to do so under equality legislation).

The Moderator said in her remarks during the communion service: "Our convictions must never lead us to separate one from another." 

Please keep all commissioners in your prayers today.

A thunderous journey

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Carolyn and I just got home from the wedding of Gemma and Craig Mitchell, to whom many congratulations on your special day, and blessings for the future. We were treated in the evening reception to some superb covers of classic songs young and old by The James Honey Band, a band which had quite possibly the most relaxed looking bass player we had ever witnessed.

However, good as they were, the night before David Burt and I had spent at the SECC for a triple bill of classic rock with Thunder, Whitesnake and Journey, which did rather top them. David and I were truly re-living our youth! And it was wonderful! 

Principle and Compromise

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Shawn Johnson contemplates the beam

Pictured is the American gymnast Shawn Johnson preparing herself for her beam routine in a competition back in 2011; Olympics followers may remember her stunning performance from the 2008 Olympics. Some of you will know that we have two gymnasts in the household here, Katherine in the acrobatic and Emma in the artistic disciplines. Emma, last weekend, successfully passed her first national exam and placed well amongst those with whom she was performing.

It is her artistic discipline that includes the beam, along with the bars, vault and floor exercises. It will happen frequently as you learn and train that you will fall from the beam, and we have witnessed that before. It is a heart-in-mouth moment as a parent. Even at Olympic level there are times when these superb athletes lose their focus and struggle to maintain their balance on the beam.

Today in Edinburgh the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (GA) for 2013 has begun; I write this while watching the webcast stream of the proceedings. After a brief break during the 2012 GA when the inclusion of gay and lesbian ministers and deacons who might be living in same-sex relationships was not discussed while the Theological Commission on same-sex relationships and the Ministry continued its work. On Monday that report and its deliverances will be discussed.

Lifepath Team

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Lifepath Team

This afternoon was spent in glorious sunshine at the David Livingstone Centre where members of the team (comprising the chaplaincy team and staff at the centre, along with some keen and willing helpers) had a walk-through of the Lifepath event that is planned for the first week in June. This included an orienteering activity that began at the large fallen tree and took us hiking across the whole grounds to time how long it took - it worked perfectly, but we weren't carrying large boxes and canoes...

Now that the day is getting ever closer everything, as it always does, is nicely coming together. There are a few loose ends to tie up (like making sure we have those four canoes ready to go), but we are basically there.

And now, the end is near...

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The death of Jean Valjean

Two films I had long been wanting to see were released on disk this past week and I snapped them up and watched them last night and the night before.

The first was, of course, Les Miserables. Despite that two of my kids saw it not once, but twice at the cinema, once with Carolyn and another time with friends, it was about time I got to watch it having missed the opportunity on the big screen. I can certainly see why the film has created so much buzz. I enjoyed the performances tremendously and the cinematography was superb. The feedback from others was that the film was a weep festival... tissues at the ready! But...

It's all geek to me

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As a self-confessed geek, I was amused to read a blog post by another geeky minister, Mark Sandlin, from the PC(USA) contrasting geek culture and the church in the 21st century. Have a read of 10 Things Church Can Learn From Geeks.

Having seen with Andrew last Saturday the new Star Trek movie which I loved for all the references to the past (which I had to explain to Andrew) Sandlin's last of his ten points made me chuckle:

My first recollection of geeking out about something was Star Trek. Yes, the original series. One of the things I've come to love about it was the way it pushed us into new frontiers without bashing us over the head. Story and metaphor softened the blow of moral imperatives for a more fully functioning society based on equality. The further I went into the geek culture the more of this kind prophetic behavior I noticed. I like to think I'm a better "me" because of it. Come to think of it, Jesus told a lot of parables that did the same thing. I read those too. Once again, I like to think I'm a better "me" because of it.

Sure, some of these points overlap and not all of these are perfect correlations. They're not really meant to be. And sure, in some ways we are comparing reality and make believe, but let's not pretend like some of our Church practices aren't human made constructs. Some church people will be offended. Some geeks will be offended. I imagine portions of each will totally disown and disavow me for even thinking these thoughts, but who knows, maybe there was another misquote in the Bible. Maybe it wasn't the kingdom of God that was at hand, maybe it was the fandom of God.

Words, Confusion and Justice

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Storm in a teacup

I confess I was a little frustrated last week to read the storm in a teacup that had blown up over the publication (since withdrawn for some edits) of a report by the Church and Society Council ahead of the General Assembly next week. The report, titled "The Inheritiance Of Abraham? A Report On The 'Promised Land'" was perhaps not as clear as it should have been on the implicit assumptions within the Kirk that the nation of Israel has a right to exist, that all violence and acts of terror should be condemned, and that the Kirk deplores any anti-semitism. These have been affirmed in a press release subsequently released, but they were always implicit in the Kirk's understanding of the report.

The brouhaha over the report does reveal both the power and limitation of words, and the ease with which people can misunderstand the author's intention.

The Great Unknown

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Do you remember those algebra lessons at school? And the unknown numbers (the 'independent variable') that were represented by 'x' in all those equations?

Today the letter 'x' appears everywhere. We have x-ray machines (from a time when we did not fully understand what x-rays were), the x-factor, x-men, the x-files, generation X, and on and on.

But why the letter 'x'? It is something to do with Arabic and Spain...

Terry Moore explains:


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Spring Grass

Welcome to my personal blog! This is something I have been doing for a number of years now, and for the next couple of months I will be continuing to add to my existing blog while also duplicating here where the blog will find its new home. I will also begin to move the many hundreds of articles in that existing blog to this new site as an archive.

So this is a time of re-freshing. Something new is happening, and yet it is also a very tangible recognition for me that we are also shaped by our pasts and the journey we have been on.

What is a blog, you might ask? If you have not come across one before, it is a kind of online diary - a space to share thoughts, ideas, news, and the ramblings of, in this instance, a busy parish minister. It is a personal blog, meaning that the contents are the thoughts of the person writing, they do not represent anyone else. The same goes for any comments that might be added to the blog, these are the thoughts of the people who comment.

So please do join me, add a comment or two, I will write when I can, and when the blog goes quiet you will know it is because I am busy with other things.

Picnic Praise

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Picnic Praise

This summer the David Livingstone Centre are hosting a "Picnic Praise" afternoon that has been organised by the staff at the centre along with Calderside Chaplaincy Team with the support of Hamilton Presbytery.

This event is open to all from across the region and particular encouragement is given to churches to make this an outing this summer. The activities are appropriate for all ages. Please bring a blanket and picnic with you. 

  • Praise Concert led by Fischy Music
  • Traditional games
  • Play area for young children
  • Bouncy castle
  • Face painting
  • Tours of Museum
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Large park area

Sunday 23 June 2013
1-4 p.m.
David Livingstone Centre

Further Spillage... Issue 8 Available

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Spill the Beans Issue 8 Cover

Issue 8 of Spill the Beans is now available for download. This takes us through the first half of the long post-Pentecost season. Spanning 26 May to 25 August 2013, the issue is broken into two sections. In the first we concentrate on the story of the prophets Elijah and Elisha before returning to the gospels for the second half. We are delighted to be able to reproduce the long out-of-print retelling of Elijah's story by the late actor and writer David Kossoff in this issue; a perfect means to enter the world of these ancient prophetic voices and the times in which they served God.

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.