Peter's Blog

Cadbury's and Fairtrade

Written by Peter Johnston on .

As Fairtrade Fortnight 2009 ends, one of the highlights for me as a confessing chocoholic was the news from Cadbury's that they are going to move to make Dairy Milk products with fairly traded chocolate. This is a huge step in the right direction with such a mainstream product ensuring that workers receive a fair deal for the work they do. 

And it is a great excuse to show this fantastic advert from Cadbury's which fairly sums up my feelings on the subject! 

Inspiration and encouragement

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Glasgow University

A tremendously moody picture of the Gothic lump we know as Glasgow University: photo taken by my sister's partner, Claus. I love it.

Technically Monday is supposed to be my day off. Even at the best of times that is a bit of a laugh, but today it is a total wash...

Emerging Church or Emerging Biology?

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Within the Western church over the last decade there has been more and more talk about the "emerging church" - about new forms of church "emerging" from current practises. Indeed, the Church of Scotland now has a specific role in its central offices for someone to support and nurture emerging groups of followers of Christ around the country.

These "emergent" communities (in the Church of England they call it "fresh expressions") may look very different from traditional church, but if it provides a new form in which people can explore faith and following Jesus then rejoice! You can here Brian McLaren talking about this via my post of earlier today.

Brian McLaren

Written by Peter Johnston on .

At the end of 2008 the pastor and author Brian McLaren was in Scotland speaking to different groups organised by the Evangelical Alliance Scotland. Sadly, I missed the opportunity to hear him "in the flesh". Though, having read most of his books I know where he is coming from and I find him inspiring to both listen to or read.

You can hear what he said at Strathclyde University with this podcast. I encourage you to take a break for 40 minutes or so, sit back and listen.

(Hat tip to Stewart Cutler)

[Update: some reflections from those who did see Brian "in the flesh". From Stewart Cutler here and here. And from Gordon Kennedy here, here and here.]

Congratulations to Malcolm Anderson

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Malcolm Anderson and family

Thanks to Malcolm for sending over this photo of himself, Donna, Callum and Dean from his Ordination and Induction to the Congregational Church on Tuesday night. It has been a blessing to see Malcolm exploring his calling through the readership in the Church of Scotland to now becoming minister at the Congregational Church. I know my prayers are joined with those of many of us in St Andrew's in support of Malcolm.

Sadly, with my responsibilities at presbytery I missed the service, though I did escape from Motherwell in time for a cup of tea and some homebakes - for which many thanks to the kind folks at the Congregational Church!

We've got a story to tell

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A few of us at the moment are working on a Holiday Club for primary aged children based around the theme of Jesus as a great storyteller. We're using a different parable as the focus each day. In great Holiday Club tradition we thought a theme song would be required. So, here is the latest doggerel from Sleepless Nights Productions!

Loyal betrayal

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Jesuit priest, Riccardo Fontana

Carolyn took a break from her essay writing last night once the children were all in bed and we sat down to watch a 2002 French/German film from the Greek director Costa-Gavras: Amen. I'd read about a scene in the film recently and was intrigued to watch the whole movie. 

The film centres around the efforts of an SS Officer, Kurt Gerstein (based on a real character) to get news of what is happening under Nazi rule out to all the German people and to the allies. As a chemist, Gerstein perfected the use of Zyklon B for disease control, and was concerned for ensuring clean water supplies, but he finds that the work he has done is being used for terrible ends: the holocaust. As a devout Christian he is deeply troubled.

Careful where you walk...

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"The Crevasse" by Edgar Mueller. Wonderful street art / illusion.


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Members of the Megamix Team

I've just been uploading photos from the camera onto the computer and thought I would add this one of some of the team that created the Megamix event that took place for P4-P7 children on Saturday evening in St John's Parish Church, Hamilton. As with the previous two Megamix events, it was a very worthwhile evening, with over 70 children present involved in many different activities, and giving leaders from local churches ideas for things they could do in their own setting.

Alas, despite making four trips back and forth to St John's that evening doing taxi service, I missed most of what went on and wasn't able to get any photos during the event itself! However, it was good to hear that some of the churches in East Kilbride, having seen what Megamix is about, are thinking about doing something similar in the future.

Well done to all the team that put Megamix together! 

Pizza Disaster

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Pizza disaster

We had a bit of a culinary disaster this evening... Let's put it this way: the pizza on the bottom shelf had a lot more topping than we expected!

Andrew thought it was priceless - and has decided this is the way all pizzas should be cooked. No surprises that mum was at work.

Moral: read the instructions! 

A Reflection for Communion

Written by Peter Johnston on .

A sneak preview of the video reflection we'll be using in the morning worship tomorrow as we share the bread and wine.

Along with still images, there are two depictions of the Last Supper. One from the superb African film "Son of Man" which sets the gospel story in a township, and the second from Five Mile Rivers studio's The Bible series. The song is by Yvonne Lyon; please go and buy her albums, they are brilliant. 

Reading the Bible: Part 2

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Reading Bible

Earlier in February I wrote a post about Reading the Bible following a conversation with someone in the church. I mentioned in that post that the subject is vast and could spill over into many blog posts. And so it has...

At the end of that post I talked about how I believe it is impossible, despite our best intentions, to come to read a text from the Bible completely objectively. So in this post I want to flesh out how it is okay to come to the Bible subjectively, and indeed to note that this is what Jesus himself did with the Scriptures he knew.

Ivan Cameron

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As a parent with children hovering around the same age as Ivan Cameron, the 6 year old son of David & Samantha Cameron, who died on Wednesday, I cannot imagine the grief they are feeling today.

It was good to see politics put on hold and Gordon Brown giving a compassionate message of solidarity with David and Samantha Cameron.  The Brown family, of course, have also lost a young child, which made his message all the more poignant. 

A Scots Lenten Reading

Written by Peter Johnston on .

An email came through to me today from the Scots Language Centre informing that over the next few weeks of Lent they will have an audio series of readings from the Scots New Testament. Check their home page, and enjoy following the unfolding Easter story spoken in the Scots language. You should see the player on the right side of the page.

Not my usual attire

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Beautiful Chinese embroidery

On Sunday afternoon the family all descended on Havelock Street, Glasgow for a farewell lunch to the house there before my folks move at the end of the week. With the children all outside in the park opposite playing, my mum, sis and I pulled out some old chinese hanfu (I think that is the name?!) garments that my grandfather (Rev J Horace Johnston) brought back from China when he returned from Kowloon after forming Kowloon Union Church in the late 1920s.

Despite being, I would assume, well over a hundred years old, the colours of the embroidery are still absolutely stunning, as is the intricate detail of the designs. [There's more...]

Scripture and science

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Experiment on a bird by Joseph Wright, 1768

When living in London it was such a joy to be able to pop into the great museums and galleries when you had some spare time. One of my favourite pictures in the National Gallery was the famous painting above from 1768 which captures with reverence the scene of a family gathering to witness a scientific experiment led by a natural philosopher. The painting by Joseph Wright is called "An experiment on a bird in an air pump". It captures the mixed reactions to the bird's sad demise in the interest of expanding knowledge. From the fascination and thoughtfulness of the two seated gentlemen, to the tears and horror of the girl comforted by her father (I assume). In the background the young servant boy looks on with interest. 

Of great appeal to me was the philosopher's seeming appeal to the viewer to join this gathering: what do you make of this science?

A new clarity

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Princes Street, Edinburgh

This morning I had a meeting at 121 George Street, Edinburgh, the Church of Scotland's main offices. On the way back to the car I stopped to take a picture of Princes Street, one of the busiest roads in the city... not at the moment! The whole street is closed until November while the workmen put in the tracks ready for the new Edinburgh tram system due to be running in 2011. It all feels a bit "back to the future"! 

The picture was taken using my new phone and I am quite pleased with the camera on it. In comparison to my last phone there is an astonishing new clarity to the images (albeit nothing like what you get with a proper camera) - something that is very evident from the full-size images, probably not from the small version above.

A stand against hatred

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Matthew Shephard

It was encouraging to see in Christian Today that a range of different Christian groups including the Evangelical Alliance, The Baptist Union of Great Britain, The Methodist and United Reformed Churches had taken a stand against the hatred that emanates from Westboro Baptist Church in the USA. Sadly, no comment from the C of S on the church's website.

Two of the members from Westboro Baptist Church were planning to picket a stage performance in Basingstoke of a play about the life of Matthew Shepard, pictured above, who was tortured and murdered in Wyoming. They have not been granted permission to enter the country for fear that their intent is to incite hatred.

Spring is coming!

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Snowdrops in front lawn

Could winter really be past? After the recent cold spell it is hard to believe that just a week or two later springing from the front lawn would be beautiful and delicate snowdrops, yet here they are again. That sign of new life and hope. Welcome, venturous harbinger of spring.

For your reflection, here is Wordsworth's To a Snowdrop:

Lone Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!  

The Stroop Effect

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Stroop Effect

Look at the words above. Try to say the colour of the words, rather than reading what the words say. You'll find that it is not as easy as you think. That is the Stroop effect. There is a dissonance going on in your brain between what the word says and the colour of the word itself. 

It is not unusual for me to baffle my wife, but tonight I really have her scratching her head!