Peter's Blog

Happy New Year!

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Fireworks over Edinburgh at Hogmanay

All good blessings to you for 2009!

Another Hogmanay passes and, at this time of our life, another quiet Hogmanay... long gone are the days of revelling on the streets either in Edinburgh or London! At least this year I had the company of my wife - she had been working in 2006 & 2007 - and once the fireworks started around the town Sophia joined us saying she couldn't sleep... 

The turn of a new year, turning a new page, an opportunity for many of us both to look back and to look forward. What will the new year bring? 

Join the Parade

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Marc Cohn performing in NYC

One of Carolyn's presents at Christmas was a recent album from the singer and songwriter Marc Cohn, imported from the USA, Join the Parade. You may not have heard of him, but you will undoubtedly know one of his early songs,"Walking in Memphis". We have both enjoyed listening to his albums over the years.

Bubblegum 'n' Fluff Resources

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Letter received from pupil

Karen Harbison dropped through the door today a wee selection of the thank you letters received from pupils following our Bubblegum 'n' Fluff Christmas event. They are priceless. They are also the finishing touch to a resource booklet we have produced for others to use should they wish to run Bubblegum 'n' Fluff themselves. 

We have created a full Resource Booklet with all the information needed to put on a similar event, and we hope others find it helpful. Copies will be available from us.

Fear not...

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Govert Flinck - Angels and the Shepherds

Just before Christmas there was a lot of chatter about comments the Pope made in his pre-Christmas address when he seemed to imply that same-sex relationships are as dangerous to the future of humanity as global warming. Giles Fraser had a challenging piece yesterday on the subject which he titled Peace, goodwill and gender politics. His opening makes you sit up:

The Christmas angel tells us: "Fear not, for I bring you good news of great joy for all people." The pope, on the other hand, has been using this Christmas season to spread entirely the opposite message, a message of fear and exclusion that seems more bad news than good.

The long table

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Christmas Dinner in Glasgow

Following a long Johnston tradition of having our Christmas dinner on Boxing Day (which began in my childhood as we spent all day at church not returning home until late afternoon when we finally got to open our pressies!), we celebrated with the traditional turkey dinner today and managed to fit eight adults and seven children around the table at my parents', with a borrowed church table from Wellington church to boost the length! This will be the last time we celebrate this meal here as my folks are moving in the New Year... the end of an era, it feels like.

Goodbye Mr Kettle

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Tassimo Coffee Machine

I love coffee, and have been experimenting with this gadget I received for Christmas! As a family we recently visited the Wishart family for lunch. Bill & Erica and their crew are currently in Paisley, but used to be much nearer to home when Bill was deacon in Hillhouse Parish Church.

After trying a few different coffees on Bill's machine I was intrigued and suggested the Tassimo as a gift idea to my family! Now I am hooked... it does all kinds of different coffees, teas, hot chocolate, you name it. While it is not really much good for large groups when the big old cafetière will still be called into use, it is very good for a quick cup - and I really mean quick. 30 seconds and it is ready!

Now all I need to do is to try to persuade them to produce a fair-trade coffee for the machine... Tassimo users of the world unite! We demand fair-trade!! 

Hallelujah, revised...

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While I was down in Lanark getting the lights sorted out, I picked up a new version of the song Hallelujah written by Philip Fox to be used for their Watchnight service. Too good to be true, I thought, having just posted on this blog about the song!! We'll be singing it too, I thought to myself!

So here you go, a true Christmas version of the song, Hallelujah:

What did you do on Christmas eve?

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Light Controller

So... what did you do on Christmas eve? Last minute shopping? Visiting relatives? Wrapping presents?

Such is the strange world of a minister that I spent most of the day with a friend, Bryan, putting together a lighting system, resoldering wires, adding plugs and so on, so that we have proper illumination for the puppets at tonight's Watchnight Service. We were rehearsing last night and I realised that we needed lights!

A green church

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Bankfoot Church, Perthshire

Following a devastating fire that left their old parish church in ruins (sound similar?!), the folks in the congregation at Bankfoot in Perthshire are now enjoying a new church building and resource for the community. One of the great talking points of this new building is its green credentials.


Written by Peter Johnston on .

There's no contest this year in the No 1 single stakes for Christmas here in the UK. Alexandra Burke, winner of X-Factor, has it cold. Her winning rendition of the song Hallelujah is at the top of the charts. But, it is not alone. The number two single is also a version of Leonard Cohen's wonderful song, this time sung by the charismatic and much-missed Jeff Buckley. 

For your enjoyment, this post has a few of my favourite variations on this song.

Christmas cookies

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Homemade Christmas Cookies

It not being a busy week or anything(!), we had a bunch of friends of Sophia and Katherine over this afternoon for a Christmas party of arts and crafts. They all had a great time making their own Christmas cards, tree ornaments, clothes-peg angels and, just in case they had not had enough of a sugar rush... Christmas cookies! Nice!

All power to Carolyn for the amount of preparation that goes into these afternoons is considerable. 

Ups and Downs

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Denby Harelequin

After singing the praises of ebay in this post, I am grinding my teeth (well pretending too, anyway, after dentistry work this week my teeth are still a little sensitive!) as I missed out on a great deal by a whopping 44p. Aarrgghh! I came home early from the tea after the joint churches carol service, which went very well courtesy of Steve Younger and Fiona Wilson, in order to bid on the above collection of Denby and just, just missed getting the highest bid. Such deflation!

Carolyn and I, not long after getting married started buying up this Denby set as we really like it. However, it has now been out of production for a number of years and, of course, our numbers of plates and bowls is fast diminishing as they get dropped onto the tiled kitchen floor.

Somewhere - Someone

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Yesterday a new book arrived courtesy of called Jesus & His Kingdom of Equals. I've been recommended this book by two people recently in connection with this article. It is a whole year's curriculum for children aged 9-12ish looking in detail at the life of Jesus. As I have no sermon for tomorrow, I have been reading through parts of it. It looks very good.

One snippet for you this evening from Rev Thomas Carruth:

The Kingdom of Love is coming because:
somewhere someone is kind when others are unkind
somewhere someone shares with another in need
somewhere someone refuses to hate, whole others hate
somewhere someone is patient - and waits in love
somewhere someone returns good for evil
somewhere someone serves another, in love
somewhere someone is calm in a storm
somewhere someone is loving everybody.
Is that someone you?

Son of Man

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Following a recent meeting in Glasgow Renfield St Stephen's Church organised by Graham Maule to think about how people are using the Living the Questions materials and how they could be improved for a UK audience, we decamped to the local public house for a refreshment. There I got into a conversation with Peter King from England and we started discussing the many different images of Jesus portrayed on film over the last 90 years or so.

He told me about a recent film he had just watched called Son of Man. I added it to my Tesco DVD rental list and it arrived a couple of days ago. Wow!

Keeping Jesus at the centre of Christmas

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Pupils from Auchinraith during Christmas Service

This morning was the Christmas Service for Auchinraith Primary School at the church. All the pupils who were involved in leading the service did a great job.

The picture above was taken at the end of the message. I played a photographer setting up a photo-shoot of the nativity. Except after recounting the nativity story and dressing up volunteers as all the key parts I got a little too carried away and started adding all the other bits of Christmas from Santa to Rudolph, Snow men to Christmas trees, presents to shopping bags and so on... Until you could no longer see anyone from the nativity behind.

After clearing all those fun things to the side we get to see the real heart of Christmas again, as shown here.

It worked well and kudos to Esther (pictured adorned with tinsel and lights!) for the idea! It fitted very nicely with our "Bubblegum 'n' Fluff" theme.

Storytelling Bible Box

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Bible Box

I've been working away into the small hours for the last couple of nights finishing off the resource guide that we are going to circulate following the success of "Bubblegum 'n' Fluff" in the previous two weeks.

I'm writing up the part where Steve Younger was doing the story-telling. He used a Bible Box to house some props about each story he told. I've seen these used on many occasions and always thought I should try and get hold of one.

Subliminal Plagiarism? Satriani vs Coldplay

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My Ibanez JS-1000

Still feeling rotten here... and looking out of the window at a miserable day too. So, as I am not up to much that is sensible today... I'm going to tackle an amusing musical spat that is developing between Coldplay and Joe Satriani.

Why the picture above? I thought I had better come clean and admit that my favourite guitar is my Ibanez JS1000... what does that JS stand for? You got it... Joe Satriani. It is a signature model guitar based on the one he plays - and I love it! If you have never heard of Satriani, he is an amazing rock guitarist who has been very influential on many others and indeed has taught a huge number of other guitarists.

The right context

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I wanted to follow up on my previous post on integrity and compassion earlier than this but have been suffering from a wretched bug (spent most of today in bed!) and have only had enough energy to look at the blog tonight. Awww, poor pitiful me...

Jen Robertson quite rightly pointed out to me that the context in which we treat certain stories is very important.

"For I, the Lord, love justice"

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Mother and Son of Al-Jamadi

The title of this post is from our old testament reading on Sunday morning (Isaiah 61: 8). The picture above shows the mother and son of Manadel al-Jamadi, whom I mentioned in a previous post, holding a picture of Manadel dead with Spc Sabrina Harman's beaming grin and thumbs up sign. Manadel had been tortured to death.

Like me, I am sure you remember the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison that emerged not long after the invasion of Iraq by the US, UK and others, and the horror of images like the one above and many more. It takes no time with Google to find these images today. You may also remember the argument at the time that the horrors depicted in the pictures was a result of a few "bad apples" amongst the invading troops. Indeed, Spc Harman was duly convicted for her crimes. This last week a declassified executive summary report from the US Senate Armed Services Committee was released and it shows clearly that the Bush Administration authorised the use of torture.

Can integrity and compassion clash?

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Jesus with Jairus' daughter

Yesterday was the final "Bubblegum and Fluff" event for this Christmas. It has been a wonderful experience for me, and I hope for others involved in it to be working together as a team to do something a bit different for the children in our local primary schools.

For our final day a change was made to one part of the programme and that change got me thinking on the way home and over the last day about the times when our compassion and pastoral care clashes with our integrity in talking about Jesus.