Thursday, 17 May 2018

Noticing signs of the Kingdom

Sherwood Greenlaw Parish Church

I have noticed that …
people are smiling more
and talking more in our church. 
Some people are praying more,
others are caring more,
and some are thinking more. 
I have noticed that people are willing to give things a try,
and experience something new. 
people want to get involved,
and we now have a number of babies and young families
coming regularly to church on a Sunday morning. 
and more parents
have supported the Remembrance Day
and the Uniformed organization services. 
I have noticed people being kind,
and saying thank you
for what other church folk have done for them. 
not many folk fall asleep during the sermon,
and people in our community
recognise some of the things we are doing as a church
to be good and healthy and wholesome.
I have noticed new people joining our choir,
And the fun that the Time out Group have at the manse.
people are being generous
with their time, talent and money.
People are asking questions,
And probing for a deeper understanding about God.
I have noticed, faithful men and woman,
who come week in and week out to worship,
and bring something of themselves to Sherwood Greenlaw,
and offer themselves for the work of the Kingdom of God.

I have noticed, growth and optimism in people,
and a real willingness to take on board
new opportunities as they arise,
that expand the Kingdom of God in this place.
All this suggests to me that God is not dead here.
That something of his Spirit is afoot in what we do,
A little spark of the Spirit
that seeks to kindle a deeper fire for God and this Kingdom work.



Rev John Murning, of Sherwood Greenlaw Parish Church in Paisley, reflects on their journey through Path of Renewal:

Friday, 11 May 2018

Local Partnership

Rev Julia Meason
Another Path of Renewal Congregation shares their story:

Shapinsay Parish Church is located on an island of about 300 folk.
In the summer we have a cafe which is open every day but in winter months there is no natural gathering space for people. We noticed that lack of opportunity and decided to enter into partnership with the Shapinsay Development Trust who have a new building, far better located than the church is. They give us the building free of charge, we provide homebakes, teas, coffees and some activity for the children.
It is very successful. We certainly tapped into a need - people come along, enjoy one another’s company, we build relationships. As an aside we raise money for local charities (people like to give a donation for what they’re getting).

Our learning is that it is possible to build something new on a small island that is successful when we identify a true need in the community.

We have had our sabotage when we were accused of taking trade away from the local cafe - which we are not since it’s not open when we operate! We intentionally chose to operate in winter months only in order not to compete. It upset us quite a bit until we realised it had nothing to do with us - it was part of a bigger issue with somebody else and we were used as an argument.

I think all of us realised also how much we were hoping the coffee afternoons would bring people to faith and church. This didn’t happen and our loss is this deep disappointment.

There are good things happening though - folks are more than happy to volunteer to bake and host, whether they’ve got a church connection or not. Some began taking ownership of the place too - recently a family who have been very faithful at coming along, started sweeping floors and tidying up afterwards. They joined us for the beach clean up we organised in our community. I feel they’re beginning to feel like they are one of us, that they belong. And that is a truly great thing.


Monday, 7 May 2018

Fair warning!

John 16:1-4a
“I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.

It is only after having first brought about a change and then subsequently enduring the resultant sabotage that the leader can feel truly successful. Ed Friedman - A Failure of Nerve.

Tod Bolsinger, author of Canoeing the Mountains, reminds us of these words of Ed Friedman, that sabotage is a normal part of leadership.
Sabotage often comes, not from inherently bad people, but from those close to us. It may come from those who feel that things aren't changing quickly enough, who have become discouraged and impatient along the way. It may arise out of good intentions. It may come from those who know us best and want to move things on and feel that, out of love and friendship, they are uniquely placed to do just that.
Sabotage is not something to be avoided but, rather, something to navigate. Surviving sabotage is a necessary part of leadership that promotes resilience and may even help leaders to clarify the journey. It enables healthy conversations that help people journey forward together with a clearer focus and renewed energy and stability.
Sabotage is to be taken seriously but not feared as we continue to lead people toward the hopeful future that God envisages and as we continue to discern and engage in the Mission of God today.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Path of Renewal - The Next Generation

The old and the new - Girvan Lifeboats
"Every generation blames the one before. And all of their frustrations come beating on your door..."
Mike and the Mechanics - The Living Years

As we seek to find ways to work intergenerationallly, rather than multi-generationally in the church, there's a glimpse of that being modelled in Path of Renewal. As we work together with 25 new congregations, the lessons learned, the things discarded and the discoveries made are still fresh enough for us to move forward together without one cohort feeling alienated from another. We're still in the business of learning together with all our different ministry contexts informing how we are involved in God's mission in the world today.
Perhaps that is the nature of a movement - that learning and practice is always fluid and adaptable and that each will contextualise what we process together.
As we learn how to be church in this generation, sharing and valuing the gifts that each different generation has brought and continues to bring, we are careful to honour the treasures of the past and to value how those inform the present, unafraid to lay down those that weigh us down and, together, forge a way forward blending the old and the new, guided by one whose love exhorts us to be one.
None of this is easy work but it is vital to our witness and service today. By valuing each other's stories and, through listening and sharing, understanding one another, we are building the kinds of relationships that Christ envisaged that enables us, together with God to build the kingdom of God.
Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Got any carrots?

York Minster - reflected in a puddle!

Luke 24:41-45
While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.

One of my all-time favourite jokes is one told by a colleague (Andy Haddow)- about a persistent rabbit who continually asks: "Got any carrots?" It's lengthy and corny - that's what makes it so funny!
Jesus asked his disciples after the resurrection: "Have you anything here to eat?"
When Jesus rose from the tomb, he did not immediately return to the father. He spent 40 days, restoring the disciples' confidence in themselves and in the mission to which they were called. All of Jesus' resurrection appearances were aimed at teaching the disciples, revealing the scriptures and opening their eyes to what was "hidden in plain sight".
Jesus met them in community and he met them individually, always anticipating and tailoring his message to their particular needs, be that forgiveness, reassurance, explanation, affirmation or recommissioning. Those meetings, more often than not, involved food. And they always involved transformation.
From fear to love.
From doubt to wondering.
From remorse to joy.
That painstaking work of restoration, of discerning need, of affirming gifts, of patiently exploring and explaining ancient texts, of putting skin on the bones of the resurrection is the same work in which we are called to be faithful today.
In our communities, where there is doubt, where there is scepticism, where there is remorse, betrayal, loss of confidence or purpose, our task is to be present, sometimes bringing understanding or reconciliation, sometimes restoring confidence or joy, sometimes bringing food and warmth and love -  but, above all, being present in the ordinary things of life that become holy when shared with others around a table. The work of renewal demands persistence in making connection with individuals and with communities that brings transformation as the risen Christ appears in our midst, asking:"Have you anything here to eat?" before commissioning us as disciples in the work of the kingdom today.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Growing with God

At Monkton Prestwick North Church, the early adopters of Path of Renewal have been working hard to keep the congregation informed about and involved in the Path of Renewal movement:

Minister, David Clarkson shared this recently in the church magazine:
Groups were developed within participating congregations. These groups agreed that they would give time to learn, share and pray together and that the things they had learnt would be shared with the wider congregation. The changes are therefore neither cosmetic, nor dependent upon the minister currently in post remaining there.  Instead, the whole culture of the local church should be changed to become more outward focussed with revitalised worship and congregational life. Our local group has had twelve people who have been meeting together every fortnight. As well as learning, sharing and praying together the members of the group have been involved with leading worship.
Some of the group also shared their reasons for being involved. Here are just some extracts:
“Path of Renewal is a way for the congregations of the Church of Scotland to find out the direction God wants them to go in, for the next while: to learn to listen to Him, and be directed by Him. To change, and to grow up. To become the Church that God needs us to be, in Scotland, at this time. (Allan)

“Three important things I learned were that prayer is essential and very powerful!  Also, when God is asking you to do something and you feel way out of your depth and inadequate for the task ahead, all God really wants you to do is take the first step and lay your trust in Him. He will reveal the path ahead when you start walking!  Finally, the most important thing I learned is – everything starts with relationships - Our relationship with God, each other, our community and our world.  Building relationships is essential!  However, I can’t wait to see what our awesome God has in store for us here in Monkton and Prestwick North. (Elaine)

“Path of Renewal is an opportunity to continue growing with God, thinking more deeply about what I am doing and considering how best we can serve both our Lord and our community. I don’t know where this journey will take me or us as a congregation, but I am looking forward to finding out! “  (Margaret)

Path of Renewal has been another step on this faith journey as I've been challenged about my relationship with Jesus and how I share it with others.   This journey continues and although it may continue to be a bumpy one, I pray it will also be one of challenges, growing faith and a closer relationship with God. (Maureen)

“I have grown up within the Church here and have seen many changes.
On Path of Renewal?  I still don’t know what my role will be but I am excited to be part of this and really looking forward to where this will lead the Church in the future.”

“…Then I concentrated on the word renewal and began to realize that this wasn’t just a path for a few people, this was renewal for every single person sitting in the pews Sunday after Sunday and that included me.”(Irene) 

“I wasn’t brought up in church and it never entered my mind to go.  I have now been attending church regularly for one and a half years.  I attended an Alpha course, which is a great opportunity for people who want to find out and ask questions about God, life and Christianity.  It was there that I started to fully understand it all I now have the joy of Jesus in my heart and my life has been transformed.” (Jacqui)

A new part of the process in this congregation is the development of Growing with God groups. This gives the opportunity for more people to begin to learn, share and pray together. Encouraging everyone to ask: “What can I do that will help this congregation to grow?”;
“How can I grow in faith?”; and, “Could I get more involved in the life of the church?”

Recently, a member of the congregation shared: "I'm still not entirely sure what Path of Renewal is all about - but I can see the difference in those who are involved."
That is a story of Growing in God, affecting not just individuals but a congregation and whole community.


Saturday, 24 March 2018

Where we learn best...

Exodus 15:22-27
Bitter Water Made Sweet
Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter. That is why it was called Marah. And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” He cried out to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
There the Lord made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he put them to the test. He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”
Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; and they camped there by the water.

Among other things we've been sharing in our latest round of Regional Conferences is a reminder of those places that bring the most fertile learning: the Israelites in the wilderness learned more in times of adversity than in those times when things seemed to be going well, they learned more in Marah where the water was bitter than they did in Elim where there were springs.
In an article in Developing Leaders, Eve Poole, based on research conducted, states that "under pressure, you learn faster and you acquire memories that last."
In this season in the church, as we seek to find new ways of being in the wilderness, we give thanks for learning that comes when our hearts are in our mouths, when we are trying new things and sometimes failing and for the resilience that comes out of difficulty.
We are facing challenges that are rarely simple or even complicated, where we can call in expert advice or rely on a previous tried and tested solution, but that are complex and can only be navigated by trial and error, by taking risks and learning from outcomes, whether success or failure. The bigger challenge is, perhaps, to rely on the assurance that, with God, we can find a way through - just as the church has been called to do in every age and to keep others on board as we do that, learning together and sharing those lessons as we go.