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Minister News

First Sunday of Social Distancing

It’s 10:30am Sunday morning, the 4th Sunday in Lent, Mothering Sunday, the first Sunday of Social Distancing and I’m sitting in Ansty Road all alone. I’ve put some notices on the outside noticeboards and on the doors, I’ve had a chat with the taxi drivers forlornly waiting for a fare and now the computer is belting out worship songs on shuffle. Church is not meant to be a place where we are alone. It all feels wrong, but I’m glad to be alone, it means that people have received the message that the church building is closed for the moment, that we must put aside our need to gather and take the precautions that we have been told will best protect the most vulnerable to this virus.

But the church is not closed, for the church is Us – wherever we are, whatever we are doing. It is Us when we connect online, by telephone, by post, when we stop to chat with those we see (keeping an appropriate distance apart!)  It is Us when we pause to pray, to sing along to a hymn, be led into worship on television or radio. It is Us when we work from home or when we still need to work in the hospital, the shops, the care home, the school for children of essential workers, the Night Shelter and food queue. 

The computer is playing the song “In love you summon” https://youtu.be/ucIrfFZPDaA

In love you summon, In love I follow

living today for your tomorrow

Christ release me, Christ to enfold me

Christ to restrain me, Christ to uphold me.

Perhaps that is good place to leave this reflection. 

Look after yourselves and one another. 

We will gather together again when we can.

be blessed

Craig

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Minister News

Easter is Coming

I write at a time when the news is dominated by Covid-19 and our response to it. On 17th March, following advice from the URC that was matched by other denominations the Elders decided to close all church activities. It was a difficult very emotional decision to make, not least to suspend all public worship. That means that there will be no services on a Sunday. We will keep the website  and Facebook up to date, we will look to communicate by telephone, letter or e-mail where necessary. There are lots of online resources being produced and we will communicate those to you. And of course the Labyrinth is in the open air and always open for prayer. 
 
These are strange times and so it becomes even more important to temper the language of fear with a story of hope. For Easter is coming, when we tell a great story of new life emerging out of despair and we need to hear and live that story once again. 
Humanity has lived through such moments before; war, plague, disease, economic crisis have taken their turn and people have dusted themselves down and emerged ready to live again. Often that new life has taken a new turn, and that will be the same again for us, can we emerge from whatever isolation we each find ourselves in ready to shape communities that automatically include the isolated and reach out to the most vulnerable? If we do, then our Easter story has to be at the heart –  a small group of vulnerable, frightened people who discover that Jesus is alive and calling them into a living community of faith.
For the last three years we have been working towards redeveloping the church building, it has been a slow and sometimes frustrating process, but at last we are at a point where we have some plans that meet our budget even though we have lost some elements to make that so. We do not wish to delay a decision on that, so Church Members will receive a communication that will still enable us to look to the future and new ventures that can transform the way we continue to be a living community of faith serving our communities. We are moving into a new era, and the future can be as exciting as the past for Jesus stands amongst us, scarred hands open in blessing. 
Please look out for one another, and the needs of your more vulnerable neighbours. Please look after yourselves – it is not a time to battle on if we are feeling unwell. See you post-Easter.
be blessed
Craig
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Minister News

Imagining Gardens

God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.…” And it was so. God saw everything … was very good. … the sixth day.”

So begins human stewardship of the earth. Sometimes it feels as if whilst God rests, humanity has taken the opportunity to grab more than is sustainable from the garden and dump the spoiled excess back into landfill. There is nothing new in this, except that our ability to exploit has become so amplified, that today we are faced with an unsustainable future. The consequences of climate change will dominate this century as humans struggle for resources. How do we respond as followers of the creator God?

The URC Mission Council has called on URC trusts to divest from fossil fuel companies and to reinvest in clean alternatives. In doing so, it wishes to support and encourage churches and members to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels, and so participate in a just transition to a zero-carbon future. There is no simple way of doing so, the electricity for electric cars still needs to be generated, there are challenges in creating an ethical supply chain for raw materials that make batteries, solar panels, wind turbines. We have become so reliant on plastics that we struggle to live without them. I suspect that Earth will survive this crisis, but whether humanity has a sustainable future is the bigger challenge. Such issues are not things that we can ignore, that is why children are taking to the streets, populations are shifting and some have returned to eating vegetables instead of meat. 

Revelation ends in a Garden City, “The angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the trees are for the healing of nations.” Now there is a future worth imagining.

be blessed

Craig

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Minister

Exit

dangerous times 
for factions circling                   blades out  
hands holding nothing-new

dangerous times 
for fractions sectioning              gold offers
fingers grasping destruction

intriguing times
for power-brokers                     hate stokers
history-tellers shaping chaos

intriguing times 
for strivers, achievers             back-door dealers
strangers on uncharted seas


hungry times 
for blessing meekness open keen young
tongues searching saltiness 


hungry times
for grace-shakers                   peace thumpers
worth-sum of composition


waiting times
for the tribe including         open offers
faith guiding intersection


waiting times
for the tide turning               blades revoked
hope holding all-things-new 



Craig Muir,  Easter 2019

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Minister

Knife Angel

I went to see the Knife Angel this week. It was glistening in the early morning sun, looking resplendent and serene. All the time I was there, other people were coming to look, photograph, talk about the message it brings, the times we live in that creates art out of confiscated knives. It is a powerful piece of art.

At the Cathedral it is positioned below Michael, his foot holding Satan to the ground – the triumph of good over evil. In both we are reminded that evil is always seeking out new ways to control us, and that we need to always be vigilant. Knife crime is the particular scourge of our society in these times, so easy to get hold of, the simple weapon of choice for too many. Indeed, many of the knives used to create the angel are the sort of knives we use each day to cut our bread or vegetables – yet these were used or kept as weapons of terror before being confiscated or given up during an amnesty. According to the information boards some arrived with the sculpture in evidence bags with blood still on them.

As we approach Easter we once again tell a story of love overcoming evil. There were some of Jesus’ followers who wanted to meet knife with knife, but when Peter did just that, Jesus heals the one who brings a sword to arrest him. Evil needs to be confronted but through creating a way of life that brings resplendence and serenity into every life.

The Knife Angel will move on after Easter, but knife crime will continue to be a problem until the hope of  Easter glistens in every life.

Be blessed

Craig

Categories
Minister

10 Years On

This month will be the tenth anniversary of my induction to this pastorate. Sometimes it feels like it’s flown by. With my sabbatical and then our discussions about St. Columba’s future the last couple of months have been a time for me to wonder if am I called to remain or Covxit? The more I’ve prayed, the more I still feel the challenge to be here – we have planning permission for the redevelopment, we have interest in the Church Related Community Work post, we have new people coming into the congregation. In addition I was delighted that St. Columba’s have decided to stay open for at least the next year, it was a brave decision taken for lots of positive reasons – not least conversations about new initiatives. Hence, I find myself excited for this new year, looking forward to the challenges and opportunities, wondering quite how we can fit it all in!

Today is known as #bluemonday by some, but the tune I’ve been humming is “Let the Day Begin”by The Call

Here’s to the babies in a brand new world
Here’s to the beauty of the stars
Here’s to the travellers on the open road
Here’s to the dreamers in the bars

Here’s to the teachers in the crowded rooms
Here’s to the workers in the fields
Here’s to the preachers of the sacred words
Here’s to the drivers at the wheel

Here’s to the wisdom from the mouths of babes
Here’s to the lions in the cage
Here’s to the struggles of the silent war
Here’s to the closing of the age.

Here’s to you my little loves with blessings from above
Now let the day begin

It’s a wonderfully positive song that opens up all the potential of each new day and beautifully sums up my own excitement for all God has in store for us. So let the day begin.

be blessed

Craig 

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Minister

Gaps

There is a style of poetry that doesn’t use punctuation

but leaves big gaps between phrases

                                                             Amongst

the leaf                                        fall

your ring remained

golden decay

                I’m never sure how to read it

                                      the breaks spoil the rhythm

and often there is no rhyme any way                                                       So how do you recite such a thing?

But then I find myself pausing in the gaps       

thinking about the line just read

before moving on to the next one

it slows us down                                                                   no more rushing on

 

Sabbatical has been such a pause

between phrases

time to reflect on the last line                    

to unhurriedly be ready for the next.

 

Advent is also meant to be such a pause

although it can often feel like we are rushing through the lines in preparation for all that will come

I hope you find somewhere to pause        

                                 to craft a break, relish the moment

reflect on the last line be ready for the next

                                                             discover treasure in the gaps

 

be blessed

Craig

Categories
Minister

Sabbatical

Every ten years The United Reformed Church gives Ministers the gift of a 3 month sabbatical. It is an opportunity to be refreshed, to study, to find space to take stock of the way we respond to God’s call. Ten years ago, I spent time at music festivals; amongst emerging worship communities and at Westminster College reflecting upon the nature of gathered communities. I learnt a lot and was able to develop some new ideas and ways of working. 

On September 1st I will begin my second sabbatical, returning on St. Andrew’s Day. This time I will focus on Poetry. I enjoy writing poetry and discovering the poetry of others. I find that poets can speak to the soul, share the insight of ordinary moments and dig deeply in our emotions. I will spend time reading, responding, researching, reacting. I will review the many poems I’ve written and seek advice on whether they should be shared more widely. I will attend workshops that will help me explore my own writing and submit some to competitions, publications and open mics. It might be that in three months time I’ve scratched an itch and can return to a more sporadic writing style – but conversely, perhaps I will be more confident taking poems into vulnerable places where new conversations can begin.

The Elders’ Meeting have discussed how we cover my absence. Sunday’s are covered, Elders will lead their own meetings and the Church Meetings. They will continue to take responsibility for pastoral care and call on Yvonne Stone if there is a need for ministerial help.  I’m planning Christmas material already so that I can walk straight back into Advent. My hope is that you will hardly notice I’m missing because thankfully our style of church does nor rely on having a Minister – we are one part of a team of people quite capable of covering three months absence.

What you chose to advance your faith will be the very thing that you will hate about your faith. (The little monk after having lived ten years among his brothers)

You may be able to follow what I’m up to at http://speechless.blogspirit.com

See you in December

be blessed, Craig

Categories
Minister

Disciples in the Modern City #3

The third Disciple in the Modern City is Madeleine Delbrêl (1904-1964). A French woman who having declared “God is dead … long live death” as a teenage philosophy student, then discovered God living with her through difficult moments. She founded a House of Hospitality in a communist suburb of Paris and spent her life there working as a Social worker. She wrote on Marxist-Catholic relations and in “We the Ordinary People of the Streets” the role of lay people as missionaries in daily life.  However, in his talk, Rowan Williams concentrated on a series of aphorisms collected together as “The Little Monk” in which Delbrêl imparts wisdom for belonging to a Christian community. For example:-

  • To shine is not the same as to enlighten. (On a day of great eloquence.)
  • Hold you tongue when you can, so that you can speak when you must. (When the little monk had some silly stories to tell.)
  • Not as a great saint, and not a great sinner –  simply be one part of the great community called church. (The little monk when reflecting on his flaws.)
  • Beware of how you judge those who do not appreciate you. (When he felt treated as a nobody.)
  • Put yourself in the shoes of others, don’t force them to wear yours. (When the little monk dictated rules of spiritual discipline.)
  • Know that it is very fortunate for a monastery to have an incompetent leader when, on confessing his incompetence, he leaves it up to God. (One disastrous day)
  • Let God take over. Then you take action – if there’s still anything to act upon. (When the little monk came up with new ideas for his monks.)
  • Prayer does not mean being intelligent – it means being present. (When paying heed to people chatting on the street.
  • When you can’t dance, let your soul tango. (The little monk after a days struggle with accounting.)

Be blessed, Craig

Categories
Minister

Disciples in the Modern City #2

Our second Disciple in the Modern City was Dorothy Day (1897-1980). Another unlikely candidate; social activist, suffragist, socialist living a bohemian lifestyle who had always explored spiritual writings. The birth of her child brought a spiritual breakthrough in which she learnt that she could trust God. Day and her baby were baptised as Roman Catholic’s but that created a break with the baby’s father who did not support her spiritual explorations. She supported herself and daughter as a journalist, concentrating on social activism and the hardships of the Depression. 

With Peter Maurin, she created, Catholic Worker, for “those who think there is no hope for the future,… there are men of God who are working not only for their spiritual but for their material welfare.” It accepted no advertising and did not pay its staff. Alongside the paper they created a House of Hospitality, a shelter that provided food and welcome. A network would soon follow around the United States. Key to her activity was the trust she had discovered in God, “If you are not acting as if God was to be trusted – what are you words worth?”

An uncompromising pacifist, this would come at a cost for her work in supporting the poor and vulnerable as supporters left and hierarchies despaired at her awkward, passionate faithful dedication to the call she knew God had placed upon her heart. Her’s was an “edgy angular witness,” Rowan Williams says, “prophets are … difficult people, … to say ‘we need prophets’ is to say that ‘we need people who ask us questions that we would rather not be asked’. That’s what Dorothy Day does and I thank God for her.” But he also points out her positive view of the church, “What are we here for, we are here to make communal, generous, forgiving, interdependent, just, equal, human life just a little bit less unlikely in the world. And if that sounds like a modest ambition for the church. Look around because it isn’t. The church is there … to say to a world of injustice, violence and conflict, it doesn’t have to be like this. … the gift of the gospel and the gift of the body of Christ is a restoration of what is natural.” So let us trust our own witness to God’s love and to creating a place where it is easier to be good.

be blessed, Craig