Category Archives: St Ninians

Holy Meals on Wheels

One of the main parts of my job is to take God to people. 

This is done in various guises but mainly by simply sitting in someone’s front room drinking coffee and eating biscuits, (and there is a lot of this) whilst wearing my dog collar.

I am there as God’s representative, even whilst drinking coffee and eating biscuits, mainly chocolate ones I must confess. 

The reality and priviledge and burden of this used to catch me unawares in the early days of my ordained ministry.  I would often forget I was wearing the collar and never even mention the Big Boss once, let alone offer a prayer!  I remember now by always offering a prayer of thanks for the food presented to me, always on the decent china and always with a linen napkin.

So I am God’s representative in the flesh for many housebound and lonely people that I meet as part of my congregation or even simply in the street.  It is something that I have to remember and so moderate both my language and my attitude accordingly.  Wearing a clerical collar can occasionally be a curse but is always a blessing.  It the often the key that opens up discussion for people and, on one occasion, actually prevented me from being beaten up.  But that is a story for another day.

One of the most important parts of my pastoral ministry of visting  is taking the elements of Bread and Wine, Holy Communion, to those who are sick, infirm, housebound and dying. The elements that I have blessed in Church at the previous Sunday service. 

I view this part of my ministry as delivering ‘Holy Meals on Wheels’. 

At one point I did consider writing a Masters dissertation on the theology behind Home Communions.  Looking indepth, with actual case studies, what we are actually doing by taking communion by extension out of the church from the Sunday service to those unable to participate.  But, as ever, the lack of money prevailed and that idea, like so many of my other great ones, has been shelved for the time being.

But, every time I take Home Communion to someone, I ask myself three simple questions:

1. What did they get out of my visit?

2. What did I get out of my visit?

and, most importantly,

3. What did God get out of our visit?

I don’t always have the answers I would like and am constantly surprised by God. Even if I get very little out of a visit apart from a full bladder, God is always there and is at work for that person.   

As priests we expect every pastoral visit to be one where the problems we are presented with are easily solved – either by listening to the person or suggesting a practical answer.  But there are no quick fixes in this game, and my pride and arrogance about this has got me into trouble several times.  We can’t fix everything, only God, in time, can and will.  I really must learn to leave it to Him sometimes but it is very hard, I am a woman after all. 

Last week, I took my usual monthly Home Communion to my lady that I have been visiting for the past 3 years.  She is housebound and, while she has a fantastic family, she does like to have the contact with her church through me.  Luckily, this lady is not one of the many people I have visited in the past who claim to be housebound but on arrival, you discover they are off at the bingo!

No, this lady is a christian, a gentle woman who has had a lot to deal with in her life and does so with grace and dignity.  During our short 15 minute service I shared the Gospel story about the Road to Emmaus with her.  As I looked up after reading it, her eyes were filled with tears of wonder and amazement. 

‘I have never heard that story before’ she cried.  ‘Thank you.  Those men were walking in the wrong direction and Jesus walked with them and didnae tell the off!  I have felt like that many times.  He also took the time to have food with them.’

He took the time to have food with them.  We do so much more than simply extend the hand of the church to those unable to reach its doors by sharing our weekly holy communion with them.  We are truly bringing holy meals on wheels to the very people who need to hear that they are loved by their maker.  That they matter enough for some strange female cleric to take an hour out of her ‘busy’ day –  ‘Oh Reverend you have far more important things to be doing than visiting me..’ – to visit and sit and listen to them and their stories.

He took the time.  Jesus did and we do so too.

Wonder if I can get sponsorship for a van with ‘Heavenly Holy Meals on Wheels’ painted down the side?  Offers anyone?

Blessings

Red Shoes filled with Holy Popsocks…

Stuck at home over the past few days, or confined to barracks as my hubbie would say, due to damaged ligaments in my elbow, it has been a chance to catch up, to rest and to reflect over the past few months.  In June it will be six months since I started as Interim Priest-In-Charge at St Ninians and my life has changed dramatically.

One thing that has become apparent for me is the fact that I love not being your normal priest.  For a start I am not male.  I am also fairly young(ish) being only 40!  I do not have grey hair (due to copious amounts of blondish hair dye) and I do not spend my life covered head to toe in black.  However, I do have to wear my clerical collar most days due to the fact that people would not believe I am a priest without them.  And, please note, my dog collar shirts are ALWAYS black or navy.  I really can’t be doing with pastels.

What else?  Well I am sure that I upset a lot of people by always having my nails painted various shades of purple, red or pink – depending on the liturgical season naturally.  This also matches the corresponding liturgically correct coloured eye liner as well.  Of course, red lips are a must even if it does upset the Sacristan when she has to tackle stubborn long-lasting lipstick stains on the altar cloth and linen every week.

So I am not a normal stereotypical priest.  Red lips, reddish blonde long hair, red nails and, of course, the red shoes.  There is a story behind the fact that at most important liturgical events I am to be found wearing red shoes.  Hence also the reason for this blog being called Reverently Red.  I would also have loved a red dog collar shirt but felt that the Mrs Santa Claus look really wasn’t working for me.  So the story.

In my home church of St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, St Andrews, Fife, the stain glass window above the Lady Chapel’s Altar depicts a beautiful, serene and virginal Mary, mother of Jesus.  And she is wearing red shoes.  I spent many years, every Friday morning at the Eucharist looking at that window and looking at her shoes.  I am a woman, I always check out other women’s shoes and bags, sorry Guys it is a girl thing.  Anyway, when I knew I was to be ordained and was planning THE outfit what else could I consider but RED shoes?  If  it was good enough for the mother of our Lord, it was good enough for me. 

So that is where the red shoes came from.  However, for my Ordination I also had to consider the underwear for the most important day of my life (apart from my wedding day and the day I had Robina my daughter).  Whilst I won’t go into all the details, have to preserve a modicum of decorum after all,  (I will say that, being a well rounded lady, foundation garments were prevalent) I had to consider the  hosiery conundrum.  Well, what else could I choose but holy tights, fishnets to the uninitiated.  So fishnets have now become another calling card of mine.

From this post you can see that I take a great deal of care and attention to my appearance.  Some may call me vain and proud.  I call it breeding.  But there is another reason that lies behind this all.  If my holy order of priesthood and, by extension, the church is made accessible to one single person because they look at me, see my collar, see my nails, my lips and think to themselves, okay she may be a priest but isn’t scary, looks kind of approachable, someone who doesn’t take herself too seriously, perhaps I could talk to her, then it would have been worth it. 

Jesus wore the clothes of his people, mingled with them effortlessly, was humble and down to earth.  He related to them, came alongside them and walked with them which every way they were going – even if it was the wrong way.  By my amour of red and holy tights, I pray that I am able to emulate my saviour and be with the people who need to hear about His love the most. 

Even if it does look like I have dipped my fingers in the chalice…

Blessings

Holy reasons to be miserable, one, two, three…

I found myself undertaking a bizarre shopping experience during this Holy week.  Normally, not one to shy away from any type of shop, I am rather hesitant about entering our local B&Q.  Too many gardening and DIY implements for my liking that always leave me feeling profoundly inadequate and a little depressed.  Well known in my family for my ‘black fingers’, I have even finished off the odd plastic plant due to watering it by mistake and causing mould to grow.  So I do not choose to go into these places lightly.

However needs must.  To appease my ever creative urges I had decided in my infinite wisdom of being a Priest-in-Charge for a whole 5 months, that this Easter I would give my Church something special to remember and a little bit different from the normal liturgical practice. 

Never one to be found during Holy Week scrubbing the altar steps with vinegar and bitter herbs, or spending Good Friday prostrated in front of the altar while someone sets light to their handbag (that is burning holy incense to the secularly confused), finally I had the power to choose how to spend Holy Week.  I also have the luxury of serving a church that has had very little liturgical practice in recent years.  Basically, I had free reign to do what I liked this week without the constraints of fixed pews and  ‘well we usually have 25 services in Holy Week at least’…!

So it was with joy that I planned a Sedar meal for Maundy Thursdayevening after our stirring Chrism Mass in the Cathedral.  It was a shame that hardly any of the clergy turned up for the most moving and profound moment of fellowship in our liturgical year.  However, our Sedar meal that night was educational and satisfying, both theologically and bodily.  My husband can cook a mean 7 hour slow roast lamb.

My other plan was to do a labyrinth for Good Friday morning before the two-hour vigil at the University Chapel.  So we set up the Church on Maundy Thursday afternoon.  Laying out the labyrinth with masking tape took my poor long-suffering husband and daughter two hours.  Well, he was the one who came up with the design!   

Five stations, highlighting the most poignant parts of the Stations of the Cross with symbolic actions to do in each, marked the way of the journey.  From washing one’s hands like Pilate, to carrying a pebble to the centre (representing helping carrying Jesus’ cross) to make a Cairn of love in front of the Cross at the heart of the labyrinth, it was all good, holy and meditative stuff. 

My fourth station was to be the moment of the crucifixion.  So to get back to my shopping tale, I found myself in B&Q on Holy Wednesday in the scary and  intense ‘Nail’ aisle.  I spent ages weighing and feeling the size of the nails.  Long, short, thick, thin, pointed and so on.  Which would be most effective for the job, I wondered?  Then, as I was weighing two nails in my hands, I had one of those moments when you can see yourself from the outside.  And I stood there and started laughing.  For once, thank God, there was no helpful manny around to see if I needed any advice.  Can you just imagine the conversation? 

B&Q Manny:  ‘Do you need any help today madame?’

Me:  ‘Yes thank you kind sir/lady, I wish to purchase some nails.’

B&Q Manny: ‘What will you be using the nails for?’

Me: ‘Crucifying someone, which ones would you recommend?’

But, blessedly, I escaped that potentially tricky encounter, judged some huge and vicious looking nails to be the ones that would do the job  most efficiently, and went on my way to gather the rest of my props.

On Maundy Thursday, after the Sedar meal, the folks asked if they could walk the labyrinth as it was there and ready.  By their emotional reactions on leaving the labyrinth, they obviously found the process deeply moving.  Even if they were doing it a day early, it seemed a perfectly natural conclusion to the meal. 

Those who came on Good Friday morning, found the church bathed in sunshine while they walked a path of darkness and pain.  One lady said to me afterwards in tears, that it was nice to be able to have permission to be miserable for once. 

At Christmas, convention says that you have to be happy, whereas Easter is a more cathartic  time when all emotions are allowed to come to the surface – both happy and sad.  And, of course, the antidote to it all is chocolate, worship and resounding choral belting out of  that fabulous Easter hymn:  ‘Jesus Christ has Risen today’.

Today is Easter Saturday.  The world holds its breath in that in-between time of the now and the not yet.  Tomorrow, the sun will rise, the tomb stone will be rolled away and the emptiness found within will transform our lives.  Misery will be replaced with joy as those cruel nails no longer have any part to play in the greatest gesture of love the world has ever known.  

If you only have the time this year to go to one service in Church, make it tomorrow.  For what you will find there are the answers to why we do what we do and who we do it for. And, if you are very fortunate, there may be the odd chocolate egg or two to hunt down…

May you know and be blessed by the love of your Maker this Eastertide.

Unholy Holy Week

I woke up early on Palm Sunday morning, (after being up twice with the puppy from hell during the night), with Jesus’ words in the Garden ‘Lord, Let this cup pass by me’.  I was profoundly miserable and tired.  Holy Week and all that it brings with it – the mammoth services, the intricate details of the liturgy, the making sure that all is done correctly and smoothly – lay before me like a huge unwanted behemoth.

So I began Passiontide with unholy thoughts of pulling the duvet over my head, staying in bed, eating chocolate and pretending to ignore the world for the whole week.  But when you are the Priest that is simply not an option for Easter or for Christmas.  I often joke that I didn’t read the small print on my ordination Licence about having to work over Easter and Christmas.  That secular sense of unfairness that I have to work very hard while the whole world basks in Bank Holiday sunshine and merriment had overwhelmed me once again.

And then.  And then, I remembered that I had to be there.  So I got out of bed and began my day.  From the moment I got to the Church I was hit by signs of God and his sense of Humour.  ‘Yes, Samantha. This is why I have called you to do this job.’  I felt Him laughing at me.  The warmth of my Congregation who are so grateful to be doing Holy Week properly again, combined with the most amazing unrehearsed Dramatic Reading of the Gospel (where I only had to read Judas as people where falling over themselves to offer to read parts AND we had a female Jesus!), reminded me why I do what I do and who I do it for. 

There was a moment in the reading of the Gospel when Jesus died.  The whole church was still, even Baby Elizabeth.  My heart stopped.  I breathed again and the narrator carried on with her story that never becomes old by its retelling. God was present and with us.

The day carried on.  Lunch out with Robina and Scott across the road, gazing at the Sunshine and, again, wishing I was on the beach.  And so we moved on to the climax of our Palm Sunday at St Ninians and for Seaton.  As part of my efforts to make our Episcopal voice heard in Seaton and Donside, we have entered into joining the Ecumenical Donside Christian Partnership of churches with aplomb!  

So on that afternoon 10 local churches and their representatives began a Palm Sunday afternoon walk from The Mission Church.  Waving branches we walked through Old Aberdeen to St Machar’s Cathedral  for prayers and then on through the stunning Seaton Park.  Up to the walled garden for a brief meditation and then down to St Ninians for a short service and bun fight. 

From the astonishment that so many people had turned up, to the symbolic and moving moment when the Roman Catholic Priest said prayers at the foot of the Nave in a Church of Scotland ‘Cathedral’, God endlessly surprised me that afternoon.  Then we walked back to St Ninians to find my lovely ladies furiously buttering hot cross buns as more and more people began to fill our Church.

I stood at the lectern that afternoon and looked out at a full Church.  Full of many different people, with different ethnic backgrounds, of different ages and having different ways of loving our Lord.  And my heart sang and gave thanks.  I retold the Palm Sunday story through our own eyes and prayed for Seaton.  God was present and with us.

There is hope in this part of Aberdeen.  In amongst the deprivation, the drug abuse, the feral kids and the unemployed/unemployable despair.  There is hope.  There is hope because the Churches can come together and find a meeting point in order to build the Kingdom of God here in this place and this time.  We have begun. God is present and with us.

So my Holy Week began with unholy thoughts, but, my goodness me, I am ready for some Holy ones now.

Blessings

Clashing Curates

I am currently working in a grey zone with regards to the Church.  I have not quite finished my curacy, am not quite a Rector but am Interim Priest-In-Charge at St Nins and, basically, am classified as the Bishop’s Curate till September.  So, technically, I am still in my training and formation period of authorised and ordained ministry.

This means that I attend our Diocesan Curates Support Group as part of my Continuing Ministry Development (CMD). Yesterday, we had an informal lunch and reflective session at one of the Curate’s homes.  There were only three of us but it was good.  The Curate is married to a priest who will be celebrating 50 years of Holy Orders in September – his Golden Jubilee!  What an accomplishment and how much experience has been gained in those many years.  So it is always a joy to discuss ministry and life as a priest with someone who has seen it all, done it all and heard it all.

What struck me yesterday, apart from how fabulous their Coronation Chicken and my brownies were, was that we are very blessed with our Church.  In the SEC all styles of worship and approach have a home and are accepted.  From the very low laid back to the more catholic than the Catholics approach, we all have a place, we are all tolerated and, for the most part, I pray that we are all welcomed.  There really is an Episcopal/Anglican church out there to suit everyone.  I simply love that about the church God has chosen for me to commit my life to serving.  It means that with all my quirky human faults, I am licensed to be a priest in a church that doesn’t bat an eyelid about red shoes and matching red nail polish on a Sunday morning. 

We got into quite a heated debate about when a priest is celebrating the sacraments how much of that priest’s personality should be on ‘display’.  From the staunch line of  ‘ absolutely nothing of the person should be revealed’, to the relaxed ‘we are human and we bring our humanity with us to God’s table’, the views were wide apart.  And yet, over brownies and Quiche and wine, there was laughter, common ground and trust.

I have probably opened a can of worms with this post, but each priest and each member of the church bring something different to worship every week.  We are all changed by our lives during the week.  I celebrate the fact that on a Sunday morning we can lay it all at God’s feet and simply pray ‘thank you for loving me as I am’.

Blessings

Eggs and Ecumenism

I grew up on a small Island off the south of England called Guernsey.  We were sent there when my dad was promoted by the Bank from mere Auditor to Bank Manager.  It was a fab place to grow up and I still consider it to be home. 

Guernsey is split into 10 Parishes, but within the 22 square miles of beautiful rock, sea, sand and fields, every religion and church is represented.  So I am always astonished by the lack of Ecumenism within  Scotland and England.  On my Island most of the churches and faiths worked very hard to work together – it is tricky if you don’t in such a small space.

As an incomer (once again) to Scotland and now working in ministry, I have an insight into what it is like to both be the parish church and not.  With the Church of England (CofE) we have automatic ownership of the parish and all souls therein.  With the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) we do not.  That is the right of the Church of Scotland.  This is very simple.  It never ceases to amaze me the shock that clergy coming up from ‘down south’ encounter when they realise (usually belatedly) that they are no longer King /Queen of all they survey. 

For me, training as a Priest within the SEC, whilst having the heart of a conservative Church of England Evangelistic lass, has been challenging.  I have always approached working within a parish, any parish, with openness and humility.  We are here to worship and serve the same God.  We just do it differently on a Sunday morning.  That is okay.  That is positive and good and effectively serves the wide variety of people who witness to having Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

Yesterday, we had a joint ecumenical Easter service at one of our local Sheltered Housing homes.  With Rev Elsie, her assistant Janet and various volunteers from both the Church of Scotland (CofS) of Seaton, St Mary’s, and St Ninians, the SEC of Seaton, we gave the folks a good snapshot of the last week of Jesus life.  There was singing, laughter, meditations, prayers and of course tea, cakes, easter cards and creme eggs.  It was good. 

What Elsie and I have got working in Seaton is, well, working.  We work together in the Primary School, at the University and at the Homes.  We work well because we actually like each other and have found common ground of friendship and trust.  I am very fortunate.  I have worked in some parishes where this has not been the case and it is so sad.  We can do so much together and are stronger than if we are apart. 

The main point for me is what kind of message is our effective working together giving to the local community both churched and unchurched?  I pray that it is a positive one and that our joint working relationship in Seaton will help to continue to build the Kingdom of God here on earth.  That may be a grand sweeping statement, but it is, in fact, what we are charged to do as Christians.  

Of course, the fact that chocolate, cake and laughter are involved in the process never hurts. Just a shame they forgot the Champagne.

Blessings

Praying for Vandals

Every second Tuesday afternoon we hold a craft club in the Church for anyone who is interested in exploring the delights of Crafting for God.  Mostly it is us knitters, card makers and the odd male painter who sneaks in from time to time.  Yesterday Robina (my ever patient 13-year-old daughter) joined us and spent the time happily listening in on the chat and painting her picture.  Unfortunately, I did not get much of my prayer shawl knitted due to the fact that I had to go round the corner to our brand new Community/Primary School/Police Station to report a crime.

Some helpful person(s) thought it would be a jolly whizz to try to remove one of the light fittings, boot in the Red front door of the Church ( leaving a lovely imprint of a size 10 Dr Marten boot) and carve Jesus’ initials as well.  At least that is what I think they were trying to write.

So off I trundled to the shiny new police station – couldn’t get in the front door because the new door bell was bust – and duly reported my crime.  I don’t know about any of you but whenever I speak to a policeman I immediately feel guilty.  I suppose that might be from having a naturally guilty nature and one where I simply cannot lie to anyone in authority. 

This is due to the fact that my Grandfather was a Police Inspector with the Thames Division of Metropolitan Police in London.  His claim to fame was that he set up the Police Diving unit back in the 1960s, but that is a tale for another day.  What my Grandad Fred did was to install within me a healthy respect for those with the power to lock you up away from family, friends and a continuous supply of chocolate.

Anyway, this lovely PC took my statement, was very helpful and didn’t lock me up.  Now all I have to do is sort out the mess through the insurance company and get the lighting fixed so that some poor member of the Seaton Community doesn’t end up electrocuting themselves walking into the church.  What a wake up call and stirring of the Spirit that would be.

What else?  Oh yes, as a priest my calling is one to prayer.  So I will pray for the vandals whose lives  are so empty they are reduced to hanging round churches for fun on a Friday night.  Back in my youth that used to be called ‘attending the Youth Group’.  Now all they find is darkened windows and locked doors.  Times change and not always for the better.  Prayers also for discernment as to what to do next, I think.

Blessings.

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