Tuesday, 17 November 2015

US States and Refugees.

A quick check shows that seven out of the ten US states with the highest church attendance are refusing to accept refugees.   This compares with only one out of the ten states with the lowest levels of church attendance.  Figures and links below.

"The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God."

State Weekly Church Attendance  Accepting refugees?
Mississippi 63% No
Alabama 58% No
Louisiana 56% No
South Carolina 56% Yes
Utah 56% Yes
Tennessee 54% Yes
Arkansas 53% No
North Carolina 53% No
Georgia 51% No
Texas 50% No

Rhode Island 32% Yes
Washington 31% Yes
Alaska 31% Yes
Hawaii 31% Yes
Oregon 31% Yes
Nevada 30% Yes
Massachusetts 29% Yes
Maine 27% Yes
New Hampshire 26% No
Vermont 23% Yes

Source BBC, Wikipedia

Monday, 19 October 2015

Open the door

If your church door is shut during the act of worship then you are a social club, not a church.

I was halfway through my sermon when I noticed her quietly come in.  Through the glass partition that separated the sanctuary from the lobby, I could see her quietly sit down.  My supervisor, sitting in the pews went out to talk to her.  I don't know the full story about why she wanted the bible, but she left, clutching her bible close as she let the building.

Then we were just coming to the end of the final hymn when someone else came in.  He was needing help from the foodbank, but according to him, he couldn't get into the church that dispenses food parcels because the doors were locked.

There are three churches that I can name, three churches that perhaps I should name, who routinely bolt the doors when the act of worship starts.  There will be more out there, who just don't appreciate that the people we should be helping might not be able to be there sharp at 11am  Today's lectionary reading included Mark 10:43-44. So how can we be servant of all, if the doors are closed to all but those on the inside?

All it takes is an elder or two to keep an eye on the lobby and to welcome people in.  It should be part of their duty, to be welcoming to all, regardless of the time they turn up.  Make it obvious that when worship is on, people can still get in.

I finish my probation at the end of October, so I have time on my hands to go visiting churches.  On behalf of all those who need our help and can't get in, I'm coming to bang on doors.

Matthew 7:7

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Just Move!

Picture the scene.  I think the description of the church layout is a hemicycle.  D shaped, with the pulpit halfway down the upstroke of the D, with the congregation sitting in the curve.  There is a balcony above, stretching all the way around.  I believe the induction loop for hearing aids is attached to the lower part of the balcony, so if you sit downstairs below the balcony then you will be able to use your hearing aid. 

Attendance was low this past Sunday, a combination of school holidays and my supervisor being off.  Those who attended sat in the back rows at my extreme left and right.  As I looked out to the 180 degrees of the D, I had people sitting from 0-30, nobody from 31 to 149, then the remainder from 150-180.  There was nobody at all in front of me.  So if I wanted to make eye contact with the congregation, I had to turn my back on half of them.

And then someone had the audacity to complain that they couldn't hear.

Perhaps if they sat that little bit closer, where the speakers and the induction loop (if applicable) could help, then they might be better off.  But of course, nobody will ever consider moving.  And it's always my fault if they can't hear.

Rant over.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Monday, 6 July 2015

Websites Again

I have mentioned in the past how I believe that the church website is more important than the sign outside your church.  Well it turns out that, when you are in vacancy, this is even more important.

When a church is allowed to call a new minister, their name is added to the list of vacant charges where the probationer looking for their first charge, or a serving minister that is called to move, may obtain contact details.  On the back of this contact, the congregation will send out a parish profile, which gives details of the congregation and perhaps an idea of the type of minister they wish to call. 

It has came up in discussion with a number of my fellow candidates that they would not apply to a congregation that doesn't have a website.  A number of reasons have been given to me for this, but the main consensus is that it shows a congregation that doesn't wish to sell itself, both to the candidate and most importantly, to the local community.  The candidates that are looking all want to look behind the profile, and see the things the congregation is involved in.  They may also want to download a parish profile before making the first contact.

Just in the interests of making yourself visible to your community, you need a website.  And that website needs to say on its front page, where you are, what time you meet, and a bit about what you believe.  An evening spent learning to work blogger (who host this site) or Wordpress is a good investment in your time. 

Burning your parish profile onto a CD and posting it to every candidate is not a good use of your time.

If you don't have even the most basic of websites, then I'm probably not going to come and be your OLM, and a many of my full time colleagues will avoid you as well.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Wise man builds house on the rocks...

...Foolish man builds his house wooden tower on sand blackcurrant jelly.  (Matthew 7:24-27)

 Surprisingly, the jelly survived the 8 miles of country road on the back of the bike.  Also surprising was the fact that the jelly tower was higher than the equivalent tower built at the same time on solid foundations. 

Friday, 29 May 2015

Frost Free Freezer Repair

"I'm off to the General Assembly.  Feed the gerbils, and can you fix the freezer when I'm out?"  Is this the sort of conversation that is supposed to take place in a manse?

All we ask is that the white goods last until we get a manse.  Once there, either white goods will be included, or we can consider whether we need a replacement.  I certainly don't want to pay for a freezer that I'm only going to need until October.

So when the ice cream came out of the freezer a little softer than it should, we knew something was up.  Then the high temperature light came on.  Then it went out. Then it came back and went off again.

I checked it with a thermometer that I threaded through the door, and in the space of an hour or so, the temperature went from -18c to 9c, a 27c increase.  There was something seriously wrong with the air temperature inside, as if there was a heater running.  So it appeared that it was freezing, then occasionally getting briefly warm.

Bracing myself to have to spend £300 or so on a new freezer, I hit Youtube and found an instructional video showing me common problems.  It seems that for a frost free freezer to work, there is a heating element on the cooling element.  When the cooling element gets covered in ice, the heating element comes on briefly to melt the ice.  If the ice buildup is too much, then the heater can't cope, and the cold air won't circulate.

With nothing to lose, I emptied the freezer and removed the ductwork inside at the back.  Actually it took a bit of warming with a heat gun to get the duct off, the first sign that I was heading in the right direction.  When I looked inside I saw this...

Frost free freezer?  I don't think so.

A couple of inches of ice below the coil, and the bottom two rows of fins completely blocked. Air is meant to circulate through here, so I can see why it's not working.  An hour or so of gentle heating and a little dose of my magic spray and the whole thing looked a bit more normal.  Underneath that mass of ice there was a drain hole which is where the condensation flows out.  It looked like the drain hole had blocked, then progressive layers of ice built up to the point where it blocked the coil. I extracted over a litre of ice

Ice, Ice Baby?  Not here.
So a quick dry of all the internal surfaces, a check that the drain was now clear,  and a short reassembly later and the freezer is back to its normal -18c goodness.

So how many people replace their fridge freezer when, all it really needs is a complete defrost?  It might take a couple of says to melt out all the ice, but it's cheaper than a new freezer.

Am I too late to say do not try this at home, no user serviceable parts inside etc...?

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Funeral Compliments.

Besides family funerals, today was the first funeral that I have taken part in where I have actually met the deceased beforehand.  The funerals I have been involved in have been parish funerals, where the family may have had limited contact with the church, and while the deceased may have visited the church at some point, they haven't been there during my tenure.

Simon was different.  It was actually during my first supervision session at the manse that there was a knock at the door.  Simon's had just moved into the care home down the street, and she wondered if we could meet with her to help prepare Simon's funeral.

And so later that day I met Simon.  We talked about the Six Nations matches with the optimism that only two Scotsmen can use when talking about sport.  He wanted to have the chance to see the local team, but that was weather permitting.

When it actually came to write his funeral tribute, it was easier having a face and a personality to link to the stories that are you hear third party.  I knew he had a full life, and it was easier that other tributes I had written.

The funeral was conducted with my supervisor doing the preliminaries, and me doing the rest, but it was only afterwards that I realised that I hadn't introduced myself or been introduced.  After the service, a man approached me and asked how long I had known Simon.  I had to tell him that I had only met him a couple of times.  HE told me that the tribute came across as if I had known him well, although I confessed that was mainly due to the incredible set of notes I had been given.

Tonight, it's a session meeting.  Parish life continues.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Waste and the General Assembly

Yesterday afternoonI paid a visit to the General Assembly.  While the assembly week is a great way to meet with my fellow candidates, some of whom have gone on to ordination. 

I am concerned about the amount of waste generated by the assembly.  As I sat in Rainy Hall, across from the pigeon holes stuffed with leaflets, my table also had a scattering of leaflets, some from the various councils, some from Christian charities, and a couple of leaflets from congregations looking for a new minister.  Add into that, a copy of the blue book which, according to my kitchen scales weighs 800 grams, plus all the material generated for Heart & Soul, and the various other events around the assembly, then I believe there will be a couple of kilos of paper waste generated for every person in attendance. So that must be a couple of tonnes of paper waste that even now has been discarded.  Whether or not this ends up recycled or in landfill depends on how it is disposed.

How many of these delegates have tablet computers?  It is becoming the norm that papers for business conferences are released electronically, so why can't we as the church do this?  One person who informed 121 George Street that they would prefer to use the electronic version of the blue book still got a copy sent in the post, with £2.50 for postage.

Can't we at least try to minimise the waste generated by the General Assembly, by abolishing the paper blue book and other documents, and making effective use of current technology?    We should not have to accommodate the additional costs and constraints of using paper documents for people who refuse to use established technologies.