From our December 2018 Newsletter:
I began my August letter talking about the journey from Easter day along the paths of the early Church in its expansion around the shores of the Mediterranean, and in October I did holiday on the shore of the Mediterranean – Cavalaire sur Mer, just along the coast from St. Tropez! Having married in July that was our first opportunity to get away for a couple of weeks, and we also fitted in a two-day trip to Luxembourg for my granddaughter’s 6th birthday!
The early Church travelled far and wide and faced many problems on the way, but they had in mind the horrific, and at the same time, spectacular end, and not an end to Jesus life.
Now, at this time of year, we reset the clock back to his birth and the fraught and dangerous events that led up to it, from the unexpected pregnancy of a young unmarried girl, the journey of the couple to Joseph’s home town, the paranoia of the local king, to an escape as refugees into another country!
As I write, there are images on TV and social media of refugees turned away at the American border in clouds of tear gas while the ‘king’ of America suns himself in his palace at Mar-a Lago! The parallels are frightening, yet I could have equally cited the borders of Turkey or Hungry, or the UK.
Our Christmas scene is one of peace on earth, fir trees decorated brightly with angels or stars and sparkling lights as contrast to the dark, wet, and windy weather outside. The first Christmas has only one true bright spot, the cattle shed or cave and a safe birth and glowing parents.
This year our season of Advent at Trinity begins with a gift service for Barnardo’s children combined with a service of nine lessons and Carols where the entire story unfolds, hence the gift giving begins Advent rather than concludes. There were practical reasons for the change in timing, but perhaps the timing is also fortuitous.
The needs of Mary and Joseph began with the unexpected pregnancy so they did need help, and the Gospel writers, Mathew and Luke, do set the scene with God’s reassurance that this birth is what the world needs, yet does not yet realise it.
The Gospel writer, Mark, places no emphasis on the birth at all and simply sets out to relate Jesus life and activities as a secret activity by God leading to the death and resurrection. Only then could the true significance of Emmanuel, God with Us, be seen, recognised, and glorified.
When you see images of our world today with refugees fleeing oppression and corrupt regimes be they in Europe, the Middle East or the Americas, think back to the refugees of two thousand years age and the unrecognised Hope they brought into the World!
Have faith and do your best when the opportunity arises, help others and look at the individuals seeking help, not simply as a nuisance taking our jobs and benefits, but as people seeking to find a place of security to work and live and contribute to our city and country; then, in helping the helpless, you will be doing God’s will and the peace and hope of Advent will shine forth.
With that expression of hope. I wish you all – ם ו ל ש – `Shalom’ – peace, health, wealth, wholeness, and happiness, Gordon.
From our September 2018 Newsletter.
Since the last newsletter we have journeyed from Easter day along the paths of the early Church in its expansion around the shores of the Mediterranean. The journey was one of turmoil and conflict, since the message of the Risen Christ did not go down well with the traditionalists of the time.
Conflict often marked the journey, with other faiths feeling threatened by those upstart preachers of the Risen Christ’s message of the coming of the Kingdom of God. Some places threw them out, others jailed them, and others were executed.
Paul and his followers also had problems at home, with the Jerusalem Church, and those who followed Peter, the ‘Rock’, and James, brother of Jesus. Paul often gets looked on as against women, in particular that they should cover their heads in church and keep quiet!
I have probably told this story before, if not in a newsletter, almost certainly in a sermon, about a biblical scholar I met some years ago at a conference. He was investigating the ‘women keep quite in church’ passage! He suspected that there was an end of paragraph error in the more recent Greek texts. Moving the end of paragraph reversed the meaning of the passage – instead of ‘women be quite in church, it should translate – ‘women be quite in church? What! You’ve got to be kidding!!!
We tend to get distracted by details and argue over them, whereas Jesus and his followers just set out to help people irrespective of their backgrounds or opinions. Jesus did not set out to create a new church, but his followers were given the opportunity to take a fresh look at faith from the same origins, – faith from a new perspective, but change is seldom welcome!
I attended the Church of Scotland General Assembly this year, and the need for change has never been clearer. The decline in the availability of ministers looks dire; the hundred ministries policy of 8 years ago may be revised down to half of that, with the poor distribution recognised, but no answer identified.
All that said, faith is still unstoppable, forms of ministry may have to change, building may be lost, parishes combined, but faith in God continues unabated. That is the unchangeable, in a sea of change.
This sea of change has brought home to me the simple fact that God drives the Church through the faith of each one of you. The organisation is simply a vehicle for worship, and the faithful receive their strength direct from God.
God thus exhibits both un-changeability as seen in our faith unabated, and at the same time – never-ending change, according to our individual needs.
God as unchangeable, and constantly changing, – we are asked to simply respond to God’s guidance, in exactly the same way the first disciples responded – whether following the footsteps of Paul, and Peter, and James and the others, or as builders of the local church.
Have faith and do your best for this church and parish, and you will be doing God’s will.
With that expression of hope, I wish you all – ם ו ל ש – `Shalom’ – peace, health, wealth, wholeness, and happiness,
PS: As I said at Easter I was remarrying in July!! There is now a new Mrs. Reid! In addition to the background I indicated last time, I attended a summer school with the Royal School of Church Music in Dunblane the week before the wedding, and after the four days, was approached with the possibility of singing Bass with ‘Scottish Voices’!!!
Letter from our April/May Newsletter 2018 to the congregation.
As I write this letter it is my fourth Palm Sunday as your part-time, temporary, minister! Again, as with last year I was asked to take the Good Friday Service in Trinity – always a challenge since it describes the darkest days of Jesus life, before the brightest day of Easter Morning.
That said, the day before Palm Sunday was uplifting, as I watched the news broadcasts from America, with massive Protest Marches of young people against the proliferation of guns in their country. 18 school massacres in the first three months of the year, and each perpetrated by young white Americans, and, sadly, their government unwilling to act.
The Protest Marches reminded me of the Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem; the political power struggles reminded me of the Temple Priests seeking to retain power, though they would have argued they were simply maintaining orthodoxy; and in America, their President as silent as Pilate. No doubt the wrong person or persons will suffer, yet again!
Perhaps the people of America should take heart from this comparison since the outcome was a victory for those in the right, albeit at the cost of the life of one innocent man. If there is a change in the American laws to restrict gun ownership, then the start of Holy Week this year will mark a major victory for ordinary people!
Easter day then, will come and go, and, on a personal note, I will have my Easter holiday visiting, ‘soon to be relatives’, in London, since, for those of you unable to attend worship and you may not be aware of the events of the last year! I am remarrying in July!! Singing with the Tayside Opera Company has had an unexpected benefit, with falling in love with one of the sopranos – Kirsty Mann, an Opera singer; a singer with the Royal School of Church music – Scottish voices, and an active member of Carnoustie Parish Church choir and kirk session!
This does not affect my ministry here at Trinity, though perhaps more of a spring in my step these days! I wish I could say the same about your vacancy process, but I am unaware of any progress, though I am aware that the Presbytery committee responsible for ministry is giving more thought to the situation, that said, the shortage of ministers is of grave concern.
Despite being retired, I am also to be a delegate at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland this year, so I may hear more there, and if there is anything I can do or say, at that event, to help, rest assured, I will. I am aware of the frustration of hearing of other vacant charges filling in less than a year, and I am sure the central committees are equally aware, but at present I am unaware of anyone coming up with a solution.
Perhaps what I can offer is reassurance, that many people are giving thought to the problem, and we should also have faith, that God is also aware of the churches predicament. In addition, we should not underestimate the activity of the Holy Spirit – we are not on our own; a helper was given, and thus help has always been provided; the church has continued for over two thousand years, but has, from time to time been forced to change direction.
I do have faith, and I hope you all have faith, that we are being guided; so my prayer is that we are enabled to see what needs changed, and what needs to be retained, so that we can continue to be active Christians, outgoing, professing, and proclaiming, the Good News of God with us!
With that expression of hope,
I wish you all – ם ו ל ש – `Shalom’ – peace, health, wealth, wholeness, and happiness,