Wednesday, November 28, 2007

One more step along the world we go...

I am not exactly sure how many weddings I have conducted in the last 28 years but it is probably somewhere around 700. I've never been asked to be a "Best Man" (when it came to my brother's wedding I was the minister again) and I've never been asked to be a bridesmaid (thankfully.)
But soon I will have a new role... as father-of-the-bride!
(It might yet be a dual role but that is still to be decided.)
Our eldest daughter, Linsay, is now engaged to be married.
Exciting times ahead.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Old dog: new tricks

'my' fiddle... "photoshopped" a little

Well - last week was... interesting.
Although it sounds a bit like the title of a well-known movie, I conducted three funerals, one wedding and four baptisms. Not all on the same day- thankfully.
You get occasional weeks like that, when everything seems to happen all at once. It can be quite draining, but there can be few other 'occupations' where you are privileged to come alongside people at their most joyful and most sorrowful times. As a certain 'newspaper' used to say "All human life is here."
But this is precisely how it should be since any faith that is worth holding must surely touch every area of life.
This week is already another busy one, and with three services to prepare for Sunday coming it's not likely to ease off much. But I am looking forward to a little oasis on Saturday. I can't really say it will be an oasis of relaxation, as I will be playing with the New Scottish Orchestra for the first time and I will probably be more than a little bit nervous. Details of the "gig" can be found here.
OK - it's the NSO and not the SNO - but I'm still pretty pleased to have this opportunity.
It takes me back to a time over 20 years ago when I was playing trumpet in a praise band and sitting beside a very good violinist. I remember saying to her how I had never really enjoyed playing the trumpet; it was just that this was the only instrument that my school could provide so that I could take advantage of free tuition.
"What I've always wanted to play," I said, "is the violin."
"Why don't you?" she answered.
"Well I'm a bit old to start learning now, am I not?"
And she went on to tell me the story of her aunt who had begun learning to play the violin at the age of 60 and had gone on to become a regular member of The Huddersfield Symphony Orchestra. She only gave up going onstage with them in her mid-80's because she felt she looked too old among the rest of the players.
So I made a decision there and then then that if I ever got the chance to get hold of a violin I would 'have a go.'
I was 42 years old when that opportunity came along and a friend lent me the Scottish Fiddle you see above, and I began learning to play it. I know my limitations of course and not having had any proper classical training I am never going to be invited to play in anything other than an amateur group but that doesn't matter to me. The important thing is realising that you never too old to try something new. (Although in my case I draw the line at skiing and sky-diving.)

Thursday, November 22, 2007


No, it has nothing to do with a referendum on the European Constitution!!
I'm talking about the Euro 2008 tournament in which none of the 'home nations' will now participate, since both England and Northern Ireland crashed out last night, joining Scotland in the 'also-rans' after Saturday.
Of all the British teams, however, I think Scotland has emerged as the least disappointing and the least disappointed. After all we exceeded most people's expectations and climbed steadily up the FIFA rankings. Maybe it is time our southern neighbours dropped the old saying "England Expects..." since it is usually a precursor to 'England Disappoints.'
I'm reminded of the story Jesus once told about a dinner party and how some guests pushed their way up to the best seats only to be told to get to the back of the queue while those who were a little bit more humble in their approach were actually invited up to the top table to their surprise and delight.
It's not a totally accurate analogy, however, since none of the 'home nations' even got past the bouncers on the door!
It makes the forthcoming World Cup draw pretty interesting though...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hymn for the persecuted church

[Photo: inside the prisons of the Doge's Palace in Venice]

I am sure a number of people who used to regularly read this blog have now given up on it entirely. I haven't managed to write much at all in the last few weeks. My only excuse is that I have been pretty busy lately with my real job.
This week alone I have three funerals, a wedding and (on Sunday coming) four baptisms.
All the same, I do have a little something to share with anyone who might have the slightest interest.
Last Sunday was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. I spent some time searching for a suitable hymn but I couldn't find anything that really fitted. So I decided to write one myself. This is it - set to the tune "Passion Chorale."


We bring before you, Jesus, the ones who bear your name—
our sisters and our brothers, oppressed and put to shame.
In times of persecution, when faith is sorely tried,
give courage through the knowledge that you are by their side.

Help us to share the burden and show us how to care
through faithful interceding for all who need our prayer;
that we may stand together with all who suffer loss,
those who in faith and courage have taken up Your cross.

If we should face oppression because we are your own,
may we find strength in knowing that we are not alone;
and should we find ourselves with a bitter cross to bear,
may we find hope and comfort through someone else’s prayer.

(c) Iain D. Cunningham, 2007

Thursday, November 08, 2007


She is a strange one, our Tess!
Like most cats she has no owner, but she does have a household full of servants who will get up and open doors for her or make sure that her bowl has sufficient food in it. She is also pretty smart in other ways. We have trained her to sit on a box in the kitchen to tell us when she wants food, or wants more food. One of my daughters has decided that the next step must be to teach her to speak but I am a little bit sceptical of this possibility.
Often Tess can be incredibly affectionate, and loves nothing better than to curl up in your lap and sleep. Again like most cats, she can make herself unbelievably cute, inviting you to stroke and caress her. She purrs like the most expensive Rolls Royce.
But all of that can turn in an instant. When her eyes change colour and she takes on her 'scary look', you just better get out of the way because she is likely to want to sink her claws or teeth, or both, into any exposed flesh she can find.
Those are the times when she becomes "Psycho-Cat."
She was a rescued stray kitten whom we adopted from the local Cat and Dog Home some years ago. I reckon she was probably badly-treated and even abused as a kitten and occasionally (often for no obvious reason) she reverts to this almost feral behaviour because she suddenly feels insecure.
Fear and insecurity are often the real source of aggression - and not just in cats.

Today Tess was pretty unsettled for some reason and, as she often does, jumped up on to my desk. (This is an action which usually involves a complicated dance sequence over the computer keyboard, with typically annoying consequences.) But instead of settling down as she would normally do, among books and papers, and anything else that might be cluttering up the desk at any given time (and there is always lots of that!) she just jumped back down again.
Eventually she found a box of laser printer cartridges and managed to make an opening through which to squeeze her way inside. After a few brief, green-eyed, glances she curled up and promptly went to sleep.
I reckon the problem was that this morning there were near-gale-force winds outside and she just wanted to find somewhere safe to hide from the storm until it blew over.
I can understand that- though often the storms I want to hide from are not the meteorological ones.