Makeshift Solas Festival – free – online

Solas Festival – Scotland’s midsummer festival – has been running since 2009. The all-age, weekend-long celebration of music and the arts is designed to entertain, inspire and challenge.

Our programme makes space for challenging debate with activists, writers and thinkers from across the political, cultural and religious spectrum. The festival offers a broad, inclusive, creative and entertaining programme for festival-goers of all ages in a safe environment; everyone is welcome.The Solas Festival, held at Errol Park in previous years, is online this year June 20 and 21.

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday (Genesis 1:1-2:4, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20)

George Floyd was a human being, not perfect, but human, like you and me. Part of God’s creation. His unjust, untimely death has once again caused anger, sadness, questions about individuals and society. There is something here that feels so fundamentally wrong; yet, perhaps we feel somewhat distant from it all. We are not. Bias, perceptions, assumptions rest within all of us. Like an iceberg much of this is hidden even from ourselves. Jesus was excellent at sifting through and highlighting assumptions and bias. The privileged who sought to keep others at arms length, the assumption that somehow others were different, less human. Jesus met this head on and paid with his life.

In Christ, God plunges headlong into this messy, broken world not to condemn the world but that all might have life and have it in abundance. Jesus shows us what it is to be truly human. Through the Spirit we are gifted the invitation and opportunity to join in with this divine humanity, to live in Christ.

In the Church’s calendar it is Trinity Sunday. The idea of Trinity can lead us into the convulsions of Greek philosophy and vain attempts to illustrate what we mean – not easy when we are trying to say something about infinite mystery! Living in Scotland I have now discovered the ideal phrase that is a suitable response to the entanglement of Greek philosophers: ‘Dinnae fash yersel!’

Having said that I note another helpful phrase contained in the Methodist Worship Book: ‘In faith let us pray to God our Father, in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.’ These are the opening words for the prayers of intercession (Holy Communion, third order, ordinary seasons). In the preceding service we use the phrase ‘God our Father and our Mother’ in the prayer of thanksgiving before sharing the bread and wine. Addressing God as Father and Mother is something, as Methodists, we affirm.

We are praying to God who is infinite, beyond our understanding, creator. We address God in terms of a relationship (Mother/Father) which draws deeper into God – the trinity is relationship. We pray in the name of his son (relationship), Jesus Christ. Jesus is the tangible, the knowable, the example, the beginning and end. Through the gospels we can see Jesus and get to know him even as we are fully known. This becomes the lens through which we relate to God, scripture, the world, one another, ourselves. When we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, we are immersing ourselves in the Jesus story, in the life of Christ. We are able to pray (and live and move and have our being) through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the life of God breathing within us and all people, all creation.

We don’t need to be able to explain but simply in faith, pray. As we pray, we immerse ourselves in relationship with God, with one another (church), with the world, with those in particular need. In the grace of this relationship we are able to face our own shortcomings and challenge the privilege, the assumptions that seek to work against creation. The police officer who kneeled on the neck of George Floyd for 9 minutes somehow thought that was ok (as did the others watching). Such actions and the attitudes that underlie them must be called out as Jesus did in his day. There is a righteous anger that is appalled that such a thing has happened (again!), anger at an attitude that allows the dehumanising of one by another because of the colour of skin. But we cannot allow our anger to become hatred recognising the Police Officers are also human beings, imperfect like you and me, part of God’s creation. It is immensely sad that in perceiving another as somehow less human, it is actually the police officers who, in their destruction, attack their own humanity. Justice is necessary, redemption is possible.

We have been created in the image of a beautiful God. When that creation is attacked and destroyed, Jesus shows us the way, demanding justice tempered by mercy. The gracious act of resurrection offers new life and hope. Flowing from that, God breathes in our lives and the life of the world strengthening us to confront ourselves and our communities as we seek divine humanity for all.

May the blessing of God disturb and encourage us, the justice and mercy of Christ reign in our hearts, and the power of the Holy Spirit send us out with energy and peace to live and work in the world.

With love, Nick

Call to Prayer 7th June 2020

CALL TO PRAYER: SUNDAY 7th June (Trinity Sunday) Prayer @ 7pm

Print version

We are familiar with the words of Scripture that remind us that ‘now we see in a mirror dimly’ and we might think that these words are especially applicable to our present times. As our society continues in the journey out of Lockdown, there are many things that we know only in part. We trust that greater clarity will be given in times to come. That said, there are some things that are clear and which our faith affirms to be so. In the Gospel of Matthew (28: 16-20), the disciples gather in the presence of the Risen Lord who assures them that in all they now face: ‘I am with you always, to the very end of the age’. The Gospel affirms that the life of God has been shared with us in the revelation of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and that our lives are to be lived out in the enduring presence of God.

Knowing this to be so, we pray:

God whose name is Love,
You make yourself known to us
As the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sustain us in the knowledge of your love through the times in which we live.

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God whose love endures,
May we hear the words of your Son
That echo down the ages:
I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God whose love is generous,
You gift to us your Holy Spirit,
The very giver of Life.
Renew our lives and the life of the community in which we share.

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God whose love is steadfast,
You know us as we are for you have made us.
In your compassion, be with all who struggle and grieve at this time.
Remember them and hold them safe in your keeping.

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God whose love is from everlasting to everlasting,
Give strength to the weary and power to the weak,
That we might renew our strength
And soar on wings like eagles.

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God whose love inspires,
May we love you with all that we are
And love our neighbour in response to your love.
Through our service of others, may your love be revealed.

Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Signed by:

  •  Rt. Rev. Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly, Church of Scotland
  •  Most Rev. Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Roman Catholic Church
  •  Most Rev. Mark Strange, Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops, Scottish Episcopal Church
  •  Rev. John Fulton, Moderator, United Free Church of Scotland
  •  Rev. Dr David Pickering, Moderator, United Reformed Church (Scotland)
  •  Rev. Martin Hodson, General Director, Baptist Union of Scotland
  •  Rev. Mark Slaney, District Chair, Methodist Church (Scotland)
  •  Rev. May-Kane Logan, Chair, Congregational Federation in Scotland
  •  Lt. Col. Carol Bailey, Secretary for Scotland, Salvation Army
  •  Adwoa Bittle, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
  •  Rev. Jim Ritchie, District Superintendent, British Isles North District, Church of the Nazarene
  •  Pastor Chris Gbenle, Provincial Pastor, Province of Scotland, Redeemed Christian Church of God
  •  Bishop Francis Alao, Church of God (Scotland)/Minority Ethnic Churches Together in Scotland (MECTIS)
  •  Rev Fred Drummond, Director, Evangelical Alliance (Scotland)

Call to Prayer 31st May 2020

Print version

Though we are moving into the first stages of the easing of lockdown, we continue to be painfully aware that there’s a long way to go and that what lies at the end of it all remains unclear.

And so we proceed in faith, believing that God always goes before us and knows the end from the beginning.

On this Day of Pentecost we give thanks for the gift of the Holy Spirit, believing that it is by the Spirit that God guides us.

We pray:

Almighty God, by your Spirit, you brought order from chaos. By your brooding Spirit, hovering over the void, you spoke and there was … something rather than nothing.
Create and recreate in and through us, we pray.

Almighty God, by your Spirit, you equipped and gifted and led our ancestors to know you and to serve you and to glorify you.
Continue to equip and enable us, we pray.

And then, Almighty God, as promised by the prophets and as never before, you poured out your Spirit on these first believers – on men and women, on the old and the young; and they were transformed and made alive, as dry bones brought to life.
Pour out your Spirit on us, we pray.

Almighty God, in these turbulent and uncertain times, send us the Comforter, that we might know you to be near. Grant us your healing touch and help us to know the rest that comes from resting in you.
For the loving touch of your Spirit, we pray.

Almighty God, by what seemed as a rushing wind and as tongues of fire you brought your Church to life. Come to your Church now, we pray, that by the same Spirit we might be renewed and refreshed and remade and revived.
Yes, Lord, grant us a fresh outpouring of your Spirit, we pray.

And all our prayers we offer in the name of our Lord and Saviour, none other than Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Signed by:

  • Rt. Rev. Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly, Church of Scotland
  • Most Rev. Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Roman Catholic Church
  • Most Rev. Mark Strange, Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops, Scottish Episcopal Church
  • Rev. John Fulton, Moderator, United Free Church of Scotland
  • Rev. Dr David Pickering, Moderator, United Reformed Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. Martin Hodson, General Director, Baptist Union of Scotland
  • Rev. Mark Slaney, District Chair, Methodist Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. May-Kane Logan, Chair, Congregational Federation in Scotland
  • Lt. Col. Carol Bailey, Secretary for Scotland, Salvation Army
  • Adwoa Bittle, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
  • Rev. Jim Ritchie, District Superintendent, British Isles North District, Church of the Nazarene
  • Pastor Chris Gbenle, Provincial Pastor, Province of Scotland, Redeemed Christian Church of God
  • Bishop Francis Alao, Church of God (Scotland)/Minority Ethnic Churches Together in Scotland (MECTIS)
  • Fred Drummond, Director, Evangelical Alliance (Scotland)

Ascension – a new normal?

(Readings: Acts 1:6-14 & John 17:1-11)

As I came to the end of my training for ministry, I went to visit an isolated farm in the North Pennines to arrange a baptism. I parked the car on the road and walked down the track to the gate of the farmyard. A large dog ran up, barking, put its paws on the top rung of the gate and looked me in the eye. I’m ok with dogs, tentatively reached out and the dog was fine. I opened the gate and went in. I then got to the entrance to the garden, through which was the path to the farmhouse door. Unfortunately standing in the entrance was the biggest black and white pig I had ever seen. Nothing in my training had prepared me for this new situation! I tried calling it, patting it, shooing it but it wouldn’t budge. It was a bit of an impasse and a time before mobile phones. In the end the farmer’s wife saw me from the window and came out to rescue me. She just called it’s name (Gilbert!) and off it trotted. I learnt early on that life as a minister was going to be full of the unexpected for which I was unprepared.

A few months ago the phrase ‘the new normal’ would not have meant much to any of us. Having said that any of us who have ever experienced a major life changing event might recognise the sense of a ‘new normal’. We adapt to new ways of living and routines whether we want to or not. The ‘new normal’ has now entered our vocabulary as we start thinking about how things are going to be in the weeks, months and years to come. It applies to society, communities, churches, families, shopping, cafes, etc. We will be working out new routines, practices etc. Is this what any of us were expecting at the start of 2020? I expect not!

This experience, however, puts us in good company alongside the disciples. The ascension of Jesus draws a line in the Jesus story. It marks a big change for the disciples. Jesus was no longer going to be around in the way he had been. Everything changed. The whole world and the lives of the disciples had changed. Is that what they wanted? Is it what they had been expecting even a few months before – I expect not! They were facing a ‘new normal’ with no ‘ladybird’ guide as to what to expect, what to do and no doubt feeling somewhat unprepared.

The story of the ascension as recorded in Acts 1:6-14 is a hinge point in Luke’s telling of the gospel story. The gospel written by Luke is Volume 1 and the Acts of the Apostles is volume 2. The ascension marks a transition of disciples to apostles. From learners/followers to those who are sent. Of course, they continue to be disciples and they had already been identified as apostles earlier by Luke (6.13). But there is a significant change in their understanding, their reality at this point. A change that encompasses the whole of creation as Jesus identified in that passage from the gospel (John 17:1-11).

Jesus ‘finished the work’ revealing the Father’s glory which was there before the world began. Christ is more than a world changing event, Christ is creation changing event, everything is transformed. This is the new creation, a new normal and this is the world the apostles (and we) now inhabit. But the disciple apostles know that in this changed world they are not alone. There may not be a ‘ladybird’ guide but there are the words and actions of Jesus inhabiting the scriptures. This is to be their guide not simply as something they have learnt but as something that is alive within them. A lived reality – a new normal. This was what John Wesley discovered when he felt his heart strangely warmed in Aldersgate Street on 24 May 1738. In this new creation God’s words are in us, but even more than that God’s Word is in us: All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them (17:10). And what do the disciples do immediately after seeing Jesus being lifted up? They locked themselves away and devoted themselves to prayer. As we prepare for what lies ahead prayer is a good place to start recognising the words and Word of God within.

Peace be with you.

With love, Nick

Call to Prayer 24th May 2020

Prayer @ 7pm

Version for printing

At this present time, we are especially conscious of the need to protect and to be protected. Indeed, our collective awareness of the need to protect life and the lives of those whom we love has perhaps never been so heightened. In response to the threat posed by Covid 19, we seek to protect and shield those whom we care for most deeply.

In the Gospel of John (17: 1-11), Jesus prays for his disciples in anticipation of the time when he will no longer be with them. What is it that he prays for? Jesus asks the Father to ‘protect’ his friends. Whilst he was with them, Jesus protected and shielded the disciples and later in his prayer he prays for each one of us. The ascended Lord Jesus continues to pray for us and assures us that his presence will be renewed through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We pray:

Living God and gracious Father,
Protect and shield us.
Living God, protect and shield
All whom we love,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Living God, your Son now sits in your presence
And shares in your glory and honour.
We thank you for the promise
That his presence shall be renewed for us,
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Living God, we thank you that Jesus prayed for us
And that he continues to intercede for us.
We thank you that he continues to pray
For us and for our protection,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Living God, we pray for the life of the world.
We thank you for all those who, in these days,
Strive to protect and shield us.
Renew them in heart and soul, and mind and strength,
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Living God, renew us we pray and renew the life of the world.
For you so loved the world that you gave your Son
That we might share in the life of the world to come.
Hear our prayer, now and always,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Signed by:

  • Rt. Rev. Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly, Church of Scotland
  • Most Rev. Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Roman Catholic Church
  • Most Rev. Mark Strange, Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops, Scottish Episcopal Church
  • Rev. John Fulton, Moderator, United Free Church of Scotland
  • Rev. Dr David Pickering, Moderator, United Reformed Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. Martin Hodson, General Director, Baptist Union of Scotland
  • Rev. Mark Slaney, District Chair, Methodist Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. May-Kane Logan, Chair, Congregational Federation in Scotland
  • Lt. Col. Carol Bailey, Secretary for Scotland, Salvation Army
  • Adwoa Bittle, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
  • Rev. Jim Ritchie, District Superintendent, British Isles North District, Church of the Nazarene
  • Pastor Chris Gbenle, Provincial Pastor, Province of Scotland, Redeemed Christian Church of God
  • Bishop Francis Alao, Church of God (Scotland)/Minority Ethnic Churches Together in Scotland (MECTIS)

WWW.Easter

Suzanne Simard, a young Canadian forest ecologist, discovered a curious connection in the 1990s. When paper birch trees were “weeded” out amongst the cash crop of the Douglas Fir trees, rather than benefitting the firs, it hastened their decline. What she went on to discover was that under the ground, fungi sent out super fine threads creating a network weaving the roots of all the trees together. Along these networks the trees exchanged nutrients. Removing the paper birch trees disrupted the connections and removed the nutrients from the Douglas Firs which was detrimental to all. The discovery of this interconnected network became known as the “wood wide web”!


Last week in John’s telling of the gospel story we heard Jesus saying there are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. There was an invitation to follow, to join, to dwell in the presence of God. Following on from that, this week we are now being invited to welcome the Father into our dwelling place: ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.’


There is a mutuality here – an invitation and welcome that is reciprocated – perhaps a bit like a marriage? ‘I am in my Father, and you in me and I in you.’ We are not only invited into the Father’s house, but we learn we are to be the dwelling place for the Father – in Christ through the Holy Spirit.


One wonders what the disciples made of such a statement. The idea that God was not to be found in a particular place like the Temple, but can be discovered in every time and place. This certainly is good news for us at the moment shut out of the buildings where we long to gather. ‘Best of all God is with us’ said John Wesley on his deathbed. This is a constant refrain for the people called Methodists. God does not abandon us but rather God is with us. Our lifeblood flowing through us – we are part of the same Vine. And through the Holy Spirit we are each connected to one another. Perhaps like the wood wide web we may find it difficult to see the connections at the present time, but they are there. When one suffers, we all suffer, when one rejoices so too we join in that rejoicing. Through prayer, cards and conversation we bear with one another and build each other up. A connected community or to put it another way a World Wide Web spun into being by the Creator, every strand infused with the presence of Christ. This amazing gift is present now. A gift for all who desire to belong. Like the Paper Birch and Douglas Fir we may be very different but that brings a great richness to the whole.
I recognise that sometimes it is easier than others to sense this connectedness, but it is always there and I am discovering afresh the importance, not only of this unseen network, but of taking the time to recognise it is there and to give thanks for our connectedness.
Thanks be to God.


By way of reflection I have included an article by Laurence Wareing reflecting on a hymn written by modern hymn writer Andrew Pratt. It is 610 in Singing the Faith and uses that line:
Best of all is God is with us.
Peace be with you.
Nick

Call to Prayer 17th May 2020

Print version

In the days following the first Easter Sunday, the disciples of Jesus would have gone through any number of different reactions, from uncertainty and anxiety to joy and celebration, through incomprehension and fear to recognition and hope. If the Cross had robbed them of his presence, the Resurrection has restored his presence. Surely Jesus will continue to be with them always?

The Gospel of John (14: 1-21) portrays the disciples wrestling with the dawning reality that Jesus will not continue to be physically present to them. It would seem that they are again to be left bereft and ‘orphaned’. Uncertainty and anxiety threaten once more. In response, Jesus speaks into their incomprehension and fear with the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus reassures them that they are not alone and that his spiritual presence will be renewed in this world through the Spirit. Jesus, through the Spirit, continues with us always as the assurance of God’s love for us.

Let us pray:

Living God, you are our Creator and our Maker
And the very breath of life is given as your gift.
We thank you for the gift of life
And we embrace and treasure that gift.

Living God, you are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
Whose presence in the world reveals your love for us.
In the giving of your Son,
You reveal the depths of your love.

Living God, your Son embraced the Cross
And the depths of human suffering.
We thank you that you delivered him
On the day of Resurrection.

Living God, as you spoke to the bereft and the orphaned in days past,
Speak to the bereft and the orphaned in days present.
Speak to the uncertain and the anxious.
Speak into the depths of our incomprehension and fear.

Living God, your promise
Is that we will not be left alone to face the world.
We thank you that through the gift of your Spirit
That promise is fulfilled.

Living God, be with all who sustain our common life at this time,
Carers and nurses, cleaners and porters,
Doctors and ambulance staff, delivery drivers and posties.
Through their giving our common life is sustained.

Living God, as you have watched over us in the past,
Watch over us in the present.
As once more we thank you, that through Christ
And by your Holy Spirit, we are not alone. Amen.

Signed by:

  • Rt. Rev. Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly, Church of Scotland
  • Most Rev. Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Roman Catholic Church
  • Most Rev. Mark Strange, Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops, Scottish Episcopal Church
  • Rev. John Fulton, Moderator, United Free Church of Scotland
  • Rev. Dr David Pickering, Moderator, United Reformed Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. Martin Hodson, General Director, Baptist Union of Scotland
  • Rev. Mark Slaney, District Chair, Methodist Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. May-Kane Logan, Chair, Congregational Federation in Scotland
  • Lt. Col. Carol Bailey, Secretary for Scotland, Salvation Army
  • Adwoa Bittle, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
  • Rev. Jim Ritchie, District Superintendent, British Isles North District, Church of the Nazarene
  • Pastor Chris Gbenle, Provincial Pastor, Province of Scotland, Redeemed Christian Church of God
  • Bishop Francis Alao, Church of God (Scotland)/Minority Ethnic Churches Together in Scotland (MECTIS)

Call to Prayer 10th May 2020

SUNDAY 10th MAY Prayer @ 7pm

Version for printing

As Scotland locked down in March, so our usual way of life came shuddering to a halt. Travel was restricted to an extent not experienced in any living lifetime. Our way of life changed too. Some faced traumatic, heart-rending personal situations, from illness to hospitalisation, anxiousness for and separation from loved ones. Others experienced new risk through their roles, including those serving in hospitals and care homes, and key workers in other sectors that are vital for life. Yet others faced difficult personal situations: hunger, tension in relationships and worse, and overnight, everyone had to find a new way of living life.

Today’s gospel reading from John Chapter 14, tells of a traumatic time in the life of the disciples and Jesus. After three years travelling together around Galilee, they arrive in Jerusalem amidst an atmosphere heavy with threat. Gathering behind a closed door, in the hour of his own need, Jesus sought to offer comfort and guidance to his followers and friends, telling them of a place in God’s house, and that he was going ahead to prepare a place for them. Thomas, bless him, asked the question which is on the hearts of so many, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. Howcan we know the way? To which Jesus replied: “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

“Today, in these times, we pray that we may sense Christ’s guiding presence:

Come, Jesus Christ, come my way;
showing me your way, through these disorientating days,
and opening my eyes to your accompanying presence.

Come, Jesus Christ, come my way;
teaching me your truth, through these confounding days
and opening my mind to your living Word.

Come Jesus Christ, come my way;
revealing to me your life, through these bewildering days,
and opening my heart to the fulness of your being.

Amen.

Signed by:

  • Rt. Rev. Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly, Church of Scotland
  • Most Rev. Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Roman Catholic Church
    Most Rev. Mark Strange, Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops, Scottish Episcopal Church
  • Rev. John Fulton, Moderator, United Free Church of Scotland
  • Rev. Dr David Pickering, Moderator, United Reformed Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. Martin Hodson, General Director, Baptist Union of Scotland
  • Rev. Mark Slaney, District Chair, Methodist Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. May-Kane Logan, Chair, Congregational Federation in Scotland
  • Lt. Col. Carol Bailey, Secretary for Scotland, Salvation Army
  • Adwoa Bittle, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
  • Rev. Jim Ritchie, District Superintendent, British Isles North District, Church of the Nazarene
  • Pastor Chris Gbenle, Provincial Pastor, Province of Scotland, Redeemed Christian Church of God
  • Bishop Francis Alao, Church of God (Scotland)/Minority Ethnic Churches Together in Scotland (MECTIS)