Peter's Blog

Congratulations Karen!

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Karen Harbison

I just got home from Hamilton having driven down yesterday afternoon for my good friend and colleague's induction to Greenock Westburn Parish Church, at which I had the pleasure of being the guest speaker at the social (which is a little akin to best man speeches within the clerical world!). It was a super evening with a full church including two coachloads of folks from Trinity Parish Church in Hamilton from which Karen leaves after some 22 years of ministry there.

Karen and I shared many fun years of working together and I do pray that the fresh challenges of a new charge will be invigorating and exciting for her. There are many similarities in the move Karen has made to the one I made to Aberdeen (though she has managed to stay within easy driving distance of IKEA), so it will be good for us both to compare notes as the months go by.

It was great to have all the "old gang" together again last night, and thanks to David and Shona Burt in Hamilton for their kind hospitality (and Glenmorangie) last night.

Burns Supper Adventures

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David Ogg and Peter Johnston

I'm taking a wee break from editing the next issue of Spill the Beans (which is going to arrive a little later than I hoped) to remember last weekend's adventure. Having received another invitation from David Ogg (pictured to left, and thanks to Craig Henderson for the photo) to join his table at the Hamilton Burns Club I gladly accepted, having been unwell last year and unable to go. It is a great night, even more so for me this year without any duties attached. We had a varied and fascinating group on our table (amidst a total of around 300 folks), from the likes of a lowly parish minister to the Ambassador to Dubai.

The food was excellent, the drink even more so, and I have a feeling we may have lived up to David Ogg's ever growing reputation for hosting the noisy table at this event. The speeches were of their usual high standard, and a particular delight was a recitation by the actor John Cairney which garnered a standing ovation from our table. A splendid night that somehow ended with a gathering in my hotel bedroom as we sang songs into the small hours. My apologies to fellow residents at Bothwell Bridge Hotel!

Stretching my EV legs...

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An update on life with an electric car. Last week I had a bit of a trial run to get a feel for how easy it will be to get down to Glasgow in the very cold weather (which saps battery life). I made a video blog of my trip up and down to Dundee, see above. This was in preparation for heading down to the Glasgow area on Friday, actually to Bothwell on Friday night for the Hamilton Burns Club supper which is a fabulous do at which I spoke a couple of years ago. This year it is just to enjoy the company, for which many thanks David Ogg for the invitation!

I do have a big question mark over whether or not the rapid charger at Broxden Park & Ride is working. The last I heard it was not, and that will mean a longer wait using one of the slower chargers in Perth before the haul from Perth down to Bothwell. It is still doable, but I would need to leave earlier. If the charger is fixed by the end of the week, then it will be very straightforward. I say with great hope...

If it all goes to plan it will mean that my journey will be even cheaper than a pensioner on the Gold Bus. And that I can live with!


A Blind Eye

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12 Years a Slave

Taking this morning off, I went to see the film 12 Years A Slave. My word. I knew it would be difficult watching, but it is worse than I anticipated: it is truly harrowing, leaving you squirming in your seat in shock, frustration, sadness and anger. The film-making is excellent, no mistake about it, and the performances are superb in capturing the bleak horror of the Southern States pre-Civil War.

I have now seen the three films that are all in the running for Oscar success this year: Gravity and American Hustle being the two others most often mentioned. I thought they were all superb films, but very different. American Hustle was superbly entertaining and richly captured the 1970s while leaving you anguished for the injustice done to the only genuinely well-meaning character in the whole story. Gravity was on one hand a visual tour de force, particularly watching in 3D, and yet also a very personal journey of one woman facing her own grief at the loss of her daughter and the loneliness that her loss brought into her life, all while facing imminent disaster alone in orbit (there are other layers of spirituality, a critique of technology as our saviour, overcoming fear, and more...).

Personally, I have no real interest in which film takes away most gongs. They were all brilliant in their own way. However, for me there is no doubt that 12 Years A Slave is the most affecting of the three films.

Out with the Old, In with the New

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Mercedes R320 and Renault ZOE

Like Janus, the Roman God of transitions and new beginnings with his two heads looking back over the past and forward into the future, a wee bit of Photoshop-ery created the image above (though the picture taken today was two hours earlier than the picture taken a couple of days ago so the sun is in two different locations - grr!) which shows our old Mercedes R320 that has served us for the past five years and was a wonderful machine (though very thirsty for city dwelling) on the left. It has now gone, to be replaced by our brand new Renault ZOE which I picked up from Mackie Motors in Brechin yesterday.

We're saying goodbye to the past and visits to fuel pumps, and hello to the future and plugging in to charge what is a fully electric vehicle. First impressions are good. It is a lot of fun to drive around town, quiet and smooth but very peppy when you put your foot down. After around 70 miles of driving yesterday we plugged it in at Duthie Park for a couple of hours which brought us back to 99% full.


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A belated Happy New Year to you all. This whole holiday has zoomed past lickety-split and I cannot quite believe today is the last day of the school holidays already. After a nice wee break staying with family in Cambuslang after Christmas it is time to get back into the usual routine. Long lies, no more!

So, 2014, I wonder what the year will hold? Last year was one of great changes, personally, with the move to a new charge, the upheaval of family, a new job for Carolyn, and all the attendant flux caused by flitting. There is a part of me that would be relieved to see some stability over the course of the next year, but I also know that there will be further transitions and changes for me and for all of us within Ferryhill Church as the year goes by. It is inevitable, and planning ahead will best allow that to happen.

On my immediate radar for 2014 is to start a group for secondary school aged young people, and something for young adults connected to the church. Watch this space for more...

I may even try to be a bit more diligent with this blog. Alas, it suffers first when other work presses in!

So, here's to 2014, and the pathway to furthering Christ's kingdom that unwinds ahead of us.

Tragic News

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Friends at Ferryhill Kirk will be deeply saddened to hear that Moira Whyte, a truly servant-hearted member of the church, died yesterday after a traffic accident while on her way to celebrate Christmas with her family. Many of us shared laughter with Moira and her juice, tea and coffee made yesterday morning while everyone busied away at creating Christingles. She was in her element, with lots of children around, and doing what she could to help. We can only imagine the shock of her family who were awaiting her arrival. Our prayers are with them all at this time.

UPDATE: The funeral service for Moira will be held in Ferryhill Church on Wednesday 8 January at 10:30 a.m.

Advent Prayer Pathway

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Last night the church was a haven of peace as the Advent Prayer Pathway took place in the beautiful setting of the sanctuary. It was great to see folks of all ages travel along the pathway following the journey of the nativity story and as they travelled marking each step of the journey by creating a decoration for the tree in the church.

My thanks to Cecilia and Hazel who put a huge amount of work into getting all the craft activities together, to the Christmas Tree team for putting the tree up a bit earlier this year to fit with our plans, and to Fiona, Gwen and Margaret from the Worship Task Group who helped to get the church ready in a rush as we had a very short timeframe as the previous folks using the building overran somewhat!

Below the jump is the tree in all its splendour...

Little Drummer Boy A Capella

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This is pretty wonderful. Kudos to Pentatonix. At the time of posting this the video had gone viral with 8.5 million hits on YouTube in the space of one week.

And for something a little less seasonal for Daft Punk fans they do a pretty fabulous compilation too.

The Doctor Calls

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The Doctor

I had a bit of fun yesterday for an Assembly at Ferryhill Primary themed around The Doctor, remembering the 50th Anniversary of the fabulous BBC show taking place this weekend. I was going for 'The Eleventh Doctor, the extended version' and I think I may just have carried it off. Later in the day going back to the school to pick up the kids, all I heard was "There's The Doctor!!"

There was a reason for it, relating to the Time Lord's ability to go back in time and the advantages that could bring, and the pupils came up with lots of ideas for what they would do if they could go back in time from correcting one's own mistakes, selecting the right lottery numbers (from a keen Back to the Future fan, perhaps), or stopping some of the worst atrocities of the past. However, I have been reliably informed by one of the dedicated Whovians in the family that there is a complication for The Doctor in that he cannot change certain things in the past. She would have to explain the details, but it is to do with certain permanent points in history, or something like that. This has been a recurring problem in fiction, see this wonderful collection of attempts from fiction.

The point for yesterday morning is that we have to live in the present for the future, which means we need to be that bit more careful about the choices we make. Next week the theme of choices will be the focus of assemblies at Harlaw Academy, but I'm not dressing up as The Doctor for those!


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NT Wright's Paul and the Faithfulness of God

This evening with an almighty thump a parcel arrived from Amazon containing N.T. Wright's magnum opus, a collosal (a mere 2,263 pages) work on St Paul: "Paul and the Faithfulness of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God" published last month. I ordered it a couple of days ago and at that point it was not available on Kindle... I notice today that it now is available for the Kindle, doh!

A world respected scholar (sometimes a wee bit too conservatively-minded for me, I have to confess) and formerly Bishop of Durham who impressively stepped down from that post in order to finish this work that has been some 30 years in the making, Wright has finally delivered what had long been awaited. Patheos have a very interesting interview with Wright, from which comes the quote below.

"A Whole New World...

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Charging Post

...a new fantastic point of view." So sings Aladdin in the Disney film. But, I feel I am entering that new world, and it really is different. The above machine is soon to become my friend, and a whole new world will open up...

What is it? It is a charging station installed for EVs (electric vehicles) in the parking area at Duthie Park, in other words, just a few doors down from the manse. Ever since we moved up to Aberdeen this box has been giving me the eye, and back in September it went live along with a number of other charging points across Aberdeen installed by the council with funding from Plugged In Places / Transport Scotland. There is increased funding at the moment to start creating a proper infrastructure for charging EVs as this is still very much a nascent technology. That being said, when I investigated the charging point and found that it was now available it opened a door to try something different.

Spill the Beans Issue 10 Available: Biggest Yet

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Spill the Beans Issue 10

This is a week later being released than we had hoped and that I had intended, but my, oh my, it is a good issue. The biggest yet. Last issue I said we were heading towards 150 pages, this time we are over that with a long Epiphany season and lots of ideas for Advent and Christmas.

A big thanks, as always, to all the creative team who added their parts to our communal working documents before they were pulled together into the final form. This continues to be an incredible team effort and a real privilege to be a part of it. Issue 9 has been purchased and downloaded 254 times (as of today), so with all the members of the team also using it, that must be around 280 groups/churches now using these resources as a stimulus in their own setting. Amazing.

So, Issue 10 is now available for download, and takes us from 1 December to 2 March 2014, encompassing Advent, Christmas, Epiphany all the way to the Transfiguration. Over the season of Advent we focus on the bible passages from the prophets, before turning to the gospel readings for the remainder of this issue.

As always, inside you will find worship ideas and resources, including Bible notes, stories, prayers, reflections, music suggestions, and more, and for age groups you will find suggestions for activities, crafts, games and teen discussion resources. In this issue we also have an advent candle lighting liturgy and two "Blue Christmas" service liturgies, which are well worth looking at if you have never done anything like that before.

New Ferryhill Website Launched

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Checking out the new website

During the service this morning on the big screen we had a wee tour of this new website for Ferryhill Parish Church, showing off some of the content and features available. Thereafter we also had some computers available for people to have a wee look for themselves and chat about the use of the internet. It is my hope that this site will grow and grow over the years to come as it becomes more of a portal for getting information out to folks near and far.

Do keep checking back.



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Pittodrie Stadium action

This afternoon I spent enjoying my first ever game at Pittodrie with Aberdeen playing Inverness Caledonian Thistle who are currently heading the Premiership tables. We were very close to the action. Indeed, even with coffee in hand I was able to get my hand on the ball at one moment when a shot flew into the crowd. Thanks to Andrew, Doug and Mac for the company. The best part being a victory for the Dons. The goal happened right at the other end of the stadium but it looked good from our end!


Fundamental Secular Frustrations

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RESPECT Assembly

I had intentions to write a blog post at the start of the week about the situation of school chaplaincy in Kirktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride that was reported in the press over the previous week. A combination of running out of time and that it was a situation unfolding on the other side of the country stayed my hand, though I was not alone in feeling that the repercussions would ripple beyond Lanarkshire. This indeed has proven to be the case and yesterday the Scottish Secular Society sent Freedom of Information Requests to every Scottish school enquiring about the chaplaincies in operation.

During the week I had provided information to the two schools in which I was part of the chaplaincy teams before moving North and in a meeting of the newly expanded chaplaincy team at Harlaw Academy I raised the issue too.


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Gillian after head shaving

I popped down to Ferryhill Community Centre this afternoon but just missed Gillian Anderson getting her hair shaved as a fund raiser for CLAN Cancer Support and as a statement of solidarity with those undergoing treatment. Kudos to Gillian for the efforts made and I do hope a good total was raised. She is pictured above after the deed was done. There was certainly a very positive and encouraging atmosphere down at the centre for the event.

It was good also to meet the manager, Maureen West. and some of the other staff at the Community Centre. I'm sure I will be seeing more of them over the months and years to come.

[Update: The total raised by Gillian was £1,806 - great job!]

Knowing one's limitations

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Teach yourself Doric

I did chuckle when I was handed this book that had been set aside from the Book 'n' Bakes sale on Saturday for me. After twelve years suffused in West coast Scots, the doric is coming back to me, but it has been a long time and there are some phrases when I definitely have to ask people to say it again to get the sense of what they are meaning.

Now I am just waiting for the perfect opportunity to use my practised, "Aat's her upistair hingin her waashin oot on my ropie."


'I do' or 'I don't'

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Wedding rings

A wee storm in a tea-cup brewed this week on Thursday when the BBC reported on a session of the Equal Opportunities Committee of the Scottish Parliament that was hearing from witnesses of a number of faith communities as a part of the discussion and consultation on the Marriage and Civil Parnership (Scotland) Bill. The full transcript of the meeting is available and makes for interesting reading if you are so inclined and have an hour free. The headline of the BBC article read: "Church of Scotland 'may stop conducting marriages'" with the subtitle "The Church of Scotland has questioned whether it could continue to offer marriages if same-sex legislation led to expensive court challenges."

Inevitably this led to a brief flurry of angst that the Kirk was retreating from one of the institutions of society that it still plays an important part in (albeit much less so now than in the past) and accusations that the representative, Rev Dr Alan Hamilton, of the Kirk's Legal Questions Committee was either not wise in his choice of words or failing to represent the Kirk properly. When I first read the headline I was shocked, as many of us would be, no doubt, but after reading the article I realised there was much more to this story than the headline promised. Such is indeed the case, but the real story is more interesting, if far less headline grabbing.

Deep canine/feline truths

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This really did make me smile today. So much truth, so simply captured.