Peter's Blog


Written by Peter Johnston on .


1. to compose or draft (an edict, proclamation, etc.).
2. to put (a literary work, etc.) into appropriate form for publication; edit.

These are the definitions given in the Collins English Dictionary for "redact". If you have ever seen an official document from government that has been redacted you will know it because usually words, sentences or paragraphs are blacked out as unsuitable for common consumption for security reasons.

When do we remove the kid gloves?

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God creates Adam (Michelangelo)

One of the great challenges for churches that aspire to encourage young people into faith, is, in my own mind, making what is the greatest resource for our understanding of God, Jesus and faith, i.e. the Bible, a relevant book in their lives without resorting to literalism. 

Below you will find a letter that I submitted to the Minister's Forum which was delivered in the post today exploring this issue. Originally I wrote this not long after returning from the USA in the summer, and then forgot to send it in, and so was able to add a wee note about what we have been doing locally with respect to "Bubblegum and Fluff", the Christmas event for P6 children.

Bravo Botox?

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Piano playing

I've always thought Botox, or botulinum toxin to give it its full name, was a bit of a joke - something for people with too much money to inject into their foreheads to remove the worry lines! I'm rethinking that.

I'm coming to the end of an amazing book I've been reading on and off for the past month or so Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks. If you have seen the film "Awakenings" which tells the story of a whole group of long-term patients in a seeming trance-like state (some for decades) who are treated with the drug L-Dopa and suddenly "come to life" before tragically regressing once again into their trance-like state, the doctor in that film is a depiction of Oliver Sacks (played by actor Robin Williams) when he was a relatively young doctor back in the 1960s.

Congratulations to Scott!

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Queen's Cross on Christmas Day 1985

Well now, I don't know if Scott did this on purpose as I had just posted a link to Brechin Cathedral in my last post... but a huge congratulations to Scott Rennie on having received a call to Queen's Cross Parish Church in Aberdeen. I'm so pleased. He texted this morning to say he was following a snow plough up the road to preach at Queen's Cross, so this photo is very appropriate! It was taken on Christmas Day way back in 1985. The church is in the background. 

The Aberdeen boy returns home so he can cheer those old Dons along! 


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Peter Johnston & Scott Rennie

Why Liberal Churches Are Growing

The word theocon has been used in the USA to describe those of an extreme conservative theology as they impact on public policy. I'm claiming the word for a different use! In business you often talk of telecons as short hand for a telephone conversation.

With my friend and colleague Scott Rennie, of Brechin Cathedral, we are experimenting with a God conversation, or theocon, about a book we are currently reading by way of helping us think through issues affecting faith and the church. Scott invited me to discuss with him the book Why Liberal Churches Are Growing (eds. Martyn Percy and Ian Markham, London: T&T Clark, 2006) which I also had on my bookshelf. I thought you might like to listen in on our conversation. 

In this conversation we cover Part One of four parts in the book. This section is titled "Defining Themes" and includes the following chapters:

  1. Community Organising as Lived Faith (Patrick T Gray)
  2. Conversational Church Growth (John B Thomson)
  3. Reorganising the Chairs on the Titanic: A Case of a Change in Priorities (Pete Ward)


Evangelism: how not to do it?

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Evangelistic Van

Mike Peatman's blog led me to an interesting article by a guy calling himself Joe the Peacock! With a name like that you just have to have a look, don't you? (For American readers, it sure beats Joe the Plumber...)

The article is a stimulating critique of what equates to evangelism in many quarters. I confess I have always had a natural reticence for anything that smacks of sandwich-boards on Oxford Street: I remember one old guy who used to plough back and forth all day with a miserable expression on his face and proclaiming "Repent, repent, for the end is nigh!"

While there was a part of me that admired his perseverance in the face of collosal indifference, there was also a part of me that screamed that it was just a useless waste of time more designed to make him feel better and that he was "doing something" than actually helping people's lives get better. 

Bubblegum and Fluff recruits Auchinraith Primary

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Following up on my previous post about a new song for the primary school "Bubblegum and Fluff" event that is getting ever nearer (the first date is 1 December), I had a lot of fun this morning recording the P1-P3s during our assembly at Auchinraith Primary School as they sang the chorus for the song.

You can download the mp3 file and listen to them here. We've decided to use the song with the puppets leading during the actual event.

Mozart like you've never heard him

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Mozart's work sounds good no matter how it is created. But I am sure that not even the great innovater himself would have expected his Symphony Nr 40 (KV550) to be performed like this.

Flu fears

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Conceptual image of flu virus amongst cilia of lung

Here's a beautiful image (courtesy of National Geographic) of what it looks like deep down in your lungs when an influenza virus hits town. A friend of mine was around a week or two ago and was in a terrible state with nose running, and feeling miserable... he'd just had a flu injection. As an asthmatic myself, I am supposed to get a flu jab, but I've only done it once. The one winter I did get one I had the worst bout of flu I've ever had... a coincidence? Wasn't the flu jab supposed to stop that? 

You cannot be serious!

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Acquisition Document for HBOS

I had to laugh today to receive through the mail a weighty plastic-wrapped tome. It is the acquisition information for the proposed buyout of Halifax / Bank of Scotland by Lloyds TSB. What made me laugh was the first line in bold and capitalised text - so it must be really important - reading:


Okay, that is fine. Except this A4-sized document is 349 pages of dense legal language and financial tables! Why could they not send out an email with a pdf version and save a few forests so that those who really will read it can do so? I'm just annoyed that we missed our recycle bin this week! 

Partnerships: Owen and Mzee

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Rev Eleanor McMahon addressing Network Paisley meeting

On Tuesday night I made a flying visit to presbytery to hand off some papers for the Parish Development Committee (which I should have been convening, thank you to Gordon Palmer for stepping in at short notice), before heading over to Paisley where I was going to meet with the Kirk Sessions from St James's, Wallneuk North, and the Management Group of St Ninian's.

It was good to catch up with old friends, Bill & Erica Wishart and Eleanor McMahon, and indeed Bill sends his best wishes to everyone in St Andrew's. 

Onward Christian Soldiers?

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Macabre Worship Centre

I just don't know what to say... truly gobsmacked!

The artist who created it is Kris Kuksi, more about him here.

bios [bible]

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bios [bible] at work

I read today about an extraordinary art installation in Germany that has been set up using an industrial robot to scribe all 66 books of the Bible. The art projects leaders write:

The machine draws the calligraphic lines with high precision. Like a monk in the scriptorium it creates step by step the text.

Starting with the old testament and the books of Moses ‘bios [bible]’ produces within seven month continuously the whole book. All 66 books of the bible are written on rolls and then retained and presented in the library of the installation.

People power

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A banner at a rally in Florida

It's been a rather frustrating evening trying to get one of the videos working on our laptop for tomorrow's service. However, all is now well, though I will have an early start to write some notes for the sermon.

However, before heading to bed I had a quick look through some of my regular blogs and was particularly struck by the image above. 

Bubblegum and fluff goes musical

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Earlier in the day, don't ask me why, a wee ditty entered my head as I was thinking about our upcoming event "Bubblegum 'n' Fluff" that I am co-organising with the other chaplains for the local primary schools. I forgot about it but after picking up all the kids from school we were sitting in a queue at Sainsbury's for the car wash and it popped back into my head so I got all the kids singing along.

We tried working out a verse and Sophia did a great job with some lines, so when we got back I fleshed it out a bit. I'm not sure if we'll use it for the event as we already have two great songs by Ian White and Stephen Fischbacher lined up - but it is always fun creating something new. 

This little light of mine

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This Sunday our theme is going to be taken from the lectionary passage 1st Thessalonians 5: 1-11 which talks about living as Children of the Light. I thought we might sing the old favourite "This little light of mine" and found this fantastic version sung by my fave performer, Bruce Springsteen - pure dead brilliant. Turn up the volume and sing along!

A big hole in the ground

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The Grand Canyon

I've been invited to speak to Hillhouse Guild this evening. I thought I would show a video I made of a trip to the Grand Canyon way back in October 2002. We only had two children back then, and they were just 3 and 1 at the time. I watched the video again last night and was gobsmacked at how quickly time marches on.

I guess we see that writ large in the glorious shapes, colours and layers of the Grand Canyon, but also on the smaller scale in our own lives.

We'll have a wee quiz about the Grand Canyon tonight and then I'll talk through our whirlwind 2,200 mile car journey over three days.... I had looked at the map and throught Denver to the Grand Canyon didn't look that far - wow, was I ever wrong!

Still, the images from Arizona and what the girls described as "just a big hole in the ground" are unforgettable.


A New Day

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A flavour of the excitement and relief for the majority of the population in the USA (and, let's be honest, for many more of us around the world!) courtesy of


Written by Peter Johnston on .

Keyboard and tracker

I'm in a mild state of grief... my beloved trackball and keyboard had a rather unfortunate incident with a cup of tea and both are goosed. Aargh.

As someone who uses the computer a lot I bought both of these many years ago knowing they were ergonomically sound and I have got very used to them over the past ten years or so. True enough I have never had any aches or pains when using them - reverting back to a normal keyboard brings on aches within an hour or so. I've switched from Microsoft to Logitech for the new keyboard and mouse. Here's hoping they last as long - and do not drown in tea...