Peter's Blog

Remembrance Day

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Act of Remembrance at High Blantyre

As is the usual tradition, in the afternoon of Remembrance Sunday we had two services at the local war memorials in High Blantyre and further up the hill at Auchentibber.

Rev Jim Hunter and I led the short service in High Blantyre this year (thanks to Steve Younger for producing the booklets) and the turnout was great especially considering the atrocious weather. As I led one of the readings hail started coming down!  

Moderator visits Blantyre

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Moderator visits David Livingstone Centre

Today the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev David Lunan and his wife Maggie, visited Blantyre to take a tour of the David Livingstone Centre - a museum built to commemorate Blantyre's most famous son, the medic, explorer and missionary Dr David Livingstone.

Pictured above from left to right: Richard Wilson, Rev Fiona Wilson (soon to be ordained and inducted to Livingstone Memorial Parish Church), David Watt (Moderator of Hamilton Presbytery), Rt Rev David Lunan, Nora Izett (Livingstone Memorial Parish Church), Maggie Lunan, Rev Norman McKee (Depute Clerk of Presbytery), David Barrie (trustee of David Livingstone Centre), myself and Ian Proudfoot (Blantyre Old Parish Church). 

How and what do we remember?

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Jonathan Bartley has a challenging piece on Ekklesia about Remembrance and the notion of Just War - which has been on exceedingly thin ice as an idea in recent years following the debacle of Iraq. Here's part of the article below the jump.

The world is but a stage...

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Puppet Staging

I wrote some time ago about a great new Christmas event that the local school chaplains (or, to give us our proper title, the Calderside Learning Community Chaplaincy Team, la di da!) are working on for Christmas: Bubblegum & Fluff. The plans are now really coming together and this event for P6 children in all the feeder primary schools to Calderside Academy is going to be a lot of fun as we explore the Christmas Story and why the Incarnation of God in Jesus is important to us all today.

When we worked out the budget on Monday of this week we realised it was going to add up pretty fast when you are talking about more than 300 children and providing crafts and all kinds of other things for them. I applied for a grant from the Church of Scotland to cover some of the costs and we were given a generous amount to cover the costs over what we were going to contribute locally. Thanks to the Mission & Discipleship Council!

A repudiation of violence?

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Tree of Life

The picture above is of a sculpture called the Tree of Life that was made a few years ago in Mozambique out of weapons that had been given up by the people in exchange for tools like shovels, ploughs, sewing machines and bicycles making the Micah prophecy a reality in that country.

They shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks.
(Micah 4:3)

The Christian Council of Mozambique have been supporting this work following the terrible civil war that lasted seventeen years. Although it ended in 1992 the country is still awash with weapons. It can take a long time to transition from a culture of violence to a culture of peace. 

Oooh! Aaah!

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Comet between fireworks and lightning

I just about managed to take a day off today, the first in quite a while. Come to think about it I did spend an hour or so answering emails and phone messages, so perhaps not so good after all.

The kids spent a good deal of the early evening staring out of the windows at all the fireworks going off (and no, not for Obama! It is Guy Fawke's Night here in the UK which is always celebrated with fireworks) with the universal response to fireworks: "Oooh!", "Aaah!" 

History Maker

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Carolyn and I have broken out the champagne as Barack Obama has just been "called" as the president-elect of the United States. It is truly a transformative moment for the United States and, I hope, for the world.

We're watching hundreds of thousands of people gathered together in Chicago to celebrate what the people have done. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to be an African-American tonight. Many thought this moment would never come.

Obama has described himself as a part of the Joshua generation refering to Moses' march to the Promised Land, which Moses never completed himself, leaving it to Joshua to bring God's people to the end of the journey. Martin Luther King Jnr on the day before he was assassinated in a speech said:

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop.

And I don't mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

Martin Luther King Jnr did not make it. But I have the feeling that in some way, particularly for African-Americans but perhaps for all of us, we've taken a step closer to a better world tonight.

Now my prayers are with Barack Obama as he prepares for the biggest challenge of his life.


Moderator visits Presbytery

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Instead of a regular business meeting of presbytery tonight we mark the start of a two week long visit to Hamilton Presbytery by Rt Rev David Lunan, the current Moderator of the Church of Scotland, with a service at New Wellwynd church in Airdrie. I'm looking forward to hearing what David has to say.

If you missed it, David has been in the press this week raising some controversy after what I suspect has been a rather selective quote from David on China's birth policy.

After the service I am heading straight for an Indian takeout before settling in for the night with the TV and laptop to watch the results from the US come in...

Flabby Kirks

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An interesting article from Michael Gove in The Scotsman yesterday.

I don't agree with him on his basic point about the CofS, as there are many deeply principled and inspiring leaders within the Kirk - it is just that our structure does not allow for a single spokesperson in the way that the Catholic Church and C of E do with their bishops.

It is something that keeps bubbling away in thoughts about how the Kirk best communicate with the nation at large and there is no simple answer. A quirk of presbyterianism.

Congrats Lewis!

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Lewis Hamilton Wins Championship

As a passionate follower of F1, I have to say the last race of the 2008 season today in Brazil was a cracker! Edge of the seat stuff. Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton, the youngest ever F1 champion and the first Brit since Damon Hill in 1996.

Five year old Andrew was thrilled that Fellipe Massa won the race though, as a budding Ferrari fan... he doesn't get that from me!

Aye we can!

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Scotland for Obama Sign

Today we trekked over to Edinburgh to show our support at the Scotland for Obama rally. As we walked up the Mound from Castle Terrace we got lots of cheers and smiles with our home made banner!

Sadly, the only person in our household who can actually vote in the US elections was at work! Nonetheless, we did our bit on a cold but bright day and it was good to meet with lots of other folks from both Scotland and the USA who are as passionate about this election as we are. 

An Obama Rally in Scotland!

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On a visit to a church member a week or so ago I heard that some years ago (quite a few!) she had been told by her teacher that "when America sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold". And hence why all these years later there is still so much interest in US politics even over here in Scotland.

Believe it or not, there is going to be a "Scotland for Obama" rally tomorrow, Saturday, at Hunter Square off the High Street in Edinburgh at 12 noon.


Written by Peter Johnston on .

One of the great appeals of a new wave of politicians like Barack Obama is their awareness of and ability to interconnect with people young and old, across the globe. This cross-cultural awareness breeds the kind of spontaneous expression of support you see above from MC Yogi - a great piece. 

Obama '08 - Vote For Hope from MC Yogi on Vimeo.


Rethinking Christmas

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Only 57 shopping days left until Christmas! How are you going to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus?

I found this video on the Something Beautiful website, linked to via Stewart Cutler.

Update: A recent donation St Andrew's gave was to WaterAid. Click here for more information about their work.

Praising Secularism

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Where Church and State Meet

It may seem an odd tack for a Christian minister to take, but I sincerely mean it that we have a lot to be thankful for in secularism within the UK. In England the Church of England is still the national state church. While sometimes we in the Church of Scotland style ourselves as the National Church, it is not the case any longer as the CofS has been long since disestablished.

Many of us hanker after a simpler time when everyone understood we lived in a Christian country, and worry about the rising tide of secularism: seeing in it a threat to long held values.

Personally, I don't worry about that, and rather see secularism as providing space for churches and faith communities to think creatively about how to live out our beliefs in a prophetic and active way. 

Gathered round the hearth... no more

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Roaring Fire

The house I grew up in down in Kent did not have central heating until I was in my late teens (and even then it wasn't for the whole house - the bedrooms still had no heating), but for most of my childhood the house was heated by a few ineffectual storage heaters that were only warm in the morning, by the evening they had cooled down, and open coal fires.

Whereas today the chairs in most living rooms now have the TV as the focal point, we had the chairs still centred around the fire, and we'd move one of them to watch TV! Gathered around that roaring coal fire with the heat warming your feet is a fond memory and one we could do with right now.

We've been having on and off problems with the boiler all summer as it kept failing to fire up. You would only realise it had done this when you got into the shower and were reduced to a squealing wreck as cold water gushed forth. 


Written by Peter Johnston on .

Sunday Times columnist, Atlantic writer, and long-term blogger Andrew Sullivan has a superb essay on blogging, Why I Blog, in this month's copy of The Atlantic. If you are new to blogs and want to know more, it's a great way to learn more about this new and rapidly growing means of online conversation.

Will your anchor hold?

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The Boys Brigade celebrated their 125th Anniversary this past weekend and our local company (2nd Blantyre) joined the other companies of the Hamilton and District battalion for a march in Hamilton braving the truly atrocious weather on Sunday afternoon.

The Boys Brigade slogan is "Sure and Steadfast" which along with the anchor symbol and frequently sung hymn "Will your anchor hold" emphasises the qualities that the organisation wants to encourage in its boys. We find these same qualities of trustworthiness and stability in God, who stays with us no matter what the storms of life throw at us.

That being said, I'm still not sure I would want to be a lighthouse keeper in the middle of a storm...

(Hat tip to iTalker for the video)

Always the violence...

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With reference to the previous posts about the Myth of Redemptive Violence and Jesus and Violence, I read a speech from John McCain, a US presidential candidate, given today which ended with these words:

I'm an American. And I choose to fight. Don't give up hope. Be strong. Have courage. And fight. Fight for a new direction for our country. Fight for what's right for America.

Fight to clean up the mess of corruption, infighting and selfishness in Washington.

Fight to get our economy out of the ditch and back in the lead.

Fight for the ideals and character of a free people.

Fight for our children's future.

Fight for justice and opportunity for all.

Stand up to defend our country from its enemies.

Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight. America is worth fighting for. Nothing is inevitable here. We never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history. Now, let's go win this election and get this country moving again.

I agree with him that we should be striving to do better on most of these points, but isn't it interesting that the image he uses is of fighting? Always the violence, always the fighting. Thank God for Jesus showing us a different way.


Stargazing over Bothwell Castle

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Star trails over Bothwell Castle

It was a clear night tonight after what feels like weeks of rain. I took the opportunity after putting the kids to bed to trek over to Bothwell Castle on the other side of the Clyde River to enjoy the stars. I even saw a shooting star.

The picture above of me sitting on the ruins of Bothwell Castle was taken as the world turned under a starlit night. You can click on the image above to see a larger version, or click here.

For the technically minded, the image is the result of eighty-eight 30 second exposures overlaid to create the startrails. No prizes for pointing out which star is the Pole/North Star!