Monthly Archives: May 2012

God First

God First

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May 30, 2012 · 07:49


The Meenister’s Log

In 1998 I visited Turkey and spent a wonderful time touring the amazing site of excavated Ephesus (one of the top ten places that you have to visit, before you die)

The tour-guide was excellent, but his pitch was aimed at the lowest common denominator – the gum-chewing fat American from the Mid-West (sorry, any mid-west relatives).

For example, at the entrance to the site are three pillars… “can anyone tell me what these are?”


Me: “Corinthian, Doric and Ionic”

Later, a sign or symbol to  Nike – “anyone know who Nike was?”

“God (sic) of sneakers?”

Me: “Goddess of Speed”

The sign of the fish – “Anyone?” 

Me: “ICHTHUS    etc”

By this time my better half was prodding me in the ribs and telling me to stop being such a show-off.

The Guide, now curious, asked if I’d been on this tour before – which I hadn’t

“So what do you do work at?”


“OK – we’re just about to reach the Amphitheatre where St. Paul preached – would you like to talk to the group about it?”

And I did – and it was was one of the most moving experiences ever: to sit where the apostle sat and to relate his story.  It was wonderful!


In the 1st century AD, the Apostle Paul spent over three years in Ephesus preaching the Gospel. According to tradition, he delivered a sermon condemning pagan worship in this theatre

According to the Acts of the Apostles (19:23-41), the theatre was the site of the “riot of the silversmiths” in which those who made silver figures of Artemis rioted because Paul’s preaching was bad for business

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respect other religions

respect other religions

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May 29, 2012 · 17:39

Dispatches – again

The Meenister’s Log

A phone call: “I wonder if you would be able to conduct my husband’s funeral?”

“Yes, of course – I’m so sorry – do you have a day and time in mind, so that I can check my diary?”

“Oh, he’s not dead yet!”   True

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Matches (again)

The Meenister’s Log

A phone call: “We’re getting married on the 2nd August!

“Well, that’s great news – congratulations” (rather than ‘so?’)

“And we’d like you to perform the ceremony”  (wow!)

And then she added, “but we’re not religious – so we don’t want prayers and hymns and stuff like that….. though I don’t mind God being mentioned”

“Well, I’m sure God would be delighted about that – but, as you say you’re not religious and don’t want hymns and Scripture Readings and prayers and so on, would you not be better at the Registry Office?”

and then the punch-line: “But the Registry Office doesn’t have an aisle to walk down……………..

……….and I’ve got six bridesmaids and three flower-girls and a male of the same age as each escorting them” (she was less eloquent than that)

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An Adult Baptism

The Meenister’s Log

James was a lad in his early thirties and was a bit “slow”.  However, he was desperate to be baptised.

We went through a course of instruction and he seemed to understand what was involved.

However, when  it came time for his Christening, he seemed very ill at ease; it transpired that he felt nervous about standing in front of the congregation in public view.

We arranged a compromise: the Sacrament would be administered AFTER the service and we would have two or three elders present, as well as some members of his family.

“James, I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit Amen”

And then as is my custom, I placed my right hand on his head and said “May the blessing of Almighty God descend upon you and dwell in your heart forevermore”

To which James loudly interrupted, “I bloody well hope so!”

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Hatches (again)

The Meenister’s Log

A young woman asks, “Could I have the bairn done?”  (always tempted to reply, “Well done, or medium rare”)

“Could I have the bairn done?”

“Are you a member of the church?”

 A bemused and pitying look that seems to say, “You must be joking!”

“Well, the rules say that you or your husband must be members or promise to become members”

“What! You mean I’ll have to go to services on a Sunday?  I didn’t think that you had to do THAT.  I thought that you just put water on the bairn’s head and that was it!”

“No, there’s a bit more to it than that”  And tries to explain what the ‘bit more’ actually was.

“And then you put the water on the bairn’s head?” she asked.


“And that makes him a Catholic…..!!!”


We “negotiated” that she should attend Sunday worship for six weeks and then we’d go ahead with the Baptism.

And she was true to her word.

Then the big day and bairn “was done”……..

….. and I never saw them again!


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“morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me”Henry David Thoreau

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May 29, 2012 · 11:48

How Christmas came to Roaring Camp

The Meenister’s Log

I first heard a version of this when I was a Probationer Assistant – preached by the Rev Bob White on Christmas Eve, 1973.  I’ve since used variations of this many times during my Ministry.

How Christmas Came to Roaring Camp
by F. W. Boreham

It may or may not have happened in December; Bret Harte does not say, and it certainly does not matter; for whether it happened in April or September or December, it was Christmas time in Roaring Camp.  

It is always Christmas when a little child is born; the angels sing their song in Somebody’s sky, and heaven fills the atmosphere of Somebody’s home with its Gloria in Excelsis—its message of peace on earth and goodwill among men.  

It certainly was Christmas-time in Roaring Camp. Peace and goodwill were unknown at Roaring Camp until the little babe was born. Even among the mining camps of the lawless west, Roaring Camp has a sinister and unenviable notoriety. When men differed in opinion over their cards, and, to settle the dispute, shot each other dead on the spot, the gamblers at the neighboring tables merely nodded and calmly went on with their play. To die a natural death at Roaring Camp was to die at the pistol’s point. 

There was just one woman there—poor Cherokee Sal—and, as Bret Harte says on the first page of the story, the less said of her the better. And anyhow, she dies, and dies at the beginning of the tale. 
Stumpy, who in earlier and better days, had been a medical student or something of the sort, did his best for her He managed to save the baby, but the plight of poor Sal was beyond his skill.

The baby belonged to the camp, and the Camp resolved to do its duty bravely. The baby was lying on some rags in a box. The character of the box is not recorded; it certainly wasn’t a soap box—soap was a negligible quantity at Roaring Camp. But everyone felt that the box wouldn’t do; so a man was sent eighty miles on a mule to get a rosewood cradle, the best that money could buy. The cradle was brought; but then rags seemed out of place; and the messenger had to return to Sacramento for the daintiest and softest lace and filigree-work and frills, to be bought regardless of the cost. 

But when the pink little baby, lying amidst its froth of snowy white-work in the rosewood cradle, took his place in the middle of the room, the men observed with dismay a thing they had never before noticed; the floor was positively filthy!  And when they had scrubbed the floor, as only horny handed miners could scrub it, and made it almost as clean as the day on which the boards were first laid, they made a new discovery. For they saw that, in order to match the floor and the rosewood cradle and the lace-work and the baby, the walls would have to be cleaned and the ceiling whitewashed, and the windows mended and draped with curtains! 

Moreover, there had to be long periods of quiet, to allow the baby to sleep, and so the quality that had given the Camp its name departed from it.  Then, on fine days, the men took the rosewood cradle out to the mines; but the mining area was a dusty, dreary place; so to please the baby’s eye, they planted brightly colored flowers round the spot where the cradle stood; they had, of course, to plant them in some kind of order and with some design; and so the very mines became a garden.

The men noticed too, that some of the stones that they turned up with their picks had a certain brightness and beauty; they found themselves putting aside glittering bits of quartz, prettily-colored pebbles and flakes of mica and playthings for the baby! Best of all, a change came over the appearance of the men themselves. Up at Tuttle’s Store the astute proprietor, seeing which way the wind was blowing down at the Camp, placed mirrors about the apartment in which the men lounged and chatted and smoked. And soon there was an extraordinary demand for soap and shaving materials, collars, ties and even suits of clothes. The baby transformed everything.


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The Dancing Years

The Meenister’s Log

Sydney Carter’s “Lord of the Dance” is now a firm favourite and item of praise in many a congregation’s repertoire, but when first introduced, some weren’t so sure: at an open air service I once took many years ago, it had one man doing a solo “Dashing White Sergeant” toward the exit, with the exclamation “disgraceful! and I don’t think that it was a critique of my singing!

Life can, I suppose, be regarded as a Dance – sometimes quick, sometimes slow; sometimes complex, sometimes simple (hey, have you seen this cartoon from Private Eye?)


Dance has its place,of course,in worship – you’ll find it, for example, in the Hebrew Scriptures (OT) in Exodus – having safely crossed the Red Sea, we read that “The prophet, Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took her tambourine and all the women followed her, playing their instruments and dancing”

Worship and dance seem to go together and have been partners for a very long time.

I once conducted a funeral service at which the organist was requested to play a favourite tune of the deceased: namely, “When they begin the Beguine” – an accidental, but inspired choice – and, I guess, theologically correct..

I’m also aware of the guest at a wedding reception, who, accepting the invitation of the band: “if any of yous who wants tae sing summat – cum oan and tak the mike & gies us a song”

So we got “The Old Rugged Cross” in waltz time…….

A colleague recalls that soon after being inducted to his new Charge, asked the Session Clerk what the arrangements were for Holy Week…

“A Good Friday evening service?”

“Oh no, Minister, that’s the date of our Congregational Dance!”

One of my colleagues had to introduce the Rev …… whose specialty was Liturgical Dance, and he couldn’t hep but giggling – his congregation sat in awed silence (or gobsmacked, if you prefer) during this creaky “performance” to some nursery rhyme like “Shine, Jesus, shine”

I heard of a very innovative liturgy director, a religious sister, dancing the offertory procession in ‘attractive’ costumes and playing the banjo. The bishop was presiding on this occasion of the pastor’s golden jubilee. As the “dancer” approached the altar the bishop whispered to the pastor: “If she asked for your head on a platter, she’d have it!”

Our dance through life doesn’t always have to have the sophisticated grace of an Astaire or the self confident verve of a Gene Kelly.  It can even peal off at surprising tangents

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