Tag Archives: presbytery

“Get me Jesus on the line”




Just a few years ago, a well-loved and respected retired Minister was deservedly awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire)

At the Presbytery meeting, following his recognition by Her Majesty, I happenened to be sitting beside him.

The Moderator was addressing him, and, rightly commending him and congratulating him on receiving this prized honour.

Suddenly, in the middle of the Moderator’s encomium, a mobile phone rang shrilly.

In a stage whisper, I said: “That will be the Palace asking for it back!”

{and, yes, some DID laugh}


Not a laughing matter….. many years ago, a particular “pastor” got himself into a spot of bother over a cell phone.

He was was from an independent church somewhere near Gretna Green, Scotland’s Wedding Capital.

He spent so much time there – in the various “Blacksmiths” venues, that (a) he made enough money from fees that he was able to build a house! And (b) he occasionally lost track of where he should be and when – to conduct a marriage ceremony.

Once, when nearing the end of one of his “Over the Anvil” services, his phone rang. Rather than ignore it, he answered it (this, mind you, during a wedding service).

It was another venue, where he was due round about that time (for yet another ceremony), and they were checking to find out where he was.

Rather than answer “soto voce”, he replied in a way that everyone present could hear…”I’m at ‘Ye Olde Horse-shoeing Anvil Shoppe’ (or wherever); I’ll be with you in five minutes or so, once I’ve finished with this lot!”

Naturally, the Bride’s Mother was not best pleased. “You’re the most insincere so-called clergyman I’ve ever met!”  And she complained in no uncertain terms to the venue’s “marriage co-ordinators”

He didn’t conduct many more weddings thereafter.


I always check that my phone is switched off before taking a service of any kind.  I once had as my ring tone the theme tune from ‘The Great Escape’ – now, imagine if it had been left switched on during a funeral?!!!

Or – my current one: the ‘Mission Impossible’ tune…… at a wedding???!!!


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Watching the (live stream) of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly last week, a face from the past popped up to ask a particular question during a debate.

I hadn’t seen him for many years, but he used to be a Minister in the town where I live, before he moved elsewhere.

He would pop into the local Infirmary (where I worked as the full-time healthcare chaplain) now and again, to visit the hospitalised members of his congregation.

Several times, when I was chatting to certain patients who worshipped at his church, they would remark on what a clever man he was, with a wide ranging knowledge of just about everything.

“You know” someone would tell me, “he’s even abreast of the day time soaps on TV, and has been keeping me up to date with them”

Another patient, “You know that antiques programme on the telly at 3 o’clock?  Well, Mr D was able to tell me that someone who had bought a piece of junk in a car boot sale for a couple of quid, had it valued by an expert at £500”

And so on.

Of course, they all missed the point – Mr D wasn’t out working every day, but was sitting in his Manse, watching afternoon TV!


Many years ago, Helen and the boys and I were driving somewhere on a particular Sunday morning – probably setting off on holiday with my in-laws in Suffolk (presumably because I had to be around on the Saturday for a wedding)

En route, I was amazed to see so many of my own Kirk members, including some Elders, walking their dogs, washing their cars, going to the supermarket…..with about 10 minutes before their “home” church service was due to start.

The cliche is true, as so many are, “When the cat’s away….”


Now and again, when ministering in Trinidad, we had a two hour Saturday morning discussion/training session for church Elders.

For one of these – held in the first week in July – I received a lot of apologies for absence.  The meeting itself was poorly attended.

Trinidad is four hours behind British time.  Last week in July. London – 2.00 pm.  And in those days, guess what happened in SW19?  Yep, the Wimbledon men’s finals. (shown on TV)

It was only on the Sunday morning, that some of my Elders (post service) asked, “Did you see that Match?  Wonderful!”  oops!


Lastly, a ministerial friend who was Presbytery Business Convener, sent in his apologies to the Clerk, saying that he was unable to attend the Meeting “for family reasons”

Aye, the “family” was his fellow football team fans!  There was a big European game that evening – and not only did he attend, but was caught on (TV) camera.  Ouch!



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The PC Presbyter

Oh dear!  Just heard of a retired minister who was “filling in” for a few Sundays, during a Minister’s absence because of illness.

He used the word “mankind” at one point in his sermon, only to be heckled by a politically correct young member in the congregation who shouted out, “It’s ‘humankind’!”

I have to admit that I’ve been using the word, “humankind” since the early nineties.

I mention this, because of a University friend who emigrated to Canada, and became a Minister in the United Church of Canada.

He recalls that at one Presbytery meeting, when a “roadshow” ,promoting the UCoC, was being discussed, he asked an innocent question about who would be “manning” the various stalls at the exposition.

The (female) Moderator of Prebytery glowered at him, and asked him to repeat what he had just said.

Somewhat flummoxed, and assuming that she must be a bit hard of hearing, Alastair repeated his question – with more emphasis this time, and a bit louder.

The Moderator stared at him – and here I quote her actual words: she coldly reprimanded him, saying “You say that one more time, buddy, and you’re out that door!”

Somebody near him whispered to him, “The word is ‘staffing’ not ‘manning’

Oh dear (again) dare we use the title, “Son of Man” ever again?

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A minister who was very focused on his work, especially through his membership of and involvement in Church practice and procedure committees, and who had a deep loathing for all things “frivolous”, was left totally cold with the wall-to-wall coverage of the World Cup in the media.

“Dear Lord, I hope and pray that there is no football in Heaven”, he mutterered to himself one evening, prior to retiring for the night.

Suddenly, he heard a still, small voice – the voice of the Almighty!

God said, “Fear not, my son and my beloved and faithful servant; there is no football in Heaven”

“Father, my loving Father, I praise your Holy Name, and I thank you for this.”

Then God said, “My son – you will be well pleased with this: there is a mega-Presbytery in Heaven, the largest that the human mind can envisage”

“My Lord and my God, this is wonderful”

“Yes, my son,” replied the Almighty, “And I bring you good tidings of great joy – you are to be appointed Presbytery Clerk there next Monday at 7.00 pm GMT”




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June 20, 2014 · 00:00


I remembered this yesterday, after 40+ years!

Students for the Ministry are under the supervision of the Presbytery within whose bounds they live.

At some point, near the end of their academic course, they are interviewed by a committee of presbyters – on a variety of aspects of Church matters.

At my meeting with the wise men of Dumbarton Presbytery, I was asked at one point by the Convener of this education committee about the Sacraments.

He asked – straightforwardly – “What is the element used in Baptism?” To which the answer – obviously – is “water”

Then the daft follow up: “What would the ‘Desert Fathers’ have done then?”

My reply: “I’m sure they would have found an obvious way to extemporise”.  Think about it!  Then added, “I don’t think that they were members of the Kirk anyhow!”

This humourless Rev didn’t say anything, but I think that I may have been on the cusp of being asked to “get my coat” (or – in ecclesiastical terms to p*** off; as opposed to the ‘Desert Fathers’ p***ing on)

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The Rev Bully

the Rev Bully could be quite intimidating and his “forthright manner” was evident as convener of the Presbytery’s “readjustment” committee.

A neighbouring parish to mine had a minister who was less than popular with his congregation and elders (in fact, the Session Clerk of said church met with me to discuss how to get rid of the guy – for obvious reasons, I didn’t give any real advice – none of my business )

anyhow, the Rev Bully would phone him everyday and with industrial strength language (unbecoming for a man of the cloth) would shout down the phone demanding that he “went forth and multiplied” or something along those lines, in order that the vacant church could be linked or united with another Kirk in a neighbouring parish.

well, the war of attrition got more intense – with implied violence – as the weeks went by until at last the Reverend gentleman decided to leave for pastures new.

I forgot to mention that the ‘victim’ in this sorry tale had a post- graduate Doctor of Ministry degree – a D.Min ……..  and we all know that Jesus drove out the D.Mins as did the Rev Bully!

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The Most Boring Speech – Ever!

The Meenister’s Log

For three years, I was our local Presbytery’s “Church and Society” committee convener.

On one occasion, I had received a letter from the secretary of a local Church, outlining in great detail the inconvenience now caused to members of her congregation, through the change in the bus timetable: either members would have to arrive an hour early, or be half an hour late (can’t remember the exact details), if they came from a certain part of town.

Could I bring it to the attention of Presbytery so that members could agree to send a letter to the local bus company asking them to revert to what had been a better schedule?

Armed with the said timetable, I managed to spin this out for about fifteen minutes, cross-referencing different routes folk could take and the connections they could make etc.

Everybody looked glassy-eyed; some may have even died without our noticing it; others were wondering what they were doing there.

It was all deliberate – I can be a bit impish sometimes!


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Presbytery can be FUN!!!!!! (surely a contradiction in terms?)

The Meenister’s Log

When I was in the West Indies, there was a relaxed and joyful view of religion that was almost tangible.

People rejoiced in their faith and didn’t get too uptight about things  (for example in our church in Arouca we had a steel-band made up of local kids – of several denominations – and whose conductor was Catholic; at one church evening concert there we had a wonderful Pentecostal lady gospel singer  who addressed us all as “Saints”)

In this country, our church meetings can be a bit on the staid side, occasional tense and often rather tedious affairs.

Not in Trinidad!

I was a corresponding member of the Presbytery of The Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Grenada – and they sure did things differently there!

We had Saturday morning meetings which started about 9.30.

There were no “stuffed shirts” there – in fact, I once sat beside a guy wearing an open-necked floral shirt, clerical- grey formal trousers, highly polished black dress shoes – and no socks!

At about 11 o’clock, – during the business meeting, in the middle of proceedings – some ladies apppeared bearing trays of paper plates with small sandwiches, meat pasties, and doughnut like cakes.  They went round the hall (business still being conducted) and passed around the “refreshments”.

We each also got a botttle of Coca-Cola with a straw.

All the while, as we munched and “sooked” at our Cokes, we carried on with church business.

The Moderator even placed his plate on the lectern, between bites and between addressing us

It was relazed, it was enjoyable, it was great fellowship and, yes, good business.

And then there are our own Scottish Presbyteries………..

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