Sunday, March 15, 2009

Then Came Sunday...

On Sunday morning, 15 February, I decided I would attend worship at St. Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh. It was time to really take notice of what I might be dealing with in a few months. St. Giles' is on the Royal Mile and their website says, "Also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, it is the Mother Church of Presbyterianism and contains the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle (Scotland's chivalric company of knights headed by the Queen)."

It is one thing to attend worship to participate. It is another when you think you might be in the position to lead worship somewhere sometime soon! As one might expect, the worship in the Mother Church tends strongly toward "high church" -- very liturgical, very formal. The music was astounding! The acoustics in a large stone sanctuary are simply incredible and the choir was well-disciplined and talented. When they processed in, so did the clergy who were participating in the service. The pipe organ, with the organist on an elevated platform, filled the cathedral with sound. The hymn books -- well, there is one significant difference from American hymnbooks. In the States, we have what I call interlinear hymns printed -- the words are printed under the accompanying notes. The Hymnary (this one happened to be the older red cover version -- I own the new purple one) has only the words printed with the hymn tune named, but not printed. So...I sang one of the hymns that had a tune I knew and learned the other two in a hurry!

One of the things that surprised me was hearing the Scripture lessons read from the King James Version of the Bible. It was published in 1611 by the Church of England at the authorization of King James I of England. Interestingly, James I reigned as King of Scotland for 58 years, the last 22 years of that time also reigning as King of England. I'm not certain now why I should have been surprised. The KJV is the Bible of strong tradition and if there is anyplace in the world that has a sense of strong tradition, it seems to be Scotland! Still, there are so many versions of the Bible now that are solid translations into modern English, I wonder if there has been consideration given to any of them. Of course, I was there for one service. They may use any number of versions that I don't know about!

Once again, I was struck at the commonality of human needs and thoughts. The preacher for that day said things that I recognize I would have wanted to say about the passage. True, it was much more formally presented than I would have felt comfortable with, but it was his way. It does make me very aware that, wherever I go, I may have to be a tad more formal than I am as a worship leader now. The churches I have served in Georgia as a pastor have both been small and, while having traditional services in form, have not been exceedingly formal in tone. We have taken worship of our God seriously, but not so much taken ourselves too seriously.

That has caused me to think about the future a bit. What kind of congregation will I first serve when I arrive later this year? Will I be in one that is high church like St. Giles', or will I be in one that is smaller and less formal? Will I be placed in one that has a contemporary service? I know that some of the churches there do contemporary (less formal) services -- the Assessors and I talked about that AND I have looked at the websites of some of the churches online. How will I adapt to them? How will they adapt to me? This is one of the reasons that I am glad that my first year will be spent in a familiarization placement -- my year with "training wheels." I will have the opportunity to explore the answers so these and so many other questions I undoubtedly don't even know to ask yet, while not being able to wreck the place completely!

I took all these musings with me for an afternoon tour of Mary King's Close -- but, I think that is a story for another day...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What a Difference a Month Makes

One month ago today, I met with the Church of Scotland Assessors so that they could get to know me a bit more and vice versa. It's a good thing it wasn't today -- the Georgia Pollen Allergy Gremlins have stolen my voice completely!

Anyway, that meeting was both the end of one process and the beginning of the next. I had been dreaming of living in Scotland ever since 2003, when I had gone for a week on the tiny island of Iona for a week at Iona Abbey and Community. That was followed by eight days with the triennial International Gathering of the Clan Gunn. On the trip to the Glasgow airport, I managed to sniffle and boo-hoo most of the way because I didn't want to leave. My friend Jocelyn, who was traveling with me, offered to leave me -- though she was going on to London! My heart had been taken by the country and I began to dream. I landed in Georgia ready to go back, knowing that it would be for a much longer time.

Yet it took a while. I was serving a church and was committed to them. The dream would have to wait, it seemed. It reawakened when I left that church and went to work as an interim pastor. As an interim, I was hired on a contract basis and had a specific time frame -- as opposed to the indefinite term of a called position, as we call them in the Presbyterian Church. I had a time frame in which to work, so...

Last summer, I contacted the Ministry Council of the Church of Scotland, asking what was needed for me to be considered by the Church for ministry there. I did the paperwork in the winter and chose to meet with the Assessors at their February meeting. Why February? I had been to Scotland twice in the summertime and knew that I needed to experience it in the winter -- all the rain, wind, and cold that it usually held (well, that didn't work out quite as I expected).

Still, why Scotland? How does a person describe a pull on one's heart? I had wanted to travel to Scotland since I was very young, before I even knew much about it. My family heritage is in part from there. The skirl of the bagpipes snagged my heart the first time I heard it. Then I went -- and knew that I wanted more.

In the time I waited, I realized I wanted to know more about how the mother church of my own Presbyterian Church (USA) worked, how we had changed things, and just what the church in another country and culture looked like and acted like. I became more deeply interested in the Celtic tradition of Christianity, the backdrop against which this church developed. How is church and faith "done" in a whole different atmosphere? The best way to learn these things is to live with them -- and I want to do that.

So, the Assessors made the recommendation that I be granted that Certificate of Eligibility as I mentioned in the very first installment here. Just a month ago -- what a difference a month makes. I don't know yet where I will be placed for my familiarization year -- I am hoping to know that by the middle of next month. In fact, there are a lot of questions about my life right now for which the answer is, "I don't know yet." What I do know is that "grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Just a Couple (Maybe More) Pictures

These are all shots from Saturday's Royal Mile Walk...just for my Outlander friends (think Voyager)...

You'll notice that Jenny Ha's has entered the 21st Century...

And Then Came Friday...And Saturday

After the tremendous day I had with Samantha and Scot, I woke up on Friday morning, had breakfast -- and immediately crashed again. Apparently the jet lag, the adrenaline crash, and an oncoming cold finally converged into one day -- and in the midst of this incredible trip, I wound up staying in bed nearly all day. Now what you need to know about this bed is that it was in the middle of the living room of the self-catering studio apartment I had rented for the week. Yes, in the middle of the living room. Actually, that was only at night most of the time. The rest of the time, the bed resided in the wall. I think these were called Murphy beds at one time. Whatever they are called now, a bed that folds up into the wall certainly makes making the bed much easier!

So, after a day of lollygagging, I was determined that Saturday was NOT going to be such a bland day. The first stop of Saturday morning was the K1 Yarn Shop, where they had some really wonderful yarns from Scotland and around the world. I had to have some St. Magnus yarns, a plush mix of angora and wool for some socks that must soon be made. I had also been commissi
oned to purchase yarns for a couple of knitting friends. There is something to be said about starting your morning with an hour or so of fondling soft yarns...

The next order of the day was a trip up to the Royal Mile. My little apartment backed up to Edinburgh Castle, which I could see from the kitchen window. I walked from one end of the High Street (aka the Royal Mile) to the other, then back again. Near the Castle end of the street was a street performer dressed and made up as William Wallace of Braveheart fame. He had the kilt, the furs, and the blue warface on. He was allowing tourists to take pictures with him for a donation to the Leukemia Foundation. I didn't get a photo with him, but he was highly entertaining! With a nod to the movie 300, at one point he declared that "This is not Sparta! This is SCOTLAND!!"

Just down the street, in front of one of the many "all things Scottish" shops on the Mile, a prote
st was happening. One of the animal rights groups was protesting the use of furs for the making of sporrans (those handy man-bags that hang in front of the kilt). Why they were at only one of the shops I never did figure out -- but I did notice the rest of the day how many sporrans are made of fur, real or faux.

My exploration continued with a trip to a pharmacist for some cough drops, all the way down to Holyrood and the Scottish Parliament building, and to the World's End Pub in the middle of the afternoon. This was the Saturday that the Six Nations Rugby Matches began and I found myself there just as the France v. Scotland match began. With some interpretation from Mark and Debbie, a lovely couple from Newcastle area who were up for the weekend, I made a
bit of sense of the game. In short, I discovered that sports sound a lot alike whichever language they are played in. Cheers and moans are pretty much interchangeable. Scotland lost, by the way. It was a grim day at the World's End in those terms. Still, I got my picture made with a painting of Flora MacDonald behind me. For those who may not know, she was the person who smuggled Bonnie Prince Charlie out of the country after his return effort failed. And for my Outlander friends, I never could figure out where Jamie might have hidden Mr. Willoughby and his smuggling operation!

One lost rugby match, one great conversation with Debbie and Mark about church life in their town and the boxer dogs that are part of their family, and two lattes later, it was time to head back to my little flat. I was reminded once again that "peoples is peoples" wherever we are. We may have different languages or accents, but our hearts are much the same.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Day After the Interviews

The day after I met with the Church Assessors, I was up early and at the train station by 6:45 a.m. I was off to Dunblane to meet Scot and Samantha, with whom I had gotten acquainted on the Outlander Gathering forum. They run the Jamie and Claire Tour, based on Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. We had decided to meet even before I got on the plane to fly to Edinburgh.

I had packed for Scotland expecting it to be rainy, windy, and cold. This was the only day of my whole trip that it was all those things. After Samantha and Scot -- who was wearing a kilt in this blowy, snowy weather -- picked me up at the train station near their home, we headed off by car to Inverness. They were exploring lodging possibilities for their tours that day, so while they worked, I played by wandering around downtown Inverness. The 3.5 hour trip didn't seem to last nearly that long because we talked ALL the way. We did pass the road to Culloden -- but I was a wimp. It was cold and wet and I decided to wait until I return to visit.

They introduced me to a great second-hand bookstore, Leakey's (I think that was the name), so after a rainy afternoon looking at books and wandering around (I did have to buy a warm fleece scarf to fend off the cold), we met outside the Marks and Spencer store. I nearly had an international credit card incident there -- my card got stuck in the card reader -- and all I was trying to purchase was a loaf of bread! One thing I noticed as I sat at a window seat at a coffee shop -- Inverness is a truly international small city. I expected to find that in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but for some reason was surprised to see it so in Inverness. Preconceived notions falling into the dust...

We were off to the Blackfriar's Pub for dinner. I wanted traditional food -- and got it in the form of lamb's liver, bacon (which looks an awful lot like ham to me), fried egg, and chips (aka fries). Both the dinner company and the travel company that day were excellent. Samantha and Scot are both great story-tellers and engaging folks. I am looking forward to being able to avail myself of their tours someday soon. Anyway, before we left the pub, we had the proprietess take a picture of us together. Scot decided we needed to be behind the bar for the shot, so we did it! Of course, you can't see his kilt, but it is still a great picture.

Then, nearly all of a sudden, the day was over. They were off to present a program for Highland tour guides and I was off to the train back to Edinburgh. The psychologist had asked in my interview the day before how I was going to build a network of support when I got settled in my new place. It is a great joy for me to be able to say that there are a couple of links in that network already -- and I suspect those links will only grow stronger.
The odyssey is about to begin -- and who would have thought that a girl who grew up just outside Crane, Missouri, on a farm would be planning to move to Scotland in three months (or so)?

On February 9, I boarded the plane from Atlanta, Georgia, for Edinburgh, Scotland. On February 11, I met with the Church Assessors of the Church of Scotland. After a bit over an hour of conversing (and another hour with a psychologist), I received a recommendation from them that I be given a Certificate of Eligibility to labor in the Church of Scotland -- well, after I do a year-long familiarization placement and three classes specific to the Kirk. I am relieved -- I have a year of training wheels so that I can learn both the Church and the culture!

I didn't know about the positive recommendation until I got back to metro Waleska, Georgia, where I live now. Still, the rest of the trip was quite good...