This has been an eventful year. I have served three different parishes in the space of 2010. Just a year ago, I was nearing the end of my familiarization time with St. Anne's Parish Church in Edinburgh. In February, I began the next bit of that work with the Abercorn Parish Church linked with the Pardovan, Kingscavil, and Winchburgh Parish. THEN, on August 1, I preached for and received a call from the Armadale Parish Church, where I began my ministry on September 1 (after moving into the manse on August 12). Since then, I have celebrated one baptism, solemnized one marriage, and officiated at 21 funerals. Hmmm -- no wonder I feel a wee bit weary!
The role of parish minister is different from any I have had before. Because I am responsible for a geographical area, anyone living within that area can call on me for pastoral services, usually weddings and funerals. I have also been part of the school life here in the two Primary Schools and the Secondary School. If the parish minister role was something new, then the opportunity to talk about faith with students IN THE SCHOOL is even more out of my realm of experience. When I mention to teachers that this is something I would never have the opportunity to do in America, I get blank yet astonished looks in return. It is such an integrated part of their way of thinking -- that children should be taught about faith (not just Christianity) so that later in life they know what they are choosing -- that they cannot imagine not having it in the schools.
I will say that my first winter here has been made more notable because of all the snow we have had. I think we had 28 inches on the ground at one time. Asher and Anna are a mere 8.5 inches high at the shoulders. They were not amused. I shoveled a path for them, then Asher figured out that he could stay right by the side of the house and get a good way around it. He doesn't much care for taking walks in the cold -- but at the age of 12, I suppose he has good reason. Anna would run anywhere. Timothy prefers being by the fire. Then again, he is a cat. They say that this has been the worst winter since 1962 or so. And they had to save it until I got here....
As I end this year here, I can't help but think about some of the things I have learned....
- Soup is good, and even better when it is homemade and someone brings it to you.
- Sweeties (candies and cookies -- aka biscuits) are ever-present and home-bakes are the best.
- You must always prepare for the worst weather, even if the day looks sunny when you leave the house.
- Warm snow boots are essential.
- An umbrella is even more essential.
- Sunglasses and umbrellas go together.
- In theory, Americans and Scots speak the same language. In reality, not so much.
- There are a lot of different Scottish accents, but even here they can't understand people from Aberdeen.
- Gas fires are incredible on long, cold winter nights. You turn them on, then turn them off.
- Short-legged, long-haired dogs are seriously not feasible for muddy terrain -- unless you like bathing them a lot.
- Hat hair is inevitable in the winter. Soggy hair is generally inevitable in the summer.
- Kilts on men are....well, what can I say?
- It is possible to go a lot of places on foot or by public transport here. It isn't always convenient, but it can be done.
- The English are still suspect.
- Riding in a hearse is really quite comfortable -- as long as you are in the front seat.
I am preparing for my first trip back to the USA next week. It is the first such sojourn since I arrived here on July 24, 2009. I can't help but wonder how I have changed and how it will be evident when I get there. What I know is this -- the odyssey that began in my heart in 2003 and became a reality in 2009 is continuing. People here ask why I came to Armadale, a very unlikely destination for an American immigrant. All I can say is that I am home.