Thursday, February 11, 2010

Happy Anniversary (Version 1)

Happy Anniversary to me!

One year ago today, 11 February 2009, I was here in Edinburgh.  I interviewed with the Church Assessors of the Church of Scotland and with the psychologist that day, taking the second huge step toward moving (the first had been actually sending in the application).

So what has happened in the past year, after that interview?  Let's see...

I met Sam and Scot for the first time (see last year's blog).

I came home, had a very bad cold, and lost my voice for two weeks -- meaning that I couldn't even preach.

I decided that I would truly go through with this!  The recommendation came from the Church Assessors that I be accepted and I was -- then I decided that I really, truly was going to make a move to another country.

I finished the interim ministry I had done for two years in Woodstock, Georgia, going out with a bang with a surprise party the folks there organized that even included a piper.

I packed up my house and put all kinds of things in storage.

I tried to sell my house, no one wanted it, so I signed on with a rental agent.

I packed my house.

I said goodbye to Miss Gretchen.

I packed my house and put all kinds of things in storage.

I said goodbye to lots of people and tried to explain to some of them why on earth I wanted to move all the way to Scotland, why I didn't have an end date to this odyssey, and what I would be doing.

I packed my house.

I bought a one-way ticket to Edinburgh.

I packed my bags and said a temporary good-bye to my boys Asher, Joseph, and Timothy.

I.  Got.  On.  A.  Plane.  (Still wondering if I was actually doing this)

I said hello to the folks at St. Anne's Parish Church.

I said a joyous hello to my boys Asher, Joseph, and Timothy -- and a tragic goodbye to Joseph only two weeks later.

I said hello to some new friends.

I bought a car and began to drive on the left side of the road.

I said hello to Anna, my new girl.

I am in the midst of saying hello to the folks of Winchburgh and Abercorn.

It has now been just over six months since I arrived and there are times that I am still surprised that I am here.  I drive past a view of Edinburgh Castle several times a week and smile with the wonder of it all. 

It has been quite a year.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

And Sometimes It Is Difficult...

I sit listening to  Radio Nan Gaidheal (Gaelic Radio) from the BBC, thinking and remembering.

Much of this odyssey has been filled with joy, excitement, and adventure.  I have been in Scotland a little more than six months now and am feeling at home.  Yet...

Two things have happened this week that remind me how far away I am from my first and second homes.

The first was the blessing of technology that allowed my brother Thomas, his wife Tammy, and me to see one another as we spoke.  There are six time zones that separate us now, as opposed to the one that we used to have.  Still, we were able to visit via Skype last Sunday night.  It was great to be able to look at each other -- and astounding at the same time, given the divide of time and miles.  The last time we had seen each other was July 23 at the Atlanta airport.  We had passed each other for just a while -- I was waiting to begin my flights to Scotland, they had flown in that morning so that they could drive my truck back to Missouri.  They are planning to come over in the spring (whether or not they will tote golf clubs is to be determined) and I am looking forward with great excitement to the opportunity to hug them and show them around.

It has caused me to reflect on the centuries of travellers before me -- to think about how much more of a sadness it had to have been for them to realize that each goodbye could well be the last time they would see a loved one, to think about the utter joy a letter could bring even if it were several months old by the time it arrived.

The second was receiving word this morning of the sudden death of a church member and friend from the last congregation I served in Georgia.  John had been fighting cancer for 2.5 years -- but his death was still very surprising given the circumstances.  Through the magic of the Internet, his wife Judy was able to contact me and give me her phone number.  I called her, despite the five hour time difference, knowing that she was awake because we were both online at the same time.

The sadness this time stems from the fact that I am not there with her, to hug her and walk with her through this valley, a journey that we had walked much of together.  She and John had been stalwarts at Bible study (even the midst of his treatments), helpers in the church, support, and had even helped me pack for this move.  

The reality check sometimes happens -- and the reality right at the moment is that I am too far away to give the hugs that I would so like to give, to hand the tissues that I would have at hand, to laugh at the jokes and see the family members that are dear.  As much joy as I know as I adventure, sometimes it is difficult.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Back to the Future

[Prologue to the post -- the pictures you will see are a bit blurred.  My digital camera is one that Benjamin Franklin used, so it doesn't always work as well as I would like for it to.]

It is February 1 here in Scotland, as it is in much of the world (since it is 11:00 a.m., the day hasn't exactly begun everywhere yet).  That means that one phase of my adventure here has come to an end and another is beginning.

Yesterday was the end of my first six month placement, meaning it was my last day at St. Anne's Parish Church in Corstorphine (the west end of Edinburgh).  I was privileged to preach and officiate at the quarterly formal communion service -- and sad to say goodbye to a group of people who have loved me well.

They had a Burns Night-type of dinner Saturday night with over 100 people in attendance.  What I didn't know in the run-up to this get together was that it was also going to be a good-bye party in my honor.  It was a teaching time as well, since (as a minister in the Church of Scotland someday) I will be invited to these gatherings each year.  I had three duties Saturday night.  First was to enjoy the moment, which I did.  Second was to say the Vote of Thanks at the end of the evening.  Third -- the most harrowing of all -- was to parade the Haggis around the room.  Yes, harrowing.  Do you know how slippery a cooked haggis is when it is on a tray?  One tip of that blasted silver tray too far would have meant a pile of steaming haggis hash all over the floor of the church hall -- and it came close once!

Fortunately, the haggis gods were with me as I presented the "chieftain of the puddin' race" to Ian Wallace, who spoke the words of Robert Burns over said haggis and sliced into it (making it look like a steaming pile of haggis hash -- but it was supposed to at that point).  We then shared the meal of the traditional haggis, neeps, and tatties (mashed turnips and mashed potatoes).

The entertainment for the evening?  Music, recitations of poems by Burns, Highland dancing (including a sword dance), a toast to the lassies and the response of the lassies.  Apparently the only difference between this night and a true Burns night was the lack of soup being served.  

Did you know that the phrase about the plans of mice and men was penned by Robert Burns?  It is from a poem he wrote about farmer apologizing to a mouse for plowing through its house. I didn't know its origin until I heard it spoken Saturday night.  Do you know how hard it is to capture the movements of a Highland dancer with a slow camera?  I found out.  It is next to impossible.  I was exhausted just watching them -- and one of the dancers has a 10 week old baby girl!  Actually, that baby is one I helped baptize two weeks ago -- little Jennifer is a bit special to me.

What happens next? Tomorrow morning I meet with my new supervisor, Scott Marshall, who is pastor of the Abercorn Parish churches -- Abercorn, Winchburgh, Pardovan, and Kingscavil.  I will begin getting acquainted with what it means to be pastor to a cluster of congregations in a more rural area.  I will begin to learn the differences between presbyteries (Abercorn is in West Lothian Presbytery).  I will learn a whole new set of names and enjoy knowing a whole new set of people.  The difference is that I am not brand new to the country this time around.  I think one set of changes is enough...