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...