Good Company

As I sit and write this, the date is Saturday 19th May and the clock on the wall says 2.10pm, and I realise that, as a church minister, I am in a no-win situation. In less than an hour’s time, Hibs will be playing Hearts in the Scottish cup Final. All  morning there has been a steady exodus of cars heading west, containing either green and white or maroon clad football zealots of all ages. Whoever wins the cup, by tomorrow morning half of my congregation will be feeling dejected, and the other half delirious. The only thing that keeps me smiling is the knowledge that, in time, everyone who made that pilgrimage to Hampden Park , whichever side they supported, will have been glad that they were not alone.

This is something I’ve come to realise from supporting the Scottish national rugby team. Over the years, and especially since the beginning of the ‘professional’ era, we haven’t won many games. We joke about it. We say it means we’re much better at coping with losing, or, when we occasionally do win, that our joy is much greater. All this is true, but the thing I’ve noticed time and time again is that it’s much better to watch the game at Murrayfield than to watch it on the tele at home. Why? Because, win or lose, you know that you’re not going to be alone!

This summer, here at Liberton, we’re going to be looking at what it means to be a follower of Jesus. For the six weeks, beginning on the first Sunday in July, we are going to be looking at this through the eyes of Paul in his letter to the Philippians. Being a follower of Jesus also involves highs and lows, but whether its times of joy or whether it’s times of struggle, the same thing holds true – you’re not his only follower, and you don’t have to face them on your own. So, whether by joining us here on a Sunday, or by joining a local church on holiday, make sure that you find some good company. The love of God made known in Jesus is too big to enjoy on your own.

Much love


What on earth is a huddle?

In April I wrote that, if I were to go back and begin again at Liberton, the main thing I would have done differently would have been to focus much more of my time on training up leaders from within the church. Since September of last year I have been doing just this through the formation of our very first leadership huddle, and this huddle has now become one of the personal highlights of my ministry.

What is a leadership huddle? Firstly, it’s not a leadership team meeting, nor is it a house group fellowship. Rather, it’s a meeting of leaders in training. Roughly speaking, the leadership huddle follows the pattern used by Jesus himself.

When Jesus trained his disciples a number of things stand out:
o He chose them personally, according to character rather than their knowledge and experience
o He spent a set amount of time with them
o They journeyed with him, sharing in his experience
o They learned directly from his example
o They learned together, as a community
o He got them to put what they learned into practice
o He then commissioned them to go and train (disciple) others

This is the model we have been following here at Liberton. A group of us have been meeting together once every two weeks for an hour: exploring what our faith means in practice and what God might be calling us to be and do, and experiencing firsthand the benefits of being part of a supportive and trusting fellowship. This is our ‘Leadership Huddle’, and I am not alone in finding it a wholly worthwhile use of my time. Here are some of the comments its members made the last time we ‘huddled’:

“I feel more comfortable and confident in my ability to help others”
“I came along thinking I could maybe support another leader, but now I feel I may have something valuable to contribute myself”
“It’s a safe place to share dreams”
“It’s helping me to explore my own gifts”
“You know you are not alone in terms of your hopes and fears – something I don’t often experience”
“I have come to appreciate that everyone has different gifts, and there’s a place for each of us in the church”
“Our discussions are deeper and more intimate than I have experienced, and I go away to reflect more”
“I love the way, if you say something in the group, people will hold you to it”

As a direct result of our regular ‘huddles’ someone is now taking a turn at preaching, someone is starting up a house group, someone is taking the lead with our ‘late teens and 20s’, someone is taking a leading role with Libbi’s Cafe, and three people are going to help run our next Alpha course.

I am now hoping to start a new leadership huddle in the autumn. If you think you know someone who has the potential for being a leader at Liberton Kirk, please let me know.

Much love

What an Easter!

What an Easter! Palm Sunday set the tone and with every passing gathering the sense of God’s presence grew.

* On the Monday of Holy Week over 70 people from all the churches in the area gathered at the Tron Kirk for a special Passover Supper.

* Wednesday evening saw the now customary ‘Stations of the Cross’ service take place at St John Vianney’s church.

* Friday morning’s ‘Walk for Witness’ went ahead, despite the light drizzle, and the service at Morrisons was even larger than last year (every year it seems to grow in size), with powerful passionate worship and a powerful message.

* Well over three hundred people came along to the Good Friday afternoon’s service at Gracemount High School, some coming from churches well outside South East Edinburgh to attend. As we approached the Cross, we were encouraged to focus on what gifts we were offering in God’s service.

* Easter’s early morning service, which included breakfast (agape) was wonderfully joyful and relaxed, and the 11am service was packed with worshippers – ranging from familiar faces to complete strangers. The challenge at both services was to take up Jesus call to follow him.

* Easter’s ‘Evening Celebration’ was small and intimate, with a thought provoking drama, and a number of people coming forward to share how much God has been working in their lives over this last year. The service finished with everybody blessing each other with an Easter Blessing, and some surprise Easter home-baking supplied by the catering team.

My theme on the Sunday morning was how much our Christian faith is defined by the events of Easter. Looking back, it gladdens my heart to realise that the way we celebrate is also a demonstration of the love of God made real in our midst.

Much love