Blessings and all the best to everyone in this new year.
Or should I say, ‘Howdy, strangers’?
2012 was a missing year for me, as far as blogging goes. I wrote my last post in Advent 2011. At the time I fully intended to make that the beginning of a new series, and to post regularly during the following year. But I did not do so. I did accumulate a list of ideas and events upon which I planned to write as part of this blog: creativity and alternative forms of doing theology, the relationship between prayer and poetry, a colloquium (or was it a symposium? I never call it the same thing twice) on borders and boundaries for which I wrote a paper considering holy places and the way that a couple of fantasy novels look at the world, an ecumenical and interfaith conference in Assisi, travels in Scotland, musings on theology’s relationship with other disciplines, and more. Maybe some of these will turn up in blog posts yet to come. Maybe the moment for them has passed. Time will tell, to go all cliché about it.
For much of the past year, I was a locum minister for a Church of Scotland parish in Glasgow, meaning that I preached on Sundays and provided pastoral care for the equivalent of one day a week. This was not in a part of Glasgow that gets good press, shall we say; it was definitely a place where people face more challenges than most. As one person in the parish put it: ‘All the pilot projects [for church or government social programmes] start here.’ But the people taught me much about perseverance and caring, and, as the weeks went by, they grew very dear to me.
Most of 2012 also saw Alana and I trying to figure out where we would be going next, to discern our calling, to use the terms of my faith tradition. After a series of one-year contracts, both of us were looking for something a little longer term. Both of us had several possibilities and interviews; for me, most of these–all the serious ones, anyway–were with congregations in Canada rather than for academic posts. And for me it was a year of almosts. At one time I had hoped to document the search process on this blog, but I realised fairly early on that I would not be able to do so without very careful thought for the sake of confidentiality, and for the sake of all the people involved, as the blog is open for anyone to read, including search committees and members of congregations. The call process in The Presbyterian Church in Canada can also be a very wearing one, as the highs and lows and the decisions which must be made can pull you in so many different directions, mainly because there are so many needs and desires to be considered: the congregation’s, the denomination’s, your own and your family’s, and, of course, God’s. You are listening for God’s call, but that never means not using the gifts which God has given to you, your reasoning and intuition and more. In the end, I came very close to accepting a call in Canada, but as the old saying goes, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, neither of which I would want to lob anywhere near an unsuspecting congregation. They deserve better. They deserve the right person to administer to them the word and sacraments of God.
But as I was experiencing a time of almosts, Alana, my wonderfully brilliant partner, won herself a full-time academic position as a lecturer in Jewish Studies, and more. So we moved again, a few months ago, to a new city in a new part of the world. We said good-bye to Glasgow, and left good friends behind. I said good-bye to being a locum, and to more than eight months of working with some wonderful people. I’m sure more on our move will be written as the year goes on, assuming anyone wants to read about it.
We’re still getting used to being near here…
Alana is adjusting to her new job. And I am still trying to discern what God is calling me to do now and here. Maybe, just maybe, discerning a call never ends, and you always have to keep listening.
God alone knows for sure what 2013 will bring.
But then, God might change God’s mind.
For now, Alana and I wish you a good year ahead, days of hope and joy and insight, many moments of wonder, and a multitude of opportunities for generosity and hospitality.