Second Sunday of Advent: The Candle of Peace

The second of the Advent Candle liturgies we are using on the South and Central Belfast Circuit, this week based on the lectionary reading Isaiah 11:1-10.

VOICE 1: A green shoot will sprout from the seemingly dead stump of Jesse; VOICE 2: from his roots will bud a fruitful branch. VOICE 1: The life-giving Spirit of the Lord will settle upon him— VOICE 2: the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, VOICE 1: the Spirit of guidance and strength, VOICE 2: the Spirit that knows and fears the Lord— VOICE 1: a fear that brings joy and delight. VOICE 2: He will not judge by outward appearances, VOICE 1: Or make decisions on the basis of hearsay; VOICE 2: But will make righteous judgments on behalf of the needy, VOICE 1: He will bring with justice to bear for the sake the poor. VOICE 2: His word will cause upheaval across the earth; VOICE 1: His spirit will slay the unscrupulous. VOICE 2: His stout belt is righteousness VOICE 1: And he is cloaked with faithfulness. VOICE 2: In his world the wolf wi…

Crying in the Wilderness

A piece that I will be using in worship tomorrow, that owes its substance to (Deutero-)Isaiah, John the Baptist and Janet Lees who wrote a piece with a similar vibe for a Christian Aid resource many years ago.  I have used and posted earlier versions previously but this revised version is the product of having a bit of reflective time during my sabbatical to collate and reshape some of my earlier doodles with a view to publishing them in some form in the not too distant future. 
There’s still a lot of crying in the wilderness In the post-industrial wastelands The housing estates once lauded As places of new hope The slums had been levelled  And the high rises raised up. Peace had come and prosperity Would follow in its wake.
But the hope has now run out, The jobs have been exported, And peace brings little prosperity To those who always pay  the highest price for conflict. The streets need straightened up, The potholes need filled in  and the pavements re-laid.
Who will cry out with c…

Loss and Gain

Seriously, don't get worried about me given the nature of this and my post last week, and recent retrospectives. I'm in a good place at present and able to reflect on such things with a bit of perspective. As I was saying at our Circuit bereavement service "Living with Loss" last Sunday night, we could do well reversing Joe Bayley's injunction to "remember in the dark what we learned in the light" and instead remember in the light what we learned in the dark. 
This piece is written in that vein, prompted in part by that service but also having read the episode in Gladys  Ganiel's biography of my friend and inspiration Gerry Reynolds, where when visiting the site of Marconi's historic transatlantic radio transmission at Clifden, he thanks God for the loss of his father in childhood, and other losses, because they gave him a sense of a communion with those no longer with us. That resonated with something that Gerry's friend and my former princi…

First Sunday of Advent: The Candle of Hope

A short candle liturgy for the first Sunday of Advent. This year I am basing them on the Lectionary readings from Isaiah, which today is Isaiah 2:1-5

VOICE 1:The day is coming when the mountain on which the LORD’s temple sits                               will be lifted up over all other mountains; VOICE 2:Soaring high above the hills all nations will flow into it,                               like salmon swimming upstream. VOICE 1:The people will say, VOICE 2: Come, let us climb the mountain of the LORD; VOICE 1:Let us go the House of God. VOICE 2:He will teach us the right path to take VOICE 1:so that we will walk in his way. VOICE 2:The law will go out from Zion, VOICE 1:the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. VOICE 2:He will judge fairly between warring nations VOICE 1:and will settle long standing disputes between people. VOICE 2:Then they will be able to beat their swords into shovels VOICE 1:and turn their spears into scythes. VOICE 2:Nation will not take aim against nation, VOIC…

Death of a Pastor

This long, rambling poem/monologue is the product of sleeplessness, reading a fictional account of the death of Jesus and Clive James's self-penned poem about impending death written in 2014, but widely shared last night on social media in the light of his demise. Please don't seek to compare this to his piece -  there is simply no comparison. He was a genius, and I do not use that word lightly. Also I should also say that the characters in this piece are not anyone living, dead or dying, although it is obviously influenced by my experience. I am also, not dying (I think) at least not imminently, so don't worry about me any more than you usually do...

Has it come to this? I’ve been in this hospital room many times, Or if not this one, many like it. Ministering to others. Praying prayers that neither the dying Nor their companions could hear Over the din of impending death. Reading words from a book That many of them think Is as dead as they soon will be. I’ve had them all…


A short reflection prompted by one of Jesus' Beatitudes, the steps taken by those who seek to make peace, and the toll that sometimes takes on them.

Blessed are the peace makers

Making up Making amends Making friends Making time for others Making space for possibilities Making cups of tea Making a fool of yourself Making sense Making a stand Making a start Making Not destroying

The End? For Now...

The last of my family history blogs focussing on my Mum, this one, unsurprisingly centring on her death in 1991. But the photo at the head of this is one of the happier ones I have of her in her latter days, taken two years previously at my wedding to Sally in front of the Brig o' Doon in Alloway, Ayrshire, with all her men, my Dad and her sons (from left to right) William, Sam, myself and Robert.

Not only did my Mum not teach me to cook, I also never did my own washing or ironing when I lived at home before going to university. In my Mum’s mind those were not things that a man did. And when it came to doing the washing this was not a matter of loading an automatic machine. No. My Mum resisted such new fangled devices until her dying day, and every Monday, after her job cleaning at the offices around the corner, instead of going to the VG, she got out her faithful twin tub and set about doing all the laundry for the week, retrieving dirty clothes from the various wash baskets and …