This month’s ‘musing from the manse’ is in reality written while on a train. June has been a month of many journeys with time spent away firstly on holiday and subsequently on a Summer School with other URC Ministers and then a training course in Hertfordshire. As I look out of the window with the English countryside passing by, the glimmer of sunshine (and possibly the start of summer proper) suggests that we may be about, finally, to get some good weather.
The opportunity to be away has been quite mixed. It has included chance to have a ‘break’ from the day to day tasks of ministry. The significance of a period of rest and a chance to enjoy the comfort that comes from a holiday – whether it be long or short – is one that should be appreciated. Much of my holiday time since joining St Andrew’s has been spent on academic work, but this week provided chance to do something quite different and quite relaxed. Returning to familiar places in Berlin and exploring new places in Dublin was quite pleasing.
I know many of you are able to visit friends and family at various points throughout the year and I know that you appreciate the time spent together and the time spent relaxing. These are important parts of holiday time and it is always good to experience both time of community and fellowship with one another but also chance to visit somewhere new, try something different, or return again to places that have deep and meaningful stories for you. These can be places of interest or challenge, or places that surprise or comfort.
As well as a ‘break’ I have been fed by a couple of training opportunities. These have been ways of sharing with others in ministry to develop our thinking and our working in our roles as Ministers. This gave permission to be creative and to think visually and through words, and chance to be open to the ways in which our story can be told differently. As a creative person, I find that it is not always the easiest thing to continue to do on a week-by-week basis, so such opportunities are useful.
A number of you find ways to be creative. Whether that is through the use of music or art, whether it is in craft making or in poetry, whether it is in flower arranging or through baking, all of these ways feed into the ways that we serve one another and God and strengthen ourselves as a fellowship. The Ecumenical Cheese and Wine social – as well as our own social evening – place music and food at the centre of our fellowship and community building. Our Café style worship, similarly, places food and creativity into our experience of worship and in our ways of relating to one another and to God. When we find ways to be creative – in art or words or music or crafts or flowers – we find ways of breaking down barriers between one another and between ourselves and God.
As the summer months roll in, perhaps these two aspects of finding rest and finding opportunities for creativity can make a mark in our lives. In taking chance to be refreshed and renewed, and given the freedom to try something creative and energising, we can find different ways of encountering God that speak to each one of us. It can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach, but the arts can give us unexpected ways into developing our relationship with God.
As this Newstand covers both July and August, I hope you will be able to find the opportunity to rest and relax and to enjoy the (hopefully) good weather through the remaining summer months.