Monthly Archives: January 2014

Time to show hostility the door

GartmoreTowards the end of last year the Priority Areas Consultation took place at Gartmore House (Aberfoyle) with the rather grand title of ‘Hospitality in an Age of Austerity.’ However all pretentions of grandeur went out the window when we discovered that one of the letters inviting people to come along had a ‘wee typo’ in it. And so folks were asked to a rather more intimidating event: ‘Hostility in an Age of Austerity.’

It is a miracle that anyone came but come they did for what was an incredibly energising, creative and laughter-filled forty eight hours... read more

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Advent expectations

Paul - new photoThe Advent / Christmas celebration is over.  And the longed- for Messiah, as imagined, has come. Or has he?  It’s interesting to compare the image of what the people envisioned with the image of the baby in a shabby barn. The passages of Scripture that anticipate the coming of the Messiah describe a triumphant new age. 

Consider some of the phrases of Handel’s Messiah which is so popular in the Christmas season.  First comes a description, using a metaphor of a new and changed environment... read more

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A trip to India 7 – the long journey home.

smallToday was our last day in India. We spent it sightseeing and shopping and in the evening we travelled out of the city to spend time with my good friend and wonderful colleague Noel and his family (including his niece on whom he plainly dotes). It was a wonderful end to an amazing week.

It is going to be a long journey home and by that I don’t just mean the distance. I mean the challenge of trying to make sense of what I have seen and learnt over these last days as we try to maximise what we have discovered together in the vastly different context of post-industrial, pre-independence(?), wet, windy and cold Scotland... read more

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A trip to India 6 – ‘inspiring a generation’.

cityToday we were in Mumbai. Its population is over three times that of the whole of Scotland. Quiet wee place Mumbai! Getting anywhere takes hours but when you get there it is well worth it. And the chaos of the journey is fun as well.

The morning was spent with Creative Handicrafts – a social enterprise with a difference. It delivers clothing contracts to many of the High Street shops we buy from regularly as well as some that I can only afford to look in the window of... read more

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A trip to India 5 – you can call me Al (Paul Simon).

India2

First of all – a wee note of correction. In my last blog I said that there were 8 million Self-Help Groups. I meant 8 million women involved in them. Must be too much sunshine!

I awoke this morning not to the ‘normal’ sounds of monkeys chattering, cockerels crowing and dogs barking but instead to the sounds of the city – of Bangalore. We travelled last night from rural Kalor to the hustle and bustle of the city. It is quite a culture shock albeit not as extreme as I feared it might have been... read more

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A trip to India 4 – support in small things.

martin_johnstoneIt is odd how quickly you get used to the sunshine – to putting on your sun cream and insect repellent. And eating curry for breakfast!

But one of the things which continues to surprise, and inspire, is the intense sense of hopefulness which we keep on stumbling across. I saw it today in the Fruit and Vegetable Co-operative where some 300 small farmers have come together to cut out the middle man. That way they can ensure that they get a fair price for their produce... read more

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A trip to India 3 – lending to the poor.

martin_johnstoneOur first real day in India. And what a day!

Today we moved from hearing to seeing as we visited our first Self-Help Group and saw, first hand, a couple of the micro businesses which they have started in the local community. These are businesses which are giving women sustainable work. Just as importantly they spoke of their increased confidence and dignity. And of how the biggest difficulty in getting things started had been their men folks. However, after 21 years they had been won round and a number of them had begun a Men’s Self Help Group!.. read more

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A trip to India 2 – small is beautiful.

martin_johnstoneWell it has been quite a day. We arrived safely in Bangaluru (Bangalore) but our cases remained in London. Hopefully they will join us tomorrow or nobody will want to be my friend. Three hours to the MYRADA Training Centre in rural Karntaka. It was an amazing journey! The constant use of the horn to indicate that we were coming through whether there was room or not takes a bit of getting used to as do the cows being walked down the dual carriageway... read more

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A trip to India – scarily exciting or what?

martin_johnstoneI am sitting on a plane – at the moment going through a wee bit of turbulence so it is pretty bumpy – on my way to India. It is the middle of the night but I can’t sleep because I am so excited. It is my first trip to a country which a good friend assures me will shock, inspire and amaze me in equal measure.

I am traveling with a group of colleagues – in a week’s time I know already that they will be friends – to learn from the Women’s Self-Help Group which has blossomed in India over the last twenty years... read more

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The uncertainty of faith

Paul Chapman 2Christian faith can be understood in many different ways. Some people may say simply, I have faith in God.  I would ask of that person, where does that lead you?  For me, faith is more than an affirmation.  Faith is a dynamic quality of life. It is not something that once you have it, it is yours forever.  It is not something you can inherit.  Yet, faith is a reality so compelling that it can be the guide for one’s life... read more

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