Ministry and Leadership in Priority Areas

Team Mentoring 2016 and beyond

vereneMaybe you are part of a team and wrestle with who does what and why, and how you can support each other. Maybe you are witnessing conflict in your congregation and are at loss as to why it’s happening. Maybe you are wondering how to work with your fellow elders in a way that feels supportive.

These are issues that we have been engaging with on this year’s Priority Areas’ Team Mentoring programme both in Glasgow and Dundee. Those who took part recognised that creating space to learn together has been of great value to understand how collaboration can nourish and deepen their work (including in congregations that don’t have a minister)... read more

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LAUDATO SI’

Paul ChapmanWhen  Pope Francis  released his new encyclical letter, LAUDATO SI’: ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON  HOME, there was quite a stir, but since then I’ve heard nothing,  not even when climate change is discussed.  Perhaps the encyclical is too radical for people to deal with.

From the beginning, Pope Francis unites his care for the environment  with an unwavering commitment to overcoming poverty. There should be no disconnect between our faith and our efforts to overcome poverty and the abuse of the natural world – two evils that are really one.   He continues that an ecological approach always becomes a social approach.  We are part of the natural world and not superior to it.  Some people feel free to use and abuse it as if it belonged to them... read more

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Blessed are you who are poor

Paul - new photoIt’s little wonder that the people of Israel, whose nation had been defeated, occupied or exiled  for hundreds of years,  should long for an all-powerful God which would protect the people.

However, unexpectedly, in Jesus, God became manifest not as a king, or a priest, or a sage, but as a humble, poor peasant whose primary concern was with the poor of the land.  It’s a hard lesson to learn.  We want God to solve our problems.   But if Jesus is truly the manifestation of God on earth,  the way he lived and his words that are recorded in the Gospels represent not a mighty arm, but a caring heart, especially for those who fall outside the margins of establishment society—the outcasts, outsiders, sinners, lost sheep, lost coins, lost and prodigal sons, tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans, lepers, the lame, the possessed and the children... read more

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Zohara Simmons

Paul ChapmanZohara Simmons was raised in a pious church-going family in Tennessee in the United States.  When she was leaving home for college in Atlanta, Georgia, her family warned here not to get involved in the Civil Rights movement.  “That’s nothing but trouble, and you might lose your scholarship,” they warned.   Zohara’s grandmother advised her to immediately get involved in a church where she would be safe from such troubles.
She did just that.  She joined the church right near her dormitory, a Baptist church pastured by the Rev... read more

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Christmas and beyond

Paul ChapmanThe beautiful Christmas stories, while undoubtedly apocryphal, illuminate some of the basic truths about Jesus.  He was born of poor parents in oppressed and marginal circumstances; yet, he was honored by both poor shepherds and established wise men alike.

The story also reveals that Jesus was born in a troubled and violent land: The Roman Emperor Augustus required that all the world must register, presumably to be taxed by the Roman occupiers. Mary’s Magnificat reveals the injustice of the time and she dreams of a total transformation, in which, by God’s strength, the powerful are brought down from their thrones, the rich are impoverished, the whole social order is overturned... read more

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It’s better to light a candle……

candle “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” The ancient Chinese proverb has a lot to say to us in the long nights and dark days of this Advent season. And it’s a choice that those of us who live in what are sometimes labelled ‘priority areas’ know only too well: sitting often, alone or with our friends and neighbours, in situations that feel a lot like Psalm 23’s ‘valley of the shadow of death’, sometimes ‘cursing the darkness’ feels like all we can do; but often, if we have the strength and enough hope, we try to work out what we can do together to ‘light a candle’ or two... read more

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The weakness of God

Paul ChapmanA few years ago, in Edinburgh, the American Biblical scholar, Marcus Borg, told of students who often came to him saying that they did not believe in God.  Borg would then ask, What is it about God that you do not believe? In answering, the students would perhaps describe a powerful force in the universe, usually in the form of an old man, that had total control over the affairs of the world – the events of nature and of the world’s people.  They would then speak of the disasters that befell humankind, tsunamis, pandemics and wars asking how an all-powerful benevolent god could allow such suffering.  The students could not believe in such a god... read more

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People change things

The Church of Scotland and Faith in Community Scotland have recently made submissions to the Smith Commission. The Smith Commission has been given the task of getting agreement on the specifics of the new powers that will come to Scotland following September’s Independence Referendum.

At the heart of both submissions lies a plea: “Let’s make our democracy better, stronger and much more engaging.”

Close PopeAt the Global Meeting of Popular Movements, Pope Francis committed the Catholic Church to walk alongside the poor in their struggle for justice... read more

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The heart of the Gospel.

Pope1Just where do you start on a day when you have shaken hands with the Pope, listened to the President of Bolivia, attended Mass in St Peter’s Basilica and listened to the prophetic cries for justice from slum dwellers and waste-pickers from the global south?

There is only one place to begin – with the meeting with Pope Francis. This is one extra-ordinary man. He talked plainly about the fundamental injustices of capitalism, a system where love of money has replaced love of human beings at the heart of the economy... read more

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Prophets of justice.

prophetToday I had breakfast with a Belgian, lunch with a Kenyan and two South Africans and dinner with a Frenchman. In the meantime, I have enjoyed time with a couple of Canadians, as well as new friends from Guatemala, Bulgaria, Argentina, Brazil and India.

The World Meeting of Popular Movements, gathering in Rome over three days (27th – 29th October) is truly global and completely extraordinary.

There are representatives from five continents. At one point we were listening to a man from Turkey explaining the complexities of the conflict in Syria... read more

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