My dear ones, I am being asked a lot of the same questions again, so forgive me for an impersonal post. It’s just easier at the moment than writing really long emails … or even worse, not answering emails at all.
So, when do you leave?
19 November. God willing.
Goodness, that’s soon! Would you like to meet for a coffee/drink/lunch before you go?
I’d love to. I really, really would. But my diary is crazy just now. I am literally up and down the country for training things (learning how not to be kidnapped and what to do if I am; being taught to manage conflict and communicate nonviolently; being inducted into life in a foreign land), presbytery meetings, and disappearing for a few days on my own in the middle of nowhere.
So how about joining me for drinks on the evening of the 17th November in Edinburgh? I’m just going to plonk myself down in a pub in the city centre with Judy and Justin, and all y’all lovely people can come say goodbye then. If you know me in real life, you know how to contact me for details. If you don’t (know me or my contact info) but want to come, leave me a comment here.
Is there a special service that will mark this transition and the start of your new ministry?
Why yes, there is. It’s on 15th November at 6.30pm in Dunfermline Abbey. All are welcome to that. Just note that if you’re coming from the south, the Forth Road Bridge will be closed, so you may want to take the train or leave plenty of extra travel time to go another route. I’m hoping it will be a proper send off with a good bunfight after.
Where will you be living in Israel?
Here! In a fabulous house called Yakfie. In Tiberias, just up the road from the Scots Hotel.
Looks lovely. Can I come visit?
Yes! There is plenty of room.
But also, one aspect of my work will be a ministry of hospitality to volunteers, international workers, pilgrims, peacemakers. Basically anyone who is on a budget, is trying to make a positive contribution in a troubled land, and who needs a couple of days of respite and retreat away from the flash points. I will start a public Yakfie calendar online since that seems the easiest way for folks to keep track of when it’s available. And it means that those in the country will be able to see if it’s free at short notice. The upper floor will be for guests and I’m hoping will eventually be able to sleep at least six (in bunkbeds/sofa beds) and will have basic facilities for self-catering. So if you know of anyone who would appreciate this kind of break, tell them to get in touch with me.
I’m seeing a lot on the news about violence across Israel and Palestine at the moment. Is it safe?
There is a lot of violence across Israel and Palestine at the moment. But like just about anywhere else in the world, you learn that there are places to avoid at certain times. I’ll be careful. As I keep saying to people, horrible things can happen at any time, anywhere. My parents were in London on 7/7. My mom should have been in New York on 9/11. I can’t help but think that my chances of being shot or stabbed are greater on a university campus in the States than in a lot of places in Israel and Palestine. However, please remember those who, for whatever reason, do not have a choice but must live with fear in the midst of violence.
Let’s talk church. Will you wear a Geneva gown and preaching bands for worship?
I think my feelings about preaching bands have been made clear.
And have you ever been to Tiberias in the summer? It’s melt-your-face-off hot. There’s no way I’m putting on more layers than necessary. There’s a time and a place for liturgical finery. This ain’t likely gonna be it. (But I do have my own vestments just in case the need arises elsewhere. A girl’s gotta be prepared, you know.)
How are you feeling about being in the Church of Scotland?
Honestly? I’m loving it. It’s been great getting to know the team in World Mission, and my partnering presbyteries have been hugely supportive. I know I’m going out with the love and prayers of loads of people and that is very humbling, and very, very important.
Oh, you’re asking about worship again, aren’t you?
I sometimes wonder if people think that every single mass at Old Saint Paul’s is a full-on High Mass and that’s the only way I know how to celebrate. They seem to forget that I have said mass with only one other person present on numerous occasions, and it was beautiful and intimate and God was present (‘Where two or three are gathered in my name …’ and all that, right?) Worship doesn’t have to be over the top to be ‘real’ (whatever that means), and I’m really looking forward to creating beautiful worship and liturgy within a different tradition.
So what will you be doing? What is your job really?
That’s a good question. My job, at heart, is to embody God’s love for all people. It’s as simple as that. To be a peaceful presence in Israel and Palestine. To care for and serve a small and always-changing congregation. To name injustices when I see them. To weep with those who weep. To laugh with those who laugh. To build relationships. To preach the gospel. To show the Christians in the region that the churches in Scotland have not forgotten about them. To show the churches in Scotland some of the struggles faced by communities in Israel and Palestine — and to show some of their joys. I am not there to be pro-Palestinian, or pro-Israeli. I am there to be pro-peace, pro-justice, pro-love. What will that look like? I’m not sure yet. But I will be meeting lots of people from different denominations and religions and communities and NGOs and charities. And I will be doing lots of listening.
You’re very brave.
That’s not a question. But it is something people have said a lot.
No. I’m not brave. This is a calling, and I can only do it with God’s help, and with your prayers. And yes, it might be a setting different from city centre Edinburgh, and there might be unique political challenges, and there are fault-lines that I can see (as well as those I can’t) within the country, within the city, within the congregation. But people throughout the world bleed the same colour. We all bear God’s likeness. We all need to love and be loved. That’s what’s daunting, that love — giving and receiving love — is hard work.
How can we follow what you’re up to?
I’m on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Blipfoto. I’m also going to be keeping a video diary for the first few months. More info about that will be available shortly. I’ll also post on the Church of Scotland’s World Mission Council Facebook page, so head on over and ‘Like’ that if you’re not already on there. And if you want to know specific prayer requests, leave a comment here or email me and ask to be added to my email newsletter which will come out quarterly.
When will you be back in Scotland? Or America?
I don’t honestly know. I will let you know when I have plans. But my visits are likely to be slightly crazy, so I may well end up plonking myself down in a pub for a few hours one evening to try to catch up with as many people as possible. Because I love y’all and couldn’t do this without you.
Can I ask one more question?
Yes, of course.
You’ve not posted any animal pictures on here recently. Can you post a couple of Judy and Coleridge now?