On our last visit to Argyll we actually stopped at a sweet little beach which in the past I had always driven past. It turned out that although the beach itself is small the shellfish which live around it would appear to be very large if the shells of their deceased counterparts are to be believed.
As it is hard to see size in photographs so we put the cottage keys beside these clam shells:
while this picture shows that even Hubby’s giant hands could hardly hold this oyster shell:
Why this particular beach should have such a large amount of very large shells of all kinds I have no idea there is no industry near-by that might have unwittingly leached something out into the sea and caused this growth, neither is it one of the many areas in Argyll were there is fish farming going on, giving these shellfish an abundance of extra readily available food. Nor was it just the clams and oysters that were large, there where mussels, welks and limpets all of bigger than usual size.
I was reminded of this beach today when I was thinking about church growth. Sometimes it can be very difficult to know why any particular church does grow or another church doesn’t grow having ticked all the same mission boxes. Church growth doesn’t automatically come about by following some formula or another, it is more about faithfully being the people of God in a living community. That is what helps members of any congregation to grow as individuals, that is what becomes attractive to those who make that first tentative steps inside any church, that is the firm foundations on which a church can grow without danger of collapse. That isn’t a formula that who we are by our baptism into being part of the body of Christ. One thing I am certain of is that nutrients are needed, like any other living thing, congregations need to be fed if they are to grow. I think mission will have an uphill struggle when it is taken as being something separate from the ongoing life of a congregation, I think it falters when it is used as a sticking plaster, and I think it out-and-out fails if it is only about invitation and not about nurture, nurture of those finding faith for the first time and nurture for those who have held their faith for many years.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.
I find something very beautiful about decay. Partly it is down to the colours and shapes, partly it is the wonder of nature reclaiming her own despite what we might think something should be made into, and partly it is to do with the beauty that lies within death itself. I know, I know, not a popular statement to make in today’s modern world were death is all but hidden and talked about in whispers. Anyway I wasn’t going to talk about death but boats and how in different continents the slow decaying of a boat can have very two very differing impacts.
As we drove along one of the many coastal paths we traversed during our holiday we rounded a corner to be met with this view.
The waters of the west coast of Scotland slowly reclaiming a boat which once sailed them. The bright Autumnal colour it once had disappearing with each tide and the wood soaked by the sea water first looses its paint then crumbles and sinks into the silt unforgotten until maybe in a million years it will be rediscovered as coal or oil. Where had that boat sailed? What has caused it to be abandoned? Who were its crew? Why had they stopped loving her? Lying listing on her side still tethered to the land, foreign to her being she retains a forlorn beauty as her younger sisters bob on the waves behind her. Will those fiberglass youngsters have such a repose?
It is not just abandoned wooden boats that grab my attention, I do like a bit of rust. Like this rusty post from a long unused jetty, something once so strong and secure now flaking away under the elements.
Which brings me to the title of this blog. While a one wooden boat in Argyll might be beautiful in Africa off the coast of Nigeria rusting ships are less so, not in the nature of their decay, but in the impact that they are causing. Oil companies which make huge profits are in part to blame using cheap ships which are not really seaworthy and then abandoning them along the coast. You can read and see the BBC news report about the problems they are causing for the locals here.
There is something wonderful about going on holiday to somewhere familiar, that is almost like a second home. Everything just slows down and there is no guilt about
wasting spending countless hours just watching the birds feed.
We have recently returned from our annual trip up to Argyll, there is no computer, my phone is out of signal range, there is a real fire and a comfortable cottage, it is a blissful week before the rigours of Advent and Christmas preparations get into full flight. Usually it is cold and dry, this year however it was wet and warm getting wetter and wetter as the week progressed until it looked almost as if the road out would be flooded to such an extent that we wouldn’t be able to get back home!
This year we had a visitor, well actually we had quite a few, first morning we had the chickens who had escaped from the nearby house, there were as always a virtual flock of blue tits, chaffinches, coal tits and robins, but the visitor I an actually referring to is a red squirrel. I have seen then several times but never as close. First site was as we returned after buying the weeks shopping I jumped out of ‘Baby’ camera in hand and managed to get this picture of it talking away to me having run up a nearby tree. Well actually I think it was shouting at me to get away from its food, I never realised until that moment how loud they rapidly click away.
Later we discovered just what Tufty, as he became known was trying to tell me. He had found a way to get at the peanuts put out for the birds.
Later on in the week as the weather got worse we saw another red squirrel, this time there was more than just the clicking from Tufty as he protected his food, maybe his natural instincts telling him that soon he would have to hibernate made him extra protective towards this easy source of food. The second squirrel lost the ensuing quick but fast fight and disappeared off into the trees. It all happened too quick to photograph and with heavier and heavier rain we only saw Tufty one more time during the week but still he was one of the highlights of the week.
Well on Friday the heart won out and we ended up travelling up the side of Loch Lomond in the pouring rain on the way to Oban. A fact I didn’t know was that Oban whisky is a particular favourite of the Swedes, so a trip to see where it was made became a must.
The rain followed us on and off most of the way up to Oban, however we did manage to stop a couple of times at the head of Loch Long, the ’Drovers Bridge’ and the ‘Rest And Be Thankful’; Inverrary Castle was closed, so that will have to wait for next time, however around every corner Scotland treated our guests to delightful panoramas. Road works meant we were running a bit late so we stopped off at the Crinnan Canal for lunch before completing our journey to Oban through Kilmartin Glen with an all too brief look at the standing stones and burial chambers. We arrived at the distillery just after a tour had left, time for some careful negotiations, which I am pleased to report worked and within a few minutes the lovely man at the distillery had got his boss out of the office and had arranged a special shortened tour just for us which included a couple of tastings during which Susanna discovered that did like whisky after all!
If there is one thing that can cause particular concern when driving an unfamiliar car it had to be leaving Inverarry just as the petrol light came on and wondering how far the car would get us. I wasn’t greatly concerned as the needle was actually nowhere near the ‘E’, but then it decided to start flashing at me, obviously it was attention seeking and just wanted to make sure I had seen it, as we comfortably made it along a now sunny Loch Lomond and past Dumbarton to the petrol station.
We arrived home in time to turn around and head back out to the church for a Scottish evening, with Haggis, neeps and champit tatties, scotch pies, salmon, Scottish Cheeses and a whole array of Scottish cakes and of course a Cloutie Dumpling. Having seen something of Scotland it was now up to Laila to share with us something of the beautiful Island of Tjorn, off the West coast of Sweden and Klovedal in particular, with a power point presentation. We soon learned that the two parishes had much in common, gifts were exchanged and as the evening drew to a close with a good old fashion Scottish sing-song friendships had been well and truly made.
Yesterday, Saturday, was spent at Diocesan Synod, which was a relatively quiet affair this year but gave Susanna, Laila and Johan a further taste of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and together we discovered even more that we had in common. While having changed back to ‘Baby’ Johan and I discovered yet again we were travelling in a car without any petrol! In the evening the some of the Vestry met up with our visitors to discuss what the future might hold, lots of ideas were exchanged and I don’t imagine it will be too long before Kolvedal will be seeing some Scottish faces, there was even some talk of a possible joint blog, if that happens you will hear about it here.
It was a joy to share our worship this morning and there was a wonderful reminder about how God knows no boundaries when parts of the service were said in Swedish. Then back to the Rectory for lunch Scottish style, Scotch Broth, Venison, and Cranican (a dessert of cream, whisky, honey, oatmeal and raspberries), followed by tablet with our coffee. As the snow started to fall they headed out to the shops or for a walk, before we head off later this evening for Evensong at the Cathedral.
The past three days have been a joy and a privilege, tomorrow Susanna and Laila head back home, via some shopping in Glasgow, while Johan and I head off to a conference. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I am blessed with sharing some time with them again and I know I am not the only one from St Mark’s to hold such sentiments. As they say in Scotland ‘Haste Ye back!’
This Castle is one of my favourites, every time I wander around it I add to my plans of what I could do with it if I were rich and owned it. Built between 1565 and 1572 by John Carswell who was Superintendent of Argyll for the Reformed Church and from 1567 Bishop of the Isles. At the head of Kilmartin Glen it has wonderful views, once you climb the hill on which it is sitting and all those spiral steps, it was partly blown up in 1685 but is still a solid and attractive building.