Monday, June 23, 2008

what's old?

Today we visited Stirling Castle on our way from Glasgow to Dunfermline. This castle is near the memorial for William Wallace (Brave Heart) and is in the vicinity of where the real battles actually took place. What I'm noticing as we've been in and out of castles and cathedrals nearly everyday for two weeks is that I'm not sure what is old anymore. At home, in the states, if something dates back to the Civil War or even the American Revolution it is really, we've walked in the place, in structures, that are aged over a millenium. The castle from today is dated dated back to around the year 900, but it is thought to have been used even back in pre-historic times. To walk where royalty and noblity have lived and died is really somewhat disorienting. While most places here date back to the 16th and 17th's easy to say, but to comprehend that these things existed before our country is a little crazy. We've seen so many awesome things on this trip. Here are just a few picture of some relatively old places.

Tomorrow, we fly from Edinburgh to Dublin. We'll be back in the states on Wednesday. Thanks for stopping by today.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

In the big city

Not a whole lot to report today. We've been in the largest town in Scotland - Glasgow - for two days. This place is quite different from anywhere we've been so far and it is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Isle of Skye where we just came from. One thing that Europe does SO much better than we do is public transportation and providing space for pedestrians. Not to mention they have so many sweet little cars. With the exchange rate and we're paying nearly $10 a gallon for fuel here...public transportation is definitely the way to go! I can't even begin to imagine how many miles we've walked this trip and today was no exception.

Here are just some pictures from our time walking around the city.
a ped walk over the interstate and railroad tracks

a pedestrianized area in downtown

Central Station where all the trains come into the heart of the city

Saturday, June 21, 2008

In need of a Shepherd...

We've been out in the middle of nowhere Scotland for the last three days. The Isle of Skye is the name of the location, but really, it's farther out in the middle of nowhere than I've ever been...and that's a far piece for a West Virginia boy. So, out there we've seen majestic mountains, breath taking landscapes, and sheep. Sheep all over the place, literally in every direction at every height.

These free roaming, wool wearing, little guys just inspired a poem like expression. Here goes.

I'm in need of a Shepherd.
The fields are so big,
and I'm prone to walk wayward.

My will the only fence or boundary.
Green grass all around,
from river or stream to the icy sea.

There are others here around.
From top to bottom,
we've scattered searching the ground.

Mountains and valley's reaching as far as they can,
the highest of highs and lowest of lows.
I'm trying to find my way back home again.

I'm in need of a shepherd.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Marks of Celtic Christianity...

There are two key marks to be noted of Celtic Christianity in the 5th and really through 9th century. Those two marks are quite simply hospitality and belonging. These were both integral parts of evangelism for the monastic communities (Celtic churches). Not only were the two connected to evangelism, but they were connected to each other. The communities were open to any and everyone. In fact, teams from the monastic community went into the surrounding tribes (towns) and invited people to come visit. If someone came to visit he or she was welcomed in and given the highest priority. By highest priority I mean, they could have food and lodging free of charge and they were literally welcomed by every person, even the bishop of the community. If the bishop was fasting he would even break his fast to share a meal with the visitor.

The entire community was structured in such a way that every person had multiple roles in daily life. Each person worked according to his or her gifts and abilities. Above that each person had a spiritual guide who was a peer that could share in confession and life’s journey. Each person was also given a specific place that they could spend daily time in solitude and contemplative prayer. Along with that each person was a part of a group that met regularly (at least weekly) to study scripture together. Then, with all of that, the people all came together for regular worship.

The hospitality and belonging extended into the structure of the community. The visitors would be given a spiritual guide, a place for solitude, and an open invitation to the happenings of the community. The basic premise of this evangelism extends beyond the boundaries of time and meets an innate need that each of us has and that’s to be a part of something, a community, to belong. Through belonging the visitors then had the opportunity to come to faith in a community of believers. My good friend Jeremy Summers has written quite well on the subject of belonging before believing.

How does this ancient way of doing church compare to your experience?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Should homosexuals be allowed to marry in the church?

Alright, this may seem to deviate from the flow of Scotland blogging...let me just add real quick that I have a running tab at the bar right now in order to be on the internet...this is a trip! We're back to struggling for wifi. Anyway, the title of this blog is pretty key to the experience of the trip along side the Chuck Hunter book I'm reading. For every leader in the Celtic Christianity Movement like St. Patrick and St. Columba, leaders in the reformation like Luther, not to even mention the apostles, there was a stand to be made. It may have been an unpopular or out of the ordinary stand, but each was firm in his or her convictions...and for many that started a revolution. One man from history that I've become acquainted with here in Scotland is John Knox. He is largely responsible for bringing a solid protestant hold in Scotland during the reformation, and began the Presbyterian Church which later became the Church of Scotland. His stand was against Catholic way of running things and the mix of the church and state politics. He was firm in his convictions and knew what he was fight for, even in his uphill battle.

So, this is where we come back around to the initial question posed, and it's a valid question. Watching the morning BBC news and then the "Today Show" like program called "the Wright Stuff", this question was raised as the Anglican Church in England is currently struggling with it. There are homosexual couples who appreciate the traditional church ceremonies and want to be able to have a traditional wedding. Now, mind you, England already has accepted civil unions for same gender couples, the question being raised now is just, should they be allowed a traditional church wedding. Some of you maybe wanting to weigh in here with your responses and I welcome you to do that (please note that I will moderate comments and pull any that are in appropriate), but the answer may not be so easy as we want it to be. Admittedly and embarrassedly I have not worked out my own response to this question. I think that we as a church have a bigger question to deal with first, and that is - What is marriage? Second, What does it mean to be a member of the church? Solidly working out these two questions (which we so often fail to do) would leave the question already answered for the Anglican church and all of the BBC viewers.

As I look at this question being raised here on the soil which I currently stand, I know that the U.S. is just a few years behind and in Chapel Hill and other progressive towns the question may be coming sooner than we think. In many ways the church is already behind on the issue homosexuality. The question requires a response and if we don't prepare ourselves, people will be turned away and led astray. What I know above all is that we as Christians need to work out our position on homosexuality and same sex unions...and we need to do it in the same love and grace we've been given. But even more, we need to be willing to take a stand when we find it. That stand will likely be scrutinized from both angles, but we need to be bold. This is an issue where we as evangelicals so commonly want to throw stones and condemn...let it not be any longer! Let's work this out in fear and trembling before the Lord. I pray too that you, my brothers and sisters in Christ will hold me to this standard.

I don't have any pictures really to go with the content except for this one bold proclamation I saw just yesterday.
I'm not real good with Latin, but I'm pretty sure this grave marker boldly says "I await the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come." Let us be so bold as the church to share and proclaim what it is that we believe.

The bar is closing and I've gotta go pay the tab. Thanks for stopping by today!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday at St. Andrew's

We've seen some amazing things today that I just want to share with you in pictures.

St. Andrew's Cathedral side wall and rear spire.

St Andrew's Cathedral front wall near the high altar with an older tower to the right.

Bases of the support columns of the Cathedral.

View from the top of a thousand year old church tower.

St. Andrew's Castle by the sea

The famous bridge on the Old Course at St. Andrew's.

My brother Josh knocking one out of the bunker.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Covered some ground...

That's what we did today - covered some ground! We went out from Perth into the country side of Scotland. We were blessed to have the touring expertise of a local couple, Alan and Lorraine Thomson. They are part of what I call Dad's Traveling Network, DTN. Somehow, through Fire Fighting, pub conversations, and just plain cunning, my dad has met people and built relationships through out The States and Europe. We had such a good time with Alan and Lorraine, they really made us feel right at home here. There were several things from today I want to pull out. First, it's what our accents must sound like to other people. I really wish I knew. It's so fun to share and learn new phrases even with other english speaking people. We all just have a little different way of putting things. We've been loving the Scotish tones and accents, interestingly, it takes people about 3.5 seconds to figure out that we're not from around here and from our accents, we're probably from the states. I had one lady yesterday, just after saying hello, ask, "you've come a long way haven't you?" It's just neat being in a different place from your own. The other observation is just that we all take for granted the majestic landscapes around us. In the car as we were traveling, all of us foreigners were oohing and aahing at the greenery and mountains and castle structures, but it was all so common place for Alan and got me thinking about how we do the same thing in West Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina. All over the world, the earth itself is reaching upward with all it's beauty to praise the Lord...even when we forget, the earth cries out in praise.

Just thought of another fun tidbit from the day. We were out to dinner at a place where you wait
in the bar area until your food is ready. I, like most of our group, ordered a water to drink. The older lady behind the bar looked back a me with "for real?" type look and said, "you're old enough to get something else you know?". Feeling heckled I decided to order something that I at least had to pay for. Here comes one of my other observations. The U.S. is not the only one with regional soft drinks. For Example we in Kentucky have this flavorful ginger drink called Ale 8-1, and in the Carolinas we have this great thing called Cheerwine. Well, I ordered the regional drink here called IRN-BRU (Iron Brew is how it's pretty much pronounced). It tastes a lot like Double Bubble bubble gum. It's definitely (like Ale8-1 and Cheerwine) an aquired taste, but hey it kept the locals happy :)

Here's our bed and breakfast and the view from out front...It's really a great place, four floors, and we're at the top. Breakfast is HUGE and tasty! This would be a dream house and occupation for us, I think :)
Tomorrow, we're off to St. Andrews for a round of golf and more sight seeing. The scotish golfers are going to laugh so hard when they see me hit the would too.

Here are some pictures from the Scotish country side:

Album 1 Album 2

The view at breakfast - now in Perth

Well we've moved on to the town of Perth about an hour to the north of Edinburgh. We're at a nice bed and breakfast. So...I thought I'd just share with you the view at breakfast. These people know how to eat and you're not hungry again till two in the afternoon. For those of you who are wondering, they do serve haggis with breakfast...and no I haven't tried it (sorry Jeremy). If you don't know what haggis is check out one of Jeanine's previous blog posts as "So here I am in Scotland". We're getting ready to head out into the country side so we're sure to bring back some good pictures. Have a great day, and we'll be back soon...We have steady free internet for the couple days :)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Establishment vs. Movement - a whole bunch of churches

Am I allowed to say that cathedrals "litter" the countryside of Scotland (and Ireland)? Whether I'm allowed to say it or not, it's pretty much true. As we've walked the streets of Edinburgh these last few days I've lost count of the number of magnificent structure built to the Glory of God. I remember traveling several years ago in Ireland and there were always two things you could count on seeing in even the smallest town...a church (cathedral) and a pub. We're just now getting ready to move on from Edinburgh, but I imagine it is much the same.

As I've been reading about St. Patrick and his evangelism work with the "barbarians" I've learned that it spread even more so after his death. It is said that through these works of St. Patrick that there were over 6000 churches planted in Ireland alone. From there Christianity in the same way spread to Scotland. One of the reasons for the great number of churches beginning was their distinctive approach to doing church. It was quite different from the Roman church of the time that built great structures and employed ordained clergy. Instead this work of St. Patrick was done in simple, small, structures made of wood and mud and they relied on laity more than clergy to be active leaders in ministry. Which is the establishment and which is the movement? Patrick had started a new kind of church that was both "barbarian and catholic"...some, including Chuck Hunter, called these new church monastic communities.
Not only did he turn the way of doing church upside down, he turned the monastary concept inside out. Instead of being an established force against the world placed out in some remote location with people living in protest to the material things of the world, the monestary was in an open place in the middle of towns or tribes where people could come in and out and experience a new way of life...specifically, one with out violence or aggression and one devoted to God purpose. These communities became models for the world and the penetrated the people of the towns and tribes. The monastic communities provided support and life for one another. They were able to work out their salvation together. People became the focus rather then buildings and church heirarchy. The gifts of each person were embraced for both employment and ministry and they were always preparing to send people out to start and join other new ministries.
So how did all these big church buildings come to be? The movemental dynamics were squelched by leaders in Rome who disagreed with Patrick style and approach. They decided to shift back into establishment mode with a "parish" church in each town. Now don't get me wrong, I think the "established church" has great attributes and resources and a lot of potential for discipling people. The typical monastary was a place for monks to withdrawl and focus on their own souls, but these new monastic communities were places concerned with saving the souls of others. I'm going to go a little JW (John Wesley) here and say I see the need for both, and they should be in a healthy balance. One without the other seems to be a little off track.
I'm no expert on the current state of Christianity in Ireland or Scotland, but my initial observations lead me to believe things are in a pretty steep decline. The buildings are great, but where are the people and are lives being changed? Could these awesome structures be used to reachout into the community and become a refuge, penetrating the world in which they exist? I think they absolutely could and I've seen two old churches here in Edinburgh doing just that. These two are taking the resources they have as an established church and seem to putting things in motion again. The two are St. George's West and St. John's. Both have transformed their space in some way to reach out to the common person. The inside of St. George's is actually now a cafe and St. John's houses are center for justice and peace. I would love to hang around and get to know these a little more. Seek and you shall find...I think that is the case for us as individuals, but also for us as bodies, as churches working together. The establishment doesn't have to be stagnant or stale.
Ok, that's enough for now, I'm amazed if you are still reading at this point. I want to give a quick shout out and hello to our friends Ken and Judy Pyles. They lived here in Edinburgh for a year while Ken was at the Edinburgh University School of Divinity called New College. Ken was preparing to one day be my pastor at the First United Methodist Church of South Charleston (it's been a few years ago). Anyway, we got to stop by and see the School of Divinity and take in the beautiful sites.
Much love to all, and thanks if you made it this far!

June 11th - Activity in Edinburgh

How was your night of sleep? My appreciation for sleep last night was heightened after being up for what seemed like three days. After a good night of sleep we set out today to explore the streets of Edinburgh, including the famous and quite old Edinburgh Castle. I’ve wrestled with what to write about today, as I imagine will be the case many days while were here in Scotland. As we were walking this afternoon we saw this store with a sign that said “this is your store so come on in”. Curious I looked on in the window. It soon became obvious that this was a group of people with an activist mentality. While I’m not sure of their cause, I have to say I like what I’ve seen of their approach. They have this story front, right off main street, storefront where they can have one on one personal conversations about their cause. In the window they had this creatively done message(click on the picture to enlarge and read it)…a message that many if not most would be touched by. These people rely on the power of personal communication in creative ways. On this trip, I’m reading “The Celtic Way of Evangelism” by Chuck Hunter. Appropriately, I began reading in Dublin, Ireland. The book begins by telling the story of St. Patrick. If you don’t know the story I encourage you to read what you can about it. In a nutshell he felt the Lord call him to reach a place written off by the church as barbarian and unreachable. He went to the church leaders and told them of his calling. Though they could have easily squelched the leading of the Spirit, they embraced this crazy, radical, and reckless call. With that, St. Patrick went and initiated one of the most amazing movements in Church history, reaching the people of Ireland and Scotland. Though I’m getting into the methodologies now, I know that they were anything but conventional. He used creative, innovative methods to share the Gospel and change lives. Much the way these people here in Edinburgh are advancing their cause, and in the same reckless, crazy way St. Patrick set out to an “unreachable” people, I hope that we have the wisdom, courage and faith to love the people of Chapel Hill.

Here are a few pictures for you (sorry about the alignment, not bloggers greatest feature). Also, don’t forget to check out Jeanine’s blog: “So here I am in Scotland.”


Our hotel -

Edinburgh Castle -
A side entrance to the castle, but don't tell the gaurds -

Another view from across the city -

A view from the top of the castle -

The things we take for granted

So here we are in some library in Edinburgh. Wev'e literally been trying for hours at different locations to get online to post our blogs. Free internet is extremely hard to find and then when we do, it doesn't work :) Even here we can't use our own computers and that's where all the pictures are. We're realizing how much we take our neighborhood Panera free wifi for granted. Jeanine and I will both make an attempt to post again tonight. Thanks for stopping by, we'll be back soon!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

In a new place...

June 9th – 10th
Some how we’ve passed through a time portal from Monday into Tuesday. We left the states on Monday and arrived in Dublin, Ireland on Tuesday. As I type we’re sitting in the Dublin airport. Already I’m feeling the decrease of my comfort level. Maybe it was entering the Dublin airport and getting frisked and felt in places better left to my wife…I really didn’t have any metal on me to set off the detectors…seriously. My decreased level of comfort I think is more due to the different place, different rules, different way of life and having to leave my American Ego on the plane. It’s going to be an interesting adjustment over the next couple days. Luckily we won’t be going through metal detectors again for two weeks. We’re going to hang here a little longer and then cross over to Scotland... unfortunately it’s about 4am EST…and I’m a little sleepy…the sun is up and the day has definitely begun here at 9am. Check out a couple pictures from the flight.

Our plane that brought us through the night.

Jeanine enduring the night of flight.

More to come...hopefully we can find some free internet! Peace.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Preparing for our trip...

Jeanine and I are preparing to leave for our trip to Scotland. We are both hoping to blog everyday. I will be blogging here on the Riptide blog, but Jeanine has created a blog just for the trip and it is sure to be good. Be sure check out both blogs as you have time. Jeanine's is called: So here I am in Scotland.

There will be more to come real soon!