Every induction of a minister to a pastorate is an event to be celebrated, a covenant to be sealed by promises, a confirmation yet again of the surprising call of God to all too human people to serve the Body of Christ, the Church. As Baptists we gladly hold to the practice of making covenant. A church is a gathering of believers who in their membership of the local church, embody the promise to walk together, faithfully, after Christ. And the call of God is to do so together, and to persevere and work at it even if at times it exhausts patience and breaks the heart. And to do this while also knowing that in the shared fellowship of the journey, they have discovered joy, the understanding of others, the generosity that humbles, and that one surprise, repeated so mercifully often, that one surprise of being loved.
And so to Hillhead Baptist Church on Saturday October 3rd, and Catriona's induction. Most people who visit this blog will know Catriona as the skinny fair trade latte blogger (see sidebar), minister till recently of Hugglescote Baptist Church (aka Dibley). I met her the year before she went to Hugglescote, and then several times more recently as she came up to Scotland to meet those who will now be the congregation amongst whom her ministry will be. The Induction service was built around the theme and the experience of making covenant. Catriona told her story, the Church told theirs, and we sensed how these stories coincided. And of course the church from which Catriona came, Hugglescote Baptist Church, they too are part of the story and they were there too. Then Catriona and the Church made promises, and in our prayers we laid hands not only on the new minister, but on representatives of the congregation, so that they set out together on their journey, in covenant with each other, and looking to God to lead, accompany and hold them true to themselves and each other. All of this gathered together by Ruth Gouldbourne, preacher for the day, under the deceptively simple command, "Be kind to one another". Except that kindness is patterned after the kindnes of God, who in Christ chooses to be kind, to come close, to empathise, to walk the way of human life.
Then there was the biblically mandated buffet meal. This is one of my favourite icons, depicting an early buffet meal, complete with angels unawares. The fact that the icon images the Trinity and the Triune communion of love and perichoretic purpose, enriches further the idea of hospitality. Food, good talk, laughter, the shared satisfaction of being together, the courteous recognition of the other, the welcome that makes the presence of another both wanted and felt to be wanted, - and all expressed with good food, the mutuality of serving, and the fun of not knowing everyone who is there, providing opportunities to reach out with the offer of our name and the gift of their name.
So the day closed around 8.pm and we made our way home. But only after taking time to acknowledge the spiritual potency of those occasions when you know you stand on the brink of new possibility. And however hard we try, and no matter how much we think we ourselves achieve, we know that those possibilities come to be, not merely or mainly through our energy, but because when it comes to kindness, God takes the lead. He is there long before us; his generosity has no inbuilt limitations, and time and again we discover to our embarrasment, his grace second-guesses our needs.