Many thanks to the Reverend Jim Dick for providing this week's worship service. His message got me to make use of my notebook, which is one of my personal measures related to hearing the Word in ways that stimulate my spirit. I'd like to 'Have My Say' by sharing; 1) Notes and 2) Reflections on today's service.
Old Testament readings:
1st passage: Isaiah 40:27-31
27 Israel, why then do you complain that the Lord doesn't know your troubles or care if you suffer injustice? 28 Don't you know?
Haven't you heard? The Lord is the everlasting God; he created all the world. He never grows tired or weary. No one understands his thoughts. 29 He strengthens those who are weak and tired. 30 Even those who are young grow weak; young people can fall exhausted.
31 But those who trust in the Lord for help will find their strength renewed. They will rise on wings like eagles; they will run and not get weary; they will walk and not grow weak.
2nd passage: Psalm 147
New Testament readings were not included in this Sunday's scripture.
Theme of Sermon: - Working with our SWOT:The 'S' of the SWOT in our recent congregational self-assessment data.
Basic message: New Strengths often lie within perceived weaknesses. Look to our weaknesses and trust in the Lord's transformative power to assist us in remaking them as strengths.
Story Sharing: Ways other congregations built new strengths from their identified weaknesses.
a) By re-framing the 'Weaknesses' of our SWOT into 'Challenges', we can transform a negative piece of data into - a positive seed which we may sow to begin the transformation process.
For example: re-framing "not enough parking and hard to get to" (weakness) into "making worship services and events more accessible" (challenge) might help us to focus on and identify new opportunities.
In this small step, we can immediately see a joyful transformation - we transform SWOT into SCOT:
b) By living in, with, and through the love and grace taught us by Christ the Saviour, our weaknesses will be transformed; just as accepting and attempting to live Christ's message of forgiveness and all encompassing love, transforms our personal weaknesses through the saving grace of The New Covenant.
New Testament scripture that seems appropriate to 'new strength from apparent weakness':
NIV Bible. 1 Corinthians 20-22 & 35-37
One of the strengths of our church is the location, although some members mention that “the location is in a nice area, but inconvenient for those who live down the line”.
We have to remember that the location of the Church abroad is not to suit the congregation, like the parish churches in Scotland, but to be in the centre of a greater area. Our church is the Parish Church of Portugal. Rev Graham McGeoch (2009/2013) “thanked the Kirk Session for deciding to move the manse from Cascais back into Lisbon, (Rua de Buenos Aires) giving the Church a stronger presence in the Capital City of Portugal”.
FINANCE & BUILDINGS
Although at the first meeting of the Kirk Session it was agreed to investigate the possibility of a Stewardship Campaign; I think and I agree with what you say about buildings. “Comments about the earning power of the manse should clearly be taken into account in all our deliberations”.
With reference to the selling of the manse, this is a more complicated matter than people would think:
· because of the legal and physical separation of the buildings,
· the definite loss of a good income,
· the terrible state of the real-estate market in Portugal, which will take years to return to normal
· the impossibility of the Church of Scotland to support the expense of a church abroad, given the tremendous financial problems in Scotland itself.
INTERNAL & EXTERNAL COMMUNICATION
Often meetings do not achieve a dialogue with the congregation even when groups or committees find a way to “advertise” what they propose to do and what they have done. I agree with all the external communication you mention, but it seems to me that there will be no success without leadership.
I believe some of the comments made at the Congregational Meeting “who had probably kept their thoughts to themselves for a long time”, identified the Strengths and Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats in our congregation mainly due to lack of information.
It is part of the vacancy procedures to call a congregational meeting to encourage a SWOT session and to discuss all those things, which some of us have done many times in the past.
So, allow me to advise:
a) make immediate plans for renting the Manse, assuming the legal issues are in order
b) it is in our interest, in the first instance, to explore the wishes of the Iraq embassy to be a tenant, for a short period, for a special price This as a gesture of good neighbourliness without requiring huge alterations to the building inside or out, except the urgent matters.
If such agreement can be made:
If not, we will have to immediately look for a long term tenant and start looking for a suitable and convenient place for the minister to live in Lisbon, near the church.
If presented, I believe this, and other scenarios, can be discussed and appreciated by the Kirk Session.
"Very nice. It's both fresh looking and friendly."
"I think the new format looks great and works well. Only one small point for me is the size of the font used on most of the pages. I have difficulty reading what's written unless I increase internet explorer to at least 150%." (being rectified Ed)
"I was very encouraged by the SWOT session at the Congregational Meeting held on 28th April
I have seldom seen such enthusiastic contributions to such an exercise.
In a very short space of time it became clear that a large number of people who had probably kept their thoughts to themselves for a long time were able to identify very clearly the Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats in our congregation.
I suppose because of my experience in various congregations I was not surprised to see the main concerns centering around Finance and Buildings, but the other theme which emerged for me was that of communication both between ourselves and with those in the Greater Lisbon area whom we are here to serve.
I want to say something about each of these THEMES Hoping to spark discussion.
By the end of the SWOT session I was saying to myself all these comments are SHOUTING: "STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN " and it is interesting to see that at their first meeting the Kirk Session suggested investigating just that.
Within the group for which I was scribing there was clear division about the idea of "selling the manse" and all I would personally say about that is, consideration of such a move should be slow, considered and consultative. Much thought should be given to a suitable and convenient and workable place for the minister to live and work as he leads us to fulfil our congregational vision and becoming clear about what that vision is should also be slow, considered and consultative. Comments about the earning power of the manse should clearly be taken into account in all our deliberations
Often meetings achieve internal communication but it is also important that groups or committees find a way to "advertise" what they propose to do and report back about their achievements and equally their problems and failures.
Decisions have to be made about the external groups we want to reach and measures put in place to achieve goals eg: how do we communicate with other churches, prisoners, deprived people, visitors,embassies, hotels, groups in and from the UK, groups we may "twin" with.
Personally I am a very strong advocate of communicating via the Internet and was glad that this came out as an "OPPORTUNITY" in our discussions
I am more than happy to discuss any or all of these points I raise