July 29th - Monday

As reported previously, the topics for Sundays over the summer are the choice of the congregation.  Today we thought about Artificial Intelligence and Super-intelligence.  The person who suggested it was invited to introduce the topic, there was a little discussion and then the topic was linked into faith.  

I’d mind-mapped out, roughly, a who, what, were, why / purpose and when and added in headings of ‘Playing God’ and ‘Biblical responses’.  

Starting with why / purpose we thought about some of the good and of the bad applications of AI - eg was use of technology and AI in diagnosing someone in need of rehydration and getting the correct balance of chemicals and medication into them, and another example of good was how a phone app allows people to record locally where flooding is happening and the information being fed to a flood management centre.  Both those could easily be used for bad - eg the medical example could be dependant on affordability and create social division.

The Bible application was varied - Genesis tells the story of how ancient peoples understood the advent of the knowledge of good and bad - however that understanding came about, it is God given and humanity does understand good and bad - we have responsibility that goes with the knowledge and can choose to use AI for our own benefit or for individual benefit of the wider community.  In the New Testament the emphasis is firmly on attitudes and values; how do these inform the AI generated decision making process (define decision!).

Elon Musk was mentioned and his new project to use tiny electrodes placed in (at the moment monkey’s) brains to generate text messages!  Mind control!

The most interesting point to come out of the talk was the vital importance of discussion around the ethicals of Artificial Intelligence and how that will develop.  It’s not binary ie black and white!

There was so much we didn’t talk about - bio-hacking; stewardship of resources; self-driving cars; social impact of AI; how we are made in God’s image and, as such, created to be creative; the Matrix, War Games, 2001 and Hal, Terminator, Futurama and the talking heads …. 

How do we follow that!   Well, one of the children would like to talk about ‘Bread and Wine’.  The child is already working on their introduction.

Do come along to Acharacle Parish Church at 11am on Sunday 4th. 

2019 July 16th - Tuesday

A little time at the desk and admin this morning then, this afternoon, I'll be off to Kilchoan in the mobile manse. Once there, I'll walk the dog and have some dinner before going to visit the screen machine! There are three films being shown today and the one I'll watch is Rocketman, the film about Elton John.

Tomorrow, there is a Produce Market at the Community Centre in Kilchoan and Scone Teas at Diorlinn House.

Do stop me if you'd like a chat!

On Friday this week is the Kilchoan Show and Sports Day but I won't be able to go along - it's the first time I've missed it! I hope the weather is reasonable and that everyone has a fun day!

July 8th Monday - Brexit talk

How did it go yesterday - talking about Brexit? Actually, very well. I've paraphrased what happened.

Asked a few questions of the person who had suggested the topic, then the congregation - why that topic, what came to mind?

Answers included the nature of democracy, how to make informed decisions, an unwelcome event and the uncertainty and animosity generated by different points of view and the impact, break up, of relationships.

Started with looking back at reasons for European Union / EEC / etc. We may be living in uncertain times but we cannot think how it was between the two World Wars when one generation knew the toll another war would take in the next generation, their own children. Acknowledged the determination for an end to conflict.

We thought about some of these and related topics.

The nature of democracy being politics / government and how in Deuteronomy 17:18-19 those who are in authority are ultimately answerable to God. If leaders read foundational and core text of Ten Commandments (common to the major religious denominations) each day and used these as the basis for decision making, what a difference that would make to politics and points of view.

Breakup of relationships. Joshua 22:16 how sometimes conflict can be avoided through negotiation but sometimes it’s inevitable Acts 5:29. God can, however, work through each and good can come out of bad. Perhaps this is seen in the coming together into the EU / EEC / etc after the World Wars.

We thought about different points of view, different perspectives and of being inward and outward looking. How Moses in Ex 4:12-13 first looked inwards to relying on his own strengths and how he'd not have been much good to God but then relying on God made such a difference to the welfare of the Israelites; the greater good. Relying on God made the difference.
Responsibility. As voters, it was up to us to read and investigate before casting our votes. How many actually looked at the literature that came through the door? Perhaps we didn’t do enough ourselves? One member of the congregation reminded us that no one really knew what would happen next, either way!

Mentioned this country is one of the few to commit to giving Foreign Aid which, despite its occasional misuse, is used to try to build infra-structure elsewhere to lessen the desire for economic migration. Helping others to improve their lot is a Biblical imperative.
Finished with need to think with compassion. Whatever anyone thinks of PM’s strategy I, personally, had to have compassion on her: the toll on her personally was immense. There is a need to pray for leaders and that they have wisdom to find way forward.

Hymns picked by the musicians fitted really well and they were thanked. All from Church Hymnary 4
112 - God whose Almighty word
122 - Let all the world in every corner sing
154 - O Lord my God
63 - All people that on earth do dwell
153 - Great is Thy faithfulness

The next topics - Busy-ness and Artificial Intelligence. It's going to be interesting! Have you got one you'd like to suggest - let me know (I'll probably regret asking.).

If anyone would like to let me know their suggested hymns please do so!

June 10th - Day Pilgrimage to Eigg

The Western Grouping of Lochaber Church of Scotland Parishes went to the island of Eigg for a Day Pilgrimage.  What an amazing day - wonderful worship, cool company, fab food and wow weather!

June 4th - Education Changes

Presbytery has an Education Working Group that has recently been active in voicing concerns about changes by Highland Council to class room assistants.  Teachers are hard enough pressed without reducing their support.  Here are copies of the letters sent and received.  Presbytery is not convinced cutting back in early years is such a good idea but that it causes problems further down the line.  This thinking has been backed up by recent research carried out in England around the Sure Start programme.  

There's a story about people watching other people being swept down a river and a huge rescue attempt going on.  Eventually, someone thought to look upstream for the cause of the problem.  That's what early years support and Sure Start does - it looks upstream to the source of the problem and addresses those issues to stop a disaster later on.  Such a shame the various authorities have not taken heed of the research!  It's not rocket science!!!

What can be done by people of faith?  Voice concern to whichever authority backs the programmes.  Be pro-active in helping local schools, even if it means filling in paperwork of PVG or similar (it may be a hassle but it's not complicated), so that you are able to help.  Get to know your community and volunteer with programmes that seek to help others, get to know the families around you and offer to help them.  

2019 May 4th - Saturday

Back from holiday.  It was lovely to be able to take time away and just relax and refresh. 

Thank you to all who looked after worship - it's good to know that others want to be involved in leading worship, both traditional Sunday worship and Messy Church.  That involvement and participation is what faith is all about.

In business terms, that's the difference between shore-holders and stake-holders.  (From a comment I heard on a podcast about something else!)  This thought needs expanded a bit ...

God bless!

2019 April 22nd - Easter Monday

Beautiful weather and the scenery looked stunning!

Kilchoan for the church coffee morning supporting Embrace the Middle East then to Acharacle to help offer refreshments for an Easter egg hunt and then record and interview for Messy Church.

The first photo is on Maclean's Nose and Mingary Castle at Kilchoan and the second is of people needing a cool drink while on the egg hunt at Acharacle.

2019 April 19th - Good Friday

Each congregation had the opportunity to share a Passover / Seder type 'meal'.  We tasted bitter herbs to remember the bitter times the Israelites had in Egypt, salt water to symbolise their tears, haroseth, a sweet paste that looks like the mud they were forced to use to make bricks for Pharaoh, lamb to remember the Passover, flat bread to remember the hurry in which they left Egypt and then wine to symbolise the promised land where they would be settle for long enough for vines to grow and wine to be produced.

We then thought about how Jesus had shared a meal like this just before he was arrested, tried and crucified.  There was a short reflection and the service ended there - leading into the quiet of Saturday ...

May 9th - update

Hi all - It's been a while!  And it's been busy!

Lockdown may be a step back for some, a time to rest, catch up with themselves and, generally, slow down.  But, for me, it's been a time to get to grips with new ways of doing things.  Worship is now a Bible reading, reflection and prayer published each Sunday, pastoral care by phone calls and Messy Church is by bags of ideas given to the families who usually join in and to those that are new to Messy Church.  Meeting are by Zoom or Teams.  Keeping social media updated enjoyable and great to know that so many are accessing faith based activities through the various sites.

I've managed to work at the desk most mornings through until a late lunch time, be active with the manse mutt in the afternoons and spend time relaxing with the manse heathen in the evenings. The recent warm and sunny weather has been a joy and the garden is beginning to look like the garden of Eden and not pre-creation chaos.

I hope you've able to keep in touch as appropriate.  Please remember that if you are lonely or was to chat church is always ready to take time to listen.

God bless!

2019 April 11th - Thursday

Another lovely sunny day here - that's four days in a row!!!

I'm staying on the peninsula today and heading down to Kilchoan. Lunch with the local Lunch Bunch then joining the craft group. These two sessions are great to catch up with what's happening and also to enjoy knitting (that's 'my' craft).

I'll be taking the dog so perhaps we'll go for a beach walk afterwards. Let's hope she doesn't repeat her cool down session of jumping into the muckiest of puddles and lying there for a minute - just before getting back into the car ....

(As I was typing, a goldfinch wandered along the outside window sill - how beautiful they are!)