travelling together

Alan's blog

Whose feet are in your basin?


One of the earliest Baptist groups found in Scotland from 1765 were known as the Scotch Baptists. Unlike our churches today they regularly practised the Christian tradition of foot washing following Jesus example in John 13 and taking literally v15 “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Inspired by a nativity play


Christmas Sunday and nativity plays were happening all over the country. They rarely portray accurately the true Christmas story and generally contain a huge number of factual errors. Donkeys seem to play a major role, 3 wise men and camels get a regular mention and in this particular rendition of the story, a multitude of stars fill the sky rather than a multitude of the heavenly host. But I don’t mind the artistic licence and the guesswork that goes into re-imagining a story that we only have a few paragraphs about.


Exploring theology in the gallery


David Mach, Precious Light

King James Bible, A Celebration, 1611 – 2011.

Many churches are finding creative ways to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. However, the David Mach “Precious Light” exhibition in Edinburgh’s City Art Centre is not a Christian initiative. David does not confess faith in any stream of the Christian faith but is interested in the fact that all of life, in all of its extremes, is present in the Bible.

Where are the heroes now?


I’ve been surprised over the weekend at how a series of events converged to make me ask this question.  It began with a conversation about Donald McCallum on a visit to the Step Out team in Wigtown. Stephen McGarva and I talked of the influence of Donald on our lives and ministry and a conversation closed with the comment, “they don’t make them like that any more.”

At the same time, tributes to John Stott began to cross my desk, a man whose writing has greatly influenced evangelical thinking and preaching in our nation and whose lifestyle demonstrated a whole life commitment to the call of God.

In it together


I’ve just returned from visiting 7 churches in 7 days by bike. 5 friends and I cycled from Stirling to Pitlochry then on to Fort William, Oban, Lochgilphead, Islay, Dunoon, Helensburgh and completed our ride by cycling to the Baptist Union Sports Day in Stirling. 430 miles, 5 ferry crossings, 2 islands, about 50 bananas and no punctures!

People have started to ask, how did you do it? Quite simply, we did it together. Tony was the support car driver. After every 20 miles, at the top of every major climb, at the end of the day checking us into our hostel for the night, there was Tony. He smiled, he joked, he bought bananas and when my spoke broke, he had the spare wheel to put on.

‘Dangerous Dave’ was the work horse of the group. When the wind blew Dave would move to the front and punch a hole in the air for the rest of us to slipstream. He sat out front for up to 30 minutes at a time, driving everyone forward.

Caravan Survival Technique


Despite being amongst the most hated people by the Top Gear team, I am still happy to admit that I own a caravan. I agree with them that they can be a bit of pain on the road but I thoroughly enjoy the freedom they bring and the low cost holidays we have enjoyed as a family for several years.

Last week we had one of those family holidays down by Stoke on Trent. Beautiful countryside, quiet roads for cycling, country walks for the dog and a nearby theme park for the teenagers. It’s hardly surprising to note that the site was quiet during the week and got busy at the weekends. Busy with people who at this time of year start to go away almost every weekend. Finish work on Friday, often a bit earlier than during the rest of the week, hitch up the caravan and the escape to the country until Sunday morning. Then pack up the van and drive home in time to get ready for Monday.

Never done it this way!


Early this week I attended a consultation between the Baptist Union of Great Britain Associations and Alan Roxburgh of the missional network. It was a great 2 days talking about rediscovering a role for our union. As many of you will know, for the last year we have been talking about the future of the union with church leadership groups, with church clusters, at Assembly and at Council.

Yes First Minister


On Wednesday 23 February 2011, I along with 9 other denominational leaders, was given the opportrunit to meet First Minister Alex Salmond to discuss areas of national concern. These included issues relating to alcohol abuse, restorative justice, reflections on a socially just economy, and Churches, communities and volunteering. 

The conversation was open and cordial: addressing difficult issues and sharing examples of good practice from across the country. The First Minister greatly extended the time available to us to meet with him and we enjoyed the warmth of welcome received in the Parliament.

A place for everyone

I can't believe its been two months since I put something on the blog. My apologies to those who were hoping for something more regularly. Since writing the last entry I have been on the go with some great experiences in great churches, attending the BUGB council, our own Assembly and just yesterday the Scottish Baptist Council meeting. But I want to reflect back on my weekend's visit to Abbeyhill Baptist Church, just off Easter Road in Edinburgh.