Bothy Breakfast – Ministry of Small Things

There is a street name in Cupar in Fife – the street is called ‘Tak Tent o’ Sma Things’ – we saw it on a recent holiday. I have taken a picture of the street name to use with our ‘Ministry of Small Things’, an attentive ministry intentionally taking place to notice others and undertake what might seem small things alongside others in order to do a new thing together or to simply value the person, and see what happens.

This event – our ‘bothy breakfast’ – took place out of attending to a small thing. On a pastoral visit, Ian had been sharing his annotated and scribbled-on book which he used while climbing all the Munros, compleating in 2001 (yes that is how you spell it, as I learned!). And I spoke with Ian about having a breakfast with others to gather up photos and share, alongside these scribbles and annotations, the stories of climbing together. Ian’s health is difficult, and this seemed a good way to value him and what he had achieved. The truth is though that as this developed it was not one direction but very much about us together finding a new voicing of the church in Cathcart that has both affected me as a person and enabled an existing thread of the church to be woven afresh, finding new colours and patterns to follow into the future through the valuing and celebrating of what Ian has achieved.

Alan Holloway took on the ‘bothy breakfast’ event, gathering those who had walked with Ian, willing to take part and share stories and photographs. We put together a presentation to use in the background of the stories, with the annotations and scribbles in the book along with photos, flicking between them as the stories were shared.  After a proper ‘bothy breakfast’ with rolls & bacon and many other things we sat around our own Craigallian Fire, surrounded by miscellaneous walking gear, and told the stories of the climbs, with Ian taking full part. And after a brilliantly worked quiz on the Munros, we finished up with a glorious videocast from the climber Cameron McNeish walking across a mountain and speaking direct to Ian, capturing the awe and thankfulness, the blessing and companionship of Munro-ists and walkers.

This was a joyful, special, funny and catalytic celebration – it felt like the start of something as well as the valuing of what has been achieved. And so many people came! When we started planning, we thought there might be a few gathered together across a table looking at photos and telling stories – we must have had around 50 people there circled around the storytellers gathered at our Craigallian Fire. Even the preparations were memorable and companionable – the photo above shows a few of us unveiling a banner in Ian’s honour on the summit of a misty Ben Narnain.

With thanks to Ian, who gave permission for this story to be shared.

Three threads from a pastoral perspective that I note on reflection:

  • the attentiveness to and valuing of others opens up new directions of ministry
  • walking together is a colour & weave of this church that speaks within the lives of people here – we heard some of the early stories from the 1970s of the beginning of these threads of walking, and remembered also the tragedies of lives lost on the hills from CBC in the 1980s, alongside the lives shared on mountains – at a personal level,  I have felt a growing importance in recent years of the act of walking as a way to know places and people and myself, and to find this thread already woven into the church in Cathcart is beautifully exciting
  • the Craigallian Fire, – this is another personal one, and opens towards another project underway – our Merrylee Shed. In preparation for the Munro climb, Alan & I headed to Ben A’an – a Marilyn (half-munro!) and on the way back we went round by the Carbeth Huts. Near them lay the Craigallian Fire, a meeting point from around 1916 through to the mid-30s for those walking from Glasgow to the hills and back, a place of escape, of engagement, of activism, of story-telling and sharing of experiences, that shaped lives and places. As a symbol that seems to me a very powerful image for us at this point, we made one to gather around for the bothy breakfast. Through our Shed Project we are shaping another place to gather, to make things, to share life experience and stories. The Craigallian Fire is of growing importance to me as an anchoring point for what is intended in the project as we look towards what could be called prophetic pastoral work – sharing lives that intend to make differences for all of us, more than pastoral care towards someone else. That seems to me where pastoral work needs to go, for us.