My dear friends in Moray, Ross and Caithness,
It has been difficult this week to reconcile the feelings of frustration at lock down and the beauty and joy of this sunny spell of weather, though the wind can still freeze us if we get caught in it.
We now know that we have at least three more weeks of the present situation and many of us expect a longer process than that. I also suspect many are struggling with the inherent instinct of the Highlander to be welcoming and full of hospitality and the knowledge that we need visitors to stay away.
So lets just catch up with the news. It was wonderful to be able to hold a “Zoom” meeting with the Incumbents last week, to be able to see them and to talk with them worked well and I know I can only speak for myself but I can say I actually enjoyed it. We managed to get some business done and to share joys and frustrations. I am planning a meeting with all the licenced and commissioned clergy in a couple of weeks, just for a catch up. I want to commend all those in ministry, Lay and Ordained for all the work they have been doing in these peculiar times.
I have continued to hold meetings with the College of Bishops, we meet digitally every week, and I have regular conversations with representatives of the Scottish Government. I am also heavily involved with other church leaders both as a Primate in the Anglican Communion and as a leader of one of the National Churches in Scotland, my work load hasn’t got any less and
I have no travel time to prepare and unwind, different days.
The lighting of the candle and the various prayers offered for each Sunday evening has continued to unite us across our communities and I commend that to you all.
Please keep up with the websites of the various churches in the diocese, there are many good things happening and it is good to share.
Now to some information about the diocese. I have become increasingly aware from comments coming in that this huge territory that makes up the Diocese is unknown to many of you. I may talk about Aberchirder and Tongue, or Nostie and Brora but many of you have never seen the inside of or in fact the outside of these churches and are not aware of their history or life. So I am going to take the opportunity of these letters to let you know a bit more. If, or it should be when, I get something wrong about your church, simply let me know gently and I will correct it. Next year is still planned as a year of Pilgrimage so lets try and begin a virtual pilgrimage during this lock down.
I had thought I would start in the far East but I realised we probably needed to start with some basic information about the United Diocese itself. So here is a potted history. To find out more please look for the link on the Website that leads to Very Rev Stranraer-Mull’s history of our church.
We are three historic dioceses that United in the present shape in 1864, though our history goes back much further.
The Diocese of Moray was founded in 1114 by Bishop Gregoir,
The diocese of Ross is reputed to have been established by St Boniface in 690 and then re-established in 1127 by Bishop MacBethad.
Caithness was established in 1147 by Bishop Aindreas
Until the time the diocese became United as we know now there had been 45 bishops of Moray, 41 Bishops of Ross and 39 Bishops of Caithness. I am the 9th Bishop of the United Diocese and the 53rd Bishop of Moray!! It is interesting to note that we clearly had more stability in the Episcopacy than the other Episcopally led churches of the UK, in the same period for example Durham had 73 Bishops.
The Cathedral for Moray was finally established at Elgin having been at Birnie, Kinneader and Spynie before that. The Bishop lived at Spynie Palace.
The Cathedral for Ross was Fortrose, it having moved there from Rosemarkie and the Cathedral for Caithness was Dornoch as the bishops had re-established there from Halkirk following the killing of Bishop Adam. The only intact episcopal residence is what is now the Dornoch Castle Hotel.
These dioceses played their part in Scotland’s history and remained under the authority of Rome until around 1560 when the Scottish Reformation established a new church government and the bishops who survived that became part of the Church of Scotland.
The 17th century saw Scotland involved in the dynastic tribulations of the Stuart monarchs and what became known in Scotland as the Bishops Wars as the authority of the church fluctuated between Episcopacy and Presbytery. The arrival of William and Mary saw the official end of Episcopacy in the Scottish Church.
The Episcopalians continued to elect and consecrate bishops though now we were meeting in houses and meeting rooms, not Cathedrals and large churches. The church also remained in many places, especially in our diocese, loyal to the Stuarts and this ultimately brought about many years of persecution by the British Government and at the end of that time the Scottish Episcopal Church was but a shadow of its former self. One of the consequences of that was the joining together of dioceses, especially in those areas of depopulation, hence United Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness and our slightly odd boundary, it is still the boundary as established by the medieval church.
If you have read this far then you will have to wait for the next gripping instalment. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.
Just to wet your appetite for what may come your way please look at the slide show Canon Michael has put up on the Isla, Spey Deveron Web site https://islaspeydeveron-churches.org/holy-trinity/
Take care of everyone, Stay Safe