Northern Pilgrims’ Way launched

Service of Dedication in St Duthac’s Collegiate Church in Tain

Today the Northern Pilgrims’ Way was launched with a dedication service in St Duthac’s Collegiate Church in Tain. Bishop Mark led the service, Jamie Campbell was at the organ and Rev Lizzie Campbell sang the hymns and an anthem and Rev James Currall read the lessons. The Lord’s Lieutenants of Ross-shire (Joanie Whiteford) and Sutherland (Monica Main) were in attendance along with a number of representatives of the Churches.

During the service, an information board was dedicated and the members of the congregations were given blessed cockle shells and candles as symbols of the pilgrimage, but in his address Bishop Mark gave strict instructions that the shells were to be given to pilgrims on the way, that those present encountered in the coming months. He also warned that launching the Way was only the beginning of something and not the end.

You can watch the service on Youtube below:

The original pilgrims were not just trying to get from A to B. The trials and tribulations of the journey were part of the experience, as was calling at recognised holy sites along the way. Modern pilgrims want to feel that they are following in the footsteps of these previous generations. So re-creating a pilgrimage route is not as simple as looking at a map and working out the shortest way from one place to another.

The Northern Pilgrims’ Way is what is known in the trade as a braided route. In other words, it offers the pilgrim alternative tracks between the start and end points. While some routes have more history attached to them than others, all are genuine pilgrimage ways through the North of Scotland.

Map of the Northern Pilgrim’s Way

In our time, pilgrimage is being revived in many denominations. Indeed, it is a feature of most main religions and seems to answer a deep-seated need within us to re-connect with the creator of our world and to work out our own place in this creation.

Further events are planned in the coming months at Thurso and at Kirkwall where the route ends.

  • 3rd July 2021 in Old St Peter’s Kirk, Thurso at 12:30pm
  • 20th August 2021 in East Church, Kirkwall at 12:00noon
Church and State ready for Pilgrimage

Grasping and Comprehending

The Passion, Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost – we’ve travelled a long way in our journey with Christ since Palm Sunday on 28th March. Back then we were in lockdown, now the restrictions are easing and joy of joys, we were able to have our first wedding in church last week after a gap of nearly two years.

In many ways, living under restrictions is ‘easy’ You have a long list of things that you can’t do and also a list of things you must do and, as we’ve all done over the last 15 months, you learn to live your life doing what you must and trying not to do what’s not permitted. So at one level, it’s ‘easy’ but at a deeper level it’s very hard indeed. Not being able to see loved ones, not being able to do things that have been part of our lives for years and apparently small, but very significant things like being able to sit where you want in church or shake someone’s hand when you meet them.

Under the Old Covenant of Moses, the people of Israel lived under ‘The Law’. So in Exodus, we have 10 Commandments but there are 613 statements and principles of law, ethics, and spiritual practice (or Mitzvot) contained in the Torah (mostly Deuteronomy, Numbers and Leviticus) (248 of these are positive – things that one should do – and 365 negative – things that one shouldn’t do).

The purpose of these ‘rules’ is however to try to help people to find God through encounters with the holy. In a sense the summary of the Law, that we use at some times of year in our liturgy, is a pointer to the underlying principles, which is why Jesus came not to abolish the rules rather it refocus people on those principles.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said:

The first commandment is this:
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,with all your mind and with all your strength.”

The second is this:

“Love your neighbour as yourself.”

There is no other commandment greater than these.

SEC 1982 Liturgy

Living by rules, as opposed to something closer to the essence of things, has a tendency to separate the observer of rule from the real purpose of the rule, which in itself althoughrecognisable, is much more difficult to define. The practices that Jesus was reacting against, were a set of rules which, although they may have at some time had a role in helping people to approach the holy, had long since become somewhat divorced from that purpose and an end in themselves.

As Covid restrictions are relaxed, we’ll have to make more decisions for ourselves as to what to do and what not to do, without as rigid a framework as we’ve had. That means that we’ll have to understand the purpose or ‘spirit’ of the rules we’ve been used to and the likely effect of deviating from them. To use religious language, we’ll have to ‘discern’ what we should do in order to continue to keep ourselves and others safe, rather than be told what to do. There’ll still be rules, just fewer of them and we’ll have to continue to live our lives within them. However, just because a politician says that you’re allowed to hug other people, that doesn’t mean that you must or even that most of the time you should. The careful and judicious use of new and very welcome freedoms is what discernment is about.

Perhaps the simplest definition discernment is that it’s nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure, it’s the ability to judge people and situations well. In the religious context however it’s no more or less than knowing or attempting to know the mind of God.

Under the New Covenant of Jesus, it’s not the rules that are important, it’s this seeking to know the mind of God. Religious practice isn’t in itself a route to the holy, but may help to get us to a place where an encounter with the holy may happen. Not the only route and absolutely no guarantees. We use practices that have traditionally been helpful, rather than trying to conjure up encounters with the holy all on our own.

Our joint task in ministry is to walk with others as they try to encounter something that neither they or we can ever fully understand – the Mystery of God, that unseen and unknowable force at the very centre of our being. That’s always going to be a pretty tricky task, just as is trying to protect ourselves and those that we care for, from an unseen and ultimately unknowable danger!

Blessings
James

Charities shop open more days

From Monday 31st May

the St Finnbarr’s Charities Shop

will be open

Monday to Saturday,

10am -1pm

with all the usual Covid rules still in place.

We look forward to welcoming both regular and new customers

A Prayer for Israel and Palestine

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

Ephesians 2:14

O God the creator of all life

We bring before you all the people who call Israel and Palestine home.
We particularly remember those living in those parts of this land who are facing the constant fear of armed conflict.

We ask your forgiveness for the anger, hatred and violence that all of us have the potential to carry within us.

We beseech you to soften hearts and open minds so that the sanctity of life is always protected, the right to freedom of worship upheld and the security of a safe home defended.

We pray that justice will flow like rivers. That human dignity will be respected and, that each of us may strive to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you our God.

Amen

Rice Update

The Rice is all sold!  

Thank you to everyone who purchased some.  Thank you also to those who donated their change, the total of which amounted to £50, which has been donated to Grace’s Briquette Project , a project working with the Malawian women and supported by Just Trading Scotland (JTS) through whom we get our rice.

Grace Mwanguti is a Kilombero rice farmer in the Karonga District of Northern Malawi. She has a vision for starting a business to turn the waste product from rice milling into a useful fuel for cooking. This is not a new idea in itself, but Grace would love to bring this business idea to the rural communities where the women themselves will manage the business as well as use the fuel to cook for their families. The availability of this fuel will help ease the lives of women rice farmers who for generations have had the back-breaking job of collecting firewood in the hills. It will also help to stop the denudation of the hill slopes, itself a serious environmental and climate emergency issue, which the government made illegal in 2020. The project will give the women training in management and computing skills, and more confidence in their abilities in a society where women do not traditionally have equality with men.

Grace’s Briquette Project

Below is a bit of information about JTS from whom we purchased the rice, but if you follow the JTS link you can read as much or as little about JTS as you wish.

The Rice Challenge supports their work with rice farmers in northern Malawi.  Our sale of 90kg raised the equivalent amount of what it costs to send a child to secondary school in Malawi for a year. More generally the work with rice farmers has improved the fertility of their seed and thus yields, and improved their access to ploughs and ox carts, which help them market the rice locally.

Based in Paisley in the West of Scotland, JTS is a not for profit fair trade organisation set up to facilitate the import and distribution of fairly traded products to the UK. Their aim is to empower and educate producers and consumers, through the fair purchasing and sale of delicious food products from the developing world.

They try to provide sustainable incomes and wellbeing for small holder farmers, producers and their families.

Perishable Food for the Food Bank

The Foodbank at CCAST are in particular need of the following items, as they seek to give their clients some fresh food:

  • Butter,
  • Cooked Ham,
  • Cheese,
  • Chocolate Spread,
  • Bread,
  • Cheese slices,
  • Tea,
  • Coffee,
  • Sugar,
  • Tins of Creamed Rice

(We can store the perishable items brought to St Andrew’s on Sundays in the fridge and then deliver them to CCAST each Tuesday

Ascension Day Service

The Ascension by Tissot

Today (13th May) is the Feast of the Ascension. We will celebrate this Feast with a Service in St Andrew’s, Tain at 7pm. All are very welcome as we mark this final event in Jesus’ life with His Disciples.

N.B. there will be no Wednesday midweek service in St Andrew’s this week.

Our Brothers and Sisters in India

The Christian Medical College in Vellore, South India

Dear Friends

A number of you have asked about charity support for India.

Rev Dr Hamilton Inbadas has written this piece for your information 

Situation in India

As you are aware the situation in India continues to be worrying. When you hear journalists say that the real number of infections and deaths are far higher than shown, that is not an exaggeration. The past few weeks have been difficult for us too. Almost daily we kept hearing about hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths of people we have studied/worked with and those whom we know.

Our parents on both sides managed to get the second doses of the Oxford vaccines just before our villages hit an acute shortage of vaccines. That is a relief. The number of infection seems to be stabilizing. But as we well know even if this signals the turn of the tide, there is still a lot to deal with for the next few months, at least. Please continue to pray.

Several of you have asked if there is a charity I could recommend for making a donation. The Christian Medical College in Vellore, South India is a teaching hospital that provides excellent care for anyone regardless of religion or caste. CMC also has clinics in rural areas where otherwise there would be no access to medical care. Grace and I had the privilege of working as palliative care chaplains there for several years.

If you wish to make a donation, please follow this link. Donations are received through Friends of Vellore UK, which makes transferring funds easier: 

https://givecmc.org/covid-19/?fbclid=IwAR0IdQpxcAoLJcbSFLRWm9yU1ghMu5ymaAp6pXfPi4Fn6Jc1THhqSF_4bJM

Blessings
+Mark

The Resurrection Life?

Anna and I are very excited, because we now have a definite plan to travel south in June to meet our granddaughter Alanna for the first time. We have been able to start making travel plans because of the gradual relaxation of the rules on travelling and visiting, as a result of the relative success of the lockdown and the vaccine rollout.

Over the last year the majority of the population have had to make considerable sacrifices to protect each other from what has turned out to be a very infectious virus. We are now moving into a more settled phase, as the restrictions are relaxed, but we all need to stay vigilant. The need to avoid complacency is underlined for us in the news reports, as we see how easily Covid can pop up again in areas of our country and in countries around the word.

Simon and I are very grateful to all of you for the support that you have given us in very challenging times, when many of out familiar patterns of church activity have had to be modified or curtailed. We have gradually been restoring patterns of worship, but we have still a little way to go and things will never return to exactly how they were before. Over the next few months we will be taking stock and looking at how under the new circumstances that we and our communities find ourselves in, we can be faithful witnesses to the God who made us and who cares for us. This will include renewing our commitment to the folk on the North Coast by finding a suitable venue for our monthly gatherings.

For some of you new opportunities have opened up with on-line services and we will continue to develop these as they have enable people who are unable to get to services in church or other venue because of health issues or travelling distance to worship with us. You will all have received an email with details of our Zoom Morning and Evening Prayer services. 

Even if you don’t join these services in person, you can join them in spirit. Morning and Evening Prayer are said daily in some form by clergy and many lay people around the world, so however you engage with them, you are joining “such a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1). To make it easier for you, a list of the Psalms and Readings for these services is attached to this newsletter and you will find a similar list in each month’s edition.

We have had some success with online social activities, the longest-running of these being the Tuesday Coffee Mornings at 10:30am (now preceded by Morning Prayer at 10am). On those Tuesdays where other business prevents me from joining in, I do miss the lively chat and camaraderie that is always evident. We have also had successful on-line Advent and Lent Study Groups and this way of doing things can bring together people who would not ordinarily want to travel long distances on cold winter night, though I am sure that we have all missed activities where we can be physically in the same room together – it just isn’t the same on-line.

We’re now of course in the Season of Easter, when as Christians we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. What we all need in the coming weeks is resurrection in our lives as we take steps in the direction of a life beyond lockdowns and restrictions on mixing and movement. For the disciples of Jesus, Resurrection didn’t mean returning to life as it had been, but to a new life of hope, in which all sorts of new possibilities opened up, possibilities that they could never have imagined. 

For all of us, the old life that we lived can never return. The experience of the last year has changed all of us and so much else beside. However as we start to forge a future for ourselves, the wonderful thing is – who knows what might happen? Maybe, just maybe, the world might be a better place for everyone.

Blessings
James

Charities Shop Open Again

Opening

The Charities Shop re-opened on Thursday 29th April – Alleluia! This became possible when non-essential shops were permitted to open from Monday 26th April.

The shop will now be open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10am to 1pm.

The Shop

Great efforts continue to be made to make the shop safe for customers and staff so we would ask that everybody follows the ‘rules’ carefully. As you will be aware, the shop is small and although it was been reorganised over last summer, the number of customers who can be in the shop at any one time is still strictly limited. Staff will be on hand at the door to guide you and answer any questions that you may have.

Donations of Items

It would be appreciated that if you have been saving donations of items for the shop that you drop them off during opening times only and in fairly small quantities as we don’t want to be swamped and have limited storage space.

Welcome

We look forward to welcoming everybody in the coming weeks, meanwhile keep safe.