Advent Study Groups 2020

In our Advent Study this year we will look at suffering.

“The more I think about the human suffering in our world and my desire to offer a healing response, the more I realize how crucial it is not to allow myself to become paralysed by feelings of helplessness and guilt. More important than ever is to be very faithful to my vocation to do well the few things I am called to do and hold on to the joy and peace they bring me. I must resist the temptation to let the forces of darkness pull me into despair and make me one more of their many victims.”

“Suffering invites us to place our hurts in larger hands. In Christ we see God suffering – for us. And calling us to share in God’s suffering love for a hurting world. The small and even overpowering pains of our lives are intimately connected with the greater pains of Christ. Our daily sorrows are anchored in a greater sorrow and therefore a larger hope.”

Henri Nouwen

The sessions will be centred around the following headings:

  1. The Suffering of Job
  2. The Suffering of Christ
  3. Our own Suffering

There will be two groups meeting on Zoom
Wednesday Afternoons at 2pm and
Thursday Evenings at 7pm
(2nd/3rd, 9th/10th and 16th/17th December)

The material will also be available on paper and on the Web Site at:

For more details or to receive paper copies of the materials speak to James (01862 881737 or

Christmas Foodbank Collection – 3rd December

Foodbank Collection

Thursday 3rd December 2020

St Finnbarr’s Church


There will be a Christmas Foodbank collection for the Highland Foodbank outside in St Finnbarr’s grounds.

Every day people in the Highlands are struggling to put food on the table. Even under normal circumstances people struggle as a result of a variety of causes from redundancy to receiving an unexpected bill on a low income. This year however COVID has made the situation much worse for many people.

The Highland Foodbank is part of the work of Blythswood Care and provides a minimum of three days emergency food and support to local adults and children in crisis.

Below is a list of items that they are currently running low on, including essential non-food items such as toiletries and hygiene products, helping people in crisis to maintain dignity and feel human again.

  • Tins of ham/corned beef
  • Tins of potatoes
  • Tins of mince/stew
  • Sugar
  • Small packets of washing powder/gel
  • Small bottles of washing up liquid
  • Male/female deodorant
  • Shampoo
  • Shaving foam/razors
  • Toothpaste/individually wrapped brushes
  • Shower gel

They currently have an overabundance of

  • PASTA,

… so these items are best avoided.

Given the time of year, they are very keen to receive special seasonal treats for all the family.


A Seat in the Choir

Inverness Cathedral Canons’ Stalls

On 30th November I will be led by Provost Sarah to my stall in the Cathedral and installed as a Canon and member of Cathedral Chapter at a Eucharist to celebrate the Feast of St Andrew. The service will be live-streamed via the Cathedral Facebook page.

St Drostan’s Stall

My stall is dedicated to St Drostan, who was Abbott of Deer (in Aberdeenshire). Saint Drostan lived around 560 to 630. He was a follower of Saint Columba of Iona and spent a significant period in Aberdeenshire. He later retired to spend time in prayer and contemplation in Glenesk where there is an Episcopal Church dedicated to him and a self-catering lodge/retreat house.

St Drostan’s Church

We know about him because he appears in two old manuscripts, the Book of Deer an illuminated manuscript whose origins date back to the 900s, and Breviarium Aberdonense, (the Aberdeen Breviary) produced by Bishop William Elphinstone in Aberdeen in 1510. His name is also attached to various churches and to other places, such as St Drostan’s Well at Aberlour in Speyside, now the water source for Aberlour Distillery.

Aberlour Distillery

Prayer in the Upper Room

Fir Chlis Chapel

The Return is a movement which invites people return to God by coming before His presence in humility, in sincerity, in prayer and in repentance.

From the Biblical Feast of Trumpets (18th September) until the Day of Atonement (28th September).  We are invited to observe 10 Days of Prayer, Fasting, and Repentance.

During this period, Kathleen Pannell will be opening her “Upper Room” chapel at Fir Chlis in Tongue to anyone feeling led to come to offer prayer. Should you wish to drop in for a while you would be most welcome.

The door will be open from 10am until 8pm each day.

Kathleen has put in place measures to implement Government Guidelines regarding Covid-19. There will be sanitiser and masks in the hall and a book to record a name and phone number. Those dropping in should take responsibility for ensuring Social distancing both in the chapel and whilst entering and leaving.

During this period, Rev Beverly Cushman is going to post a special prayer on the Altnaharra and Farr and the Melness and Tongue websites each day.

Please phone Kathleen if you need any more information

100 years young today

Barbara at her front door with her card from ER II

Have you heard the one about the Funeral Director, the Priest and the Lord Lieutenant?  Well this afternoon all three turned up with pipers and standard-bearers and an MP at Barbara Rae’s house in Tain.  The occasion was Barbara’s 100 birthday.

Born in the aftermath of the 14-18 Great War, Barbara lived and served through the 39-45 second world war, and all its after effects – a life changing and life affirming experience for so many of that generation. Barbara, in common with both our own Marjorie Taylor and actress Patricia Routledge, attended Birkenhead High School; though of course they were not all there at the same time and neither Barbara nor Marjorie bear any resemblance to Hyacinth Bucket in “Keeping up Appearances”.

Barbara’s war included the blitz of Liverpool – she was not yet 21 by the time it ended. She was lucky to survive. She worked in Liverpool but lived with her parents in Birkenhead. Her brother David was serving in France and having his own adventures. The family home was badly bomb damaged in May 1941 and they had to move out, but the family survived.

Barbara joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in 1942 after the Liverpool blitz, and went into the Meteorology section of the RAF. She had her main training in London, and thereafter was based at several UK airfield locations. Especially RAF Millom and RAF Cark in Lancashire (Cumbria) the Lake District, which is where she eventually met Willis. They were married in 1945. During the time that Willis worked for Customs and Excise at Liverpool Docks.

They lived in Birkenhead until 1961 when they made the move up to Tain where Willis was the Excise Officer at Glenmorangie Distillery until his retirement in 1981. Their children Ian and Pat were educated at Tain Royal Academy. In 1974 they bought a new build house in Knockbreck Avenue – and lived there from 1976. So, Barbara is one of the longest duration residents of the Avenue…and certainly the oldest!

Barbara who had always been active in her church in Birkenhead quickly found her way to St Andrew’s Church. Barbara did so much in and for St Andrew’s Church over the years, much of it as part of the St Andrew’s Ladies Guild, (later the St Andrew’s Fellowship). She put in hours of patient needlework to make altar frontals and pulpit falls, she repaired vestments and all these things we still experience as they’re still in weekly use. She arranged flowers to enhance the congregation’s experience of coming to church. She did work on the Church Magazine and was a member of the Vestry. Just a few of the things that Barbara did in our Church.

Barbara was also very active for some years with the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (the WRVS) in Tain again helping with their local work, and especially delivering ‘Meals on Wheels’ around Tain and environs. Both Barbara and Willis were also active in later years with the Tain Choral Group and the Garrick Singers (now Easter Ross Musical Theatre). Willis performed for a few years with the Garrick Singers, whilst Barbara as ever just got on with things needing to be done in ‘wardrobe’ and backstage.

Sadly Willis died in 2000 after having suffered a heart attack and a series of strokes in the 90s which left him with reduced mobility and unable to talk properly, but he was ably looked after by Barbara.

Today family and friends turned out up and down Knockbreck Avenue to honour Barbara, an amazing lady. It was a privilege that we were all able to celebrate with you on this special day…..

Lord Lieutenant Joanie talking with some of Barbara’s Family

Zoom Quiz Night – Thursday 23rd July at 7:30pm

Beatrice and Janet from St. Andrew’s, Tain present

A Grand Quiz Night on Zoom

Prepare to be puzzled, entertained and, perchance, to entertain!

But whatever you do, come prepared!

Folk from any of our congregations (or none) are most welcome to join us

There’ll be three rounds;

for two of them you need only yourselves and a sense of humour!

However …

for the ‘Unbelievable Truths’ round you’ll need to have ready

three startling,


or even outrageous

‘facts’ about yourself, your life, or your family.
(Such as: my dad rode to school on an elephant.)

Only two should be true and the rest of us have to guess which of the three is really ‘unbelievable’ (in other words a lie)! As well as laughing a lot we’ll have the opportunity to get to know one another just a little bit better.

You may also find you’ll need ample refreshments, which could be stronger than usual as we won’t be driving anywhere afterwards…

Zoom joining details are the same as for coffee mornings and will be circulated by email.

A New but also Old Pilgrimage Route


The Caithness Book Club boasts all of six regular members at its monthly meetings in St Anne’s church hall, Thurso. One of its books was ‘Together in Christ: Following the Northern Saints‘ by John Woodside. From this developed ‘The Northern Saints Trails’, listing 33 names and 32 sites linked to these names. The sites were organised into six circular routes, four starting in Thurso and two in Wick. For more information, see the web site at: .

The Pilgrimage Trails Project

While doing the research for the Saints Trails, the group realised that there was enough historical evidence to re-create the medieval pilgrimage route linking the shrines of St Duthac in Tain and St Magnus in Kirkwall. So a second project was born. Much of the background work has been done and we are now planning some public events in the hope that this will encourage more people to come forward with offers of practical help and local folklore about the sites along the route.

Pilgrimage Events

We are launching this stage of the project with a ‘Pilgrimage Event’ in Tain on 29th May 2021. There will be an ecumenical service in St Duthac’s chapel followed by refreshments and information on the Northern Pilgrims’ Way.  This event will be jointly led by that the event will be led by our own Bishop Mark Strange and the RC Bishop of Aberdeen Bishop Hugh Gilbert.

Similar events will take place in Old St Peter’s Kirk, Thurso on 3rd July 2021 and in St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall on 20th August 2021.

There will be more information in due course.

The Symbolism of our logo

  • The central cross is from the St Andrew’s cross on the Scottish flag.
  • The two lines represent the two saints – Duthac and Magnus
  • The pointed curves are copied from the Ulbster Stone, a Celtic carved stone originally at the site of an early chapel dedicated to St Martin at Ulbster, on our Braid Three and the John o’ Groat’s Trail. The site is now marked by a mausoleum.

Day of Prayer and Fasting and Works of Charity – 14th May

On February 4, 2019, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar met in Abu Dhabi to sign the Document on Human Fraternity – a joint statement calling for the reconciliation of people of goodwill in service of universal peace. As a result of that bold move, The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity was set up by a diverse set of international religious leaders, educational scholars and cultural leaders representing Islam, Christianity and Judaism.  They were inspired by the Document on Human Fraternity, and are dedicated to sharing its message of mutual understanding and peace.

In an increasingly fragmented world that continues to suffer from extremism and intolerance,
nurturing and cultivating this capacity is essential for future generations to thrive and prosper together, acting on the aspirations outlined in the Document on Human Fraternity, the members of the Committee will meet with religious leaders, heads of international organizations and others across the world to support and spread the values of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.  The Committee aspires to address some of the complex challenges facing communities of all faiths, with an approach of openness, learning and dialogue.

In that spirit, it has proposed that believers of all religions unite spiritually on May 14 (this Thursday) in a Day of Prayer and Fasting and Works of Charity, to implore God to help humanity overcome the coronavirus pandemic.  This is something that we could all take part in, as it can be done whilst Staying at Home.


Watch and Wait and Pray

The Watch in the Garden

Today is Maundy Thursday, when Jesus met with His Disciples and shared a Last Supper with them.  Normally on Maundy Thursday, we meet for a very moving service in one of our Churches and we do a number of things that commemorate that last evening together:

Washing the Disciples’ Feet:

During supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.” (John 13:3-5)

Sharing the Last Supper:

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)

Watching, Waiting and Praying at Gethsemane:

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’  … Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:36, 40-41)

The first two of these we can only do when we can be together, but the third is something that we can all do at home – watch and wait and pray with Jesus in His anguish.  Normally some of the congregation would gather in St Andrew’s Hall and pray silently in front of the small altar on which the Sacrament is placed, surrounded by greenery and candles.

Tonight, Simon and I will both celebrate the Last Supper alone in one of our Churches, “with the people on our hearts”, but at 9pm, we invite each of you to join us sitting in a suitably prepared space with greenery and candles, to pray quietly for one hour.  Praying for our families, our friends, our neighbours, our governments, those who work in the NHS and in other essential services and particularly those in our land and far away who are anxious, unwell or grieving. Pray also for yourselves.