A Growing Family

On Sunday (31st May), which is the Feast of Pentecost, Revd Nicholas Court (above left) who has served the North-West corner of the Diocese (with congregations in Ullapool, Achiltibuie, Lochinver, Kinlochbervie and Tongue) for the last 11 years, retires. I’m sure that you would all join with me in wishing Nicholas and Gilly a long and happy retirement, even though until the end of lock-down Nicholas will still be helping to provide pastoral care in these areas. However from Monday (1st June), the congregation of St Mary-by the-Cross, Tongue will join our family of congregations in East Sutherland and Tain.

For the benefit of those of you who are unfamiliar with the Episcopal arrangements ‘up north’, I have assembled a little history and description, with the help of a number of people, as will become become obvious.

Anna and I have been regular visitors to Tongue for the last 30 or more years, since her parents Alan and Irene bought a house beyond Melness. There was no Episcopal worship for some while and so they (and Anna, the boys and I when we were visiting) made the 120 mile round trip down to the monthly service in Kinlochbervie. The Services there were at first in the Fishermen’s Mission, then the Old School Restaurant and finally in the Community Centre. Over the years, KLB was served by Revd Chris Dormer, who travelled from Ullapool, then Revd Cliff Piper, who travelled from Tain and then Revd Mel Langille, who travelled from Golspie.

From June 2003, Services started at the Fir Chlis, House of Prayer and Retreat, run by Kathleen Pannell, who had found a ‘half built property just outside Tongue village’ overlooking Ben Loyal, a year earlier. Kathleen takes up the story.

We moved in on 24th March 2003 and on June 22nd Fr John Stevenson from St. Peter and the Holy Rood, Thurso celebrated the first Service of Holy Communion with about 20 communicants. I opened Fir Chlis up as a Retreat House, inviting people to ‘Come away to a deserted place, and rest a while’. Fr John continued to come once a month to celebrate Mass and when I was blessed with hosting a priest on retreat, we would be blessed with regular, sometimes daily, Mass.

Fr Len Black took over from Fr. John at some point when the Episcopal church was trying to find its way in a changing world, but the congregation was truly set on a firm footing when I met Fr Nicholas in April 2010. The congregation of St. Mary by the Cross was officially constituted on 5th April 2012 by Bishop Mark and numbers attending have grown significantly since. During 2017/2018 we counted up that more than 75 folk had attended the monthly services here at one time or another, many travelling miles to attend, and folk from several different denominations too. It’s been such a joy to host these services month on month, to witness people growing in their love of the Lord through His gifts of Bread and Wine.

St Mary’s now enters a new phase of its life, at a time when although the future looks very uncertain for us all, it is more important than every that we trust in our faithful and loving God. As St Paul wrote to the Romans:

We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” and:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

On behalf of all of us in East Sutherland and Tain, may I extend a warm welcome from our family in Tain, Dornoch, Lairg, Brora and all the places in between, to ‘our friends at the very top’ in Tongue.

Blessings
James

Bishop’s Update – 26th May 2020

My Dear Friends

I thought it was time to write again to you as you hear of changes to lockdown both in the country and eventually in the churches.

The first thing I want to do is to once again thank you all.

Firstly I want to thank the clergy and Lay Readers and lay ministers for the way that they have simply kept on going, there are services in nearly all congregations, live streamed, recorded, phone messaged sermons, Zoom services and because of the way the lockdown advice was given then the priests have been able to celebrate the Eucharist either in the church if it is close at hand or in their homes. This has been so important, remember we celebrate the Eucharist as the sacrament of Christs sacrifice and redemption, it isn’t about us it is about God.

Secondly I want to thank the laity for the gracious way most of you have accepted the need for these changes and the kindness you have shown to your clergy. I am also aware of rotas of food delivery, food banks, words of comfort for the bereaved, and learning of new skills that help with the life of the Church. Someone tried to tell me that the churches were shut !!! I don’t know where they were looking. Can I simply ask that if you are struggling then please get in touch and we can try and help.

Thirdly I want to thank all those who have been working as usual, those in key worker posts and essential services, I know how difficult the changes can be, Jane is teaching from home and Beth is coordinating a workforce from home, it is very different. Can I also ask you all to be kind to yourselves, take time out to relax it is important.

Now to the next period of time;

The College of Bishops has set up a working group of experts to advise us on how to open up our churches when the time is right. This group are looking at matters of distancing, hygiene, protection, numbers of volunteers required etc. The task group will produce a list that each church will need to comply with if it is to open and when you are ready to do that then you will need to show me that you have everything sorted. We will not open a church until the clergy, the staff, the congregation and any visitor is safe. I am not expecting the final document for a few weeks yet and even when it is ready, we will still need to follow the advice of the Scottish Government before we even think of beginning to think about opening. I know many of you are anxious about the church rushing forward, we won’t.

Can I please ask you to do something important for me and for you. If you have a key to your church please leave it on the hook unless you are the priest or the one designated person checking on the building. For example in Caithness, Rev Ellie can enter St Peters in Thurso, but as St Johns Wick is too far to be travelling then the Prior of the Servers Guild keeps an eye on the building there. Please try and keep to the instructions.

I will continue to produce a reflection and the occasional service etc here from Arpafeelie, keep an eye on the Primus’s Facebook page.

The intention of both the diocese and the province is to keep running the digital services that have been available throughout our lockdown, we wont suddenly stop because some are back in church. Please let me know if there is a particular service you are missing out on.
We had been expecting to be celebrating in Wick last week as the church of St John’s celebrated it’s 150th anniversary, please hold them in your prayers and we will have a do when we are able.

I haven’t forgotten that I was going to talk about the Charges of the diocese and their history etc I look forward to doing that next time.

Blessings

Risen and Ascended

It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Acts 1:7-9

Say Hello! and help someone feel less lonely today! 

What is it all about?

  • Highland Hello is a multi-lingual project that encourages people to recognise that simple gestures can support us to feel more connected with others during the COVID19 pandemic.
  • Originally launched in 2019 and supported by funding from the Highland Third Sector Interface the initiative has being re-launched to encourage positive connections during this challenging time.
  • The idea is to spread the word and encourage people across the Highlands to say ‘HELLO’ to one another.
  • In recent months, life has change for all of us. This project was originally launched in 2019 but we are re-launching it at a time where we believe saying hello is more important than ever and an essential way to stay connected and lessen feelings of loneliness.

What do we hope to achieve?

  • In recent months, life has changed for all of us and social distancing has meant it is now more important than ever that we find different ways to stay connected with our family, friends and communities.
  • With a view to connecting with those who may be feeling isolated and anxious, the Highland Hello project is asking people to make a small gesture of connection with three other people by saying ‘HELLO’. With staying safe in mind this could be by text, email, telephone, posting a short note or card or a simple smile or wave to someone across the street.
  • Using the power of 3. We challenge you to make contact with 3 people.  If they then make contact with 3 people and they make contact with 3 people and so on, the ‘HELLO‘ spreads out rapidly (at an ‘R’ value of 3).

  • The Highland Hello Project also invites you to make wee a film to say ‘HELLO‘ and share what has made you happy during lockdown (gardening, cooking, music etc).  Post them and tag @HighlandHello on twitter. We will be asking carers to share these films with care home residents and with those who cannot get out.  The Highland Senior Citizens Network has put together a short video in the Black Isle

Who are we?

  • Those involved in the development of this project are Tiffany from Highland Migrant and Refugee Advocacy Project, Holly from the Scottish Recovery Network, Rachael from Fèis Rois, Anne from Highland Senior Citizens Network, Revd James Currall and Gail, formerly of Signpost.
  • You’ll find us on Twitter @HighlandHello and check us out on Facebook at HighlandHello2020

 

SEI May 2020 Newsletter

The Scottish Episcopal Institute, which is responsible for training priests, deacons and lay readers in our Church, produces a monthly newsletter.

This larger-then-normal edition of the Newsletter focuses upon ‘work and worship’ at SEI during the COVID-19 pandemic. It opens with two of the Associate Tutors – the Revd Professor David Jasper and the Revd Jane MacLaren – reflecting respectively upon their current teaching methods. SEI Newsletter May 2020

 

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.

 

Bells, Bells, Bells …

Churches and other buildings in Ross-shire and Sutherland ringing their bells at 11:02 on Friday 8th May 2020 on the 75th Anniversary of VE Day (St Andrew’s, Tain and St Finnbarr’s, Dornoch amongst them).

Audio only version