Caption Competition no. 2 – the result

There were 15 entries for the Caption Competition this time and they were quite a diverse set clustered around themes of Lockdown, Hugs, Dancing, Phones/Tablets and Musical Instruments, so a big thank you to all who entered and came up with this little lot:

Sending a big mobile hug x

“Hello….. can you hear me? I’m on my mobile…”

“…my shield and protector…”

“God is this the only way to get a cuddle in Lockdown??”

“Forget social distancing, let’s just have a good old hug”

Rev Simon was so over Covid 19 he couldn’t wait to have a bear hug – his new prescription from spec savers had been delayed !!!!

“One, two cha cha cha”

Simon was thrilled with his new tablet.

Beach Boy Simon gets ready to ride the next (Covid) wave.

Viewers question Fr Simon’s claim to never being board in Church.

A preview of the new normal for the next series of Strictly?

Um…. BYO referred to bottles, not musical instruments.

“How did you get past Security with that?”

“You really didn’t need to bring your own organ, Simon, we do have one here, you know. In the loft!”

But the one that made Anna and I giggle the most was:

“Do you know this keyboard’s standing on my toes?”
“No, but you hum it and I’m sure we’ll all soon be joining in.”

Well done Nicholas Court for coming up with that one.

James and Anna

Collect for Pentecost 7A

O God of power and might,
all good things belong to you:
sow in our hearts the love of your name,
and make us grow in the life of faith;
nurture the things that are good,
and tend them with your loving care;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.  Amen.

Churches Open for Prayer

Yesterday saw St Finnbarr’s in Dornoch and St Andrew’s in Tain open for Individual Prayer for the first time.  A fair number of people took the opportunity to drop in for a little while during the two hour periods that the Churches were open.

St Finnbarr’s, Dornoch open 10am -12pm on Wednesdays


St Andrew’s, Tain open 2pm-4pm on Wednesdays

A Psalm of lament and praise in a time of coronavirus

How shall we praise you, Lord, our God?

When we are locked down, how shall we praise you?
When the doors to your house are barred, and your people cannot assemble?
When those urgently in need of money and work can’t even wait in the market-place?
When we have to circle round people in the street,
and to queue for shops maintaining safe distance?
When we can only communicate by hearing on the phone,
or seeing on the screen; or by digital messaging,
or even just waving through a window?
When we cannot meet our parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren,
or other family members and friends?
When we cannot touch them in their flesh and blood, to know they are really alive?

How shall we praise you?
How, like Thomas, shall we not see yet believe that your son is raised among us?
How shall we praise you?

Lord, I will try to praise you.
Through gritted teeth, I will try to praise you.
I will try to remember that you created all things, and this virus is part of creation.
I will try not to hate it but seek to mitigate its harm.
I will try to do my bit to keep others safe, by the way that I behave.
I will pray for all those around me and seek to help in whatever way I can.

Lord, when I cannot pray or worship help me be aware of all your people
and your saints and angels hovering around me, lifting me up.
When I feel alone, let me feel you near me,
even if only for a moment that enables me to go on.
Let me hear you say “Peace be with you”.



Letter from Bishop Mark – 10th July 2020

Dear Friends across the Diocese

As most of you will now know, the Scottish Government has given permission for places of worship to reopen next week as long as those places can be opened safely. This will require much hard work and some difficult decisions. In some cases it will be difficult to open and some cases it might not be right to open just yet. These decisions will be made by your clergy and your vestry with support from myself as bishop.

There is no right answer to this process, each place is different and each church member will be experiencing this situation differently.

Many of your clergy have worked hard in new and unusual ways and are ready for a break, yet we need to work through this next phase.

So can I ask that you hold the diocese, the congregations and the clergy in prayer. Could you remember that rather than expecting your clergy to be there for you, we must also be there for them. Some are shielding, some are as anxious as you and that, as you know, makes us all vulnerable.

My fervent prayer is to be with you all again, but I know that wonderful moment might take longer in some places than others. We are a family of faith, let us hold each other in love.

Prayers Blessings and love

Church Opening for Prayer

From Wednesday 15th July, St Finnbarr’s in Dornoch and St Andrew’s in Tain will be open for for two hours a week for Individual Prayer.

The opening hours will be as follows:

    • St Finnbarr’s – 10:00am -12:00pm
    • St Andrew’s – 2:00pm – 4:00pm

At the moment, we are governed by a strict set of guidelines laid down by the Scottish Government and by our own Church and the Churches are open for your individual prayers and not for communal prayer.

An oft quoted Covid prayer says: “We are not people who protect our own safety: we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.” However, as our Governments have made clear, an important part of how we protect our neighbour, is through our own behaviour. As our Bishops also pointed out in relation to closing our churches, “we do this not out of fear but out of love”.

Many of the precautions that we need to take as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic, are to protect each other from Seasonal Flu, the Common Cold and other respiratory infections as well as Covid-19, all of which can have a devastating effect on the elderly, the vulnerable and those in poor health.

So out of love for others, if you do wish to spend a little time in St Finnbarr’s or St Andrew’s:

  1. Please wear your face-covering.
  2. Please make use of the hand gel.
  3. Please sit in a seat where there is a Palm Cross and a Prayer Leaflet.
  4. Please try to avoid touching anything that you don’t need to.
  5. Please take both Cross and Leaflet away with you when you leave (so that those coming after you will know to avoid the seat that you have been sitting in).
  6. Please remember that this is a time for Private Prayer and keep a respectful silence whilst in the Church.
  7. If you wish to speak with a member of the clergy, indicate this to either one or the clergy or a steward.

God of all hope we call on you today.
We pray for those who are living in fear:
Fear of illness, fear for loved ones, fear of other’s reactions to them.
May your Spirit give us a sense of calmness and peace.

We pray for your church in this time of uncertainty.
For those people who are worried about attending worship.
For those needing to make decisions in order to care for other
For those who will feel more isolated by not being able to attend.
Grant us your wisdom.

Holy God, we remember that you have promised that
Nothing will separate us from your love – demonstrated to us in Jesus Christ.
Help us turn our eyes, hearts and minds to you.

SEI July-August 2020 Newsletter

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

This edition of the Newsletter is a bumper issue for two months.  It covers the SEI Lecture by Dr Cathy Ross, the Institute Council, Diocesan Advisor Training and  special edition of the SEI Journal. SEI Newsletter July-August 2020.

The SEI Journal’s Summer issue is entitled ‘Church, Ministry and Coronavirus’. It was conceived as the nation entered ‘lockdown’ and the churches with it. The impact on our lives is unprecedented. Significant theological concerns have come to the fore in the worldwide crises of the COVID-19 pandemic. This issue reflects not only on the life of the Church, but on society, community and the value of human life.

Church, Ministry and Coronavirus’ draws together contributions from a variety of disciplines to resource the people of God in their exploration of the issues and discernment of the theological truths to be applied now and in the coming years.  In the bedrock of our Christian faith is the belief that every human being is created in the image of God and that the glory of God is each one of us fully alive and flourishing in a community of persons. In a time when a cacophony of voices shout for our attention, the prophetic voice of the Church is urgently needed.


Caption Competition Winner

Captions entered for this competition were:

  1. ‘Eye, nose, cheeky cheeky chin, cheeky cheeky chin, eye, nose!’
  2. ‘It’s great to have collared two nice men trained to amuse me!’
  3. ‘Two trained to keep me on the right lines!’
  4. ‘Am I too young to start the discernment process?’
  5. ‘Carry on ‘training’!’
  6. ‘Since those two are Gordon and James, can I be Thomas? Pleeeese!’
  7. ‘Station-ary Vocational Train-ing!’


Number 6

‘Since those two are Gordon and James, can I be Thomas? Pleeeese!’

Well done to Beatrice Somers – a fitting tribute to the Rev Wilbert Vere Awdry – original author of the Thomas the Tank Engine stories.


Letter from Bishop Mark – 20th June 2020

Dear Friends across the Diocese.

I hope you are all continuing to remain safe and to support each other at this time. I have delayed sending out this letter until we had heard when Phase 2 of the Scottish Governments would begin and what changes may have been made during our continuing conversations with them.

The material you may have seen last week about Churches reopening for Individual prayer, was written with some knowledge of what was going to be announced but even this morning some slight changes in the official communication have required an update from us. I know for some this is annoying and confusing but please remember this is an ever changing process.

I met with the Incumbents of the Diocese this week and they have spoken with me about the possibility of opening for private prayer and the difficulties that creates, can I please remind you all that just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

A number of churches in the Diocese have already indicated that it would not be possible for them to open at present, not least the issue of a one way system. I thank them for the obviously difficult decision and I and the Dean will await questions and paperwork from others.

I have continued to be uplifted by the contribution so many people are making to the ongoing life of our congregations and communities, worship in so many formats, telephone calls, letters, Zoom meetings. I have enjoyed popping in and out of services as I have enjoyed creating worship for the Province and on my own pages – and before you ask, I have destroyed all the outtakes!!

Last week we celebrated a number of Feast days, we kept St Columba on the 9th June and it was good to have representatives from our three St Columba’s (Nairn, Grantown on Spey and Brora) joining me on the Provincial service on Sunday. On Thursday we celebrated both Corpus Christi and St Barnabas. St Michael and All Angels in Inverness celebrated Corpus Christi and I had the privilege of preaching by video at the Evening Mass. The Ministry of the Word service for St Barnabas was led by the Ministry team in Caithness with some lovely photographs of the area in the background. Can I thank all involved in these services, which are all available on Facebook and Websites.

Our Church also remembered the two John Skinners on 12th June. John Skinner, Priest and his son John Skinner the Bishop. John snr was Rector of Longside in the Diocese of Aberdeen for 65 years, he was both a notable historian and poet. During the penal laws he was imprisoned for 6 months for conducting worship, his son shared his imprisonment. That son became incumbent of Longacre Chapel in Aberdeen and he also became Bishop and Primus . It was +Skinner who presided at the consecration of Samuel Seabury as first Bishop of USA (in the Longacre Chapel) an event that paved the way for the Anglican Communion. +Skinner also worked tirelessly for the repeal of the Penal Laws which was achieved in 1792.
Saints this week and next

This week we remembered Bernard Mizeki who is remembered as the Apostle of the MaShona of Zimbabwe. Bernard was and evangelist and a translator who was murdered and became renowned as a martyr and recalled as a witness to the Gospel of Christ.
Saturday 13th is the day we remember St Fillan who was a solitary at Pitenweem before becoming the abbot, he later resigned and went to live in Glendochart. His relics were revered in Scotland and played an important part in Scottish history.

Next week is busy;

  • On Monday we remember St Alban, the first Martyr of Britain
  • On Wednesday we celebrate the birth of John The Baptist, this is also the anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn!!
  • On 25th June we remember another of the Celtic Saints, Saint Moluag of Lismore. St Moluag has local connections. He came from Ireland around the time St Columba arrived and based himself on the Isle of Lismore, his Church becoming the Cathedral for the Bishop of the Isles. He is reputed to have travelled to the Black Isle where he set up a centre of Mission at Rosemarkie. Legend says he died there in 592.
  • Robert Leighton is remembered on the 26th. One time Bishop of Dunblane and Archbishop of Glasgow. He spent his ministry attempting to heal the schism in the Scottish church and to work with the Presbyterian grouping in the Church. When this failed he resigned and retired to England. He died in 1684 before the Church of Scotland finally ceased to be Episcopalian.
  • The final saint of the week is our own Bishop Alexander Jolly, born in Stonehaven, educated in Aberdeen, ordained in Peterhead, served in Turiff and then moved to Fraserburgh were he spent the rest of his life. He was Consecrated Bishop in 1796 and became Bishop of Moray in 1798. Fraserburgh became a part of the Diocese of Moray until he died in 1838. Many of his letters etc are held in the Diocesan Archive. He was noted as helping to guide the church through the years following the repeal of the Penal laws, he was also the last bishop to wear a powdered wig. I became Primus on Alexander Jolly’s day, a fact I cherish.

Thoughts from the Bishop

In two weeks’ time I will hand the responsibility of the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway to Bishop Kevin, I was looking back in my diary at the time I have spent with Glasgow but I also looked at my time with the other dioceses in the past few years.

I became Interim in Glasgow in Oct 2018, about 5 weeks after completing my work with the Preparatory Committee of Brechin which has flowed into my time with the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney which started in Sept 2016. Nearly four years, I am so looking forward to being in the diocese without having to keep rushing off. I will be running the Electoral process in Argyll and The Isles but not looking after the diocese.

So I have kept as many Sundays free as I can from whenever we can meet in Church until the end of 2021, so look out, when we are our of lockdown, I will be round.

Blessings and many thanks for all you are doing.

Today’s Announcements about Church Opening

Today at lunchtime (Thursday 18th June) the First Minister indicated that from Monday 22nd June, “Places of worship may open for individual prayer and contemplation“.

Bishop Mark Strange, Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church subsequently made the following statement :

Today the First Minister of Scotland has announced moving the communities of Scotland into Phase 2 of the Route Map out of Lockdown, with aspects of easing taking place on different dates.

There are many things which people will now need to work on to ensure that these changes are carried through carefully and safely. It is good to be moving forward.

The Scottish Episcopal Church can now plan for some of its churches to open for Individual prayer following the guidelines carefully worked out by our own Advisory Group. Our Phase 2 Guidance, issued last week, now takes effect from Monday 22 June 2020.

We also recognise that in Phase 2 for various reasons some faith groups will still not be able to use any of their places of worship and we will continue to work and walk alongside them at this time. We move forward today in the knowledge that we will together continue to have opportunities to discuss and shape the route back towards the full re-opening of the places of worship of all faith communities in Scotland.

It is also important to recognise the work that has been done throughout the lockdown by the regular meetings of the Scottish Government with faith leaders and the various faith group secretariats. We thank the Government for its commitment to working together with the faith communities of Scotland.

The Advisory Group will continue its work towards the preparation of Phase 3 guidance.

The Phase 2 Guidance referred to by Bishop Mark’s will need careful study to work out if any of our Churches in East Sutherland and Tain could be opened. If we can open, any necessary preparations might well take a wee while to sort out.  Church opening arrangements are subject to approval by Bishop Mark.  It goes without saying that we need to protect both those supervising the opening and those visiting the Churches for Prayer.

In the meantime, the First Minister’s statement doesn’t mean that St Finnbarr’s, St Andrew’s or St Columba’s will be open for Individual Prayer, but that could change later on.

God of compassion,
be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation.
In their loneliness, be their consolation;
in their anxiety, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light;
through him who suffered alone on the cross,
but reigns with you in glory,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

SEI June 2020 Newsletter

Looking for the Path Ahead

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

This edition of the Newsletter says goodbye to those whose training has been completed, in spite of Lock-down.  What will training for Ministry look like in the coming year and in the Future?  What indeed will Ministry look like?  You might find some hints in the SEI Newsletter June 2020.