A new chapter in the North West

Where do you suppose the geographic centre of the North West Charges is?

My guess is that it would be somewhere on the shore of Loch Assynt near Ardvreck Castle. … and that is exactly where +Mark chose to License Revd Dr Clare Caley as the new Priest in Charge of the North West Charge (St Mary Ullapool, St Boniface Achiltibuie, St Gilbert Lochinver, St Gilbert Kinlochbervie).

19 people gathered in a natural ampitheatre, seated 2m apart for a celebration of the Eucharist on a perfect afternoon; sun shining, little wind, no rain and only a little chilly.

What a lovely occasion and what a wonderful way to embark on a new ministry in a really beautiful part of the world.

The timing was perfect. As +Mark gave us his blessing, the sun slid down behind the hill and we all knew it was time to go (partly because +Mark said it was:-)

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

Letter from +Mark – 29th October 2020

Dear Friends

I have just watched the rolling out of the five tier system in Scotland. Almost all of the diocese is now in Tier 1 and that gives a greater flexibility to our lives. Please keep in your thoughts the congregations at Aberchirder and Huntly which lie in Aberdeenshire and are therefore in Tier 2.

What does all of this mean, well you may also have noticed that of all the institutions in the country the one which will remain open right up to and including tier 4 are Places of Worship. The only restriction in tier 4 would be a reduction of maximum attendance in our buildings. This is good news, but it is also a hard won position. The instinct of many involved in deciding on this was to close some of us down again, thankfully we are being trusted to keep to the rules.

I am aware that a number of churches have not either opened up or been able to meet yet and I thank those who are providing spiritual support for them and for all the work ging on to support those who are still unable to return even if their church is open.

To those churches that are open can I please remind you all to keep to the rules, if we begin to relax our attention to the detail of how we run our worship, then our credibility will disappear and our doors will be closed. Please believe me when I say I will close individual churches if I believe that any of us are being less that diligent. I know this sounds harsh, but I would rather deal with one church closure than being told to close them all. So “keep alert”, keep to the rules and keep us open for worship. This isn’t easy, but it is important.

Notices

I sadly inform you that the Rev Peter Mosley, former Priest in Charge at St Paul’s, Strathnairn has died, We pray foe his widow Sheila and the family. RIP

I would also like to offer you some good news;

  • I am very happy to tell you that we have a new Diocesan Secretary, Mr Iain Foyers who worships at St Mary’s, Culloden and at St Columba’s, Grantown on Spey has agreed to take this task on and we will all wish him well in this new task.
  • I am also delighted to announce that Rev James Currall has accepted my invitation to join the Cathedral Chapter and will become Rev Canon when we have arranged to seat him in the Cathedral.

Can I ask that you all pray for them in this new ministry.

Blessings

October update from Bishop Mark

Dear Friends

It has been a wee while since my last email update, life has, as you all know, been very busy and at times very confusing.

I seem to have developed a completely different pattern to my week and month than anything in my previous ministry.

I have weekly meetings with the Scottish Government, working to get out churches open and then keeping them open. Also working towards programmes to alleviate the social and community pressures Covid has brought.

I meet weekly with the Church of Scotland and The Roman Catholic Church and once a month with Scottish Church leaders and also with other faith leaders. This pandemic has brought us all closer together.
My weekly pattern also includes a meeting with the College of Bishops, for information exchange but primarily for mutual support through all of this.

I have tried to keep in touch with congregations and clergy, both here in the diocese but also in other parts of the country, while seeking to work my way through the rules to allow me to continue with the process to elect a new Bishop of Argyll and The Isles.

Amidst all of this I have also had to work hard at maintaining my worship life. When I am continually having to record and live stream services in different places and in different styles then it is easy to forget the primary purpose of worship. Giving thanks to God.

I am therefore thankful to the Cathedral and others who have kept the daily round of worship going, allowing me to dip in and at times to lead that worship. I have also enjoyed visiting congregations as they have opened up. Please remember I am coming to worship with you, not to check up on your cleaning procedures!

Can I also once again thank you all for your careful and prayerful decisions about whether you can or can’t open or in fact whether you should or shouldn’t open. Thank you for those who watch and pray at home, those who Zoom their worship and those who write and send out prayers and news.

One of the questions I ask the civil service each week is “when can we sing again?” For when we can that will make such a difference to our worship. It is amazing how keen on singing everyone has become now we cannot do it.

Finally can I continue to ask you to be kind and caring of each other, checking up on the welfare of each other and please don’t get grumpy, we are all struggling with this, we need each other.

These are a short set of notices, I will do a further update when I am back at work.

  • The Bishop will be out of the office from 8th October until the 26th October, I am on annual leave. Please contact The Dean or the Synod Clerk or if looking for appointments please contact Louise or Douglas.
  • This is AGM season, I know some Charges are considering digital meetings, while others are seeking to delay the date of their meetings. Please do what works best and remember that if you want to delay your meeting then you need to ask the Bishop, he is nearly always very amenable!
  • The Bishop will be out of the office from 8th October until the 26th October, I am on annual leave. Please contact The Dean or the Synod Clerk or if looking for appointments please contact Louise or Douglas.
  • This is AGM season, I know some Charges are considering digital meetings, while others are seeking to delay the date of their meetings. Please do what works best and remember that if you want to delay your meeting then you need to ask the Bishop, he is nearly always very amenable!
  • Christmas is coming; I suspect that Christmas will be a difficult period for many. I would wish to have a full digital programme of Christmas events, the Province will provide a number of events as I know a number of Charges in the Diocese will also do that. I will try and find ways of filling in the gaps and will be asking around the diocese for volunteers to help with these services and events – so why not volunteer now!!

Prayers Blessings and love

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

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.

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

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

 

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

A Letter of Appreciation

Bishop Mark writes:

I was minded last week to make a personal call to the Lead Chaplain at the NHS Louisa Jordan Hospital in Glasgow, Canon Iain Macritchie, writes Bishop Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Canon Iain is one of the clergy in my diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness, and is also a good friend. I wanted to thank him and his colleagues for all the work they were doing in very difficult circumstances. I spoke to him about the churches’ response to the situation and received his letter of thanks to us, which appears below.

Please hear what is being asked of us. As Bishop Kevin said in his sermon on Sunday: “We have closed our churches out of love, not out of fear.” We need to do as we are asked, stay isolated and do our best to beat this virus.

Dear Bishop Mark

I write to express the gratitude of the Scottish Government for the exemplary lead taken by the Scottish Episcopal Church in these challenging times.

The SEC has consistently responded to the advice being given with appropriate and responsible actions and, in doing this, has set a good example for other faith and belief groups to follow.

Specifically, the SEC was one of the first faith communities to instruct the suspension of gathering together for acts of worship. We realise that this has come at no small cost to theological principles but we also see the rich discoveries of other ways of worshiping together and, in particular, we see the valuing of human life and the understanding that care previously expressed by gathering and contact must now be expressed by social distancing.

It is hard to over-estimate the ongoing risk of contagion that, for example, a simple visit to the supermarket represents. The Scottish Government advice is that we limit such contacts to the absolute minimum and the strictly necessary. In doing so, quite simply, we save lives.

With this in mind, can I encourage you, please, to use whatever influence you have as Primus, to thank in particular the clergy of the SEC at this time, for the hard sacrifices that are being made in continuing to have their church buildings closed and in desisting from gathering for worship.

Now is absolutely not the time to be easing these restrictions.

By keeping on doing what we are doing, we continue to value and preserve life and we continue to set the best of examples to our fellow faith communities in Scotland.

With warm good wishes
Beannachdan

Rev Canon Dr Iain Macritchie
Canon for Spiritual Care and Healthcare Chaplains
Scottish Government Advisor on Spiritual Care