Pastoral letter from the College of Bishops – January 4, 2021

On behalf of the College of Bishops, the Most Rev Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church writes:

To the Churches and congregations of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Many of us have watched, with growing concern, the rise in the number of those testing positive for Coronavirus. This rise has been seen right across Scotland during the past few weeks and may get higher still as the effects of the recent holidays become clearer.

Many of our churches had already decided to remain closed or to suspend face to face worship as this situation unfolded, limiting the numbers to 20 people had given an added headache to our larger churches while sustaining the weekly opening regime had become exhausting for some of our smaller congregations. The awareness of the speed of transmission in the new variant had made it quite clear that the position of Places of Worship was becoming more and more difficult to sustain, a situation made clear by the First Minister today.

The reclosing of our churches is difficult, especially for those who have had the privilege of meeting together over the past few months, yet it is now what we must do. The provision of Provincial online worship will continue and many of our churches will meet together via a variety of platforms. We must continue to pray for each other, for the communities we serve and for the authorities charged with protecting the nation.

The full implications of today’s announcement and the answers to the questions we all have will become clearer as the government documents are produced this week and meetings between us and the government take place. Information will then come from the Advisory Group.

Please continue to pray for the College of Bishops as we will continue to pray for you until with the help of science and our health service we can once again have the freedom to meet together.

Churches Closed Again, sadly

Following the announcement in the Scottish Parliament by the First Minister today (4th January 2021) and pending updated guidance from the College of Bishops, our Churches will no longer be open to the public for either services of worship or private prayer.  So from now on we must all pray at home.

We will be reflecting and praying about what we can offer by email, on-line and on paper over the next few days and would appreciate your prayers as we do this.  The on-line Coffee Morning will still take place on Tuesday mornings on Zoom using the same details as before (if you have mislaid the joining details, email James and they will be provided by return).

Keep safe, keep well and we can all look forward to when we can gather again in the presence of God and each other for worship.  In the meantime, we can all help to look after each other via the phone, email etc.

May God bless you all.

Two prayers from the Scottish Prayer Book

In the time of any common Plague or Sickness.

O ALMIGHTY and merciful God, with whom are the issues of life and death: Grant us, we beseech thee, help and deliverance in this time of grievous sickness and mortality, and sanctify to us this affliction, that in our sore distress we may turn our hearts unto thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

For Hospitals and Infirmaries.

ALMIGHTY God, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ went about doing good, and healing all manner of sickness and disease among the people: Continue, we beseech thee, his gracious work among us in all hospitals and infirmaries; console and heal the sufferers; grant to the physicians, surgeons, and nurses, wisdom and skill, sympathy and patience; prosper their work, O Lord, with thy continual blessing; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Christmas message from +Mark

Dear Friends across the Diocese

I seem to have spent hour after hour filming, writing and recording Christmas messages and sermons for so many organisations and churches. Today I am writing to you the Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness.

I am writing to you with my Christmas Greetings and with my thanks for all you have been doing in the past year. No one could have possibly anticipated the effects of Coronavirus would have upon us all and I believe we have managed to sustain and in places grow far more than I could have hoped.

I know that by all means possible people have received the comfort of the church, digital, hand written, telephone, weekly sermons, newsletters. I know just how hard your clergy and lay ministers have worked. There has also been a weekly or twice weekly Provincial service in which this Diocese has played its part. The Cathedral has live streamed all its worship including Morning and Evening Prayer and many of our churches have live streamed and recorded inspirational services filled with messages of hope. I know of Zoom worship at which people who have long since left the Highlands have been able to reconnect and I have experienced the joy of those who have come together for face to face worship.

It all sounds wonderful, but it comes at a cost. Your clergy need a break, many have struggled to get away at all this year and I know too well the pressure of always being at home and therefore always available. I have sadly also heard criticism that is just so unkind. If you haven’t heard from someone for a while don’t assume they are not doing their job, rather assume they are snowed under, give them a call to see how they are.

The most wonderful moments have often been from unexpected letters saying thank you and are you okay?

Therefore be kind to each other, offer to help when help is needed and don’t be too critical of people who are doing their best.

This Christmas will be very different from what we are used to, or even what we expected up until till last weekend, but it will still be Christmas. Celebrate the birthday of Jesus and offer worship and prayer wherever you find yourself. There will be Provincial services online and from the Cathedral, some will be able to meet in church while others will join through television and computer.

So please keep a faithful Christmas and a loving Christmas. Keep those around you safe and continue to work for justice and peace at home and abroad.

Above all offer thanks to God who walks with us in good times and bad and who offers us a home in his heavenly kingdom.

A blessed Christmas to you all

Inverness Cathedral on-line Christmas Services

This year the Inverness Cathedral Services will be available on-line as follows:

Christingle and Crib Service

Christingle and Crib Service

At 5:30pm on Christmas Eve 24th December 2020

Service of Midnight Mass

Midnight Mass

At 11:30pm on Christmas Eve 24th December 2020

Service for Christmas Day

Christmas Day Service

At 10:00am on Christmas Day 25th December 2020

Where to find the Services

Services from Inverness Cathedral will be available via the Cathedral’s

for both ‘live’ watching and for later playback.

Message from Bishop Mark – 19th Dec 2020

Bishop Mark, offers the following message to Church members following the announcement that new restrictions are being introduced to combat the spread of a new variation of Covid-19:

Dear Friends

As many of you will know already, the Scottish Government’s regulations on the Covid-19 Pandemic were altered this evening [Saturday 19 December 2020]. The changes have a dramatic effect on what people can and cannot do over Christmas and in the weeks following.

The reason for these changes is the scientific advice given to the Government on the risks caused by a variation of the virus, the increased speed of infection seen and the numbers of people who were likely to meet together at Christmas.

The College of Bishops’ Advisory Group will issue an update to cover these changes but I felt it was important to say something this evening.

The changes are in line with the regulations already governing Public Worship. There was no change announced to the rules we already have as a church. The Christmas bubbles hadn’t changed the numbers who could worship in our buildings, simply who you could come to church with.

Rules on numbers, social distancing and travel to church remain the same dependent on which tier your local authority is in. On 26 December all but a few island communities will enter Tier 4 for the following three weeks. During that period the maximum number who can attend church will be 20 and congregation members will not be permitted to travel outside their own local authority area for worship.

Those are the bald facts of this announcement, and as I say any other information will come from the Advisory Group.

The reality is that across the country tonight people will be feeling empty and dejected. Hopes and dreams of meeting family over Christmas will have been dashed and in some cases there will be anger and frustration. I know how I am feeling at the thought of not seeing my own family.

I ask from the bottom of my heart, that people find it in themselves to be gentle with each other, not taking out anger on others or saying things which we will regret. We are all hurting from these restrictions on our way of life. Care and cherish each other, for we are asked to “love our neighbours as ourselves” from the depths of our hearts and with all the gifts we have been given.

Our ministry as a church is to care for all God’s people. We will do that through online worship and in some places face-to-face worship but we also need to do it by phoning the lonely, keeping in contact with the isolated, seeking to work with others for the benefit of our society and to speak of the joy and hope of Christmas, continuing to proclaim: “Unto us a Child is born.

Blessings

The Most Rev Mark Strange
Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness
Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church

Making a Canon

On the Feast of St Andrew (30th November 2020) James was Installed as a Canon of The Cathedral Church of St Andrew, Inverness.

James makes his declaration before +Mark

I, James Edward Patrick Currall, appointed to a Canonry in the Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew, Inverness, do solemnly promise, as in the sight of God and God’s elect Angels, that I will diligently and faithfully fulfil the duties of the same, and sedulously observe the Statutes and cause them to be observed by others.

We all ask for God’s help

O Lord, save this your servant
Who puts their trust in you.
Send them help from your holy place.
And evermore mightily defend him.
Let the enemy have no advantage over them.
Nor the wicked approach to hurt them.
Be unto them a strong tower.
From the face of their enemy.
O Lord, hear our prayer.
And let our cry come unto you.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.

+Mark calls on the Holy Spirit

O Lord, of your mercy stretch forth the right hand of your Majesty over your servant James, that he may seek thee with his whole heart, and that those things which he asks faithfully he may obtain effectually through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

James is led to his Stall by Provost Sarah

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 amphitheatre, 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