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 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

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

Churches Now Closed

Following the directive from Boris Johnson this evening (23rd March) and updated guidance from the College of Bishops, our Churches will no longer be open to the public for either services or private prayer.  So from now on we must all pray at home.

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

Introducing a newly minted Priest

Today, St Peter and the Holy Rood in Thurso was packed with people from Caithness, from across our Diocese, from elsewhere in Scotland, from England and from even further afield.

So many people gave of themselves to make Ellie’s ordination as Priest a splendid occasion: stunning flowers, splendid music and singing, generous welcome, sumptuous food and drink, fine preaching, and efficient choreography of a large number of servers, visiting clergy, and so on. So much planning and preparation by members of the congregations, so much planning and preparation by the Bishop and his chaplain, so much planning and travelling by the people from many areas of the life of our church, our community and Ellie’s family, friends and colleagues past and present.

But what was it all about? Obviously it was a significant event in the life of these congregations, who haven’t seen an ordination in either of their buildings for quite a while. It was a significant event in the life of the diocese which has nurtured Ellie’s vocation over the past five or six years. It was a significant event for Ellie’s family who were all assembled in a way that perhaps they rarely manage. And it was a significant event for Ellie herself after a period of years of journeying. But more importantly than all of these, it was an act of praise, worship and thanksgiving to God for his goodness to us, his work amongst us and our witness of that to each other.

That was the real focus. What it was not about was any individual, no matter what their role in the proceedings or in the Church more generally being any more important than any other. Everyone who was involved in the planning, in the preparation, as a guest or with a particular role to perform in the service or the celebrations afterwards, came to that service (as to the one in Inverness Cathedral last week) as an individual – a son or daughter of God. Each with a story of their own, each with their own sorrows and pain, each with their own hopes and joys. In that we are all equal and equally valued by God as beloved children.

A momentous day in their lives and the life of the Cathedral

Today saw the Ordination to the Diaconate of not one, not two, but three people.  Inverness Cathedral hasn’t seen that number of Ordinations in a single day for many many a long year.

Congratulations to Don Grant, Katrina O’Neill and Kathryn Sanderson.

May God richly bless them and those that they serve in Ministry.

Hello!

The Hello! project developed from a conversation at the Highland TSI Conference in May 2018 which had a focus on Mental Health and Wellbeing. As a group we spoke about community connections and what we believe to be the simplest way to connect ourselves and others in our communities. The simple gesture of saying ‘HELLO to people that you meet in the street or elsewhere.

From this conversation a project idea developed and this has been supported by a small amount of funding gratefully received from HTSI. The idea is to spread the word and encourage people across the Highlands to say ‘HELLO’ to one another. It’s that simple!!

The project was launched at Ar n-àite café and the Eastgate Shopping Centre in Inverness on Friday 10th May. A wide variety of people dropped by and shared in chat, craft activities, tea/coffee, sandwiches and cake and of course said Hello!!

 

Say Hello! and help someone feel less lonely today.

More details from James, who was part of the project team.