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

SEI October 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 the first of the new academic session.  Orientation Week this year was held on-line (see image above) and gave the new and returning students the opportunity to get to know each other and the staff.  Read all about it and much other SEI news in SEI Newsletter October 2020.

The SEI Journal’s Autumn issue features a set of articles on Pilgrimage. It includes papers from a Conference at the Church of St Margaret of Scotland, Aberdeen, in September 2018, organised by the Church in Society Committee of the Scottish Episcopal Church. The aims of the Conference were to review the history of pilgrimage in the northern part of Scotland, to assess its contribution to Scottish heritage and culture, and to look ahead to how it might continue to contribute to the development and maintenance of Christianity in Scotland.

The Journal hopes to continue to publish on the topic of pilgrimage in
its Winter 2020 issue and throughout 2021. Two years ago, the College of Bishops designated 2021 a Year of Provincial Pilgrimage. The Rt Revd Anne Dyer, Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, lead bishop in this initiative, said: “In this designated year of pilgrimage we will be encouraging as many people as possible to make a holy journey of some kind. This can include taking part in an organised pilgrimage or spending time individually or in groups simply focusing on our own spiritual journeys.

Three in One

St Columba’s in Brora has been open for Individual Prayer on a Sunday afternoons for many weeks now, but on today (27th September) the Eucharist was once again celebrated in the “Tin Tabernacle”.

It was a lovely occasion, where we marked a Trinity of events. St Columba’s opened for worship after three years of closure due to fire on 28th September 2019, so this weekend marked the first anniversary of resumption of worship.

It was of course our first service since the start of lock-down in March, some six months ago.

Finally, it was the last service of Don Grant’s period of curacy with us and fittingly, he was presented with a painting of Brora beach, to remind him and Silvia of their time with St Columba’s. Thank you Don for what you have done in Brora over the last twelve months and we all wish you well in the next phase of ministry based out of the Cathedral in Inverness.

We weren’t of course able to have a party to celebrate these things but Claudia spend this morning making individual ‘cup-cake’ birthday cakes with a candle in the middle for each member of the congregation – thanks so much Claudia.

Thanks to everyone who helped to prepare the Church, the flowers and provide us with lovely music during the service and of course everyone who was there filling the Church to almost its (COVID) capacity. St Columba’s will now be open for worship each Sunday at 4pm.

Worshipping again in St Andrew’s

Today we celebrated our first post-lockdown Service at St Andrew’s in Tain, five months to the day since our last one.  It was good to be back in each other’s company, even if behind a colourful array of masks.

It was a joyous occasion for the all those who were there this morning, with the sun streaming through the windows, as we lit the Paschal Candle and acknowledged Christ as the ‘Light of the World’.

Almighty God,
you sent your Son to be the light of the world
and to bring to your people the radiance of your glory:
set us aflame with the fire of your love,
and renew us in faith and hope,
that we may shine as a light in the world,
and glorify you in our lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Preaching about a text that seems to resonate with so much that’s happening just now, James reminded us that “we have to remember is that as well as being fully God, Jesus was also fully human and what I find so refreshing about his encounter with the Canaanite Woman is that we don’t see a goody goody Jesus, we see a real human being, struggling with the difficult decisions and issues that you and I face every day.”

Although we weren’t able to sing, Jamie provided appropriate music on the organ at a number of points in the Service, including the Hallelujah Chorus to leave by.  By next week it will feel a little less strange sitting scattered around the Church  and doing things in a slightly different way from what we are used to.

A big thanks to everyone who contributed in so many ways.

There will now be a Service in St Andrew’s, Tain at 11am each Sunday in addition to the one in St Finnbarr’s, Dornoch, also at 11am each Sunday.

Three Churches Now Open for Prayer

St Columba’s, Brora open 4pm -6pm on Sundays

St Finnbarr’s in Dornoch and St Andrew’s in Tain have been open for Individual Prayer for a few weeks and have now been joined by St Columba’s, Brora.  A fair number of people have taken the opportunity to drop in for a little while during the two hour periods that the Churches have been 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”.

 

 

Joyous Return at St Finnbarr’s

Today we celebrated our first post-lockdown Service at St Finnbarr’s in Dornoch.  It was good to be back in each other’s company, even if behind a colourful array of masks.

It was a joyous occasion for the all those who were there this morning with the sun streaming through the windows, as we lit the Paschal Candle and acknowledged Christ as the ‘Light of the World’.

Almighty God,
you sent your Son to be the light of the world
and to bring to your people the radiance of your glory:
set us aflame with the fire of your love,
and renew us in faith and hope,
that we may shine as a light in the world,
and glorify you in our lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

It was reassuring to hear Simon tell us that although “Jesus doesn’t calm our storms, he’s certainly there with us, because he’s Lord over everything, including the coronavirus, and he comforts us and encourages us with his words and His holy presence“.; just as he comforted the disciples with his presence when they were frightened by the storm.

Although we weren’t able to sing, Caroline provided appropriate music on the organ at a number of point in the Service.  By next week it will feel a little less strange sitting scattered around the Church  and doing things in a slightly different way from what we are used to.

A big thanks to everyone who contributed in so many ways.

There will now be a Service in St Finnbarr’s, Dornoch at 11am each Sunday.

100 years young today

Barbara at her front door with her card from ER II

Have you heard the one about the Funeral Director, the Priest and the Lord Lieutenant?  Well this afternoon all three turned up with pipers and standard-bearers and an MP at Barbara Rae’s house in Tain.  The occasion was Barbara’s 100 birthday.

Born in the aftermath of the 14-18 Great War, Barbara lived and served through the 39-45 second world war, and all its after effects – a life changing and life affirming experience for so many of that generation. Barbara, in common with both our own Marjorie Taylor and actress Patricia Routledge, attended Birkenhead High School; though of course they were not all there at the same time and neither Barbara nor Marjorie bear any resemblance to Hyacinth Bucket in “Keeping up Appearances”.

Barbara’s war included the blitz of Liverpool – she was not yet 21 by the time it ended. She was lucky to survive. She worked in Liverpool but lived with her parents in Birkenhead. Her brother David was serving in France and having his own adventures. The family home was badly bomb damaged in May 1941 and they had to move out, but the family survived.

Barbara joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in 1942 after the Liverpool blitz, and went into the Meteorology section of the RAF. She had her main training in London, and thereafter was based at several UK airfield locations. Especially RAF Millom and RAF Cark in Lancashire (Cumbria) the Lake District, which is where she eventually met Willis. They were married in 1945. During the time that Willis worked for Customs and Excise at Liverpool Docks.

They lived in Birkenhead until 1961 when they made the move up to Tain where Willis was the Excise Officer at Glenmorangie Distillery until his retirement in 1981. Their children Ian and Pat were educated at Tain Royal Academy. In 1974 they bought a new build house in Knockbreck Avenue – and lived there from 1976. So, Barbara is one of the longest duration residents of the Avenue…and certainly the oldest!

Barbara who had always been active in her church in Birkenhead quickly found her way to St Andrew’s Church. Barbara did so much in and for St Andrew’s Church over the years, much of it as part of the St Andrew’s Ladies Guild, (later the St Andrew’s Fellowship). She put in hours of patient needlework to make altar frontals and pulpit falls, she repaired vestments and all these things we still experience as they’re still in weekly use. She arranged flowers to enhance the congregation’s experience of coming to church. She did work on the Church Magazine and was a member of the Vestry. Just a few of the things that Barbara did in our Church.

Barbara was also very active for some years with the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (the WRVS) in Tain again helping with their local work, and especially delivering ‘Meals on Wheels’ around Tain and environs. Both Barbara and Willis were also active in later years with the Tain Choral Group and the Garrick Singers (now Easter Ross Musical Theatre). Willis performed for a few years with the Garrick Singers, whilst Barbara as ever just got on with things needing to be done in ‘wardrobe’ and backstage.

Sadly Willis died in 2000 after having suffered a heart attack and a series of strokes in the 90s which left him with reduced mobility and unable to talk properly, but he was ably looked after by Barbara.

Today family and friends turned out up and down Knockbreck Avenue to honour Barbara, an amazing lady. It was a privilege that we were all able to celebrate with you on this special day…..

Lord Lieutenant Joanie talking with some of Barbara’s Family

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.