Carols, Carols and more Carols

This evening we had a splendid Carol Service on Zoom: two organists, six readers, nine carols, 28 Zoom connections and 45 people taking part (well what did you expect if an ex-statistician reports on proceedings:-).

Zoom behaved itself, broadband connections delivered the speed that they were supposed to, the readers all unmuted and muted at the right times and read clearly, the music was played beautifully and if the singing in each of the other households was anything like it was in this one, there are no words to describe it!!

Suffice to say a wonderful time a coming together as the Body of Christ was shared, praise was offered to God and everyone got thoroughly in the mood for Christmas – what more could any of us desire?

A huge thank you to Simon and Jamie, to Douglas, Rosemary, Ann, Carol, Caroline and James and to everyone who joined in the celebration – some even stayed on for a drink afterwards.

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.


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

Food Bank Collections

The Christmas Foodbank Collections in

St Finnbarr’s and St Andrew’s

collected a massive

197.7 Kgs

of food, toiletries and Christmas Goodies,

to be distributed to families in need this Christmas.

A huge thank you to everyone who organised,
contributed to and supported this effort
and to those who donated money also.

Well Done.

Good News Indeed

There is a phrase in common use just now that troubles me; “My life is on hold just now”. Now I’m no philosopher, but that doesn’t make sense to me. It sounds as though the life in question was on Netflix and you could just press the pause button and start life up again some time later. Our days are ticking away whether we are locked down, locked up or having a ball. The reality is ‘this is your life‘ even though Eamonn Andrews isn’t around with his big red book and things may not be exactly the way that you would wish them to be (twas ever thus).

This week there was “Good News” preached by politicians and screaming out in the headlines of newspapers. A vaccine for COVID has been approved for use in the UK by the regulator MHRA and the narrative has switched to “we can now starting living our lives again”. So what have such people been doing for the last nine months – hibernating?

Sadly I think there is going to be a lot of disappointment around for anyone who thinks that everything will revert to its pre-COVID state any time soon and that Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstroZenica have some magic potion to bring things back to normal, like an episode out of the tales of Hans Christian Anderson.

The Advent theme is that the time of promise is drawing to an end and the time of fulfilment is drawing near. For Isaiah, it’s the end of exile for Israelites in Babylon. For John the Baptist it’s the coming of Israel’s long-awaited Messiah. So what is it for us at the end of 2020, when people who want to ‘take their lives off hold’, see that long-awaited fulfilment as being delivery of a pharmaceutical?

Advent is Good News in the midst of the struggle. With the Good News of the Incarnation, God has already entered our struggles. He is himself Good News from the battle front, as it were. We hear the voice that commands us to prepare a way in the wilderness. But the way that we are urged to prepare is not our way. The way we are to prepare is the way of the Lord and that isn’t the same thing at all.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Our lives are not on hold, we are not missing out, we are being given a unique opportunity to be in at the start of something far more wonderful than the arrival of a pharmaceutical that must be stored at minus 78 degrees and administered in batches of 975 doses!!

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:-)

From Land’s End to John O’Groats

Revd. Deborah Sandercock-Pickles, who is Priest in Charge of St Margaret’s Church Prestwich and St George’s Church Simister in Bury near Manchester, was in the shielding category during the first lockdown.

In a moment of madness, she decided that she would run from Land’s End to John O’Groats by running around her garden. At planned points she stops and explores the area electronically and visits a local place of worship (virtually of course). Whist she is ‘there’, she prays for the parish and their mission and ministry.

Well she has now ‘arrived’ in Sutherland via Tain and has enjoyed visiting our churches on-line. She writes:

I pray that God will bless the work that you are doing and encourage you as you seek to serve God in Dornach, Brora, Tain, Lairg and Tongue
You are in my prayers. Every blessing, Deborah

Deborah Sandercock-Pickles – 27th November 2020

We wish Deborah well for the remainder of her ‘trip’ and can only recommend that she stops off at The Crask Inn for its legendary welcome and hospitality. Our prayers go with you Deborah – haste ye back once you can travel for real.

St Margaret’s, Prestwich

We will remember them

They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old;
age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.
We will remember them.

Dornoch War Memorial

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

SEI November 2020 Newsletter

Philip Schonken – Ordinand from Moray Ross and Caithness

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 will bring you up-to-date on all that is happening with regards to training during the pandemic.  Read all about it and much other SEI news in November 2020 News from SEI.