Bells to Ring Out

This morning, after the two minutes silence, Church bells will ring out at St Finnbarr’s Dornoch, St Andrew’s Tain, St John’s Arpafeelie, Fearn Abbey, Nigg Old Church, Dornoch Cathedral and other Churches across the region, as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

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

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

+Mark Writes – 23rd April 2020

My dear friends in Moray, Ross and Caithness,

It has been difficult this week to reconcile the feelings of frustration at lock down and the beauty and joy of this sunny spell of weather, though the wind can still freeze us if we get caught in it.

We now know that we have at least three more weeks of the present situation and many of us expect a longer process than that. I also suspect many are struggling with the inherent instinct of the Highlander to be welcoming and full of hospitality and the knowledge that we need visitors to stay away.

So lets just catch up with the news. It was wonderful to be able to hold a “Zoom” meeting with the Incumbents last week, to be able to see them and to talk with them worked well and I know I can only speak for myself but I can say I actually enjoyed it. We managed to get some business done and to share joys and frustrations. I am planning a meeting with all the licenced and commissioned clergy in a couple of weeks, just for a catch up. I want to commend all those in ministry, Lay and Ordained for all the work they have been doing in these peculiar times.

I have continued to hold meetings with the College of Bishops, we meet digitally every week, and I have regular conversations with representatives of the Scottish Government. I am also heavily involved with other church leaders both as a Primate in the Anglican Communion and as a leader of one of the National Churches in Scotland, my work load hasn’t got any less and

I have no travel time to prepare and unwind, different days.

The lighting of the candle and the various prayers offered for each Sunday evening has continued to unite us across our communities and I commend that to you all.

Please keep up with the websites of the various churches in the diocese, there are many good things happening and it is good to share.

Now to some information about the diocese. I have become increasingly aware from comments coming in that this huge territory that makes up the Diocese is unknown to many of you. I may talk about Aberchirder and Tongue, or Nostie and Brora but many of you have never seen the inside of or in fact the outside of these churches and are not aware of their history or life. So I am going to take the opportunity of these letters to let you know a bit more. If, or it should be when, I get something wrong about your church, simply let me know gently and I will correct it. Next year is still planned as a year of Pilgrimage so lets try and begin a virtual pilgrimage during this lock down.

I had thought I would start in the far East but I realised we probably needed to start with some basic information about the United Diocese itself. So here is a potted history. To find out more please look for the link on the Website that leads to Very Rev Stranraer-Mull’s history of our church.

We are three historic dioceses that United in the present shape in 1864, though our history goes back much further.

The Diocese of Moray was founded in 1114 by Bishop Gregoir,

The diocese of Ross is reputed to have been established by St Boniface in 690 and then re-established in 1127 by Bishop MacBethad.

Caithness was established in 1147 by Bishop Aindreas

Until the time the diocese became United as we know now there had been 45 bishops of Moray, 41 Bishops of Ross and 39 Bishops of Caithness. I am the 9th Bishop of the United Diocese and the 53rd Bishop of Moray!! It is interesting to note that we clearly had more stability in the Episcopacy than the other Episcopally led churches of the UK, in the same period for example Durham had 73 Bishops.

The Cathedral for Moray was finally established at Elgin having been at Birnie, Kinneader and Spynie before that. The Bishop lived at Spynie Palace.

The Cathedral for Ross was Fortrose, it having moved there from Rosemarkie and the Cathedral for Caithness was Dornoch as the bishops had re-established there from Halkirk following the killing of Bishop Adam. The only intact episcopal residence is what is now the Dornoch Castle Hotel.

These dioceses played their part in Scotland’s history and remained under the authority of Rome until around 1560 when the Scottish Reformation established a new church government and the bishops who survived that became part of the Church of Scotland.

The 17th century saw Scotland involved in the dynastic tribulations of the Stuart monarchs and what became known in Scotland as the Bishops Wars as the authority of the church fluctuated between Episcopacy and Presbytery. The arrival of William and Mary saw the official end of Episcopacy in the Scottish Church.

The Episcopalians continued to elect and consecrate bishops though now we were meeting in houses and meeting rooms, not Cathedrals and large churches. The church also remained in many places, especially in our diocese, loyal to the Stuarts and this ultimately brought about many years of persecution by the British Government and at the end of that time the Scottish Episcopal Church was but a shadow of its former self. One of the consequences of that was the joining together of dioceses, especially in those areas of depopulation, hence United Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness and our slightly odd boundary, it is still the boundary as established by the medieval church.

If you have read this far then you will have to wait for the next gripping instalment. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

Just to wet your appetite for what may come your way please look at the slide show Canon Michael has put up on the Isla, Spey Deveron Web site

Take care of everyone, Stay Safe



Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’  … Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:36, 40-41)


Watch and Wait and Pray

The Watch in the Garden

Today is Maundy Thursday, when Jesus met with His Disciples and shared a Last Supper with them.  Normally on Maundy Thursday, we meet for a very moving service in one of our Churches and we do a number of things that commemorate that last evening together:

Washing the Disciples’ Feet:

During supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.” (John 13:3-5)

Sharing the Last Supper:

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)

Watching, Waiting and Praying at Gethsemane:

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’  … Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:36, 40-41)

The first two of these we can only do when we can be together, but the third is something that we can all do at home – watch and wait and pray with Jesus in His anguish.  Normally some of the congregation would gather in St Andrew’s Hall and pray silently in front of the small altar on which the Sacrament is placed, surrounded by greenery and candles.

Tonight, Simon and I will both celebrate the Last Supper alone in one of our Churches, “with the people on our hearts”, but at 9pm, we invite each of you to join us sitting in a suitably prepared space with greenery and candles, to pray quietly for one hour.  Praying for our families, our friends, our neighbours, our governments, those who work in the NHS and in other essential services and particularly those in our land and far away who are anxious, unwell or grieving. Pray also for yourselves.

SEI April 2020 Newsletter

The Scottish Episcopal Institute, which is responsible for training priests, deacons and lay readers in our Church, produces a monthly newsletter.  If you are interested in what the Institute and its students have been up to, you can read all about it in SEI Newsletter April 2020.