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

Church Opening for Prayer

From Wednesday 15th July, St Finnbarr’s in Dornoch and St Andrew’s in Tain will be open for for two hours a week for Individual Prayer.

The opening hours will be as follows:

    • St Finnbarr’s – 10:00am -12:00pm
    • St Andrew’s – 2:00pm – 4:00pm

At the moment, we are governed by a strict set of guidelines laid down by the Scottish Government and by our own Church and the Churches are open for your individual prayers and not for communal prayer.

An oft quoted Covid prayer says: “We are not people who protect our own safety: we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.” However, as our Governments have made clear, an important part of how we protect our neighbour, is through our own behaviour. As our Bishops also pointed out in relation to closing our churches, “we do this not out of fear but out of love”.

Many of the precautions that we need to take as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic, are to protect each other from Seasonal Flu, the Common Cold and other respiratory infections as well as Covid-19, all of which can have a devastating effect on the elderly, the vulnerable and those in poor health.

So out of love for others, if you do wish to spend a little time in St Finnbarr’s or St Andrew’s:

  1. Please wear your face-covering.
  2. Please make use of the hand gel.
  3. Please sit in a seat where there is a Palm Cross and a Prayer Leaflet.
  4. Please try to avoid touching anything that you don’t need to.
  5. Please take both Cross and Leaflet away with you when you leave (so that those coming after you will know to avoid the seat that you have been sitting in).
  6. Please remember that this is a time for Private Prayer and keep a respectful silence whilst in the Church.
  7. If you wish to speak with a member of the clergy, indicate this to either one or the clergy or a steward.

God of all hope we call on you today.
We pray for those who are living in fear:
Fear of illness, fear for loved ones, fear of other’s reactions to them.
May your Spirit give us a sense of calmness and peace.

We pray for your church in this time of uncertainty.
For those people who are worried about attending worship.
For those needing to make decisions in order to care for other
For those who will feel more isolated by not being able to attend.
Grant us your wisdom.

Holy God, we remember that you have promised that
Nothing will separate us from your love – demonstrated to us in Jesus Christ.
Help us turn our eyes, hearts and minds to you.
Amen

A New but also Old Pilgrimage Route

Origins

The Caithness Book Club boasts all of six regular members at its monthly meetings in St Anne’s church hall, Thurso. One of its books was ‘Together in Christ: Following the Northern Saints‘ by John Woodside. From this developed ‘The Northern Saints Trails’, listing 33 names and 32 sites linked to these names. The sites were organised into six circular routes, four starting in Thurso and two in Wick. For more information, see the web site at: www.wickstferguschurch.org.uk/page16 .

The Pilgrimage Trails Project

While doing the research for the Saints Trails, the group realised that there was enough historical evidence to re-create the medieval pilgrimage route linking the shrines of St Duthac in Tain and St Magnus in Kirkwall. So a second project was born. Much of the background work has been done and we are now planning some public events in the hope that this will encourage more people to come forward with offers of practical help and local folklore about the sites along the route.

Pilgrimage Events

We are launching this stage of the project with a ‘Pilgrimage Event’ in Tain on 29th May 2021. There will be an ecumenical service in St Duthac’s chapel followed by refreshments and information on the Northern Pilgrims’ Way.  This event will be jointly led by that the event will be led by our own Bishop Mark Strange and the RC Bishop of Aberdeen Bishop Hugh Gilbert.

Similar events will take place in Old St Peter’s Kirk, Thurso on 3rd July 2021 and in St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall on 20th August 2021.

There will be more information in due course.

The Symbolism of our logo

  • The central cross is from the St Andrew’s cross on the Scottish flag.
  • The two lines represent the two saints – Duthac and Magnus
  • The pointed curves are copied from the Ulbster Stone, a Celtic carved stone originally at the site of an early chapel dedicated to St Martin at Ulbster, on our Braid Three and the John o’ Groat’s Trail. The site is now marked by a mausoleum.

Today’s Announcements about Church Opening

Today at lunchtime (Thursday 18th June) the First Minister indicated that from Monday 22nd June, “Places of worship may open for individual prayer and contemplation“.

Bishop Mark Strange, Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church subsequently made the following statement :

Today the First Minister of Scotland has announced moving the communities of Scotland into Phase 2 of the Route Map out of Lockdown, with aspects of easing taking place on different dates.

There are many things which people will now need to work on to ensure that these changes are carried through carefully and safely. It is good to be moving forward.

The Scottish Episcopal Church can now plan for some of its churches to open for Individual prayer following the guidelines carefully worked out by our own Advisory Group. Our Phase 2 Guidance, issued last week, now takes effect from Monday 22 June 2020.

We also recognise that in Phase 2 for various reasons some faith groups will still not be able to use any of their places of worship and we will continue to work and walk alongside them at this time. We move forward today in the knowledge that we will together continue to have opportunities to discuss and shape the route back towards the full re-opening of the places of worship of all faith communities in Scotland.

It is also important to recognise the work that has been done throughout the lockdown by the regular meetings of the Scottish Government with faith leaders and the various faith group secretariats. We thank the Government for its commitment to working together with the faith communities of Scotland.

The Advisory Group will continue its work towards the preparation of Phase 3 guidance.

The Phase 2 Guidance referred to by Bishop Mark’s will need careful study to work out if any of our Churches in East Sutherland and Tain could be opened. If we can open, any necessary preparations might well take a wee while to sort out.  Church opening arrangements are subject to approval by Bishop Mark.  It goes without saying that we need to protect both those supervising the opening and those visiting the Churches for Prayer.

In the meantime, the First Minister’s statement doesn’t mean that St Finnbarr’s, St Andrew’s or St Columba’s will be open for Individual Prayer, but that could change later on.

God of compassion,
be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation.
In their loneliness, be their consolation;
in their anxiety, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light;
through him who suffered alone on the cross,
but reigns with you in glory,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Caption Competition no. 1

Captions entered for this competition were:

  1. ‘Eye, nose, cheeky cheeky chin, cheeky cheeky chin, eye, nose!’
  2. ‘It’s great to have collared two nice men trained to amuse me!’
  3. ‘Two trained to keep me on the right lines!’
  4. ‘Am I too young to start the discernment process?’
  5. ‘Carry on ‘training’!’
  6. ‘Since those two are Gordon and James, can I be Thomas? Pleeeese!’
  7. ‘Station-ary Vocational Train-ing!’

AND THE WINNER IS…….

Number 6

‘Since those two are Gordon and James, can I be Thomas? Pleeeese!’

Well done to Beatrice Somers – a fitting tribute to the Rev Wilbert Vere Awdry – original author of the Thomas the Tank Engine stories.

 

Corpus Christi

The Feast of the Thanksgiving for Holy Communion, commonly called, Corpus Christi was first celebrated in the 14th Century. It began as a local custom to celebrate the Mystery of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and slowly spread throughout the Church, finally being added to the Kalander in the 15th Century.

William Harry Turton’s hymn “O thou who at thy Eucharist didst pray” sung to a lovely tune (Song 1) by Orlando Gibbons.

Perhaps the most famous aspect of Corpus Christi (literally the Body of Christ), that people associate with this feast day, is the great processions through cities, towns and villages.  The Blessed Sacrament is held aloft by a priest, in a monstrance, as a public statement that the sacrifice of Christ was for the salvation of the whole world.

A Corpus Christi Procession

Monstrances are one of those liturgical curios that appear sometimes, but in our tradition not very regularly.  This one belongs to Jamie (who drafted a substantial part of this piece for us).

Jamie’s Monsterance

The Host (the consecrated Bread) sits in the glass plate in the centre with ‘rays of glory streaming out from it‘. A reminder of the Glory of Christ, present in the Eucharist, and the glory of the Heavenly Banquet that we join when we take Communion together.

Traditionally, at the end of the Mass on Corpus Christi the Host (the consecrated Bread) is placed in a monstrance and the congregation spend some time reflecting on this Mystery of Christ made present in the bread and wine.

The officiating Priest would then take the monstrance and carry it aloft down through the church and out into the streets – with servers throwing rose petals down in front of it to make a carpet – a bit like confetti at a wedding – with bells ringing out to tell everyone that Christ was walking among them in the Eucharist.

Celebrating in Valencia

It’ll be an irony not lost on many that the Feast of Corpus Christi has something of a hollow ring to it this year.  It’s a feast when we give thanks for the gift and privilege of Holy Communion, which we normally share on a regular basis.  So what does it mean to give thanks for something we can’t (at present) receive?

Corpus Christi represents more than just the Church giving thanks for the way that Christ remains, with us always – even unto the ends of the Earth. It’s a celebration that we, the Church, are united in and as the Body of Christ.

As Corpus Christi comes around this year, we have to do things differently.  And perhaps this involves reflecting on what being unable to meet up and share Holy Communion together these past months has meant.  It’s left a yawning gap in the lives of many members of our congregations. But of course, God’s not gone away, Christ is still very much with us.  And of course when we do reunite to break the bread and pour the wine together, we can have a thanksgiving as never before!

St Columba of Iona, 597

Today is the Feast of St Columba of Iona

St Columba in the West Window of St Columba’s Largs

O God, who called your servant Columba
from among the princes of Ireland
to be a herald and evangelist of your kingdom:
grant that your Church, remembering his faith and courage,
may so proclaim the gospel,
that people everywhere
will come to know your Son as their Saviour,
and serve him as their king;
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.  Amen

The Blessed Trinity

On this Trinity Sunday, Simon sings the words of John Henry Newman to an arrangement by Patrick Appleford.

Firmly I believe and truly
God is Three and God is One;
and I next acknowledge duly
manhood taken by the Son.

And I trust and hope most fully
in the Saviour crucified;
and each thought and deed unruly
do to death, as he has died.

Simply to his grace and wholly
light and life and strength belong,
and I love supremely, solely,
him the holy, him the strong.

And I hold in veneration,
for the love of him alone,
holy Church as his creation,
and her teachings as his own.

Adoration ay be given,
with and through th’angelic host,
to the God of earth and heaven,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

No Change to Bishop’s Guidance

NO CHANGE TO COLLEGE OF BISHOPS’ GUIDANCE AT PHASE 1 OF EASING LOCKDOWN

Following the announcement by the First Minister that Phase 1 of the Scottish Government’s route map will take effect tomorrow [Friday 29 May], the College of Bishops has confirmed that the minor easing of lockdown restrictions permitted under Phase 1 does not result in any change to existing guidance previously issued by the College of Bishops for the Scottish Episcopal Church. Church buildings therefore remain closed for the time being and the guidance issued on 23 and 26 March 2020 remains in place.

The Advisory Group established to provide guidance for SEC churches has had its first meeting and is working to address the respective phases of the Government’s route map. Initially, therefore, it is concentrating on guidance for Phase 2 which will be issued as soon as it is available.

When, in due course, the reopening of churches becomes permissible, as the College of Bishops has previously indicated, no church will be required to reopen against its will. The vestry of each church will be responsible for assessing, in the light of guidance produced, whether it wishes to reopen and is in a position to put in place the measures which will be necessary for any such reopening. It will then need to approach the Bishop for consent to reopen. Guidance will indicate the appropriate process to follow but, in substance, the intention is that both the vestry and Bishop will need to be content before any reopening can occur.

General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church Scottish Charity No SC015962

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