Can we Christians align our beliefs and everyday habits in the twenty-first century? Christians have been formulating ‘rules of life’ at least as far back as the fourth century. The sixth-century Rule of St Benedict is probably the most widely known Christian rule of life, but a lot has changed since then! Is there scope for a Christian rule of life in the twenty- first century?
Advances in technology and communication, particularly social media, enrich our present-day lives whilst at the same time driving us to distraction. A cacophony of voices vies for our attention: how do we hear the Gospel above them all?
The Revd Dr Michael Hull, SEI’s Director of Studies (above), will facilitate an online discussion of issues about belief and habit, faith and practice, with insights from Justin Whitmel Earley’s “The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction” (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2019) available via: https://www.thecommonrule.org
The discussion will be held on Wednesday 20 January 2021 from 7pm to 8pm and delivered via Zoom. The link and password will be emailed on the morning of Wednesday 20 January. To register, please visit this link.
St Finnbarr’s Charity Shop will be closed until further notice.
We are really sorry to have to do this, but the government regulations issued on 4th January only allow essential shops to open and prohibit non-essential travel, to reduce the spread of Coronavirus. The vaccination programme will obviously help, but in the meantime, we need to protect Charity Shop volunteers as well as the general public so with great regret we will be closed until further notice.
We would ask please that people do not leave bags of donations outside the shop as we have nowhere to store them.
Thank you all for your generosity in shopping with us and for donating goods to sell. We look forward to seeing you all again when we are able to reopen. We will be back!
On behalf of the College of Bishops, the Most Rev Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church writes:
To the Churches and congregations of the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Many of us have watched, with growing concern, the rise in the number of those testing positive for Coronavirus. This rise has been seen right across Scotland during the past few weeks and may get higher still as the effects of the recent holidays become clearer.
Many of our churches had already decided to remain closed or to suspend face to face worship as this situation unfolded, limiting the numbers to 20 people had given an added headache to our larger churches while sustaining the weekly opening regime had become exhausting for some of our smaller congregations. The awareness of the speed of transmission in the new variant had made it quite clear that the position of Places of Worship was becoming more and more difficult to sustain, a situation made clear by the First Minister today.
The reclosing of our churches is difficult, especially for those who have had the privilege of meeting together over the past few months, yet it is now what we must do. The provision of Provincial online worship will continue and many of our churches will meet together via a variety of platforms. We must continue to pray for each other, for the communities we serve and for the authorities charged with protecting the nation.
The full implications of today’s announcement and the answers to the questions we all have will become clearer as the government documents are produced this week and meetings between us and the government take place. Information will then come from the Advisory Group.
Please continue to pray for the College of Bishops as we will continue to pray for you until with the help of science and our health service we can once again have the freedom to meet together.
Following the announcement in the Scottish Parliament by the First Minister today (4th January 2021) and pending updated guidance from the College of Bishops, our Churches will no longer be open to the public for either services of worship or private prayer. So from now on we must all pray at home.
We will be reflecting and praying about what we can offer by email, on-line and on paper over the next few days and would appreciate your prayers as we do this. The on-line Coffee Morning will still take place on Tuesday mornings on Zoom using the same details as before (if you have mislaid the joining details, email James and they will be provided by return).
Keep safe, keep well and we can all look forward to when we can gather again in the presence of God and each other for worship. In the meantime, we can all help to look after each other via the phone, email etc.
May God bless you all.
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
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:
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
We have spent this year living in a state of uncertainty, fear and for some people virtual “imprisonment”. For most this was an unusual situation – but sadly for many in our world, imprisonment is their daily reality. A conservative estimate is that there are around 40 million slaves in the world today and the current pandemic has seen those numbers grow day by day.
Our call as Christians is, as the Prophet Isaiah put it, “proclaim liberty to captives” and we are reminded that whatever we do to the lowest and the least of God’s children, we do to Christ Himself.
In 1943, whilst imprisoned at Tegel penitentiary, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote an essay entitled “After Ten Years,” reflecting on his beliefs and experiences in the ten years since Hitler’s meteoric rise, in it he wrote the following appeal:
“We are not Christ, but if we want to be Christians, we must have some share in Christ’s large-heartedness by acting with responsibility and in freedom when the hour of danger comes, and by showing real sympathy that springs, not from fear, but from the liberating and redeeming love of Christ for all who suffer.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer “After Ten Years”
The “freedom” Bonhoeffer speaks of is the freedom we have in the God who has liberated us from our slavery to sin. “For I received from the Lord what I hand on to you.”
Every year a group of students at the University of Aberdeen join a global movement started by a student called Blythe Hill in California in 2013. She committed herself to wearing a dress every day for the month of December and it slowly snowballed from there and became an international campaign against modern day slavery and human trafficking.
The Aberdream Team, as the Aberdeen students are called, including Jamie Campbell, our long-time organist in Tain, are mostly members of a society called JustLove which is dedicated to calling Christians to social justice.
The rules for Dressember are simple – wear a dress (or in Jamie’s case a cassock) every day the whole of December and use social media to educate themselves and others about the slavery and trafficking that affect so many people today. This is not only something that happens far away, but it is going on in every neighbourhood in our country – even in our own communities.
The Aberdream Team target for this year is $6300 (USD because it’s an American fund) – which is the cost of liberating just one person from slavery. The Dressember Foundation acts as a fund that then distributes to 12 approved charities who meet a very strict set of criteria and deal with very specific parts of the freedom process. This goes from the initial multi-agency operation involved in getting the individual out of a trafficking situation, to helping with clothing and accommodation to paying for therapy and other medical support.
In our Advent Study this year we will look at suffering.
“The more I think about the human suffering in our world and my desire to offer a healing response, the more I realize how crucial it is not to allow myself to become paralysed by feelings of helplessness and guilt. More important than ever is to be very faithful to my vocation to do well the few things I am called to do and hold on to the joy and peace they bring me. I must resist the temptation to let the forces of darkness pull me into despair and make me one more of their many victims.”
“Suffering invites us to place our hurts in larger hands. In Christ we see God suffering – for us. And calling us to share in God’s suffering love for a hurting world. The small and even overpowering pains of our lives are intimately connected with the greater pains of Christ. Our daily sorrows are anchored in a greater sorrow and therefore a larger hope.”
The sessions will be centred around the following headings:
The Suffering of Job
The Suffering of Christ
Our own Suffering
There will be two groups meeting on Zoom Wednesday Afternoons at 2pm and Thursday Evenings at 7pm (2nd/3rd, 9th/10th and 16th/17th December)
The material will also be available on paper and on the Web Site at:
There will be a Christmas Foodbank collection for the Highland Foodbank outside in St Finnbarr’s grounds.
Every day people in the Highlands are struggling to put food on the table. Even under normal circumstances people struggle as a result of a variety of causes from redundancy to receiving an unexpected bill on a low income. This year however COVID has made the situation much worse for many people.
The Highland Foodbank is part of the work of Blythswood Care and provides a minimum of three days emergency food and support to local adults and children in crisis.
Below is a list of items that they are currently running low on, including essential non-food items such as toiletries and hygiene products, helping people in crisis to maintain dignity and feel human again.
Tins of ham/corned beef
Tins of potatoes
Tins of mince/stew
Small packets of washing powder/gel
Small bottles of washing up liquid
Toothpaste/individually wrapped brushes
They currently have an overabundance of
ALL FORMS OF TINNED BEANS
… so these items are best avoided.
Given the time of year, they are very keen to receive special seasonal treats for all the family.