Rector’s Letter – from April 2020 Magazine

Dear friends,

I’m sure that none of us would have imagined as we read last month’s magazine that a few weeks later all our services would be cancelled, our church doors would be shut and almost every aspect of our present and future lives disrupted. This is a very confusing and draining time for us all. We feel that our whole world has changed. Although we know this is temporary, it doesn’t feel that way. We view the future differently now. Our general sense of safety feels threatened. Many of us are disoriented and are feeling bewilderment, anxiety, loss and many different kinds of grief. Our grief is individual and collective and we are reacting to it in different ways, ranging through a host of different emotions and ways of thinking.

How are we to manage all this grief as individuals and as a community? There is no easy answer, but according to David Kessler who has written extensively in this field, understanding the stages of grief is a start. He emphasises in an article I read recently, that this is not a map but it provides some scaffolding for this unknown world. There was denial early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Ok, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, won’t it? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance: This is happening; I have to work out how to proceed.

It is important to name these feelings to ourselves and others in order to let go of them. Holy Week will give us an opportunity to do that as we accompany Jesus and his disciples on that final journey to Jerusalem. My aim, with the support of Peter and Jeanette, is to provide materials which may help us all to acknowledge our sadness, fear and anger in the presence of our loving God and come to a place of acceptance.

In a book published last year, David Kessler has added a sixth stage to grief – Meaning. Even now we are finding the light of meaning in the midst of this crisis. There are many small resurrection moments. We are appreciating the simpler things of life. We are seeing the importance of our friends and family. We are learning that loving kindness is what counts. And we are finding that we can do church in a completely different way, that we can stay connected and grow in faith. We will not celebrate Easter in the usual way this year but I hope that each one of us, in the midst of our grief, will feel the joy of the Resurrection and continue to walk in the light of Christ.

With love to you all,

Nerys

No Congregation

No Sunday congregations. We are living in strange times.

Yet, we have been here before, in Scotland at least. After the Jacobite risings in the 18th century, which many Episcopalians had supported, the Episcopal Church faced many restrictions. One was that it was illegal for more than five church members to be in the same room as their priest. So they had to find imaginative solutions. Sometimes the priest would stand in the hallway and say the liturgy while members of the congregation would be in separate rooms off the hallway but still in earshot. There were also instances when the congregation would stand outside and parents would pass their babies in through the window for the priest to baptise them. Incidentally my son in Canada told me he did something similar recently. A friend was getting married and the guests stayed in their cars in the car park and honked their horns when the couple emerged.

So, with today’s live-streamed services we are following the example of our forebears. And let’s remember that these difficult years in the 18th century were a period of spiritual growth in the Episcopal Church. They produced an order of service for Holy Communion that subsequently paved the way for liturgical across the Anglican Communion and in 1784 the Scottish bishops consecrated Samuel Seabury, the first bishop for the newly-independent United States (the English bishops wouldn’t do it because Seabury couldn’t swear allegiance to George III), a move that would eventually lead to the formation of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Where there’s a will there’s a way and who knows what the outcome could be.

Peter M. Potter

News Update

Sunday Services at St Mary’s are suspended until further notice.

You are welcome to come into the church to pray or be still. It will be open as usual every day during daylight hours. Please use the back door and wash your hands thoroughly before entering the body of the church.

If you wish to speak to a priest or ask for prayers, please phone 01786 824225.

The congregation of St Mary’s is continuing to share in worship and prayer from their own homes. If you wish to join with us, please contact Nerys at rector @ stmarysdunblane.org and you will be added to our email group.

Rector’s Letter – from March Magazine

Dear friends,

Since settling in the Rectory, the Co-op has become my local shop and I enjoy popping in a few times a week. It is one of the few shops in Dunblane that stocks a range of Fair Trade goods, including bananas not wrapped in plastic! The staff are very friendly and keen to make sure that the store contributes to the life of the community in a meaningful way. They are ready to donate prizes for local events and David who runs their Facebook page has several times posted news from St Mary’s. I was taken aback, however, to find during my first visit after Christmas, the area around the checkout awash with hot-cross buns and chocolate eggs. On our high streets, Easter has taken over not only Lent but the first three months of the year. It is ironic that historically the idea of giving up things for Lent comes more from secular culture than the church, from a time when food stocks would shrink in early spring forcing people to adjust their diets. In the Early Church, Lent was a time to prepare for baptism, for the whole community to reflect along with the candidates on what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. This year in our Sunday services we will read stories from John’s Gospel of Jesus’ encounters with Nicodemus, a Samaritan woman, a man born blind and his friends from Bethany, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They raise questions about taking risks, seeing past outward appearances, embracing a bigger world and living hopefully in the face of death. If all we do during the next few weeks is to consider prayerfully what it means to live in the way of Christ in light of these four passages, we will have a rich Lent.

This year our Maundy Thursday service will be a traditional eucharist and on Good Friday there will be something different and new. We’re going to be using an innovative liturgy by the newly appointed Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell. In The Nail, key witnesses describe Christ’s crucifixion from their points of view. Each character considers the part he or she played in hammering the nails into Jesus. We will learn how the Roman centurion was just following orders, and how Pontius Pilate merely obeyed the wishes of the majority. By vividly expanding these stories and others, Stephen Cottrell invites us to ask ourselves if we would have behaved any differently in those situations. These challenging monologues will be sandwiched together with silence, hymns, readings and prayer. The service is designed to appeal to adults of all ages and backgrounds – a great opportunity to invite friends and relatives who don’t usually come to church. We will need six people to take the parts of the characters as well as a number of readers, singers and those ready to lead prayers. There will be an opportunity to borrow copies of The Nail and meet beforehand to prepare for the service. Please get in touch if you would like to be involved.

In the meantime, have a blessed Lent.

With love,

Nerys

Start Up Stirling

What weighs the same as a Holstein cow, or more than a Grizzly bear, maybe a third of a giraffe or 7.5 kangaroos?
Well my friends, I can tell you; all these weights are to help you get an idea of how much our donations, collected for Start Up Stirling last year, added up to. An amazing 646kg of goods!
Start Up have recently written to us and thanked us for our support, and, to continue with the numbers theme, this is what we helped to provide last year:-
* 102,276 meals at their Foodbank, supporting 2,607 people, over a third of them children.
* 174 Starter Packs given to help people to get settled in new tenancies.
* 241 Welcome Packs to help those in temporary housing.
* 296 Emergency Food Packs for people with no housing.
* 715 Toiletry Packs distributed to help the temporarily homeless.
Thank you for helping them to make all this possible and for showing those who are most in need in our community that someone cares – it makes a very real difference.

Rector’s Letter – from February 2020 Magazine

Dear friends,

I think that I have mentioned before my delight when I notice signs that someone has been praying in our church. During the last few weeks I felt compelled to put a map of the world in front of the altar to encourage those who visit to pray for areas suffering from the effects of climate change, political instability and conflict. It has been encouraging to see new markers appearing on the map every day indicating that people have spent time praying for places like Australia, the Middle East and parts of Africa.

I don’t often meet those who pop into the church during the week but in November I happened to strike up a conversation with a visitor from Fortrose in Ross-shire. When he informed me that his grandfather had been rector of St Mary’s, I took him to the Priest’s Vestry to see if we could find his photo on the wall. It wasn’t there, probably because Rev. Kenneth Sutherland Graeme was not at St Mary’s for very long. He arrived in August 1925 and left for Stirling two years later. In the minutes of the Vestry, he is described as ‘a man of considerable spiritual influence and has a remarkable power with children and young people’. According to his grandson, his decision to leave had caused him quite a lot of soul searching because he loved it here. A week after our encounter, Mike Marshal sent me a photograph of his grandfather for the Vestry wall and also a children’s book written by his mother, Rev. Graeme’s daughter, about the history of their Cathedral in the Black Isle. Rosemary Sutherland was born during her father’s time in Dunblane and the Scottish Episcopal Church is still a central part of her life. I have left the book on a windowsill in the Prayer Room. You are welcome to borrow it.

The season of Epiphany is a time when we think of the light of Christ being revealed by the guiding of a star, by the descent of the Spirit, in the response of his followers. We start this month with the celebration of the ancient feast of Candlemas, remembering Simeon and Anna who recognise the child Jesus in the Temple, and we finish with the story of the Transfiguration of our Lord when he is shown once more to be God’s beloved Son. As we turn from our celebration of Christ’s coming into the world towards Lent and Easter there will be many opportunities for us to shine our light in our community. Read on and you will find requests for practical help and for prayer support. In the meantime, the Lord Jesus give light to our eyes, give light to our minds, give light to our hearts, give light to our whole lives, that we may witness to him.

With love,

Nerys

2021 – The Year of Pilgrimage

You are invited to an evening in the company of Bishop Ian at St Saviour’s Church Hall, Bridge of Allan, from 7pm on Wednesday 5th February to find out about the Year of Pilgrimage.
Our Bishops have designated 2021 as a year when as many people as possible will be encourage to make a holy journey of some kind. This can include taking part in an organised pilgrimage or spending time individually or in groups making a spiritual “journey of the heart and mind”. There will be opportunities to be involved in provincial and diocesan pilgrimages overseas or in the UK. Congregations are also invited to put on their own pilgrimages, or to join with other local Episcopal churches or ecumenical partners. This might involve walking a pilgrim route, ancient or new, or visiting a holy place or congregations travelling together to visit another church in their Diocese or in the Province.

The meeting at St Saviour’s will give us an opportunity to find out more about plans which have already been made, to gather ideas for possible pilgrimages by members of St Mary’s and to network with members of neighbouring churches. Please speak to Nerys if you would like a lift.

Messy Church

Myrrh would not be a popular ‘baby shower’ gift. Used to embalm the dead, it shows the Magi knew of Jesus’ destiny right from the very beginning. Along with their Gold – a present fit for a king, and their Frankincense – a present that showed that God is with us (God instructed its use in the temples “Where I will meet with you” Exodus 30), the wise men’s gifts mark the birth of our Messiah in a most particular way and map out his life journey. So what gifts can we bring to our journeys? Perhaps as the famous carol asks “what can I bring him, poor as I am?” – we should bring our hearts. That would certainly please God and give him something to work with.

Our Messy family is filled with many gifts that we can bring on our journey through 2020. The gifts of creativity, singing, laughter, positivity, patience, care, fellowship and enthusiasm are all with us moving forward.

I pray that these gifts will prove wonderful and purposeful this year throughout our community and that God will work through them to His glory.

Next Messy is on 11th February, and a Pancake Party will take place on 25th February, 3:15pm-4:15pm.

Liz

Women going deeper with God

This year, the focus of our monthly Thursday morning service is ‘Women that Jesus Knew’. In December we gathered under the centenary window at the back of the church to think about the contrast between the way Mary is depicted in art and in Scripture. We realised that the gentle young girl of our Christmas cards and stained glass window doesn’t bear much resemblance to the courageous, spirited woman depicted by Luke who accepted God’s costly and risky calling on her life. In January we turned to her cousin Elizabeth, a mature believer whose years of disappointment had deepened rather than destroyed her faith. Next month, we’ll meet Anna, the 84 year-old widow whose faithfulness in prayer enabled her to recognise the child Jesus in the Temple. I wonder what she and other women of the Gospels, named and un-named, will teach us during the months ahead?

Come and join us if you can on the first Thursday of every month at 10:30am. This short informal communion service is ideal for those of you who are finding the main Sunday service rather long. After the service there is always an invitation for a cuppa in the Rectory.

Young Church – Headlines

The older group in Young Church started exploring Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthian 1.1-9) on 19th January. We looked at themes of encouragement and how Paul was encouraging the early church in his letters.

After reflecting on how negative headlines are in our news currently, we took some recent publications and cut up and turned around the negative messages into something positive to encourage people in our church. Even in the hard and challenging times, we can look to encourage and build people up in our daily lives rather than be negative.

Young Church – Parable of the Rich Fool

Young church have been thinking about ways to care for God’s creation. This includes having less stuff in order to cut down the cycle of buying and throwing stuff out. We made this video telling Jesus’ parable about the rich fool who stored up lots of stuff but died before he could enjoy it.

Rector’s Letter – from Dec/Jan Church Magazine

Dear friends,

I am a great believer in making lists of the things I need to do. As you can imagine, at times during this last year my lists have been quite long and challenging. Some weeks I have wondered how I could possibly get to the end of them. At times like this, I have turned to the prayer of St Teresa of Avilla which I included in my first letter to you as your Rector a year ago and which has become my spiritual To Do List:

May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let His presence settle into your bones and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.
Amen.

Many of you will have already started making lists in preparation for Christmas. It is so easy to allow the run-up to the Festive Season to become a gruelling sequence of shopping trips, card-writing, meals, visits, concerts, services etc. which leaves us frazzled and frustrated. I hope that our Advent services will remind us that there is another way to prepare for Christmas. I dare you this year to find some time to stop and be still, if only for a few minutes. I dare you to make time to read a few verses of Matthew’s Gospel. I dare you to join me in writing a Christmas wish list – not of things you want to buy or consume, but of things that truly bring you joy and comfort. My list would include a long walk in the countryside with Sean and Jinni, listening to music with Davie, time to lie in bed reading a good detective novel or to watch some of the films I have missed. I wonder what your deepest wishes are and what you would want for your family or friends and for the world? I wonder how they could become part of your Christmas preparation.

Our Christmas services will follow the usual pattern except that our Carol Service this year will be on the last Sunday of Advent and will feature Christmas carols chosen by members of the congregation. You are welcome to contact me with the title of a carol you wish to be included or to add it to the list at the back of church. This service, followed by mince pies and mulled wine, will be a great opportunity to invite family, friends or neighbours to church. We will also be holding, for the first time, a Quiet Service on the Friday evening before Christmas. If you know of anyone who has had a hard year for whatever reason and will find the Christmas festivities difficult, please let them know about this service, or, even better, offer to bring them. There will be no carol singing, just time to reflect, recall, regroup in the peaceful, prayerful atmosphere of the church. Please pray that those who come will find the space and hope which the Christmas story offers.

May this Advent and Christmas be a time of joy and blessing for you and your loved ones.

With love,

Nerys

St Mary’s Christmas Charity 2019 – Aberlour

The Most Rev’d Dr Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has written to us once more to encourage us to consider supporting the work of Aberlour during the seasons of Advent and Christmas.

Aberlour is delighted to have received well over £10,000 in donations from the Scottish Episcopal Church community in the past year which has helped them to support children, young people and families all over Scotland. But the need continues to grow. This year Aberlour commissioned research which has revealed that young people in Scotland’s poorest communities are three times more likely to die before 25 than their peers in richer areas. They feel that they need to do more to reach more children and families, so that they can support them through tough times. Because a bad start shouldn’t mean a bad end.

Aberlour knows that what they do works. They met Morgan several years ago. Her childhood in Govan was tough and she was at risk of going off the rails and becoming involved in drugs, violence and crime. Over time, Aberlour helped her turn her life around – and now Morgan is the first member of her family to go to university. You can watch Morgan talk about her journey at:

www.aberlour.org.uk/nobadends

There are thousands more children who can turn their lives around with Aberlour’s support but to make this happen the charity needs our help. Already we at St Mary’s have raised almost £100 by selling Christmas and greetings cards at church and in various school staff rooms in Dunblane. There will be opportunities to donate at various Christmas services. If you’re away over Christmas and would like to donate, please contact our treasurer.

Start Up Stirling – Reverse Advent Calendar

As an alternative to a traditional advent calendar perhaps you could consider supporting Start Up Stirling using their Reverse Advent Calendar? You can find out more and download a PDF of the calendar here: Start Up Stirling – Reverse Advent Calendar

Rector’s Letter from November 2019 Church Magazine

Dear friends,

November is for me a month of memories – sparking childhood memories of bonfire night and going to the fair, and darker memories of the death of a high school friend. In Church it is also a time of remembering. On All Saints Day we bring to mind all those men and women through whom God’s love shone particularly brightly, who serve as an example and an encouragement for us. Then on All Souls Day, we remember with thanksgiving before God those known to us who brought us life in different ways. This year once more at St Mary’s we will combine the two festivals on the first Sunday of the month, including in each of our services a commemoration of those we have loved and lost. On Remembrance Sunday we will also explore the theme of memory, both corporate and individual, as we confront issues of war and peace, loss and self-giving, remembering and forgetting. We will again be joined at the main service by the Explorers from the Dunblane Scout Group who will take part in the Act of Remembrance which this year will be focussed on our War Memorial Window on the 70th anniversary of its installation.

The annual cycle of the Church year comes to an end with the Feast of Christ the King, when we celebrate the reign of Christ whilst remembering his concern for the weak and vulnerable. After the service, we will meet to look back at the year at our AGM and prepare for the year to come by putting together a new Vestry. (Please consider prayerfully who you might nominate to help take the church forward into 2020.) Then, on the last evening of November, before the annual cycle starts again with the first Sunday of Advent, we will celebrate together as a church family with a St Andrew’s night meal and entertainment in the hall. I hope it will be a time of making happy memories, enjoying each other’s company and having fun together.
In the meantime, please be assured of my prayers for all of you and for the life of St Mary’s.

God bless to you the time that is yours.
God bless to you the time that is now.
God bless to you the time that he has given.
God bless to you each day, each hour, each passing moment,
That you may pass it in his presence
And find him in it.

With love,

Nerys