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

Walk The Earth Gently

Left to our own devices we are greedy beings. Encouraged to believe in more, in bigger and in better, in keeping up with next door – we compare ourselves with other people based on their status, wealth and accomplishments and are jealous. Thou shall not covet!

It is only in my relationship with God and Jesus that helps me put a break on this greed. In my weak moments I too want for a big house, fast car and to be up to date with fashion. But what good comes from it? We are told in the bible about rich men being unlikely to pass through the eye of a needle, sharing the shirt off our back with someone in need and loving your neighbour – giving it all up, to truly be in a place to follow Jesus.

This makes me wonder and reflect on the word ENOUGH – my sin is that I am not prepared to give up on many of my home comforts and drop it all to follow Jesus– and yet I can be content with ENOUGH – and be grateful that I am blessed with ENOUGH.

But how much is ENOUGH – what is my share of Earth’s riches? If I was born in India in the slums of Mumbai or on a Polynesian Island or in the middle of the Amazonian rainforest – my ENOUGH would be very different to my western middle class view. How many times can I go on holiday and fly? Should I eat meat? How many fast cars is it OK to own?
The New Economics Foundation research into consumption and world population does not put the problem down to the world population – but to its consumption – and has suggested that if we were willing to go back to how it was in the 60s in terms of how much we consumed, the earth can provide.

So some time travel to the 60s – less air travel, meat as a treat, buying local, working locally, wearing another jumper in the house, milk bottles, eating seasonal fruit and veg….. I’m sure you can think of some more!

This would mean I was walking the earth gently. Perhaps if we made this the new normal – greed would be something despised rather than treasured. If we all had ENOUGH.
The Swedes have a word for ENOUGH – LAGOM – it means ‘around the team’ – and this got me thinking about the Eucharist and sharing of the wine. I don’t know about you – but I often check out how much is left when I am given the cup and think about how many more are to come – and therefore what is my share. I hope I take no more and no less of a share as the symbol of being one body and one blood in Christ. Enough is as good as a feast!

Liz

AGM Notice

The Annual General Meeting of the congregation of St Mary’s Scottish Episcopal Church, Dunblane will be held on Sunday, 24th November at noon in the Church Hall.

Songs of Praise …with a difference!

Little did Siobhan Hewitt and Nerys imagine when they first met with leaders of Dementia Friendly Dunblane about nine months ago that the result of that meeting would be a joyful event which brought church, school and community together in such a meaningful way. Dunblane Memory Café is a weekly opportunity for people living with dementia and their carers to come together with local volunteers to socialise and provide mutual support. Breda Seaman who organises the Café was keen to develop a programme of occasional special events hosted by various groups around the town. What a great opportunity for St Mary’s Church and School to work together to serve the community!

The church was full for the Songs of Praise event held on Wednesday 27th September, with school pupils, staff and parents sitting amongst our guests from the Café and members of the church. The children had learnt four well-known hymns and had also drawn pictures inspired by their words which were shown on the screen. With David on the organ, the singing evoked many memories for the adults present and there was an opportunity to share these with each other and with the children in the hall over a cuppa and a cake. Many of the participants commented on the great welcome they had received and the lovely atmosphere in the church and the hall. It is hoped that another event will be held at St Mary’s in the spring.

Rector’s Letter from September 2019 Church Magazine

Dear friends,

Unpredictable is the word that I have heard used most often to describe this summer’s weather. Some parts of the UK have had the hottest days on record, while others have experienced hailstones and torrential rain. Here in Dunblane we have not known from day to day what to expect, making the planning of any outing very difficult. Unfortunately, this is something we’re going to have to get used to as Climate Change start to affect our lives. In addition to the weather, we’re seeing changes in the landscape and even in the behaviour of our wildlife. More is to come but the impact on us is nothing compared with that suffered by millions of the world’s poorest people. For them, extreme weather patterns mean hunger, conflict and a very uncertain future.

This year, as summer turns to autumn and we prepare once more to give God thanks for the harvest, we will have the opportunity to think and pray about what we have done to our planet and together take action to make a difference. St Mary’s has been an Eco Congregation for many years. Our new steering group has been busy over the summer checking up on different areas of our life as a church, including our worship, our use of our grounds, how we recycle in the hall and our awareness of local and global issues. John and Rosemary Hamilton have clearly labelled all our bins and, over the next few months, will be keeping an eye on how much single-use plastic we throw out. Moira Langston will contribute a regular column in our church magazine, drawing our attention to various issues and initiatives. Alyson (a staff member at St Mary’s School as well as a member of the congregation) is looking forward to working with her pupils on an A-Z booklet of recycling opportunities to be widely distributed in Dunblane. Young Church and Messy Church are intending to get involved too and develop their own projects. There are plans afoot to create shelters for the wild birds, animals and insects in our church grounds and our gardens and to join with other churches in Dunblane and Bridge of Allan to use art to raise awareness during National Recycling Week. And on the last Sunday of this month, our teenagers have invited the young people of St Blane’s to join them to lead an evening of worship on the theme of Care for Creation to which we are all invited.

If you would like to get involved with any of these initiatives or have an idea to share with the Eco Congregation group, please contact us on eco @ stmarysdunblane.org. With God’s help we can all, young and old, get involved in some way.

With love,

Nerys

…a prayer by Martyn Goss of the Diocese of Exeter:

Creator God – maker and shaper of all that is, seen and unseen;
You are in the expanse and depth of Creation,
and in the processes that make life possible.
Yet we are distracted by the gods we make ourselves
and our lives become fractured and fragmented.
In our brokenness we disturb the Earth’s capacity to hold us.
Instead we find climate uncertainty and global injustice.
Call us back from the brink.
Help us to choose love not fear,
to change ourselves and not the planet;
to act justly for the sake of the vulnerable;
and to make a difference today for life tomorrow.
In your name – Father, Son and Spirit. Amen.

Rector’s Letter from July/August Church Magazine

Dear friends,

It was with mixed feelings that I changed the hangings in church last Saturday evening. I felt sad to put the stunning Pentecost altar frontal that members of Young Church had made into the drawer, knowing that another year would pass before it could sparkle again. I also felt relief to know that we’re back in Ordinary Time with the weeks of the summer ahead of us, a time when clergy and congregation can relax a little. I am looking forward to having some time with my family in Wales and in Aberdeenshire in July, a short holiday with Davie in Norway in August and to having more time to work on the Rectory and gardens. I just hope the sun will eventually shine!

There is, of course, nothing ordinary about Ordinary Time, a time set aside for reflecting on and celebrating our call to follow Jesus day by day. During the summer I hope to provide opportunities for us all to think about our calling, whatever that may be, and to pray for, inspire and encourage each other. At the end of June we learnt about the ministry of Stirling Street Pastors which is coordinated by Morag Hendry. At the end of August we’ll hear from Roger Lockwood about his role with the RNLI when we celebrate Sea Sunday in a service led by members of our Men’s Group. There are so many different ways that we can put our faith into action from hands-on practical work to prayer support and faithful friendship – something for everyone!

During the Summer months there will also be plenty of opportunities, not only to spend time together as a congregation to worship, work, eat and pray, but to join with others. In early August we will host the annual Mary Sumner Day Service, celebrating 130 years of the Mothers’ Union in Scotland, and on St Blane’s Day, St Mary’s is the destination of the Pilgrim Walk organised by Dunblane Churches Together. We will need to plan also for Doors Open Day in September when church and school will together welcome members of the community and visitors from further afield into our buildings. You will find information about all of these services and events in this magazine.

In the meantime, I hope that you will have an enjoyable summer and look forward to seeing you in church.

With love and prayers,

Nerys