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

Dunblane Churches Holiday Club – August 2019

The Dunblane churches are coming together again this year to put on a holiday club for primary age children during the last week of the school holidays. The ‘oldies’, Nerys and DJ are stepping back into supportive roles to allow a new generation of leaders to run the club. We are looking for helpers of all ages to work with small groups of children during the week. Nerys is organising the art and craft activities along with Dawn and Janet. They would be glad of help during July and early August to prepare materials. Please get in touch if you are interested.

Application forms for the children are available in church or you can download one here…

Rector’s Letter – from June 2019 Magazine

Dear friends,

We couldn’t have asked for better weather for our first Vestry Awayday at the Bield Christian Retreat Centre near Perth. The May sunshine made the fresh leaves sparkle and the gardens were a riot of colour. We enjoyed exploring the grounds, the walled garden, the labyrinths and the art gallery, sensing the tranquillity of the place and appreciating the hospitality. Most of the day, however, was taken up with the serious work of discovering what exactly the responsibilities of Vestry members are according to the laws of the Scottish Episcopal Church (the Code of Canons), the constitution of St Mary’s and the Charities and Trustees Investment Act (Scotland) 2005.

It is no surprise to know that Vestry members are responsible for the financial wellbeing of the church, the maintenance of our assets, including buildings, grounds, furnishings, vestments and documents, and the care and safety of the people we are involved with, including complying with the Protection of Vulnerable Groups and Data Protection requirements. Many of these tasks are delegated to individuals like the Treasurer, the Secretary or the Health and Safety Advisor, but the ultimate responsibility still resides with all Vestry members who have a duty to scrutinise reports and have an informed opinion on all aspects of Vestry business. I wonder how many of you are aware that Vestry members also have some responsibility for spiritual matters? The Canons make it clear that whilst the Rector is responsible for worship, assistance and co-operation is expected from Vestry members when it comes to the spiritual welfare and nurturing in the faith of members of the congregation of all ages and the mission of the church. We found also that, according to charity law, members of Vestry have an ambassadorial role within the congregation and in the wider community.

I am delighted to report that rather than be daunted or disheartened by the level of responsibility expected of them, our Vestry members were excited by it. Much enthusiastic discussion ensued and great ideas were shared which, I have no doubt, will be put into action during the months ahead. I am very grateful to the Vestry for giving up their time to come to the Bield at their own expense and for being so ready to embrace their responsibilities. I would encourage you to speak to our Vestry members if you are interested in joining the Vestry or getting more involved in the life of the church. We are looking for members of all ages with all kinds of backgrounds, interests and skills to take on different roles or just to help with simple tasks. I would ask you also to pray for the Vestry as they seek to grow in faith and follow the advice of Peter (1 Peter 4.10-11):

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God, whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ, to him belong the glory and the power for ever and ever.

With love to you all,

Nerys

Perinatal Awareness Session

St Mary’s has teamed up with Aberlour Children’s Charity to put on a Perinatal Awareness Session on Wednesday 22nd May from 9:30am to 10:30am in the Church Hall. Mental health problems are very common among pregnant women and new mothers. The idea of the free session hosted by the Tea and Toast team is to teach people how to help those they know to maintain good mental health.

Rector’s Letter – from May 2019 magazine

Dear friends,

For me, one of the greatest privileges of ministry is all the opportunities I get to pray with people. Prayer is such an incredibly powerful thing. In the last few days, I’ve experienced it reach someone lost deep in the fog of dementia, bring peace to someone wrestling with anxiety, give hope and direction to someone caught in the vicious cycle of addiction. In the last few months, I’ve seen it lift families weighed down by loss and grief and bring new energy to a room full of awkward, self-conscious teenagers. And when I look back over the years, I am amazed at the way the prayers of my family and my friends for me have been answered, sometimes in ways I would never have imagined!

The more time I spend at prayer in our church building, on my own and with others, the more aware I have become of the cloud of witnesses who are praying with us. It is unusual for a Scottish Episcopal church to have its own burial ground, and with it comes costs and responsibilities, but it also provides us with a constant, concrete reminder of our past as a worshiping community. As Anglicans, we are also part of a wider family of prayer. This was brought home to me last week at the end of two days of activities and storytelling in the church involving every pupil in St Mary’s school and nursery. The Holy Week Trail helped each child to engage with the story of the first Easter at their own level using their senses and their imagination. I was delighted at how easy it had been to make the arrangements and how keen the staff of the school were to take part but what had given me most pleasure was to see families coming into church after school, some parents being literally dragged in by their children, to visit the displays and do the activities together. And then I received an email sent to me by Carol, the bishop’s secretary, inviting me to update the entry for St Mary’s in the Diocesan Prayer Diary. Unknown to me, the prayer request for last year was ‘for growth and that the flourishing relationship with St Mary’s Episcopal Primary School would lead to more families connecting with the church’. For a whole year, faithful people all around our diocese had been praying specifically for this to happen!

We launched our Try Praying initiative at the beginning of Lent. Most of the hundred little turquoise books have disappeared from the back of church. I would be delighted to hear stories about the effect praying for the seven days had on your lives and how you may have been led to pass on the booklet to someone else. There is not a time limit to using the book if you haven’t got round to it yet!

As we journey towards Pentecost and turn away from the resurrection to the coming of the Holy Spirit, my hope is that we as individuals and as a congregation will increasingly experience the power of prayer and are inspired to encourage others to experience it too.

With love,

Nerys

Sunday 28th April

Please note that due to road closures for the Stirling Marathon on Sunday 28th April there will be no 10:30am service at St Mary’s that day.

An evening Songs of Praise service will be held at St Mary’s instead, at 5pm (not 5:30pm as in Pew Leaflet). Please get in touch with suggestions for hymns, readings and poems and also if you would like to join Davie and myself for a curry at the India Gate after the service. It would be useful to have an idea of numbers in case we need to book a table.

There will be communion at 8:30am as usual but many of you will probably have to walk to and from church as the roads will be closed.

A notice will appear in the Stirling Observer, but please could you let people who are not on email know about the arrangements.

Nerys

Easter Cross

Today after the forenoon service we each placed a daffodil on the Easter Cross erected outside the church:

Rector’s Letter from April 2019 Magazine

Dear friends,

It was Holy Week and Easter 1986 that first drew me away from my Methodist roots. I had stayed on in Cambridge for the holiday and went to all the services with a Catholic friend. For me it was a life-changing week, culminating in a gloriously joyful Easter Vigil at Westminster Cathedral. I have travelled that journey from Palm Sunday to Easter Day every year since then and each time I feel that I’m drawn a little deeper into the mystery of our faith. I look forward this year to accompanying you on this journey. I hope that it will be a blessing to us all.

We will start on April 14th by gathering together in the hall for our Palm Sunday procession which will be led by younger members of the congregation. In the church we will listen and reflect on Luke’s account of the Passion, the events of Christ’s last days presented as a dramatized reading. You are welcome to drop in to church to pray any time from the Monday to the Wednesday. There will be materials to guide you or you can just to sit and pray in the tranquillity of the building.

On Maundy Thursday we will commemorate the Last Supper with a simple, traditional Eucharist in the morning and a more informal service in the evening involving a meal in the hall and leading to communion and a vigil in the church. During the meal we will listen to readings which tell the story of the people of God and how the Feast of the Passover came to be. Then we will remember together that night over two thousand years ago when Jesus met with his followers for the last time and, just as he taught us, we will wash and dry each other’s hands or feet. After receiving communion, we will strip the sanctuary of all its decorations and then we will watch and pray as we remember the time Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Bishop Bruce Cameron and his wife, Elaine, will lead us in our Good Friday reflections this year. They have chosen to focus on ‘People around the Cross’, presenting the responses of familiar and unfamiliar figures, using a mixture of imaginative monologues, conversations and poems, intertwined with hymns, readings and periods of silence. You are welcome to drop in for part of the service or to stay for the three hours between noon and 3pm. In the morning, children of all ages are welcome to the Easter Garden Service in the church at 10am.

On Saturday night we come together again just before nightfall to start our Easter celebrations. From earliest times Christians have gathered through the night of Easter to recall the story of God’s saving work, from creation through to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The modern service, drawing on ancient texts, is designed to be a real experience of new life for the worshipper, a passing from darkness to light which offers hope to all. We light our Easter candle in a new fire and bring the light of Christ into the darkened church, sharing it among us as we listen to the Exultet, the ancient hymn of triumph and rejoicing. Then we renew the promises made at our baptism and hear the Easter Gospel proclaimed before sharing in the Eucharist.
Easter Morning will be a lively celebration for the whole congregation together followed by an Easter egg hunt for the children. This year our celebrating continues on the following Sunday when Bishop Ian joins us for a service of commissioning of lay ministries followed by a shared congregational lunch.

I hope that there is something to appeal to everyone amidst the services planned this year. I would urge you, however, not to skip from Palm Sunday to Easter Day but to take the journey one day at a time just as Jesus did. Ruth Burgess’ poem below was written as a prayer before going to church on Maundy Thursday, but the blessing it speaks of applies to the whole of Holy Week and Easter:

I will walk in the wind to meet you Jesus
to let you wash my feet.
I don’t want to.
I would rather stay here in the warm,
away from your towels and water
and offers of forgiveness,
for I know what you mean, what you ask, what you give.

But I will come, for I cannot stay here alone,
and I cannot run elsewhere,
for I know that you are waiting, welcoming.
And I know that only you can heal me and hold me.

So I will come with empty hands to your supper,
empty hands and dirty feet.
I will come as your guest
and with water, bread and wine
you will make me whole
and set me free to serve you.

Happy Easter when it comes!

Nerys

Bishop’s Lent Appeal 2019

Bishop Ian invites us to support two charities: Aberlour Childcare Trust and St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group. If you wish to contribute, please look out for special envelopes at the back of church which can be placed in the alms box or given to June, our treasurer.

We learnt during Advent about the wonderful work Aberlour does to improve the lives of vulnerable children and young people and we look forward to visiting some of their projects in Falkirk after Easter.

St John Eye Hospital’s goal is to eradicate preventable blindness in Palestine. They treat all patients regardless of race, religion or ability to pay and are the only charitable provider of expert eye care in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. In 2017 they saw almost 135,600 patients and performed over 4,800 major operations. The costs to run their services amounts to £8.3 million annually.

Palestine has rates of blindness which are ten times higher than the West. 80% of blindness is completely preventable but most conditions are treatable only if they are caught quickly, otherwise they cause permanent damage. Movement restrictions due to the Separation Wall and permit system make it difficult for patients to access medical care. Frequent outbreaks of conflict have led to high levels of poverty and unemployment, making medical care too expensive for many. Also there are high levels of genetic eye disease amongst Palestinians.

There are St John Eye Hospitals in Jerusalem, Gaza and Hebron, clinics in Anabta and the Old City, a Mobile Outreach Programme in the West Bank and Gaza and a Diabetic Retinophathy Screening Programme. They also have a School of Nursing and run programmes to train doctors and nurses to become ophthalmic specialists in addition to research studies to find ways of preventing inherited ophthalmic diseases from developing in the next generations.

Rector’s Letter – from March 2019 Magazine

Dear friends,

I especially enjoy visiting my mother in Wales in late January or early February as it means that I get to experience the coming of Spring twice. In Cardiganshire, daffodils and crocus are already starting to appear the gardens, catkins and pussywillow in the hedgerows, early lambs in the fields. Now that I have returned to Scotland I can look forward to seeing them appear here in a few weeks time – signs of new life, a promise of warmer weather and lighter, longer days. It was good to have a break, to have time on the long train journeys to think and read and pray, to spend precious time with family and friends, to be refreshed.

We will soon be entering into the season of Lent when we are invited to have a break of forty days, to slow down, to take time to think and read and pray and to spend precious time in the company of God in order to be refreshed. Lent is not meant to be a miserable time. It is not a time to brood over our sin or to wallow in guilt and it isn’t a time either to eagerly set about on a course of self-improvement. It is not about choosing to give up something or do something extra for God. It is a time to simply follow in the footsteps of Jesus as he sets out once more into the wilderness, a time to be still, waiting and watching to see what God is doing in our lives, in our church and in our community and how we can join in.

One of the books I enjoyed dipping into during my recent journeys to and from Wales was Dancing in the Desert by Sally Foster-Fulton who was Associate Minister at Dunblane Cathedral and is now Head of Christian Aid Scotland. It is a collection of reflections, meditations, prayers, activities and liturgies for Lent published by the Iona Community. Her poem, ‘Doorway to the Desert’ is my prayer as we approach Lent:

Your breath moved over the waters of chaos:
blew life into stillness at the birth of the world.
Your heartbeat sings through the waters of each birth
and the wildness of the cosmos
and the wonder of insight.

Our feet stand at the doorway to the desert…
we hold our breath,
our hearts skip a beat
and we take a first faltering step
into insight.

As Lent begins,
our hope is that we are able to wait with you in this time,
before you walk into the wilderness
and the work you came for begins.

I hope that we will all make the journey together this year, starting on Ash Wednesday when we receive the cross of ash and hear the words, ‘Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return’ – a brutal yet beautiful reminder of our humanity and our mortality, but a reminder also that our God who is Love is always with us and has the power to transform our lives so that we can start afresh in his service. This year, in addition to the traditional service at 7:30pm there will be an informal, interactive event at 3:30pm when people of all ages can enter into Lent at their own pace.

I look forward to seeing you there and to travelling with you towards Easter.

With love,

Nerys