Rector’s Letter – October

Dear friends,

It was such a relief to learn that the new regulations announced this week allow us to continue to meet for worship in our church buildings. It would have been such a shame to have to stop after four Sundays, just as we’re getting into a routine and starting to master the art of livestreaming the services. It has been very encouraging to see so many of you venturing to church and to know that there’s a growing of you participating in the morning service from your homes, along with those who are continuing to use the Material for Worship. My thanks to all who have helped in so many different ways to make all of this possible.

I would have been disappointed to miss some of this month’s services, not least our Harvest Thanksgiving which this year falls on the feast of St Francis. The evening service on 4th October will be a reflection on St Francis and the natural world, while the morning service will be the climax of the Season of Creation. I’m also looking forward to the baptisms of the great-grandsons of Audrey and the late Canon John Symon who was Rector of St Mary’s over thirty years ago, on the afternoon of 25th October. On the first of next month, we hope to have special services for the festivals of All Saints and All Souls, and on Remembrance Sunday we will mark the 70th Anniversary of our memorial window for those members of St Mary’s who were lost in the Second World War. From the last week of October both red and white poppies will be available in the porch of the church with donations going to the Scottish Poppy Appeal.

This year’s Harvest celebration will be different in many ways. For one thing, we won’t be collecting items of food for our local charity, Start-up Stirling, but instead there will be an opportunity to give financial donations towards their Starter Packs which are provided to people who are entering into new tenancies, following homelessness or a crisis. A Starter Pack includes crockery and cutlery, pots and pans, cooking utensils, towels, cleaning products and basic kitchen cupboard items and can be supplemented with a kettle, toaster, microwave, towels, duvet, pillows and bed linen as required. To make a donation, visit www.startupstirling.org.uk

We will also support Christian Aid’s Autumn Appeal which aims to help communities living in poverty which are facing crisis due to Covid 19 and also Climate Change. Angela who lives with her daughters in Nicaragua belongs to one of these communities which has already been supported by Christian Aid. Her farm used to provide a good living, but the changing climate means that her coffee harvests are shrinking each year. Angela’s community have united, however, and together they have set up a local cooperative to share resources and support their livelihoods. Angela is starting to change from coffee to climate-resilient cocoa. With the help of Christian Aid’s partner Soppexcca, she has planted 700 cocoa plants. Now Angela has hope for the future. ‘The income from the cocoa crop is very important’, she said. ‘It means we can buy clothes, medicine and food’.
You can donate to the Christian Aid Appeal by visiting www.christianaid.org.uk

At this difficult time for all of us, Christian Aid’s Autumn Appeal prayer challenges us to look beyond our own concerns to those of our global neighbours whom we are called to love. I hope you will join me in praying it during the month ahead.

Loving God.
Come now and make us
into a global neighbourhood
looking out for each other
through struggle and crisis,
reaching out to strangers
who become sisters and brothers,
shape us into a caring community,
strengthening each other
through every challenge,
standing together
until justice comes for all.
In your name we pray, Amen.

Please be assured of my prayers also for you and your families.
With love,
Nerys

Order of Service – 27th September 2020

Today the Morning Service of the Word at 10.30 will be livestreamed on our Facebook page and will be available for viewing afterwards. Here is the service sheet if you want to join in with our worship:

September 27th Morning Service Order

If you wish to attend a Morning Service at St Mary’s or the more reflective, candle-lit Night Service at 8 p.m., please contact Sue at services @ stmarysdunblane.org – you will be made most welcome.

Material for Worship on the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Good morning. Those of you who are unable to be in church or follow the service online are very much part of the worshipping community of St. Mary’s and I hope that you find the reflection and prayers below helpful to you. The readings this morning are taken from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2.1-13 and the Gospel of Matthew 21.23-32. Moira

How would you describe the God of the Old Testament? In parts he comes over as being a gentle God, someone who is busy being Creator and caring for his people, a father figure gently admonishing and encouraging. In other passages he is more like an angry God, judging those who do wrong and who disobey his laws, and he certainly has justification in the way he is provoked by his people. However, in the Gospel passages, as we hear of the ministry of Jesus, things begin to change. We can see that God works quietly, changing the lives of those who will hear his word and who listen to his voice. He is honoured by obedience, and not by words of approval and acceptance that have no results.

In last weeks’ Gospel passage we saw that God is the one who gives us our reward. Not by looking at what we say we might do, or what we might be, but by looking into our hearts and seeing our intentions for what they are. We were reminded that God’s ways are not our ways. In our passage for today, the Pharisees have a problem in seeing just who Jesus is. They are known to be knowledgeable in their understanding of religion, and yet they are demanding to know where Jesus’ authority comes from.

Their curiosity doesn’t phase Jesus, and he replies with a question for the Pharisees, “Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” John the Baptist had puzzled them, and now this man was agitating them by healing and preaching without a licence. To top it all, Jesus now asked them a question which caused arguments to break out as to what the correct answer would be. No matter what they answered, from heaven or from human origin, Jesus would have a ready reply for them. If they said “Heaven” then Jesus, by right would ask why they hadn’t believed John and if they replied “by human origin”, then the followers of John assembled in the temple would be angry as they thought of John as a prophet. They were caught between a rock and a hard place and had to answer “we do not know.”

Since the Pharisees didn’t answer the question that Jesus set them, he declined to answer their question about his authority. It was obvious that the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus and instead of falling into their trap, Jesus turned their question against them and made them their own accusers. If they could not cope with the uncertainty they had about John, the forerunner of Jesus, how could they understand the status of the one whose coming he had prophesied? Once again, Jesus turned things upside down and put the ball squarely in the Pharisees court! Sometimes the silences of Jesus, when he calmly turned questions around and then stood in silence, were as powerful as when he spoke. Those who don’t respond to the signs of God at work in the world and in the personal lives of those around them, will never be satisfied by theological arguments.

What does Jesus do next? He does what he so often did in these situations to try to make people listen and think about his words. He told a parable. In this short parable, we have once again a vineyard owner, but this time he is looking for help from his sons. The first son is quick to respond to his father’s request for help with a straightforward “no!” However, later he changed his mind and went to work with the vines. The second son seemed to be quite happy to help his father and immediately said, “Yes” he would go and work with the vines, but somehow he didn’t get round to doing what he said he would do! Jesus then posed another question. “Which of the two sons did the will of his father?”

Of course, the Pharisees replied, “the first,” no doubt because he took action, albeit after some time, and did the work. So if they could see by his actions that the first son did the will of his father, why couldn’t they see where Jesus’ authority came from by Jesus’ actions in healing and preaching in the Temple? Why also could they not see that John had come in the way of righteousness – why could they not believe him when even the tax collectors and prostitutes did? Jesus points out that even after the Pharisees saw who John was, they didn’t change their minds and believe him.

Once again this parable shows us that God sees what is really in our hearts and not in what we say we are going to do and then fail to do it. God doesn’t want us to be like the Pharisees who argued amongst themselves and against others about the smallest detail of the Law. He wants us to live in unity with one another, building each other up in his love.

In the letter of Paul to the Philippians, Paul was encouraging his readers to be compassionate, to have sympathy and to be of the same mind. He says, “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”

As we continue to live through this Covid pandemic and once more have restrictions placed on our lives, especially our lives with our families, it is important that we listen to the words of Paul and keep thinking of others as we wear our masks and avoid meeting up indoors. If we know that someone is struggling with living on their own or from worrying about catching the virus, although we maybe can’t physically be with them to give them a reassuring hug, we can call them and have a chat. Sometimes all it takes are a few encouraging words or maybe just a listening ear, to help someone through a difficult time.

Jesus helped the Pharisees through their difficulty on the question of where the authority of John came from – heaven or from human origin – by telling them a parable to help them see what they couldn’t see before. He turned their question against them and made them their own accusers. God was at work in John the Baptist, yet the Pharisees couldn’t see it. This week let us ask God to open our eyes so that we can see Him at work in those around us, and to encourage and build up each other in His love.

Let us pray

God of Creation, we come to you asking for your forgiveness for all that pollutes the earth and our lack of care for the world you created. Help us to be more mindful of how we use precious resources, to help sustain them for future generations. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of love, we come to you just as we are, flaws and all and ask that you would help us to show your love to all we meet in our daily lives. We give you thanks for all who care for others, all who risk their lives to save others and all who try to bring others to know your unconditional love. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of mercy, we ask your forgiveness for anything we have said or done that does not please you. Help us to be mindful of the feelings of others and to remember that we cannot possibly know what other people are going through in their lives. As you are merciful, make us always ready to be merciful to others and to always be ready to forgive. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of humility, help us to remember that in your eyes all are equal and that we are not any more deserving of your grace than others. We pray that you would give to us a servant heart and keep us walking in humility at all times. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God our Father, we pray this day for all who are fearful, all who are anxious and all who are struggling to feed their families. We pray for healing for those who are ill and in a moment of silence we pray for those we know who are on our minds. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Eternal God, keep us, and all those we love, safe each day, that we might be refreshed and ready to share the good news of your Gospel with those we meet. Amen

Order of Service – 20th September 2020

Today the Morning Service of the Word at 10.30 will be livestreamed on our Facebook page and will be available for viewing afterwards. Here is the service sheet if you want to join in with our worship:

September 20th Morning Service Order

If you wish to attend a Morning Service at St Mary’s or the more reflective, candle-lit Night Service at 8 p.m., please contact Sue at services @ stmarysdunblane.org – you will be made most welcome.

Material for Worship on the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Good morning. We hope that you are finding these materials helpful as you worship at home. This week the eucharist will be celebrated in private at 8.30 a.m. with prayers said for the whole community of Dunblane, for Scotland and for the world. Nerys will officiate at the morning service in church which will be livestreamed on our Facebook page at 10.30 a.m. while Revd Moira Jamieson will lead the night service using Celtic-style prayers and music. If you wish to attend any of our services, please get in touch with Sue at services @ stmarysdunblane.org

Let us start our time of worship this morning by giving thanks to God for each other and for all the blessings we have enjoyed this week.

There seems to be a lot of grumbling going on at the moment in the media and on our streets. I know that many things are wrong in our world and it is important to speak out but it is easy to have a grumbling attitude towards everyone and everything, including God.

There’s a lot of grumbling in today’s readings which, taken together, challenge us to think about our own attitude and to reflect on God’s attitude towards us.

You’ll all be familiar with the story of the reluctant prophet Jonah who gets swallowed up by a big fish after running away from God’s calling. In our reading today from the last part of the story, Jonah 3.10-4.11, read here by John, the author’s satirical intent becomes very obvious. We find Jonah grumbling because, when he eventually gets to the city of Nineveh and speaks to the people, they actually listen to him and repent and God lets them off from the punishment Jonah thinks they deserve. You may want to spend some time with this image ‘Jonah and the Gourd Vine’ by Jack Baumgartner which encompasses the whole story.

‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ is the question God asks Jonah twice in this passage. Jonah knows that God is merciful and gracious but he doesn’t like it and wants no part in it. In his mind the people of Nineveh deserve to be punished and because of that he is unable to rejoice in their change of heart. He has forgotten how disobedient he himself had been and how merciful God was towards him. He is angry at what he sees as the injustice of the situation. He thinks he knows exactly what God should do and is annoyed that God’s approach is different. God, however, doesn’t give up on grumpy old Jonah. God continues to try to change his heart and help him to see things through the eyes of love. God doesn’t share our ideas about who are deserving and who aren’t. God doesn’t only care for those we think he ought to but for all God’s children. As Jonah himself admits, God is always ‘gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love’.

Jesus experienced the same grumbling attitude when he started living out God’s love on earth, especially from the religious leaders who thought they knew better how he ought to behave and with whom he should spend his time. In his teaching, Jesus tries to help us grasp something of the nature of God’s love for us which is so much wider and more far-reaching than we can imagine. We see it in our Gospel reading today, which is traditionally known as the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard but should maybe be called the Parable of the Generous Employer. Listen to Gudrun reading Matthew 20.1-16:

The first lot of workers are happy to agree to a day’s wage but later resent the fact that the employer gives the same amount to the last lot who only worked an hour. It is natural to think that this is not fair, but the employer is looking at it quite differently. ‘Are you envious because I am generous?’ is his response to their grumbling. He sees the needs of all the men in the market place and wants to provide for them all. For a hired worker to be unemployed even for a day was a disaster. They and their families would go hungry. This is why the employer returns in person to the market time after time to seek them.

His behaviour is unexpected and open to criticism and so, Jesus implies, is God’s attitude towards us. It’s easy to forget that not a single one of us deserves God’s love. It is a generous, costly gift which doesn’t depend in any way on human merit. In God’s kingdom ‘the last will be first and the first will be last’. So, the next time we see God’s generosity in evidence, however much of a surprise it is to us, let’s not grumble about its unsuitability but rejoice with the angels at his amazing love and let’s seek to imitate it in our own lives.

You are invited to listen to Hazel singing ‘King of kings, majesty’.

King of kings, majesty,
God of Heaven living in me,
gentle Saviour, closest friend,
strong deliverer, beginning and end,
all within me falls at your throne.

Your majesty, I can but bow,
I lay my all before you now.
In royal robes I don’t deserve
I live to serve your majesty.

Earth and Heaven worship you,
love eternal, faithful and true,
who bought the nations, ransomed souls,
brought this sinner near to your throne;
all within me cries out in praise.

Your majesty, I can but bow,
I lay my all before you now.
In royal robes I don’t deserve
I live to serve your majesty.
Jarrod Cooper

Let’s pray to our loving God for a change of heart, an awakening of a more generous way of living and the courage to reject wrong attitudes that diminish us.

Increase in us love, not only for the victims but also for the perpetrators of evil and violence.

Help us to better understand offenders and give us compassion to support them.

Help us to pray for all governments which run on corruption and fear and to speak out for justice.

Encourage us to recognise the needy in our community and to respond with generous hospitality.

Deepen our love towards our own families and friends and prompt us to pray and act as you would do.

Today’s Collect
O Lord, let your constant compassion cleanse and strengthen your Church: and since, without you, we cannot continue in safety, may we ever be governed by your grace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Order of Service – 13th September 2020

Today the Morning Service of the Word at 10.30 will be livestreamed on our Facebook page and will be available for viewing afterwards. Here is the service sheet if you want to join in with our worship:

September 13th Morning Service Booklet

If you wish to attend a Morning Service at St Mary’s or the more reflective, candle-lit Night Service at 8 p.m., please contact Sue at services @ stmarysdunblane.org – you will be made most welcome.

Material for Worship on the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Today Nerys will be celebrating the Eucharist at 8.30 a.m. and leading the Evening Service while Jeanette will be preaching at the Morning Service. Here is Jeanette’s reflection on today’s readings followed by prayers written by Jayne Manfredi which were spotted by Sheila Redwood in the Church Times.

Today both our bible readings are about forgiveness, very different stories with the same theme. First we have Joseph’s brothers getting scared in case Joseph takes revenge on them now that their Father has died, as they cannot believe that he has really forgiven them for what they did to him when they sold him into Egypt.

Listen to Matthew reading Genesis 50:15-21. (Matthew is reading for the first time in church.)

Our Gospel story first tells us of Peter’s question to Jesus, “How many times should I forgive?” which results in Jesus telling the parable of the slave who although he had been forgiven refused to forgive a fellow slave.

Listen to Peter reading Matthew 18.21-35.

Our picture is Sieger Köder’s depiction of the Return of the Prodigal, a powerful picture showing strong emotions. That is our problem with forgiveness, it does evoke strong emotions, and it is not easy, either for the person forgiving or the person forgiven. Even harder when the person who has hurt us refuses to admit it or does not think they have done anything wrong. Yet Jesus puts forgiveness at the heart of our relationship with God. Every time we say the Lord’s prayer we pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” The one is dependent on the other. If we cannot forgive what other people do which hurts us, then we place ourselves in the position of not being able to receive forgiveness. There are times when that puts us between a rock and a hard place, for it is not easy to forgive when we feel really hurt by what someone has done to or said about us but that is what we are called to do, seventy seven times, effectively saying, don’t even bother to count, just keep doing it.

I think I find it harder sometimes to forgive someone who has harmed someone I care about; how dare they! I remember having a great deal of difficulty forgiving someone who’s ill treatment of a friend of mine resulted in them losing their job. I was furious, it was so unjust. She, bless her magnanimous heart, had forgiven them long before I managed to do so, though I did try!

One thing is for sure, forgiveness is not easy, and we can only find the strength to do it with God’s help. Remember we follow the Way of Jesus who prayed “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing”, as they nailed him to the cross. That is the model we follow, after all the first disciples were called the followers of The Way, and we follow in their footsteps as we walk in the way of Jesus, and we too are called to forgive those who wrong us or mistreat us.
The flip side of all this is that we are not to become doormats either. We are not to let people just walk over us and what we stand for. We still need to stand up and work for good stewardship of the earth we have been given, and for justice and equality in our world. In the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu,

Goodness is stronger that evil;
love is stronger than hate;
light is stronger than darkness;
life is stronger than death.
Victory is ours, victory is ours
through him who loves us.

With God’s help we can do this, we can forgive and yet stand firm for the things we believe in – and we will!

As you pause to reflect, you may want to listen to Moira playing ‘As water to the thirsty’ by David Haas.

As water to the thirsty,
as beauty to the eyes,
as strength that follows weakness,
as truth instead of lies,
as songtime and springtime
and summertime to be,
so is my Lord,
my living Lord,
so is my Lord to me.

Like calm in place of clamour,
like peace that follows pain,
like meeting after parting,
like sunshine after rain,
like moonlight and starlight
and sunlight on the sea,
so is my Lord,
my living Lord,
so is my Lord to me.

As sleep that follows fever,
as gold instead of grey,
as freedom after bondage,
as sunrise to the day,
as home to the traveller
and all we long to see,
so is my Lord,
my living Lord,
so is my Lord to me.

Beatitudes for a Global Pandemic
Blessed are those who stay indoors for they have protected others.

Blessed are the unemployed and the self-employed, for their need of God is great.

Blessed are the corner shopkeepers, for they are the purveyors
of scarce things.

Blessed are the delivery drivers and the postal workers, for they
are the bringers of essential things.

Blessed are the hospital workers; the ambulance crews, the doctors, the nurses, the care assistants, and the cleaners, for they stand between us and the grave, and the Kingdom of Heaven is surely theirs.

Blessed are the checkout workers, for they have patience and fortitude in the face of overwork and frustration.

Blessed are the refuse collectors, for they will see God despite the mountains of waste.

Blessed are the teachers, for they remain steadfast and constant in disturbing times.

Blessed are the church workers; the deacons, priests and bishops, for they are a comforting presence in a hurting world as they continue to signpost towards God.

Blessed are the single parents, for they are coping alone with their responsibilities and there is no respite.

Blessed are those who are alone, for they are children of God and with Him they will never be lonely.

Blessed are the bereaved, for whom the worst has already happened. They shall be comforted.

Blessed are those who are isolated with their abusers, for one day – we pray – they will know safety.

Blessed are all during this time who have pure hearts; all who still hunger and thirst for justice; all who work for peace and who model mercy. May you know comfort. May you know calm. And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all. Amen.

Rector’s Letter – 11th September 2020

Dear friends,

Somehow whilst I was away for just a few days in Aberystwyth, summer turned to autumn in Dunblane. Here is a prayer-poem given to me by a friend today which I think sums up the season and contains a lot of wisdom for us as individuals and as a church in this time of uncertainty and change. I would encourage you to spend time with it over the next few weeks. There will be printed copies in the porch of the church for you to take away and share with others if you wish.

Prayer for Autumn Days
God of the seasons,
there is a time for everything:
there is a time for dying and a time for rising.
We need courage to enter into
the transformation process.

God of autumn,
the trees are saying goodbye to their green,
letting go of what has been.
We, too, have our moments of surrender,
with all their insecurity and risk.
Help us to let go when we need to do so.

God of fallen leaves
lying in coloured patterns on the ground,
our lives have their own patterns.
As we see the patterns of our own growth,
may we learn from them.

God of misty days and harvest moon nights,
there is always the dimension of mystery
and wonder in our lives.
We always need to recognize your power-filled presence.
may we gain strength from this.

God of harvest wagons and fields of ripened grain,
many gifts of growth lie within the season of our surrender.
We must wait for harvest in faith and hope.
grant us patience when we do not see the blessings.

God of geese going south
for another season, your wisdom enables us
to know what needs to be left behind
and what needs to be carried into the future.
We yearn for insight and vision.

God of flowers
touched with frost and windows wearing white designs,
may your love keep our hearts
from growing cold in the empty seasons.

God of life,
you believe in us, you enrich us,
you entrust us with the freedom to choose life.
Joyce Rupp

Despite the difficulties presented by coronavirus restrictions, Blythswood Care is going ahead with its annual Shoe Box Appeal. We have been asked by Kate Clement to pray for the team who are organising this appeal and for those who will be taking the boxes to Eastern Europe. They feel that this year more than ever, children and adults living with poverty, illness, disability and other disadvantages need something to light up their days. We can make a difference to lives that are otherwise almost hopeless by simply collecting together some small gifts and/or giving a financial donation. Covid-safe pre-wrapped boxes and instruction leaflets are available in the porch of the church. These need to be returned to the Rectory by Sunday 27th September. For more information, please visit www.blythswood.org or speak with June.

with love to you all,
Nerys

Order of Service – 6th September 2020

Today the Morning Service of the Word at 10.30 will be livestreamed on our Facebook page and will be available for viewing afterwards. Here is the service sheet if you want to join in with our worship.

September 6th Morning Service Order

If you wish to attend a Morning Service at St Mary’s or the more reflective, candle-lit Night Service at 8 p.m., please contact Sue at services @ stmarysdunblane.org – You will be made most welcome.

Material for Worship on the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Today Revd Jeanette Allan is celebrating the eucharist in church at 8.30 a.m. today and the Ven. Peter Potter is taking the Morning and Night Services while Nerys is away. Here is Peter’s reflection for today followed by a framework for intercession.

‘Eat out to help out’ seems to have been a success. I’m sure that offering a discount on take-away meals would not have had the same effect. Perhaps this thought helps explain the excitement and emotion that accompanied last Sunday’s resumption of services at St Mary’s. Live-streaming and the other technologies are all very well, but everyone I’ve met agrees that they’re not the same. Eating at home feeds the body of course but it does not provide the experience of eating out. In the same way, prayer at home is vital for our spiritual health but it cannot be a substitute for worship in church.

Worship is not ‘the flight of the alone to the Alone’, to quote Plotinus, a pagan philosopher. It is a shared experience that requires an ekklesia, the Greek word used in today’s Gospel reading for ‘church’. It signifies a congregation or gathering rather than a building, although you can’t really have the one without the other. Matthew 8.15-20 is part of a section on how the members of the church should behave towards each other and the passage from Romans 13 broadens this out into our conduct in general. We’ve all heard the argument “I can just as easily worship God at home on my own” but, as these last months have shown us, this individualistic attitude is not sustainable. From the very beginning the Bible stresses the importance of community and mutual responsibility: ‘It is not good for man to be alone’. (By the way, in Hebrew this sentence is gender inclusive.)

Listen to Mary and Anthony reading the passages: Romans 13.8-14; Matthew 8.15-20

People are sometimes put off from church because, they say, they don’t get anything out of the services. Well, yes, a service can sometimes fall flat and clergy do have off-days – Guilty as charged m’lud. But that is not the point. Worship involves the offering of each of us to God and God’s offering of himself to us. It is a two-way street, as the language of the liturgy makes clear. We speak about us and you/thee. We say ‘Our Father’, not ‘My Father’.

Some people who don’t go to church also argue that God must be like an oriental despot who requires his subjects to fall down and praise or flatter him. But that is easily countered once we realise the two-way nature of worship. By his presence in worship God not only accepts our praises but also ascribes worth to us. We can take this further. With its elements of mutual forgiveness, healing, peace and sharing, the gathering for worship is a model, a vision of the kind of community for which God created us.

This is a rather roundabout way of saying that worship gives us a vision of God’s kingdom, a trailer for the main picture if you like. Our weekly celebration reinforces this pattern, so that we can put it into practice in our daily life.

You are invited to sing or follow the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn and use it a prayer. Here is David playing the tune.

Jesus, Lord, we look to thee,
let us in thy name agree:
show thyself the Prince of peace;
bid our strife for ever cease.

Make us of one heart and mind,
gentle, pitiful, and kind,
lowly, meek in thought and word,
altogether like our Lord.

Let us for each other care,
each the other’s burdens bear;
to thy church the pattern give,
show how true believers live.

Free from anger and from pride,
let us thus in God abide;
all the depths of love express,
all the heights of holiness.
Charles Wesley

For intercession:
• the Church, that is all who gather for worship wherever they are
• all who would come to join in worship but are prevented from doing so for whatever reason
• the clergy and others who lead worship
• wisdom to know how we can best ‘go in peace to love and serve the Lord’
• students returning or starting at universities and colleges
• Belarus, the USA, Yemen and other trouble spots in the world
• people who have been made redundant or whose jobs are at risk

Attending a Service at St Mary’s during Phase 3 – FAQ

Can anyone attend a service at St Mary’s?

Yes, subject to seating being available, and you would be made most welcome.

I intend to attend regularly, what do I need to do?

If you haven’t received an email from Nerys asking about your preferences, please get in touch with her on rector @ stmarysdunblane.org

I am not a regular attender, what do I need to do?

During the week before the service, you need to get in touch with Sue on services @ stmarysdunblane.org with your contact details indicating which service you wish to attend so that we can be sure there will be a place for you.

What if I just turn up?

If there is a spare place, you will be asked to complete a form giving your contact details for NHS Test & Protect. This information will be held by the Rector for 21 days.

When should I arrive?

The building will be open 10 minutes before the start of the service. You may need to queue outside for a little. Please make sure that you socially distance while you wait.

What happens as I enter the building?

A welcomer will greet you outside the door and check your name on the list of attenders. You will need to wear a face mask inside the building. You will be asked to sanitise your hands and pick up your service sheet.

Where will I sit?

You will be directed to a seat by a second welcomer. The pews furthest from the door will be filled first. Every other pew will be taped off so that there will be a space of 2 metres behind and in front of you. If you have come on your own you will share a pew with one other person or couple, sitting 2 metres apart. If you have come as part of a larger social bubble you can sit together in a pew. You will be asked to stay seated throughout the service.

What if I need to use the disabled entrance?

Just let Sue know and we will make the necessary arrangements. There is a space for a wheelchair towards the front of the church and towards the back.

What about children?

Children of all ages are welcome to attend. They will need to sit with the rest of their household. An activity pack will be provided for them, to be collected on your way in. Please indicate the ages of the children when you contact Sue. In addition, we hope to have outside activities for children and their families after the 10:30am service.

What will the service be like?

The Morning Service at 10:30am will feel very familiar to anyone who has attended the Eucharist at St Mary’s, with readings, a short sermon, prayers and hymns played on the organ or by the band (but not sung). The Night Service at 8pm will be more quiet and reflective with candlelight, times of silence, short readings and prayers.

What about music?

There will be organ music most Sundays at the Morning Service and the band will sometimes play. We are not allowed to sing together but we can listen to hymns or songs being played and follow the words on the service sheet. At the Night Service we will listen to recordings of chants and other meditative music.

Will there be a collection?

There will be a plate at the back of church for you to leave an offering if you wish but we would prefer you to donate by BACS or by standing order or direct debit, if possible. For details, please contact Alastair at treasurer @ stmarysdunblane.org

Will the service be filmed?

We hope that this will be possible and that those who can’t attend will be able to watch the morning service live at home. At the moment, we only have one static camera, which will aim to give a good view of those taking part in the service. We hope to be able to broadcast the service on Facebook Live, which can be easily accessed via our Facebook page and will hopefully appear on your ‘home’ screen if you follow St Mary’s on Facebook. (If you need help to set this up, please contact Nerys.) This is a new initiative for St Mary’s and we would be interested in hearing any feedback you have so that we can make improvements in the weeks and months ahead.

What about communion?

The Eucharist will continue to be celebrated by the Rector every Sunday morning at 8:30am. As soon as all the church family are able to receive communion either in church or at home we will resume Eucharistic services.

What if I need to go to the toilet?

The toilet in the church (through the door to the Vestry) will be available. Please lower the seat before you flush. It will be cleaned straight after the service.

What happens at the end of the service?

Please stay in your seats until you are invited to leave by a welcomer. The pews nearest the main door will be emptied first. Please take your service sheet with you. Once you’re out of the building, please don’t cluster around the main doors of the church. Sadly, we are unable to provide refreshments at this stage.

What if I need to speak to a priest?

Whoever is leading the service will be around outside at the end of the service, weather permitting. You are always welcome to phone the Rectory on 824225 or send Nerys an email on rector @ stmarysdunblane.org to make an arrangement to see her another time.

How is the church prepared for the Night Service?

After the Morning Service, the occupied pews will be wiped with detergent and closed off and the unoccupied pews will be opened ready for the Night Service. All surfaces which may have been touched will be cleaned. In addition, Carol, the church cleaner, will give the church building a thorough clean every Thursday afternoon.

What provision is there for those who can’t attend services?

Every Saturday, Material for Worship is sent to those on the congregational email list and distributed to those not online. It contains the readings for the day, a reflection and a prayer. If you wish to receive this regularly, please contact Nerys. We are also hoping to livestream the Morning Service. This will be accessible from our Facebook page. The live broadcast will continue to appear on the St Mary’s Facebook Timeline after the event so you will still be able to watch the service later in the day if you are not able to tune in at 10:30am.

Can I come into the church building at any other time?

Yes, the church will be open every Wednesday afternoon from 2pm to 4pm. Revd. Peter Potter will be on hand to welcome you. Face masks will need to be worn.

What about weddings and baptisms?

Yes, they are possible in Phase 3 with limited numbers and safety measures in place. Speak with Nerys if you would like to know more.

Rector’s Letter – September 2020

Dear friends,

By the time you read this we will have met for worship in the church for the first time since March 15th. I don’t know what it will be like to stand at the front and see a scattered, diminished congregation wearing face masks, unable to sing or share the peace or have communion. What I do know is that our Lord who has been with us during the last five months, sustaining and encouraging us, comforting and guiding us, will be present. Our organist David has chosen a perfect hymn to start our worship which reminds us that wherever we meet, however small our gathering, Christ will be near, ready to listen to our prayers and to support us:

Jesus, where’er thy people meet,
there they behold thy mercy-seat;
where’er they seek thee thou art found,
and every place is hallowed ground…

But what about those of you who are not ready to return to the building yet? I hope that by means of the Material for Worship and the livestreaming of the morning service, you will continue to feel connected with your church family and will also sense God’s presence with you in your home as you pray.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me in the weeks to come with your thoughts on how we could perhaps improve the services and the livestreaming. Vestry members have worked very hard to get us to this point when we can safely meet to worship but I’m sure that we will need to make adjustments and seek answers to difficulties we haven’t anticipated. Your help in this would be greatly appreciated.

I would like to assure you that as soon as it is possible for every member of the congregation who wishes to receive communion to do so, we will revert to Eucharistic services. At Area Council last week, Bishop Ian was hopeful that the Scottish Government can be persuaded to allow Home Communions in the near future. In the meantime, I would commend Vestry’s approach which is to see this time as a period of experimenting with different kinds of services and an opportunity for outreach. The Night Service is already attracting new members to St Mary’s as has the Gatherings for Prayer.

It would have been very easy for us to have become inward-looking during Lockdown, concerned only with our own difficulties as a congregation and a local community. I have been delighted to receive from you items for the newsletter about charities and organisations serving people whose lives have been affected in a much more drastic way than ours by the virus and the economic difficulties it has caused. In order to further encourage our outward-looking attitude, this month we will be joining with the world’s 2.2 billion Christians to mark the Season of Creation. The pandemic has awoken many of us to the urgent need to heal our relationships with the natural world and with each other. The Season of Creation is intended as a time to repent, repair and rejoice together. It will culminate in a Harvest Celebration on October 4th, the Feast of St Francis. Please look out for information which will be sent to you during the month and if you are able, visit www.seasonofcreation.org for prayer resources, dates of on-line services and webinars from all over the world and ideas for campaigns to support and activities to do at home.

Thank you for your prayers and many kindnesses which have sustained me during this strange time. I know also that you are praying for one another and for your friends and neighbours. Please be assured of my prayers for you and for Dunblane.

With love to you all,

Nerys

Service Sheet for 30th August 2020

Today the red doors of St Mary’s are being opened for public worship for the first time since 15th March. The Morning Service of the Word at 10.30 will be livestreamed on our Facebook page and will be available for viewing afterwards. Here is the service sheet if you want to join in with our worship.

August 30th Morning Service Order

Material for Worship on the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

As you prepare yourself for worship today, knowing that I, Nerys, am celebrating the eucharist at 8.30 and that some of the congregation are meeting in the church for services at 10.30 and at 8 p.m., I wonder how you feel? If there’s anything that’s troubling you, take a moment now to offer it to our Lord. If there’s anything that you are grateful for, offer that also.

Before listening to James reading our Gospel for today, you are invited to explore this painting by Paolo Emilio Besenzi. I wonder if you recognise the subject from his appearance or from the objects included in the picture? In today’s passage he is a much younger man with none of the inner peace suggested in this image. In fact, he’s the one from among the disciples who most often gets it wrong – who speaks without thinking, takes leaps of faith only to stumble, makes great promises only to break them. In last week’s Gospel he was the one who proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah and was rewarded with a powerful blessing and the keys of the kingdom of heaven. In this week’s passage, Matthew 16.21-28, he is cursed: the rock, the foundation stone of the church, becomes a stumbling block to Christ.

Peter is the most human of the disciples, struggling to understand Jesus and to follow in his way. I wonder what Matthew wants us, his readers, to learn from him? Peter is blessed, not through any virtue or wisdom of his own but because of his love of Jesus and his readiness to follow him. Are we, perhaps, being reminded that blessedness is not about being perfect but about being willing – willing to speak out, to take a risk, to allow Christ to speak and act through us?

Peter, despite his failings, did follow Jesus and obey him to the end, literally taking up his cross and losing his life for his Lord. I wonder what it means for us as individuals and as a church to take up our cross and follow Christ, to lose our life in order to find it?

Listen to Ramanie reading today’s passage from the letter to the Romans, 12.9-21 which fleshes out Christ’s call. Paul’s instructions give us guidance for a life of daily self-sacrifice. It would have been a revolutionary new way of imagining community for the early Christians in Rome where love was usually reserved for family and the needs of the poor were ignored. This list is challenging for us too. Read it slowly pausing after each command to reflect on how it might relate to your life and to the life of our church.

Our human reaction to Paul’s words may well be the same as Peter’s reaction to the words of Jesus as he explained what being the Messiah means. Surely there must be a less difficult way to live our lives? It’s easy for us to miss, like Peter did, the last part of Jesus’s message. Yes, he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things and be killed but on the third day he would be raised to life.

I wonder if you asked yourself when you were reflecting at Besenzi’s picture of St. Peter what or who he was looking at? I like to imagine that in his mind’s eye Peter is seeing his risen Lord. Maybe he is recalling that last encounter on the shore of Galilee which must have brought him such peace and hope and renewed purpose. Like Peter, we can have that peace and hope and sense of purpose as we imitate and follow the risen Christ even when it is difficult.

Let us pray.

Thank you, Lord, that you do not call us to anything without also giving us the resources to cope. You do not ask us to go anywhere you haven’t been. Renew our commitment to your loving in all our relationships, our work and our prayer. In the hard choices, give us wisdom, in the painful decisions, affirm us, and may our words speak your truth, whether that is to encourage, to comfort or to challenge. Be with us, Lord, as we take up our cross and follow you. Amen.

You are welcome to use the following framework for your prayers of intercession.

Let us ask our loving Lord

to give wisdom to all those in positions of influence and power …

to encourage those who are living or working selflessly for the good of others …

to bring healing and wholeness to those who are suffering in body, mind or spirit …

to sustain all who are persecuted for their faith …

to bless those we love and hear our prayers for them …

Almighty and merciful God, by whose grace alone your faithful people offer you service and praise: grant that we may hasten without stumbling towards the things that you promise; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The morning service in church today will finish with ‘At the name of Jesus’ on the organ with the congregation silently following the words. At home, you are welcome to sing along if you wish! Here is David playing the tune.

At the name of Jesus
every knee shall bow,
every tongue confess him
King of Glory now:
’tis the Father’s pleasure
we should call him Lord,
who from the beginning
was the mighty Word.

Humbled for a season,
to receive a name
from the lips of sinners
unto whom he came,
faithfully he bore it
spotless to the last,
brought it back victorious,
when from death he passed.

Name him, Christians, name him,
with love strong as death,
but with awe and wonder,
and with bated breath:
he is God the Saviour,
he is Christ the Lord,
ever to be worshipped,
trusted, and adored.

Surely, this Lord Jesus
shall return again,
with his Father’s glory,
with his angel train;
for all wreaths of empire
meet upon his brow,
and our hearts confess him
King of Glory now.
Caroline M. Noel

Material for Worship on the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Thank you to Rev. Moira Jamieson for the reflection and prayers this morning. Nerys

As we share in worship this morning and reflect on our two readings while Nerys is celebrating the Eucharist on our behalf, we focus on the building up of the church, the community of believers, and the way that we share Christ’s Gospel with others. Next week some of us will have the opportunity to begin once again to worship together in church (with guidelines in place). No matter if we are in the church building or at home, we will still come together as a worshipping community, building each other up in faith, hope, and love.

Listen to our readings. Romans 12.1-8 is read by Kath Smallman…

…and Matthew 16.13-20 by Rob Smallman:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build up my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. With these words from our Gospel passage this morning, Jesus is beginning to build up his church, and he is doing it using his apostles as the foundation. Through their spreading of the Word, they will be used by God to make his church stronger. In John 17.17, Jesus says, ‘I ask not only on behalf of these, [his disciples] but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word’.

This is how we, as disciples of Christ can help to build up his church in our own communities. By witnessing to the truth of the Gospel and speaking about its message of saving grace and salvation, we can perhaps help those who are struggling with their faith or who do not yet know God, to decide to follow him. It is not just by sharing the Good News that we can bring people closer to God, but often it’s by the example of God at work in our lives. By our example, the way we live our lives, we might find that others come to a realisation of God and his love for them.

In this Gospel passage, Jesus is preparing his disciples to be the building blocks on which his church is to be built. He promises that his spiritual church will never cease to be—there will always be Christian people here on earth. That doesn’t mean that we should sit back and do nothing, God still needs us to help build up his church, and he needs us to be ‘salt and light’ in our communities. If our hearts are full of God’s love and we show that God is part of our lives, it shouldn’t be too hard a task.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he begins with an exhortation, an appeal to the church in Rome, and he does this through the mercy of God. He tells the church, and us today, that not only is our salvation dependent on God’s mercy, but that the Christian life also grows out of that mercy. Our spiritual worship, when it is true and acceptable to God, helps to build up not only the worshipping community, but others whose lives we touch and encounter each day. When we receive grace from God, it remains active in our lives and we can show that same grace to others. Therefore, Paul’s exhortation is about us living a life that is appropriate to our status of grace received, by the mercy of God, and to live as one who has been saved.

The grace and mercy that we are shown by God is not something that we should keep to ourselves, instead we need to give thanks to God for his saving grace and offer up ourselves to God in his service. As we say in our Liturgy each week, ‘and with them ourselves, a single, holy, living sacrifice [to God]’. At my ordination in 2009, I chose a hymn that was special to me, ‘Take My Life And Let It Be’. This hymn was written by Frances Havergal after a wonderful experience of God’s mercy moving in the lives of those around her. The words tell the story of a life offered to God. It is almost a great shopping list of the things that Frances was thankful to God for and which she wanted to offer up in gratefulness. Listen to Moira Langston playing the tune and sing along if you wish.

Take my life, and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee;
take my moments and my days,
let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands, and let them move
at the impulse of thy love;
take my feet, and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing
always, only, for my King;
Take my lips, and let them be
filled with messages from thee.

Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect, and use
every power as thou shalt choose.

Take my will,l and make it thine:
it shall be no longer mine;
take my heart: it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at Thy feet its treasure-store;
take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee.

I wonder if anyone has ever made a list of aspects of their life that they have offered to God. During this strange time, perhaps it would be a good idea to put pen to paper and make our shopping list of things that we want to offer up to God in gratefulness. Are there things that we have hidden away or forgotten, parts of our lives that we have not offered up? It could be things that we have done or said, places we have been and things we have experienced. Perhaps now is the time for each of us to pray, ‘Take my love, my Lord I pour, at thy feet its treasure store. Take myself, and I will be, ever, only, all for thee’.

Take a little time over this next week to reflect about what determines the form of your life – the life that you have offered up to God. Can you evaluate the power of the various influences in your life? The influence of family and friends, your education or things you have been involved in within your community. Where does the Church and God fit in?

Paul tells us, ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect’. Rather than the outside influences, what should be important to us as Christians, is the influence of God in our lives. Paul is saying that we should not let the distractions of this world force us into its mould. Not an easy thing to do with the pressures from the media and hard selling advertising, so how are we to resist? Well Paul tells us that as Christians we have all the help we need, and that help comes from God. We are not our own and our lives are transformed by the renewing of our minds, a renewing that can only be done by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. This means that we are not left to foster our own self-discipline in order to achieve a life acceptable to God. God is ready and eager to work with us if we just turn our lives over to him.

I leave you with a couple of questions we might want to ask ourselves this week. Do our lives show the grace of God to our neighbours and those around us? Do our lives show by example, that saving grace of God? I think it is time for us to let go of the things of this age and all its distractions, and to let God lead us to be the people he wants us to be. In this way, we help to build up the body of the church, the community of believers, building on the foundations of those who have gone before us by God’s grace and mercy.

Let us pray,
God our Father, we come before you with thanksgiving for your wonderful grace and mercy. Help us to keep you foremost in our lives that we might show your grace and mercy to others. We pray for your church here on earth, that it would be a true witness of your love for all whom you have created. Build us up in faith that we might be the people you want us to be.
We pray for the Scottish Episcopal Church, for its witness in Scotland, for our Primus Mark and for the College of Bishops. We give thanks for all the opportunities to worship which have been provided throughout the Province in this time of lockdown, and we ask you to bless all clergy and congregations. Bless Nerys our Rector and the congregation at St. Mary’s.
We pray for all who are struggling to feed their families and give you thanks for the many foodbanks and charitable organisations who are helping to relieve some of that suffering. Help us to give generously when we can. We remember all refugees and asylum seekers who have the added worry of being infected with Covid19 in holding camps and overcrowded accommodation. We pray for their safety.
We pray for all who are ill at this time and remember those who are in hospital with symptoms of the Coronavirus, especially those in intensive care. Bless all nurses, doctors and hospital staff, paramedics and all who work in the ambulance service and all carers at home and in the community. We bring before God those those known to us who need our prayers.

Finally Father, we pray for ourselves, that you would continue to show us your grace and mercy to build us up in faith, hope, and love. May we be salt and light in our community and always be ready to share the Good News of your saving grace with those we meet.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Savour Jesus Christ. Amen.