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

Aberlour Child Care Trust

Today we welcomed Abbey Parkhouse from Aberlour Child Care Trust, the organisation we supported during Advent and Christmas. She was delighted to receive our donation of £1,000 and also heart-shaped cards made by members of Young Church and the Craft Group with messages of encouragement for the children written by the congregation. We are looking forward to visiting some of Aberlour’s projects in the Spring.

Young Church News

Today Young church explored the reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians about unity and diversity in the body. We considered lots of body parts and how they were all different and all needed, just like we, as individual followers of Christ are all needed and valued in building his church.

Rector’s Letter – February 2019

Dear Friends,

At the end of a Sunday service, when I enquire if anyone has a notice to give, I never know what is coming. Usually it is a reminder of an event or a request to join a rota but last Sunday at the 10:30 service, I was asked to bless a box! We had heard a passage from Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth where he makes it clear that every Christian has been given spiritual gifts, each one equally important, for the building up of God’s Kingdom. In Young Church, the teenagers had also been thinking about Paul’s message and each one had listed what they saw as their personal strengths. They brought a gift box containing these offerings to Communion. They wanted me, as their priest, to pray over it that their gifts would be activated through the Holy Spirit for the benefit of the Church. What a privilege it was to say that prayer! Please continue to encourage and pray for our youngsters and those who are guiding and supporting them and their families in Young Church, Messy Church and the Youth Group. We are so blessed to have them as part of our church family.

Because Easter is so late this year, the season of Epiphany is unusually long. This gives us a chance to hear passages that are not often read in church as part of our lectionary, including some important sections of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians which may help us to think more deeply about our lives together as a worshiping community. I thought that we might make the most of the opportunity to get to know this letter a little better, so in addition to our sermons, the ministry team will be producing a weekly sheet with questions for you to ponder. Please get in touch with me if you are interested in meeting together to discuss these sometime before the end of February.

Paul talks a great deal about the Holy Spirit in his letter so it is appropriate that we have in church this month a flock of paper doves as a symbol of God’s Spirit among us. I am grateful to Sue and Roger for creating the eye-catching installation which, I hope, will attract more visitors to our beautiful church. Thank you also to those who helped put together the display of information about organisations working for justice which is in the Prayer Room. Please pop in if you can to find out more about the work of the local Christian Aid Committee, Start-up Stirling, Grace Chocolates, Thursdays in Black, Amnesty International, Investing in Peace in Palestine and Israel, Traidcraft and Forth Valley Welcome. I would ask you also to look out for information about events during Fairtrade Fortnight at the end of this month which are being planned jointly by Dunblane Cathedral and St Mary’s.

I wish you could have all heard the reaction of Abbey Parkhouse, the Regional Fundraiser for Aberlour Child Care Trust, when I told her on the phone that we had raised £1,000 for the charity! She will be joining us at our all-age celebration on Sunday 3rd February and there will be an opportunity after the service to find out more about the various projects they run the length and breadth of Scotland. Thank you also for the hundreds of stamps you brought for the RNIB and thanks to members of the Craft Group for patiently trimming and sorting them. It is good to have opportunities to support a range of charities in different ways. I look forward to meeting with those of you who are keen to work together to develop this aspect of the life of our church before too long.

Please continue to pray for each other, joining in with our youngsters in asking the Holy Spirit to activate the gifts God has given us for the glory of his Kingdom. I will continue to pray for you all also.

With love,

Nerys

The doves are flying!

Last Sunday the whole congregation came together to celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. We thought about the way God’s Spirit and God’s Word came together to give Jesus encouragement. We wrote prayers for people who need God to encourage them and younger members of the congregation transformed our prayers into doves, symbols of the Holy Spirit. The doves are now flying in the church – Come and see them!

Rector’s Letter – January 2019

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
(Howard Thurman)

Dear friends,

By the time you read this letter, the Christmas festivities will be over and we will be preparing to greet the New Year. In the Church, as you know, we continue to celebrate Christmas until the Epiphany, singing carols and listening to the accounts of the Nativity in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. The narrative grows darker as the season draws to a close and the cosy stable scene is replaced by the strangely contemporary image of a young family fleeing for their lives to another land. The lesser-known stories of the intrigues of Herod and the massacre of the innocents which throw a dark shadow over the early childhood of Jesus, are a challenge to us to do ‘the work of Christmas’ as outlined in Howard Thurman’s inspiring poem.

Thank you in advance for your generous support of our Advent charity, Aberlour Childcare Trust. I look forward to welcoming Abby Parkhouse, its Regional Fundraiser, to the all-age service on 3rd February to receive our donation and to explore with you how we can further support the work of the charity. We also have an opportunity in January to consider difficult situations facing the world in the company of Christians from Indonesia as we host the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I hope that you will consider getting involved in this event.

Thank you to everyone who helped prepare the church for Christmas and who took part in the services. As we now look towards Lent and Easter, please speak to me if you would like to give reading in services or leading intercessions a go. We are also always looking for welcomers and tea and coffee makers. If you’re interested in learning how to arrange flowers for the church we have organised a tutorial in January. I am quite keen also to identify a couple of people ready to take photographs at church services and events.

Last month we were mourning the loss of Gerry Goddard. This month we grieve for another faithful servant of the church, Walter Abbott who died on 20th December. I ask for your prayers for Judith and the family. You are all welcome to attend Walter’s funeral on Thursday 10th January at 10:45 (not 10:30 as previously intimated) in Falkirk Crematorium followed by a memorial service at St Mary’s at noon and refreshments in the Golf Club. Towards the end of every January, Walter would bring me packages of used Christmas stamps, meticulously sorted and labelled, to give to charity. As a tribute to Walter, I wonder if we could all bring our used stamps to church this year to donate to the RNIB Stamp Appeal. I ask you also to pray for members of St Mary’s who are unwell and their families. Please be assured of my prayers for you all as we enter into the New Year.

With love,

Nerys

RNIB Stamp Appeal

The RNIB recycles stamps into much-needed funds to help people with sight loss access the information, support and advice they need. Stamps are sold by weight at £20 per kilogram so it is one of the easiest ways for the charity to raise money. You are invited to collect used stamps from your cards and parcels and place them in boxes in the church or the hall. Just be sure to leave one centimetre of envelope or packaging around each stamp!

Youth Group News – January 2019

St Mary’s Youth Group met on the snowy evening of 15th December for the final session of 2018. We enjoyed a Chinese takeaway together and then watched the film “Nativity”. The highlight was our party game finale with an assortment of unusual Christmas gifts that were selected and stolen until everybody had something amazing to take home with them. Thanks to all our young people and helpers for a great year and I look forward to 2019 – a calendar of events will be circulated in early January.

Aberlour Children’s Trust

Aberlour Children’s Trust is the S.E.C.’s Advent charity this year. Collections in church on Sunday 23rd and at the Christingle Service will be for the Trust, which works to support vulnerable children.

Institution of Revd Nerys

The church was packed full last Saturday for the institution of Revd Nerys as our Rector. Members of the congregation, staff and pupils from St Mary’s School and representatives from the other local churches and organisations in Dunblane joined with priests and lay people from churches all around the diocese for a memorable service led by Bishop Ian Paton, the new bishop of St Andrews, Dunblane and Dunkeld. In the church hall afterwards Nerys was greeted in song by members of Young Church and was presented with a celebration cake decorated with Welsh dragons and thistles. Nerys, who has lived in Dunblane for over twenty years and was active in the church and the community as a lay minister before going to St John’s Church in Perth three years ago to train as a priest, was welcomed home to St Mary’s by John Owen on behalf of the Vestry, by Monsignor Basil O’Sullivan on behalf of the Dunblane Churches and by Sam Toop on behalf of St Mary’s School. Nerys responded by expressing her surprise and delight at being called back to St Mary’s as Rector of the congregation.

Rector’s Letter – December 2018

Dear friends,

I am delighted to have this opportunity to write to you just a few days before my institution as your Rector. I would like to thank in advance everyone who is working so hard to prepare for the service and celebration. It promises to be a magnificent and memorable occasion.

Like the Ven. Peter Potter in the last issue of this magazine, experience has taught me to never say ‘never’. When I left St Mary’s for my curacy in Perth three years ago, it was clear to me that my future ministry would be in a community other than Dunblane. I had wholeheartedly accepted the call to ordained ministry and, painful as it was to lift our roots, Davie and I were ready to go wherever God would lead us. Imagine my consternation when, in January, colleagues in the diocese prompted me to consider applying for the post to be vacated by Nick, despite the fact that it is not customary to return to one’s home church as its Rector. I agreed to pray about it and within days I experienced a similar feeling to when I was first called to ordination, a sense of an open door and a choice whether to step through. Six long months of uncertainty followed, which made me feel vulnerable and anxious at times but which also caused me to grow closer to God as I learnt to trust more deeply in his call and in his perfect timing. It was reading the Parish Profile that finally convinced me that I should apply. I was excited by the picture it painted of the outward-looking, missional church you would like to be, where the ministry of all believers is encouraged. It also reminded me why I had enjoyed so much being involved in the life of the community in Dunblane and made me realise the depth of my love for you, the congregation who nurtured me and encouraged my calling to ministry. It was with great humility, gratitude and joy that, on September 4th, I accepted the invitation to become your Rector.

A friend sent me a prayer by St Teresa of Avilla which I have been reading every day, changing every ‘you’ to ‘I’ and ‘your’ to ‘my’. I offer it to you to make your own:

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.

I am looking forward very much to coming home to St Mary’s in my new role. Sadly, some familiar and much-loved faces will be absent, in their midst Gerry Goddard who died on Saturday 10th November. Gerry was one of those who made my family so welcome in St Mary’s when we first came to Dunblane over twenty years ago. She served church and community diligently and cheerfully for so many years and will be greatly missed.

My hope is to accompany each one of you in the sadnesses and joys of your lives and that together we may be drawn closer to Christ. Please be assured of my prayers for you always.

With love,

Nerys

Youth Group News

St Mary’s Youth Group enjoyed their annual ten pin bowling outing on November 3rd, when the boys’ team won the first game, and the girls’ team won the second game once they had commandeered David to play for them! Some highly competitive air hockey matches also took place, fuelled by sweets and slush puppies.

On Saturday 17th November the youth group hosted The Big Quiz Night in aid of Tearfund, joining with over 22,000 people from 498 churches around the UK. Congratulations to our winning team The Young Ones, who won free tickets to the youth group paintballing trip in Spring 2019! We raised £120 which will be sent to Tearfund.

The next youth group event will be their Christmas film and party, which will take place at 6:30pm on Saturday 15th December in the Church Hall.

St Mary’s AGM

The Annual General Meeting of St Mary’s Episcopal Church will take place in the Church Hall at noon on Sunday 9th December 2018.

Nomination forms for new vestry members and other posts can be found at the back of the church. Please ensure anyone nominated has agreed to stand.

Institution of Rev’d Nerys Brown as Rector

The Institution of Rev’d Nerys Brown as Rector of St Mary’s Dunblane by the Right Reverend Ian Paton, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane, will take place in St Mary’s Church on Saturday 24th November at 1pm followed by a celebration in the Hall and in a yurt on the Rectory lawn.

Parking will be on the dual carriageway and around the Cathedral. Please email the vestry secretary at vestrysec @ stmarysdunblane.org if you need a disabled parking space. Please be seated by 12.45. In case of large congregation numbers, the service will be relayed to the Church Hall.

A collection will be taken for the Training Fund of the Scottish Episcopal Institute.

Dress for clergy is alb and white stole. Robing will be in the Rectory behind the Hall and Church.

Christmas Shoe Box Appeal – Thank you

Thank you to everyone who filled shoeboxes for the Blythswood Care Christmas Shoe Box Appeal. It is 25 years since Blythswood Care began their Christmas Shoe Box Appeal and, since then, over 2 million gift boxes have been received by young and old, bringing a rare moment of happiness for those in winter poverty. This year, shoeboxes will be distributed to Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Kosovo, Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine.