Young Church – Pentecost Collage

Today Young Church created a Pentecost collage during the 10:30am service:

May Magazine Foreword

Dear Friends,

The post Easter days must have been an enormous learning curve for the disciples, and necessarily so, as they learnt what living life in the strength of the risen Christ was all about. We saw the huge change in Peter in our reading last Sunday from the frightened man so fearful of his own skin that he denied he even knew Jesus; to the man who took on the authorities and was not afraid to tell them where the real power lay, and what they were responsible for doing. Our Easter Eucharistic prayer touches on this in two passages, “From the Garden the mystery dawned, that he, whom they had loved and lost, is with us now, in every place, for ever” and “Making himself known in the breaking of the bread, speaking peace to the fearful disciples, welcoming weary fishers on the shore, he renewed the promise of his presence, and of new birth in the Spirit”. The disciples had to learn that Jesus was now with them in a new way, and would be, for always.

The change of tense in the first passage I quote always sends shivers down my spine; it’s such an amazing statement, “he, whom they had loved and lost is with us now, in every place, forever”. The final outcome of the resurrection was not that they had lost Jesus, for ever, which seemed at first to be the case, but that he was with them in a completely new way, supporting them with his presence, even when they couldn’t see him, everywhere, all the time. He began to teach them this as he appeared unexpectedly in places when they weren’t expecting him, on the road to Emmaus, in the upper room, by the seashore, reassuring them, helping them to believe the promise that he would be with them always “to the end of the age”.

One of the significant things about many of Jesus’ resurrection appearances was that, very often, the disciples didn’t, at first, recognise him, Mary thought he was the gardener; the two on the Emmaus road talked with him along the journey, and didn’t recognise him until he broke the bread; the disciples in the upper room were terrified and thought they had seen a ghost. There was a hiddenness about the resurrected Jesus that there had not been about the Jesus who walked the roads of Palestine. He was not so immediately obvious. I think that has much to say to us; there is a hiddenness in the Jesus we meet in our lives. It is very easy for us not to recognise him when we meet him on the road, in the garden, or in the house; in the people we meet or in the situations which we encounter. We have to work at it, and very often it doesn’t come easily; but the effort is very much worth it!

As we join the millions who through the ages have been followers of The Way, as the first Christians were called, we, like them, sometimes lose sight of Jesus, and lose the way for a while, sometimes with disastrous consequences, as history shows us, but, as Jesus taught the disciples, that is not the end, there is always the promise of his presence, to lead us back to The Way, if we are willing to be led.

May your Easter-tide be full of joy.

Love and prayers,


The 8:30am Sunday Service

At its April meeting the Vestry reluctantly agreed to the temporary cancellation of the 8:30am said communion service for the months of May and June as it was proving difficult to provide cover for the service over this period.

The Vestry appreciate this will be disappointing news to those who attend this service.

During this period, Revd Canon Dom Ind, who is convener to the Vestry, is extending a welcome to those who would wish to continue attending a service using the 1970 Liturgy to join him at the weekly 8:00am Sunday service at St Saviour’s, Bridge of Allan.

All-Age Good Friday Service

At our all age Good Friday service we made black boxes that represented the dark moments of the crucifixion. We then opened them up on Easter Sunday to show how Christ’s resurrection and the cross turned everything inside out and turned our sorrow into joy.

April Magazine Foreword

Why did Jesus die?

You find this as a heading in any course on Christian basics. A more interesting and exciting question, however, is “Why did Jesus rise again?”

Death comes to us all. Many people have sacrificed their lives for others or have been willing to die for a cause. Innocent people die every day, many of them violently, some as a result of other people’s wickedness. Looked at this way, there is nothing unique about the death of Jesus on Good Friday. What happened on Easter Day, however, is another matter.

The events of Easter Day tell us something vital about who God is and how he operates in the world. As we go through the Bible we are presented with God who creates life where there was none before (Genesis), who turns misfortune into advantage (Joseph), who provides a way forward when there seemed to be a dead end (Exodus). There are stories of elderly couples and barren women who have children (Sarai, Elizabeth) as well as lyrical passages about the desert blossoming like a rose and exiles returning home (Isaiah).

In the Gospels, Jesus heals lepers, blind men and unclean women. They are all freed from the restrictions placed on them by their condition and by society. He provides food for the hungry and a catch for fishermen. He welcomes the stranger and outcast. These are signs of life and a chance to make a new start.

The Bible consistently shows that when we have come to a dead end, God opens up a way. A tomb carved out of solid rock, with a large stone across the entrance looks like the ultimate dead end. But God raised Jesus from the dead. Once again, new life where there was none before, a new creation.

God’s way of acting – bringing forth new life from the dead – is put to its ultimate test, and it succeeds brilliantly. It is the decisive proof of what God had been doing in all these other incidents recorded in scripture. There are instances in our day too, when horrific events have given rise to a better state of affairs. The Grenfell Tower disaster last year and other similar tragedies often result in safer building techniques and improved fire prevention measures. The awfulness of what has happened is not taken away but it is in some sense redeemed.
Jesus said that God is the God of the living, not the dead. This is also the ground for our faith and confidence, and the reason why Christians are called Easter people, not Good Friday people.

– Peter

March Magazine Foreword

Dear Friends,

Lent, as a time of preparation for Easter has been with us for a long time, a very long time, in one or other of its forty day forms it dates back to the 4th century. Originally it was probably the prescribed fast for those preparing for Baptism. Then it was thought that the whole Church would benefit from such a preparation for Easter. In the early days the observance of Lent was very strict, only one meal a day, towards evening, no meat, no fish, no eggs, no dairy. From the 9th century things began to be a bit more relaxed, with the time for eating creeping forward, and a light supper being introduced. In the Middle Ages fish was allowed.

We have marked the season by dressing our priest in purple, we omit the Gloria, use the Kyrie instead and Alleluias are not allowed. We are holding a series of ecumenical Lent groups, help us think more deeply about our faith. Sometimes people ask, ‘What are you giving up for Lent?’ It’s all a far cry from one very restricted meal a day.

So has Lent outlived its usefulness in our modern world; is it simply a relic from the past? I don’t think so. As we approach the greatest festival of our Christian year, the festival when we celebrate just how much God was prepared to do for us, it seems completely appropriate that we should think, in a rather more structured way than we usually do, about what we do, or don’t do, and what we can do for God; that we look critically at our discipleship to see where it falls short, and what could be done better; that we use it as a time for deepening our faith, and self discipline can play a helpful role in that.

So I urge you, to take the opportunity Lent offers us to grow in our understanding of our faith and ourselves, and even if we are not holding to a Ramadan type fast, as our ancestors did, to work out what is an appropriate personal discipline, to help us grow in faith and come to Holy Week ready to travel with our Lord on his journey to the Cross, and to find a deeper joy when we finally reach Easter Day.

Love and prayers,


Young Church stress ball creatures…

Young Church had great fun making lots of mess while trying to create stress balls out of balloons and flour this morning, and as you can see, some of the stress balls become cute little creatures too:

Rector’s Letter – February 2018

“He (Jesus) said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money – not even an extra tunic” [Luke 9:3]

Dear folks,

As many of you know, our last Sunday at St Mary’s is the 11th February; we move the very next day. The Rectory is upside down right now. Most of our things are packed away already with really just the essentials remaining that we will pack over the last week or so before we move. It’s been quite a job going through the garage, and emptying the loft. It’s staggering how much can build up in five years!

I am finding it amazing what we can manage without, how much stuff we possess but never use, and how little we really need to be able to get by. With the above text from Luke in mind, ‘Travelling Light’ was once the theme of one of our Church Army Biennial conferences. It addressed that very issue, and how much of what we have accumulated to make our lives easier, actually make it harder for us to serve God. It was an encouragement to live uncomplicated lives, and to not burden ourselves either with unnecessary obligations and responsibilities, or possessions. Why? Because not only do such things weigh heavily on the soul, but the care and love of them can distract and divert us from the calling that has been placed upon us. Holy orders such as the Franciscans and the Poor Clares required novitiates to take a vow of poverty for that very reason (St Clare dedicated her order to the strict principles of Francis, setting a rule of extreme poverty far more severe than that of any female order of the time).

Excepting those still in such devoted orders, the experience of today’s ministers and missionaries in transit is a far cry from that of the early saints, who would often set out with what little they had in a coracle, rather than a 15 tonne removal lorry. I am glad that I don’t have to put on my sandals and wander off down the M6. But a simpler life with less material stuff to care about would be profoundly beneficial for all of us – that’s something worthy of much reflection during Lent.

For now, Andrea and I will take our things to our next home and spend a week or two unpacking them all again. But one thing that we can’t take with us, that will be especially hard to leave behind, is you. We have loved being a part of the family of St Mary’s and the community of Dunblane and will miss you greatly.

I pray that as you enter this next chapter and begin to look for the next Rector, that it will not be a long vacancy, and that you find and appoint the right person. And I would urge you to help keep the burdens for that person light that they will be at liberty to love and serve you with joy, and that you’ll be a blessing to each other.

With love in Christ,


Young Church biscuits…

Today the children were icing biscuits during Young Church!

Rector’s Letter – December 2017

“Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” [Mark 5:36 (NLT)]

Dear folks,

What’s the difference between speculation and anticipation? Probably much the same as between worry and faith/hope.

Speculation is often unfounded guesswork. We see it every time a news story is unfolding as journalists throw all kinds of scenarios around as they desperately await definite developments in a story, Brexit deals and Zimbabwe being two current examples (I suspect the latter will have moved on significantly since I wrote this letter).

We could argue that speculation can be educated consideration, but often it is simply just worry.

Anticipation on the other hand is more related to faith in that we know that a particular thing is likely to happen, and we are (trying) to look forward to it with hope.

Advent is a time of anticipation as we look forward to preparation for the spiritual journey that lies ahead. This is nothing new as we all have to do it at many stages of our lives. At present in my own family life there is much going on, and not to speculate about however there is also a great deal of hope.

As many of you know, my dear mum has not been well and the future is not clear (sincere thanks for your prayers for her), but we remain hopeful. Also, our son Ben and his wife Nicole are expecting our first grandchild, due at the end of February. And as I announced in church recently, we will be leaving St Mary’s in early February as I take up my new post as vicar of St John’s Walton, near Chesterfield.

Although the word ‘speculate’ is used in financial circles regarding investments, it rarely has a positive connotation when used in everyday life, and then it has more to do with worry. Jesus said, “So do not worry about tomorrow,” and, “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:25,34)

Positive Mental Attitude is widely recognised as a healthy psychological discipline and many books and self-help guides have been written on the subject. Although not strictly speaking a Christian doctrine it is very much in line with faith. Maybe you, like many of us, are naturally inclined to focus on the negative that might happen rather than allowing yourself to hope for the good, as if this will make things easier to cope with if they do go badly. Some might feel it will provide an opportunity to say, “I was right!”, although I suspect that anyone who feels that ways hopes deep down inside to be proven wrong. And the problem with such negative outlook is that it can lead to self-fulfilling prophecy as a pattern of life.

But, to look at things through the eyes of faith, to see hope where others see impending disaster, to believe that things could work out well, is not only psychologically and emotionally better for us, it is the vocation of the people of God. If anyone had grounds to doubt it was Jairus, who had just been told that his young daughter had already died and to leave Jesus alone. Jesus spoke these words of encouragement to him, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” He speaks the same words to you and me today.

By all means assess and consider how things could go wrong and take sensible steps in preparation, but make a conscious decision to dwell on the good and the promises of God, and what a great opportunity the season of Advent gives us to develop that discipline.

So, whatever is going on in your life right now, whatever hopes and fears may be unsettling you, I pray that together we will learn to grow to trust more and more in the realisation of the promises of God as we look to the future together with hope and faith.

Have a healthy Advent, a wonderful Christmas, and a prosperous New Year.

God bless, Nick.

Youth Group News – November

The next meeting of the Youth Group will be on Saturday 11th November with an outing to the Ten Pin Bowling in Stirling. Last year the girls beat the boys, so the rematch may be quite competitive!

Meet at the church hall at 6:30pm and please confirm to Morag your attendance for booking purposes.

Rector’s Letter – November 2017

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” [Colossians 3.16]

Dear folks,

Last month we enjoyed a wonderful Harvest weekend together as a church family. On the Saturday night we raised nearly £300 for Mary’s Meals. Lots of fun.

On the Sunday morning Young Church contributed wonderfully to a Harvest Festival that was enjoyed by a grand turnout. Laura read the Epistle beautifully and with confidence (2 Cor. 9.6-15), and Carrick and Drystan enthusiastically shared in reading the Gospel (Luke 12.16-30) with appropriate expression. Hazel and Mia surprised the congregation with a mobile phone ringing loudly during the service which turned out to be a deliberate lead into a thought provoking sketch/drama based on the parable of the rich farmer from the gospel read by the boys. Julia and Peter helped John lead the intercessions, and all Young Church sang a song for the congregation early in the service. Morag talked about being satisfied with what God has blessed us with. Altogether it was brilliant, and many people commented to that effect as they left the building that morning.

On the 8th October we enjoyed a service with hymns chosen, prayers led, and reflections by the Hosanna Life Group. It was the first service that one of the newly formed life groups have been involved with. Again it was a special occasion which had been carefully and prayerfully prepared.

My hope is that as the Life Groups become more established we will develop a regular pattern of services that they help shape and deliver. I am hoping that the Supernovae Life Group are going to take a lead in a service in January 2018.

I am very keen to involve more folk in shaping the worship so I am preparing to establish a worship committee that you will be able to email suggestions of hymns and songs to, familiar or new, for use any time or for particular festivals and occasions.

Worship is one of the joys of being a church, but it is a very subjective thing that can be the cause of division and frustration. We have shown how this can be avoided when people show the kind of accommodating grace and tolerance that the people of St Mary’s show which allows us to embrace such a variety of “hymns and spiritual songs”, so that we can all worship God together regardless of our own preferences. So, thank you.

God bless, Nick.

Rector’s Letter – October 2017

“…the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” [Romans 8.26]

Dear folks,

September has been a staggering month for natural disasters. Two earthquakes in Mexico, flooding in the Indian subcontinent, and numerous hurricanes devastating the West Indies and South-East America. Many, many communities and homes have been destroyed, people displaced and lives turned upside down. What can you and I do about it? The obvious Christian answer is, ‘give and pray.’ Few of us are able to go to the scene and assist in rescue relief efforts, although some could, so most of us have only two options open to us. But I suspect that of the two, giving cash is thought of as the only practical suggestion, while the assurance of prayer is perhaps only appreciated as a kind gesture. However, as Christians we know (or at least ought to have faith in) the power of prayer to change lives with greater effect than any amount of cash. While they often need money, the people suffering these things desperately need your prayers.

But there is so much in the news that demands our prayers today. You may also receive regular prayer requests and prayer diaries from charities and ministries that you support. The prayer needs today can be overwhelming. Where do we even begin when it’s so difficult to relate to these events, especially those that affect people in far off lands that we don’t know? And what do we ask for in our prayers?

As someone whose vocation it is to be an intercessor I know that organising who and what you pray for can be a bewildering task when there are so many needs. Being a list maker I tend to try to make sure everything gets covered at least once a week, pressing matters daily, and urgent prayer each time I pray. I find that keeping a prayer list is also a good way to recognise when our prayers have been answered as we return to entries, add new ones, and delete outdated ones.

But lists don’t work for everyone and can feel a little too administrative. Perhaps you could use pictures cut from magazines, or a photo slide show saved on your phone or whatever else might help you.

But be assured, when believers pray in faith we are calling the power of heaven into whatever situation we pray for, which means wonderful things can happen. It may be hard for you and I to assess how our prayers are being answered for people like the rescue workers in Mexico City, or flood victims in Bangladesh, but your prayers really do make a difference, a very real difference.
If you do feel overwhelmed by the many needs, just focus on a few of the ones that really touch your heart, finding out as much as you can about the needs in that situation, and praying regularly for the people affected and those working to help them.

And as the Apostle Paul says – We are not left to pray alone. The Spirit helps us as we pray. Sometimes that won’t be in comprehensible words.
When I was last in Finland visiting my sister Amanda, we called in to the Rock Church in Helsinki and had a moment of prayer. My sister picked up a card on the counter and gave it to me which said…

Rukous on ihmeellinen asia;
Rukouksella on loppumaton voima.

Prayer is a wonderful thing;
Prayer is the infinite power.

While I might feel the need to straighten out some theology in the last line to make it point more to the source of the power that is invoked by prayer, the encouragement is otherwise sound.
So keep praying; your prayers will change lives!

God bless,

Rector’s Letter – September 2017

“Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him – that she is a sinner.’ ” [Luke 7.39 NRSVA ]

Dear folks,

An open welcome to all is such an important element in the witness and mission of the church.

In last October’s issue I spoke about how welcoming our glass door is. The Young Church were so impressed by the message it gives, as well as our newly painted bright red outer doors which look warm, friendly and lively, that with David they wrote a brilliant song which they sang for us so beautifully just before the summer break (see article on page 11).
Our beautiful doors and our open door policy give a clear message of warm welcome to all. Our visitors book is full of kind and lovely comments from people from all walks of life, and all over the world; Indian Bishops, Australian builders, Italian school girls (see entries 21st August), and many more. But welcoming people who are considered disreputable can cause judgement, criticism and condemnation. Jesus experienced that many times: “ ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him – that she is a sinner.’ ” Would we be as delighted to see entries and comments in our visitors book by drug dealers, prostitutes, Syrian refugees, and homeless folk? Perhaps you would because you are kind people, but not everyone would be.

While I was actually writing this very letter, a man came to the Rectory door (which we sensibly keep locked) asking for help. It’s a common thing especially where a minister’s house is near the church. He wanted me to give him the train fare to Perth and pay for a night in a guest house there. But I recognised him from a visit a couple of years ago and remembered that I had helped him then only to discover a day or so later that he had not been entirely honest with me (quelle surprise!). Also it was around then that the alms box in the church had been broken into and money taken.

When my visitor realised that I was not willing to assist this time his polite demeanour quickly faded. He marched off leaving me to stew in my self-conviction of hypocrisy heaped upon me by my own hand through the letter I was in the process of writing. When Andrea returned from work I told her about the visitor. She immediately suggested that I check the alms box in the church, but I explained that I had watched him leave the premises without going in the church.

However I went to check the church and was surprised to discover that yet again someone had tried to break into the alms box, albeit unsuccessfully this time. I realised that our visitor must have tried that first and looked in all the cupboards, before having the nerve to come to the house and ask. Needless to say that I duly reported the incident. The man was seen later at the train station, and I suspect received a ride in a van and one night’s free accommodation courtesy of Police Scotland.

So we are having to think seriously about our commitment to keep our church doors open. Keeping open doors, physical and metaphorical, will always present us with dilemmas, the possibility of being criticised for the kind of people we welcome, and the risk of being taken advantage of by them.

But Jesus always kept an open-door policy. Everyone from commanders of the occupying forces, people whose life choices were morally questionable, legalistic religious leaders, and pagan mothers, and prostitutes, were all able to approach him directly and receive great blessings.

At the Radio Rainbow summer club we sang with the children, “Jesus, never, never, never, turned anyone away”. Some walked away because of the challenge he laid before them, ‘it’s time to start living for God’. They either needed time to reflect on that or simply weren’t willing to change the way they were living. Others embraced his challenge and found new life. But his door was always open to all.

God bless,


Rector’s Letter – July/August

“…my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”
[Acts 20:24]

Dear church,

I have just enjoyed a weekend with many of my friends in Church Army. Every two years Church Army hold a conference for the whole society at the Hayes conference centre, Swanwick. It was very special for me because although I received my Church Army commission back in late 2015, I missed it that year, so this was my first in ten years! There were one or two more grey heads than I remember, and some younger livelier recent additions to the community whom it was great to meet and get to know a little.

This year the theme for the gathering was ‘Grace’. We were blessed to have teaching from The Right Reverend Alan Abernethy (Bishop of the Diocese of Connor, NI, and Church Army board member), The Right Revd Stephen Cottrell (Bishop of Chelmsford, and Chairman of the Church Army board), and Church Army’s own charismatic chief executive, Mark Russell. The talks were challenging and inspiring and the speakers spoke passionately and generously of their belief in and commitment to growing in grace. Several members of the CA community were invited to share their stories of how God’s love and grace are transforming in all kinds of social contexts.

It was a wonderful few days and has been particularly helpful to me as lately I find myself wrestling again with the dilemma of learning to show grace while staying true to deeply held values and views, as your example and teacher.

I believe in grace, I rely upon grace, I encourage grace, and am always mindful that I/we are saved by grace. But I can be a rather inconsistent dispenser of grace, especially when cornered by theological and ethical conundrums.

It can be very stressful when our strong yearning to show love and grace finds itself shrouded and encumbered by our sense of duty to uphold truth/values. Whether these barriers are well considered theological principles, or echoes of ingrained bigoted prejudices, we cannot allow them to be the last word. The last word from followers of Jesus must always be ‘grace’, God’s grace.
There are no easy answers to this and it doesn’t necessarily mean that our views and values are wrong. But this world needs more grace, and consequently more effective dispensers of grace. Jesus didn’t train the disciples to be legalistic pious zealots; there were enough of those around with the scribes and the Pharisees. He was shaping them into people whom, having encountered and been wonderfully moved by God’s grace themselves, would become dispensers of that same amazing grace. So it is for His followers today.

But we can’t give to others what we do not possess ourselves. So let’s commit ourselves to pray, that while people around us may increasingly object to and condemn each other’s views and behaviour, that you and I may fully receive and continue to grow in God’s grace, and become the most effective and powerful witness to the Good News of Jesus that we can be.

With love and prayers,