Easter Cross

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

Rector’s Letter from April 2019 Magazine

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Easter when it comes!

Nerys

Bishop’s Lent Appeal 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Rector’s Letter – from March 2019 Magazine

Dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With love,

Nerys

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.