Rector’s Letter – 20th August 2020

Dear friends,

I don’t think I’ve done any translating from French since I was at University, but when I came across this poem on the day when a Sudanese boy was washed up on a beach after drowning trying to reach the UK, I felt that I needed to share it with all of you.

If this was your son

you would fill the sea with ships

under any flag. But don’t worry,

he isn’t your son.

You can sleep peacefully

because above all, of course,

it isn’t your son.

It’s just a son of a lost part of humanity,

of a dirty part of humanity

that doesn’t have a voice.

It isn’t your son.

You can sleep quietly.

It isn’t yours,

not yet …

David Lallemand Pesh and Marco Leoni

Welcome to the last weekly newsletter! As the reopening of the church building for public worship at the end of this month makes the distribution of a printed magazine possible again, it is time to return to a monthly publication. Thanks to all of you who have contributed to the newsletter during the last five months and to those who have faithfully distributed it. I am especially grateful to Chris for his technical support and relieved that he is happy to resume the role of editor. The deadline for the September issue is noon on Tuesday 25th August. I would encourage you to continue to contribute, sending items to magazine @ . The magazine will be available after the services on Sunday 30th August and copies will be left in the porch after that. If you are unable to collect one, please get in touch with me so that one can be brought to you.

The porch will now be open most days as an information point and a place of prayer. My thanks to Sheila for the ‘Crosses in my pocket’, to Andrew Buchanan for a lovely arrangement of garden flowers and to Sue for making a Covid-safe prayer board for all to use. There are also booklets which can be taken away.

If you were affected by the poem ‘If this was your son ..’ above, here are some facts from the Refugee Council which has been helping those seeking asylum and supporting refugees for the last 60 years.

At the end of 2019 around 79.5 million people were forcibly displaced across the world. Of these, 29.6 million were refugees, whilst 45.7 million were internally displaced within their country of origin.

85% of the world’s refugees are living in countries neighbouring their country of origin, often in developing countries.

Over 6.7 million people have fled conflict in Syria, and many more are displaced inside the country. Turkey is the biggest refugee hosting country in the world. At the end of 2019 Turkey was providing safety to 3.6 million Syrian refugees.

The UK is home to approx. 1% of the 29.6 million refugees, forcibly displaced across the world.

For more information and to send a donation, visit

With love to you all,

Material for Worship on the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Thank you to the Ven. Peter Potter for preparing this week’s Material for Worship:

When we lived in Switzerland it was my birthday treat to take a ride on a mountain railway. Some people might say that was cheating but the experience and the views were quite something, even if I did once get caught in a blizzard – in August!

There is something exhilarating, mystical even, about standing there at the top of the world, as it were. It is easy to understand why God revealed himself to biblical characters on mountain tops. In today’s Old Testament reading the prophet Isaiah is made aware of God in a new way. He realises that previous conceptions of God were too small. It is no longer enough to see God as an exclusive deity, for the Israelites alone: “I will bring [the foreigners] to my holy mountain”. Isaiah is not necessarily standing on a mountain himself when he receives this revelation but it is significant that it is where “salvation will come and deliverance … revealed”. We are to imagine a vast gathering on the mountain, rather like a pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick or other holy sites. What is important in Isaiah’s vision is that, first, God’s will is done, that is achieved by people’s actions (“maintain justice and do what is right”) and, second, that this is a call to all people, not just to the Israelites.

Listen to Anthony Birch as he reads Isaiah 56.1, 6-8.

Then listen to another of Isaiah’s descriptions of God’s will being realised on his holy mountain (Isaiah 2.1-5), sung to the tune Glasgow, played by David Sawyer. I think this hymn deserves to be better known in Episcopal/Anglican churches.

Behold! the mountain of the Lord
in latter days shall rise
on mountain tops above the hills,
and draw the wondering eyes.

To this the joyful nations round,
all tribes and tongues, shall flow;
up to the hill of God, they’ll say,
and to his house we’ll go.

The beam that shines from Zion hill
shall lighten every land;
the King who reigns in Salem’s towers
shall all the world command.

Among the nations he shall judge;
his judgements truth shall guide;
his sceptre shall protect the just,
and quell the sinner’s pride.

No strife shall rage, nor hostile feuds
disturb those peaceful years;
to ploughshares men shall beat their swords,
to pruning-hooks their spears.

Come then, O house of Jacob! come
to worship at his shrine;
and, walking in the light of God,
with holy beauties shine.

Scottish Paraphrases, 1781

The story of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15.21-28), read by Anthony, makes the same two points but in a rather roundabout way. In the previous verses Jesus had been telling his disciples that our ingrained attitudes shape our actions. Now they are presented with a real case study. How should Jesus deal with the woman’s plea? Should he ignore the stranger, tell her to go away? This would be the normal reaction, especially as she is making a nuisance of herself. Jesus’ initial reaction sounds like a parody of this attitude and examples are not far to seek in our day. Perhaps he is testing his disciples: is this really what you want me to do? The woman’s quick-witted reply exposes the hollowness of this attitude: “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table”. Those of us who are well-off have more than enough, in fact so much that we throw away some of God’s bounty.

What the woman has, is faith and she is a stranger. Matthew was writing his account for a community of Jewish Christians at a time when the possible admission of Gentile believers was a live issue. Some wanted to send them away, as happened in some British churches when the Windrush immigrants turned up for worship. This episode of the Canaanite woman, like Isaiah’s vision of the holy mountain, show that people from many backgrounds have faith and are to be welcomed amongst the saved. And they will receive more than the crumbs from God’s bounty.

The psalm set for today is Psalm 67, which has the refrain “Let the peoples praise you, O God: let all the peoples praise you”, which again shows that God’s call is for all the peoples of the world and that he bestows his blessings on the peoples of all nations. For this to happen, however, we all need to follow his guidance and do his will. If we do, then his bounty will be fairly distributed and his creation respected.

Listen to Mary Birch singing “God whose farm is all creation” based on this psalm.

God, whose farm is all creation,
take the gratitude we give;
take the finest of our harvest,
crops we grow that we may live.

Take our ploughing, seeding, reaping,
hopes and fears of sun and rain,
all our thinking, planning, waiting,
ripened in this fruit and grain.

All our labour, all our watching,
all our calendar of care,
in these crops of your creation,
take, O God: they are our prayer.

John Arlott


For your prayers of intercession:

Lord, may the richness of your creation
and the wonders of your heavenly kingdom
bring all your people together,
that we may make known your grace
and live out your ways of peace and love. Amen.

Let us pray
– for a removal of the barriers that divide us, consciously and unconsciously;
– for a just distribution of the earth’s resources and for the will to respect the fragile balance of creation;
– for a willingness to examine ourselves for harmful attitudes and assumptions;
– for a readiness to work with people of other faiths and none for the good of all;
– for the sick, the anxious and distressed, for all in any kind of difficulty;
– for the departed.

Joining our prayers with those of Mary (whose feast day was yesterday) and all the saints, we give you our thanks and praise, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Material for Worship on the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Today the Ven. Peter Potter is celebrating the eucharist in the church building at 8.30 and 10.30 a.m. Let us prepare ourselves for worship by reading or singing the words of ‘Be still’ as Moira Langston plays the tune. You may also wish to spend some time reflecting on Sieger K?der’s painting ‘Stronghold’.

Be still, for the presence of the Lord,

the Holy One, is here.

Come, bow before him now,

with reverence and fear.

In him no sin is found,

we stand on holy ground.

Be still, for the presence of the Lord,

the Holy One is here.

Be still, for the glory of the Lord

is shining all around;

he burns with holy fire,

with splendour he is crowned.

How awesome is the sight,

our radiant King of light!

Be still, for the glory of the Lord

is shining all around.

Be still, for the power of the Lord

is moving in this place,

he comes to cleanse and heal,

to minister his grace.

No work too hard for him,

in faith receive from him;

Be still, for the power of the Lord

is moving in this place.

David J. Evans

In a sense, both of the main characters in our readings today are sinking and are given firm-handed rescue by our loving God. The prophet Elijah is isolated, exhausted and worn down—easy prey to nagging negative thoughts which whisper the futility and unfairness of it all. It is a place many of us will recognise. Listen to Judith Abbott reading 1 Kings 19.9-18.

Despite Elijah’s fears and failings God doesn’t give up on him. This must have been encouraging and comforting for the community for which this history was written, an audience of scattered, exiled and humiliated people. God doesn’t attempt to dissuade Elijah from how he feels, but offers him instead the way forward, enabling him to view it differently so that it is less overpowering and crippling. He does the same with us if we will allow him, gently offering us a route of hope.

Peter too is overwhelmed by the sense of his own vulnerability in our Gospel passage, Matthew 14.22-33, read here by James Humphreys. Think what it was like for Peter as it dawned on him that he was out in the middle of a huge stretch of dark and angry sea, buffeted by a violent wind with nothing under his feet except fathoms of cold water. It is no wonder that he panicked and started to sink!

This passage has two messages entwined around one another. One is about faith and how it operates. It invites us to see ourselves as disciples in the boat or even as Peter, struggling to stay afloat in the midst of the storm. The other is about who Jesus is. The two messages go together because, according to Matthew, Jesus is Lord of the storms. He walks on the sea as only God can do. He greets his friends saying, ‘It is I’, echoing the ‘I am’ of God’s presence to Moses, and his ‘Fear not’ brings to mind the words of the Book of Isaiah, ‘Fear not. You are mine. When you pass through the waters I’ll be with you’. This is truly Emmanuael, ‘God with us’. We can place our trust in him.

For the disciples as a group, the experience was a moment of growth in their faith and understanding. The risk Peter took to trust Jesus and respond to his call enabled the rest to move from fear to worship, from thinking Christ was a ghost to recognising him as the Son of God.

I wonder what Jesus is calling us to do or to continue to do, as individuals and as a church during the storm of the pandemic? Pause for a moment with this image by Lisle Gwynn Garrity from the Sanctified Art Group, called ‘Step into the swell’. Remember that with Jesus the little things we do to serve the needs of others and the prayers we offer, are just as important as great projects. Like Peter, ask Jesus to call you to come to him on the water.

Trusting in our faithful God let us pray
for people who are struggling to stay afloat:
for the people of Beirut,
for refugees,
for migrant workers,
for those living in slums, favelas and townships:
for people living in fear:
for those in abusive relationships,
for those who have been trafficked,
for those who have lost their jobs;
for those known to us who are sick in body mind or spirit …
for those who are grieving …
for ourselves and for your Church:
a clearer vision,
a readiness to take risks for the sake of others,
the gift of deeper faith in you.
May we and they know the steady hand of Jesus reaching to them and holding them up.
In Christ’s name. Amen.

Rector’s Letter – 4th August 2020

Dear friends,

This week Peter Holmes sent me a photo showing the progress made by the ‘Seeds of Hope’ I dropped off at his home on Mothering Sunday just as Lockdown began. ‘They have obviously waited until there is some hope of the church re-opening’, was Peter’s observation. ‘It’s quite incredible to see how they have developed over the months; at one stage we had almost given up hope that they would flower, but they were true to their calling.’

I had forgotten until I saw this photo that I had bought the seeds of two different types of marigolds, one obviously more vigorous than the other. The image made me think of the way my two sons have been during these last few months of enforced solitude. One has flourished, quite happy to be working from home and going on long walks with his dog while the other has struggled, missing office life and meeting with friends. I have noticed amongst my own friends also that some are coping better than others and that it’s often down to personality rather than circumstances.

We are a mixed lot at St Mary’s so it’s no surprise that our response to the relaxation of lockdown and the resumption of church services is very varied. Some of you can’t wait to get back into the building whilst others are adopting a more cautious approach. My hope is that we will be able to continue to provide support and opportunities for prayer and worship for everybody and that you will all continue to feel very much part of the church family. The plan for reopening the church at the end of this month which I hope to send to Bishop Ian in the next few days, proposes two very different short Sunday Services of the Word with communion being celebrated on your behalf early in the morning. The morning service at 10.30 will be very similar to the first half of the Eucharist with readings, sermon and intercessory prayers and familiar hymn tunes played on the organ or by the band for us to listen to. The night service at 8 p.m. will provide a quiet space for individual prayer and worship using ancient liturgy as a framework for short readings, prayers and reflections and recordings of sacred music. There is also the possibility of a more informal monthly service in the church hall growing out of the Gatherings for Prayer which are happening on line. For those of you not intending to return at this time, the ‘Materials for Worship’ will continue to be sent out or delivered every week but in addition, we may be able to livestream the morning service so that some of you can join in with worship from your homes. I am grateful to those who are investigating this and to those who are helping me to put together the very detailed plans so that we can safely hold services once more.

Please continue to pray for each other and for our community. This week, I ask you to pray especially for the youngest members of our church family who are preparing to return to school along with all their classmates and their families. Please remember also those in our midst who are grieving the loss of their loved ones.

The people of Beirut also need out prayers. If you are looking for a way to help them, The Guardian online and The Independent online have launched a fund which will benefit local support organisations like the Lebanese Red Cross which runs ambulances and emergency medical teams and Beit el Baraka who run a free supermarket help people with medical costs and apartment rents, and are now also working on repairing damaged homes. You can donate via the papers’ websites :

With love,

Material for Worship on the ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Let us sit quietly for a moment and think about how we are feeling. Are we ready to give God our full attention and worship him? Then, scattered as we are, let us come together in prayer as the eucharist is conducted on your behalf by me, Nerys, in the church this morning.

Dear God, you look deep inside us, seeing not only our outer but our inner needs. Have compassion on us we pray. Feed us today from your holy word and we will be filled. Amen.

Listen to God’s invitation for us to come to him to buy and eat without any cost. Alison Diamond is reading from the Book of Isaiah, 55.1-5:

As you listen to today’s Gospel, Matthew 14.13-21, read by Roger Lockwood, I invite you to focus on the person of Jesus who is at the centre of the story:

Jesus had slipped away to a deserted place to deal with his grief at the death of his cousin and colleague, John—a violent death which must have reminded Jesus of what lay ahead for him too. Notice his reaction when he sees the crowd which has followed him. The Greek verb suggests a deep, spontaneous response. ‘He was moved in his guts’, not by anger or frustration but by compassion, and spends the afternoon tending to the needs of those who were sick. His disciples, out of concern for the people, urge him to send them away so that they can get food to eat but Jesus has a better idea. ‘Why don’t you give them something to eat?’ —a daunting challenge when all you see is scarcity. But Jesus, looking with eyes of love, not fear, sees promise and potential and, blessing the meagre offering, trusts in the lavish generosity of God who provided manna in the wilderness for the children of Israel. The desert place once more is transformed into a banquet and everyone is fed.

Jesus is inviting us to join him in his ministry, to see to the needs of others in our community and across the world today. How are we to respond? Maybe we think that what we have to offer is not enough to make a difference so we hold back and pray for a miracle. But if we are ready to share what little we have, we will be part of that miracle. Jesus will take our ideas, our money, our time, our energy, our skills, our prayers, our love—whatever we have to offer, and having blessed them, he will return them to us multiplied to use for the good of others.

Spend some time with this icon from the Coptic Church in Egypt.

Where are you in the picture?
Imagine yourself trusting Christ to meet your needs in the desert place.
Imagine Jesus inviting you to join him in the task of seeing to the needs of others.

A prayer for ourselves, drawing on verses from Psalm 145
God of grace, good to all,
You have compassion over all you have made.
When I am falling, hold me up.
Raise me to my feet, so that I can walk with you.
When I am in need, meet with me.
Open your hands to me, to satisfy my longing.
When I call out to you, hear my cry.
Watch over me, that I may live in your love.
When I am hurt, lend me your grace.
Open my heart, that I may forgive.
When I see need, help me to face it.
Open my hands to offer all I have and am.
When I hear you, help me listen.
Open my mouth to bless your name.

Prayers for others
We pray for people who are in a lonely place of grief and loss …

We pray for people who are sick in body, mind or spirit …

We pray for people who are hungry …

We pray for people who live in fear and uncertainty …

We pray for people who have difficult decisions to make …

We pray for people who risk their lives to serve those in need …

We pray for our friends and families …

We pray for each other …

Lord God of compassion and boundless blessings, we praise you for your generosity, your love and your care as we ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

You are welcome to sing Williams Pantycelyn’s great hymn, ‘Guide me, O thou great Redeemer’. as David Sawyer plays Cwm Rhondda:

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,
pilgrim though this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
hold me with thy powerful hand;
Bread of heaven,
feed me now and evermore.

Open now the crystal fountain,
whence the healing stream doth flow;
let the fiery cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through;
strong deliverer,
be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death, and hell’s destruction,
land me safe on Canaan’s side;
songs and praises,
I will ever give to thee.

A fourth-century floor mosaic from a chapel at Tabgha on the shore of the Sea of Galilee

Rector’s Letter – 30th July 2020

Dear friends,

If you go down to the church today you’re sure of a big surprise – especially if you haven’t visited since the beginning of lockdown! A great deal of work has been done to clear overgrown areas, trees have been felled and a section of the boundary wall has been rebuilt. There is also a prayer trail around the grounds for those who are finding these uncertain times difficult. I am very grateful to Liz Owen for creating such an imaginative resource and for setting it up this week with the help of Peter and Matthew.

At the oak tree on the Rectory Lawn we are encouraged to look closely at the leaves, noticing how they are all unique just like we are, and to reflect on God’s care for each one of us. In the Quiet Garden, we are invited to think of the things that are causing us to be anxious and place a ‘worry stone’ in a bucket of water which represents God’s love, asking Him to take away our fears. On the benches in the burial ground we can read verses from Psalm 46 and the famous Footsteps poem, and make our own footprints in trays of sand. At the steps to the church, we can imagine that we are entering into a royal palace where we are God’s honoured guest and we are encouraged to give thanks for all the good things we enjoy.

Everyone is welcome to walk the trail which is suitable for families with children., visit our labyrinth or just come and enjoy the peace and quiet. Our church building may be closed for now, but I’m glad that we at St Mary’s can still provide support and care for each other and for our local community.

With love,

Material for Worship on Sea Sunday, 19th July, 2020

Thank you to members of the Men’s Group for working together to prepare this resource to help us celebrate Sea Sunday and reflect on the work of the Mission to Seafarers: to Martin Wisher for the reflection, Richard Crockett and Martin Sproston for recorded readings and to Anthony Birch and John Hamilton for prayer pointers. Thank you also to David Sawyer for recording the tune for ‘Eternal Father strong to save’ so that we can sing along to it. The Ven. Peter Potter will be celebrating the eucharist in the church at 8.30 and 10.30 a.m. .

On 19th July we are celebrating Sea Sunday and think of the work of the Mission to Seafarers. As you read this, over 60,000 cargo ships are on the high seas, laden with phones and electrical equipment from China, dresses from Bangladesh, beef from Argentina, bananas from the Dominican Republic, oil from the Gulf and much, much more. Ships are the circulatory system of global commerce and their 1.25 million seamen its lifeblood. If ships were to stop, much of humanity would soon begin to starve or freeze.

Day and night, the Mission is on call for seafarers in over 200 ports around the world. Seafarers need help because they are often working in dangerous conditions, with no one else to turn to. The Mission’s chaplains send in stories about the men and women they support, and the Mission tries to tailor help to each and every one of them. In 2018 the Mission made 70,600 ship visits encountering 353,000 seafarers on board their vessels; 673,000 seafarers visited the Mission’s centres in 121 ports. They transported 439,000 seafarers in their vans and dealt with 726 justice and welfare cases. You can learn more about the pre-pandemic work of the Mission in this short YouTube video.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic merchant seaman have kept working, but they have been stuck on board. In a normal week around 50,000 finish their contracts and are relieved. The pandemic has cut that number to almost nothing. Over 250,000 mariners are stranded at sea. Most merchant seamen are from developing countries, in particular India, Indonesia and the Philippines. They start and end their contract in whatever port a shipping schedule stipulates. The ship management firms normally fly them out and back again, but most commercial flights have been grounded for months and many countries are refusing entry to non-citizens. Sailors are forbidden to disembark, and their reliefs are barred from entry.

The duration of seafarers’ contract is typically between four and six months on ships, followed by a period of leave. Shifts are typically 10-12 hours long, seven days a week – performing tasks that require constant professional attention. Seafarers spending extended periods on board are more at risk of adverse health effects, including physical and mental health issues. Thousands stranded on board ships have already expressed their exhaustion, fatigue, anxiety and mental stress. Seafarers stuck on land cannot take up their new contract and are not being paid with all the associated hardship for themselves and their families. Most of them are from countries with little or no social services or financial support.

The UK Government has taken a leading position with the International Maritime Organisation to have seafarers declared ‘essential workers.’ They hosted a virtual conference at the beginning of July with the aim to try to repatriate seafarers stuck on ships and enable other seafarers to travel to take up new contracts. It is not clear yet whether this had led to practical solutions to help affected seafarers.

In this situation the Seafarers Mission has tried to help affected seafarers by setting up digital chaplaincy; listening to seafarers through the Seafarers Happiness Index App; loaning ships MiFi (individual Wi-Fi units) and giving out SIM cards to ease communication whilst people are unable to leave ships in port (less than 25% of seafarers have access to email). They have adapted the 121 Seafarers centres so that they can be COVID-19 ‘safe’ environments because seafarers now have limited access to shore-based facilities such as shopping centres and coffee shops. The Mission has been working with different Embassies to help to repatriate stranded seafarers. Chaplains are continuing to share the love of Christ to individuals in their anxiety, loneliness and depression.

Our two readings were chosen for their nautical theme however they contain a much stronger message applicable to all. Psalm 107.4-32 (read to us by Richard Crockett) is a song of thanksgiving for the steadfast love of the Lord. Our souls can be in very dry places, not knowing the refreshment of God’s presence or human friendship (vs 4- 9). We can be in depression and despair where every aspect of life can be hard work (vs 10-16). We can be sick at heart through our sinful ways (vs 17-22) but if we cry to the Lord in our trouble He promises to save us from our distress, to lead us into good things, to bring us out of despair and gloom and to heal us.

We can be going about our daily business on the sea of life (v22) with plans made for 2020 when without warning a pandemic storm strikes and our lives are thrown into turmoil. We don’t know when the storm will end. Will there be a second wave of infections? Will the economy recover, will our jobs be safe? We can be at our wit’s end. But if we cry to the Lord, He promises to bring us out of distress. God may not stop the pandemic, we may have more to go through, but He does promise to give us gladness and his peace and to bring us to our desired haven (v 30). ‘Let those who are wise give heed to these things and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.’ (v 43).

How can we be so sure of these promises? Our second reading (Matthew 8.23-27, read to us by Martin Sproston) tells us why. This is a familiar story of Jesus and his disciples in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when a gale arose, and the boat is being swamped by the waves. Jesus is asleep when the disciples cry out to Him to save them. What did Jesus do when he woke up? First he asked them why they were afraid – you of little faith? Then he rebuked the winds and the sea and there was a dead calm. The disciples were amazed. ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and the sea obey him?’

Jesus calms the storm by Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

We can trust God’s promises because Jesus came as fully man – the perfect man. He understands what is means to be human, he understands our limitations, our emotions. He understands our hopes, our fears. He experienced the stresses and pressures of daily life, of living in a family. He knew sadness and the loss of loved ones. Yet ‘who is this man, that even winds and the sea obey him.’ He is perfect Man and the Lord of creation. He has the power to deliver us out of distress and bring us to our desired haven. Let us thank Him for his steadfast love.

Eternal Father strong to save

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
It’s own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy Word,
Who walked on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst it’s rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid it’s angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
Our family shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect us wheresoe’er we go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
William Whiting

A prayer of lament based on Psalm 107
We are lost, wandering and confused, lead us into your straight way.
We are in misery and despair, bring us into your joyful light.
We are sick at heart and hungry, feed us with your steadfast love.
We are tossed by life’s storms, bring us to our safe haven in you.

Prayers of Intercession
Pray for sea workers who work thousands of miles away from their families.
Ensure that they can keep in touch with home . . .
Maintain their income during this difficult time . . .

Pray for people who fish on inland seas, such as the Sea of Galilee
Be with the crews in boats when bad weather hits . . .
Help control the effluent flowing into these sealed areas of water . . .

Pray for the ministry of Mission to Seafarers
and for chaplains who minister to sea workers and their families all over the world

Pray for those known to us who are suffering in mind, body or spirit
We name them now …

Heavenly Father, you have promised to be with us in the storms of our lives. We ask that you give us courage and wisdom, a heart for you and for all your children.
In the name of your son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen

As part of our worship today and in response to God’s steadfast love please take the opportunity to give your money offering to the Mission to Seafarers using this link: or by posting a cheque to

The Mission to Seafarers Scotland,
109 Avalon Gardens,
Linlithgow Bridge,
EH49 7PL

Rector’s Weekly Letter – 16th July 2020

Dear friends,

Last week a local photographer came into the church to take pictures for a book he hopes to produce of Dunblane in Lockdown. I tried to recreate for him what it is like to celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday, worshiping in an empty building but together will all of you at home. As I blew out the altar candles at the end of the session, one of them was smoking so I jokingly suggested he should take some more photos. A few days later I received an message saying that in one of those images he could see the shape of an angel with wings spread hovering above the candle.

I don’t know what kind of shape you think an angel would have. They appear in many different forms in Scripture and in religious art. Many people believe that they have their own personal angel guarding over them which they can sense close by in times of trouble. For me, however, angels often have human forms. They are those sent by God to guide me, comfort me, challenge me encourage me and sustain me and I’ve experienced many of these during the last few months.

With love,

Images by Raymond Dormer

Material for Worship on the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

I wonder if you can spot in this photo from John and Rosemary Hamilton’s garden some of the ‘Seeds for Hope’ which were shared among our congregation on Mothering Sunday just as Lockdown started? As you prepare to join in worship with me, Nerys, celebrating the Eucharist in the church this morning, let us take a moment to think about our St Mary’s family past and present and give thanks.

As you listen to Morag reading the Gospel passage for today, Matthew 13.1-9 and 18-23, try to visualize the images the words create and allow God to communicate to you through them.

This story wasn’t exactly what the enormous crowd which had gathered around Jesus were expecting. It appears simple and accessible. Nobody in Galilee lived far from the land. They would understand farmers and fields very well. But there is a perplexing aspect to this story which was probably deliberate. Jesus wanted them to puzzle over it, to talk about it amongst themselves, to think it through, to discover its truth for themselves. Maybe he wanted them to experience how easy it is to listen but how hard it is to hear and understand and allow an idea to take root in our minds and hearts.

The story was also unexpected for those who were ready to delve deeper into its meaning as it seems to talk of both failure and success. Many would have been incredulous on hearing of the long series of failed sowings. They would know that a sensible sower doesn’t just fling his seeds all over the place. Given the high cost of seed-grain and the knowledge a Middle Eastern farmer would have of his fields from years of careful tending, they would wonder why this farmer did not take better care to prevent the seed from falling in places he knew were unproductive—on the road, on the thin soil and among the weeds? What sort of farmer wastes two thirds of the seed like that? What was he up to? What was the point being made?

I suppose that Jesus probably used parables because it was a safe way of communicating his challenging message. Among the crowd would have been religious leaders who were already out to destroy him. But even if they could grasp the underlying meaning, they couldn’t condemn him for speaking of soil and seeds and birds and stones. But I think he used this sophisticated method of teaching also because through parables, he could present different messages to different groups of people at the same time.

If we take the soil to be the main focus of this story, then it is a warning designed to prompt new listeners to think about the way they respond to the message of God’s love and forgiveness which Jesus is sharing with them through his life and words. It is not enough to hear without understanding, it is not enough to understand without taking action, it is not enough to take action without persevering. For a seed to take root and grow successfully so that it can bear fruit, barren soil needs to be cultivated, stones removed, weeds uprooted. To ensure the right conditions for God’s love to grow in our hearts takes time and effort but the end result is a fruitful life of prayer and service to others in which we will accomplish through our trust in God what we could never have dreamt of.

If we focus on the sower, then the story can be taken as a message to those who had already joined Jesus in spreading far and wide the new vision of God, calling on people to listen and respond. At times, Jesus’ disciples must have wondered what on earth they were doing. Crowds came to hear him, but very few were really changed for life. Even those healed by him often went away and forgot. And the doors of the synagogues were shutting against them as Jesus seemed to rouse nothing but hostility in the religious leaders.

To followers of Jesus then and now, the story is a word of encouragement. This sower who flings the seed about without looking where it is going to land reminds us of our Heavenly Father who gives everybody a chance to be part of his family. God the bountiful Sower doesn’t choose good soil alone. Think about those Jesus kept company with! Even if the response is not immediate, God knows that barren earth can become fertile ground, hard paths can be softened by rain, last year’s crop of thistles can become compost that will grow strong plants. He knows that sometimes seed will lie dormant in the ground for years before it germinates and bears fruit when the conditions are right.

We are called to imitate God’s endless patience and gracious generosity The sowing may be a patchy and sometimes discouraging process but if we persevere, the harvest is sure to come and will be abundant.

‘The Sower’ by James Tissot

You may be interested in this short reflection on the painting and on Tissot’s spiritual journey by Fr. Warner D’Souza, a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Bombay.

God of mystery, help us to cherish your word in our hearts that we may truly hear, understand and turn afresh to you.
God of life, help us live as people of hope and expectancy, rejoicing in your love for us and all your children.
God of growth, help us, your Church, to encourage and nurture one another in faith at every age and every stage.
God of compassion, help us to respond to those in need: the anxious, the sick, the grieving, the homeless, the hungry …
We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Rector’s Weekly Letter – 9th July 2020

One of my earliest memories is sitting on the sgiw, the old pine settle, in my grandmother’s farmhouse kitchen unravelling an old jumper under her watchful eye. I remember well the enjoyment of pulling at the loose thread and transforming the crinkly yarn into tight balls of wool ready to be knitted again into a new garment. Unravelling or being unravelled can be a positive or a negative experience. At the end of March, many of us were bereft when our tightly-knit plans unravelled into loose threads. Some of us at St Mary’s may feel that our church community is unravelling at the moment with the deaths of three much-loved members in such a short space of time. But at other times we need to be unravelled to allow God to work new patterns in our lives. Sometimes in our unravelling, life surprises us with unexpected joy, love and hope and provides a new beginning we couldn’t have imagined.

For the next few months, we will be exploring Bible stories of unravelled dreams, expectations, identity, grief, fear, shame. The resource we will use, Unraveled, has been created by four young American Christian artists, Lisle Gwynn Garrity, Sarah Are, Hannah Garrity and Lauren Wright Pittman, who form a collective called A Sanctified Art. Their aim is to bring scripture and theological themes to life through the use of visual art, providing opportunities for deep reflection and meaningful connection. For more information visit

Everyone who wants to be involved will be provided with a beautifully designed journal containing twelve short Bible passages, works of art inspired by them, reflections by the artists and opportunities to respond. This journal can be used as a personal devotional to be completed in your own time, as a basis for a group study series or as a response to a time of worship. There will be an opportunity to meet for an hour or so on-line every other Friday evening from 24th July to share our thoughts and pray together. As restrictions are eased, some of us may even be able to meet in person and use this exciting and timely resource in our worship.

If you would like a journal, please get in touch with me at rector @

If you would like to attend the introductory Zoom meeting at 7.30 p.m. on Friday 24th July, please contact Martin Wisher at martinwisher @
(If you haven’t used Zoom before, Martin or John Hamilton can help you.)

You don’t need to be a member of St Mary’s to be involved. Everyone is welcome.

With love

Material for Worship on the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

I am grateful to the Revd Moira Jamieson for preparing the reflection and prayers below to enable you to join in worship with me as I celebrate the Eucharist in the church at 8.30 and 10.30 a.m. today. Thanks also to David and Gudrun Sawyer for preparing and recording the readings.

As we begin to slowly move out of lockdown, not all of us are at ease with the changes being made, even though we want to be close to family and friends again and to regain some of our lost independence. Today’s Gospel passage, Matthew 11.16-19, 25-30, gives us some words of reassurance, that God knows what we are going through, and that He is ready to share those burdens we feel are holding us back. The words give us a picture of a gentle Jesus, standing with outstretched arms, ready to welcome us, to comfort us or to reassure us and to smooth the way before us.
In verses 8 to 15 of today’s Psalm, Psalm 145, the psalmist reflects on the graciousness and compassion of God and how, through that grace, we are enabled to make known the glories of God’s kingdom. It also speaks of Gods faithfulness and His mercy towards all who fall or turn away from Him. We see it too in his Son Jesus in our Gospel passage for today.
We can imagine Jesus welcoming home the prodigal son or inviting those with diseases to come and be healed. This invitation from Jesus was spoken to the crowds as an invitation to acknowledge the authority of who he was, or to reject it. Would they accept the testimony of John the Baptist about Jesus, or would they ignore it? Would they remain in bondage to the yoke of the law, or would they accept the yoke of Christ instead? Far from being an invitation to relax and take it easy, the invitation of Jesus was urgent and inevitable.
All of us have had more than enough time to relax during lockdown and to take it easy. We are probably wondering when we will be able to take up the invitation of Jesus to accept his yoke and get on with the practical things of being a Christian. Don’t get me wrong, many people are still able to continue doing the physical things like taking food parcels to those in isolation, doing a neighbour’s shopping or spending time on the telephone or by email to keep in contact with others.
And so, what kind of rest is it that Jesus is offering? Looking at the words used in verse 28 to 30, we could be forgiven for thinking that the kind of rest Jesus is offering is gentle, easy and light – all words found in these verses. So is it an easy rest Jesus is offering? Just to confuse us, the answer is paradoxical – it’s both yes and no. Jesus spoke of ‘rest for your souls’ and we should note well His choice of words. These words point to the inner state of a person rather than to simple physical relaxation.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ time, as we know, were preoccupied with obeying the Law which governed the inner person and expressed itself in the outward activities and words of that person. Rabbis spoke of the yoke of the law, using imagery of the harness fitted on oxen and used by the owner to direct the animals in their work. By the time of Jesus, the law had evolved into a complex and lengthy set of rules and interpretations. No human being was able to follow them all exactly, though some exhausted themselves trying.
How then do we identify the rest which Christ exemplifies and models? It’s not easy for us to picture the kind of rest Jesus is talking about in this passage. We are more accustomed to thinking of rest as refraining from effort, or as the luxury of consuming without producing. In other words, enjoying our rest without having to anything productive, although I am sure that after this long period of lockdown and the restrictions it has enforced on us, our ideas of rest will change! In this passage, Jesus is speaking of an inward rest, not an outward rest.
One way that we might find meaning for the rest that Jesus spoke of is by looking at the words he spoke in verses 25-30. Jesus began in verse 25 by thanking His Father that who He is, the Messiah, the Saviour, has been revealed according to God’s gracious will, but that His identity is hidden from those who trust in their own wisdom. However, we can give thanks that God is made known to us through his Son Jesus and He is the one who gives us a true rest. Those who follow Jesus, who rest and are justified in Him, are entrusted with issuing his invitation to the world, to ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’. It isn’t enough to enjoy fellowship with Jesus, we must also extend his summons to others, so that they too may find rest from the futility of trying to earn their salvation through human efforts. Quite a challenge for all of us to be sure!

Let us pray:
Loving Jesus, your grace alone can take away the burden that holds us back from fullness of life. Teach us to cast our cares upon you because you care for us, so that we may be free to share the burdens of those who do not yet know your love.
We pray that we may be instruments of your love in the world, reaching out to others as best we can and holding those who are struggling in our prayers. Pray for the hungry, the homeless and all who are in need, giving thanks for volunteers and charity organisations.
Loving Jesus, we know you as our Lord and Saviour. You sustain and uphold us in times of trouble, in times of need and in times of ill health. Pray for those who have contracted Covid-19, those in hospital and those at home struggling with illness of any kind. Name those who are on our hearts and minds.
Loving Jesus, you open your arms to welcome all people, even when they turn their backs on you. Thank you for all who follow your example by sharing the good news of your Gospel. Pray for the clergy and congregations throughout the Scottish Episcopal Church. Pray for our Bishop Ian and for Nerys here at St. Mary’s. Pray for those who have gone astray that they will return to a relationship with God.
Loving Jesus, you have compassion for all people and offer us eternal life when we acknowledge you as our Lord and Saviour. Comfort those whose loved ones have died and give them strength in the knowledge that they are in your loving care. Pray for those we know who have died and for their family and friends. Remember those whose anniversary falls at this time.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Statue of the Welcoming Christ by Trita Madden at Launde Abbey in Leicester.

Weekly Letter – 2nd July 2020

Dear friends,
This week’s letter is written by Anthony Birch, Convenor of Start-up Stirling which during April and May we have supported, through their home delivery service an average of 145 households and distributed 213 crates of food weekly.
With love to you all,

The Covid-19 Pandemic has profoundly altered the way Start Up Stirling has been working. Before isolation measures were enforced, we were bringing people together at the food banks in church halls and 45% of our volunteers were over 70 or with health problems that put them at particular risk. In the course of a week in March 2020 the foodbank changed to a delivery-only service, appropriate social distancing was implemented to protect staff, volunteers and clients, and the vulnerable volunteers were stood down.

This might have been unsustainable, but we have been quite overwhelmed by the encouragement and support we have received. New volunteers, some of them workers on furlough, have joined us to help. Other charities, whose operations are needed less in lockdown have seconded their staff to us or lent us their vehicles. Stirling Council’s emergency response team have been immensely helpful, finding us extra storage space, so that volunteer teams can be distanced and work in “team bubbles” helping us to purchase shortage stock items and allotting us council vehicles and drivers for delivery.

As expected, since the epidemic struck, referrals to the foodbank have risen. An upswing in referral numbers and food volume issued was seen in March and has continued since then. Comparing referrals received in each month with last year it was nearly twice as high in May 2020 as in May 2019. In fact May was slightly quieter than April in food volume issued and we are checking with those who refer to us that we are not missing hidden need. We worry that we must expect more people to fall into hardship if, as seems likely, many employers find they cannot sustain their businesses with continued social distancing.

Many people are shopping for food less frequently or are shopping online. Current donations of food are consequently somewhat reduced, but many people are recognising this and monetary donations have been increased. Various government and private funding streams have also become available to help the social response to the pandemic. These are all helping us to sustain the cost burden which response to the emergency imposes, but we are expecting the need to persist over many months yet.

It seems that Start Up Stirling is well regarded both by local and Scottish government for what we are able to do. In Volunteers Week at the beginning of June our Facebook page featured a different volunteer each day. One of our volunteer stories, of Neil Aitkenhead, was picked up by the Scottish Government website thanking all those who have volunteered in the pandemic. You can read the report here.

In marking our 25th Anniversary last year, we were honoured to be named by the Provost of Stirling, Christine Simpson as her “Charity of the Year” for 2019-20. Provost Simpson has now extended that designation to the end of this calendar year.

There will be many problems facing us as we go forward, most notably all the changes needed in response to the pandemic. There are also many things for which we are thankful, and many people and organisations to whom we are profoundly grateful. As always though, it is to our staff, to all our volunteers and to those here in St Mary’s and beyond who support us by donations of money and food that we wish to give most thanks. Without their faithful support we would not be able to continue as we are in giving support to those who need it.

In order to give a donation to Start-up Stirling visit

Material for Worship on the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Today we probably would have had an all-age service to mark the end of the school year for members of our Young Church. In view of this, our Gospel reflection and prayer of response are adapted from the Roots resource which our families with children are using from Sunday to Sunday and we have contributions from Julia Shanks and Peter Owen. You may want to have a cup or glass of water before you as you join with me in worship this morning. Nerys

I wonder how many different things you could do with a cup of water? You could, of course, drink it, or rinse your fingers, or water a plant, make a cup of tea, cook some rice, wash a patch of floor… or if you were a member of Young Church you could go outside and have a water fight!

In this week’s little passage from Matthew’s Gospel (10.40-42), a cup of water becomes a symbol of hospitality – a cup of cold water for a hot, tired and dusty traveller. To be hospitable, to be welcoming, is to provide another person with the basics of food and shelter. But it’s far more than that. A simple glass of water is a way of saying to another human being that they matter, that we are glad to see them, that we enjoy their company. To be welcoming is not simply a matter of handing over material goods. When we open the doors of our homes, we open our hearts. We show someone that they are of value by being prepared to share something of ourselves. We make ourselves vulnerable, thereby creating relationships. And here in Matthew’s Gospel we are told that in welcoming other human beings we are welcoming God.

Listen to Peter reading a paraphrase of the passage from The Message.
The opposite of a welcoming atmosphere is a hostile environment. The British government’s policy of creating a hostile environment for illegal immigrants proved disastrous for society. It created fear, encouraged suspicion, perpetuated divisions, and demonised vulnerable human beings. All in the hope that people would voluntarily leave this country. It cultivated not welcome but rejection. And by shutting ourselves off from other human beings, we risk shutting ourselves off from God.

In this time of Coronavirus, hospitality, like just about everything else, can’t quite be what it was. We haven’t been able to invite people into our homes or into our church. We can’t give them a hug or even a handshake. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t be welcoming – the challenge is to find inventive ways of telling people that they matter, of sharing the basics of life, giving reassurance and comfort, and opening our hearts. Something as simple as phone call, a picture in the window to make people smile as they pass by, a few groceries for the Food Bank. For in each welcoming gesture, we welcome God.

Having started with a question, I will finish with two. I wonder how many ways you can think of to be hospitable this week? And how can we at St Mary’s be a welcoming, hospitable church at this time?

Prayer of response
To give a cup of water to a little one is not a lot to ask,
it only requires a few simple actions, little time, no cost.

Lord Jesus, give me the eyes to notice the thirsty around me,
behind closed doors,
on the streets,
in my family.

Give me the strength to turn off my lukewarm self-absorption
and to turn on the refreshing tap
of your compassion,
your generosity,
your cleansing.

Give me the daring to offer a cup of my treasure,
my vulnerability,
my heart,
to another.

And give me the courage to step out of myself,
to place that cup into the empty hands of another in need,
acknowledging my own need to reach out for your living water day by day. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession (please add names and situations known to you)
Heavenly Father, we pray for those in need:
the sick …
the grieving …
the lonely …

We pray for those who are afraid:
those awaiting test results …
those who are vulnerable …
those whose livelihoods are at risk …

We pray for those on the fringes of society:
those who feel rejected,
those who are overlooked,
those whom others avoid.

We pray for your Church here and across the world
for our youngsters and their families,
especially those who are leaving or changing schools,
and for our Young Church leaders.
Loving God, as you welcome us, may we welcome others with warmth and steadfast love. Amen.

Listen to Julia singing the Welcome Song that is used at the beginning of every Messy Church meeting at St Mary’s.

Almighty God, you have taught us through your Son that love fulfils the law. May we love you with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength, and may we love our neighbour as ourselves, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Alexander Syme

Recently Margaret-Jean Stone Wigg was sent a newspaper cutting which had been unearthed from her brother’s safe. It is the obituary of her grandfather, Alexander Syme who died in 1945 at the age of 80. Because her father was working abroad, it was her grandparents who raised Margaret-Jean and took her with them every Sunday to St Mary’s where she became a member of the choir at a young age. The obituary and the personal tribute which follows by his friend Arthur Poyser give us fascinating insights into life in Dunblane over a century ago.

The Late Mr Alex Syme

Widespread regret was felt on Wednesday when it was learned that Mr Alexander Syme, Ben View, had passed away. He had been ill for a considerable time, following an accident in stepping off a bus; probably his last outing was on the occasion of the opening of the bowling green on the last Saturday of April.

Mr Syme, who was in his 80th year, was a native of Dunblane, and one of its brightest ornaments. To a singularly happy disposition he added gifts that were always generously placed at the service of the people. Above everything he was a devoted churchman, following his father in the office of verger of St Mary’s Episcopal Church, and discharging the duties with great faithfulness for many years, subsequently acting with great acceptance as a member of the Vestry.

To the Lodge of Dunblane No. 9, Mr Syme also gave of his very best; indeed it is difficult to set forth how much the Lodge meant to him and the great part it occupied in his life … In recreation Mr Syme found much enjoyment on the bowling green. A fine player himself, he delighted in a keen game with congenial spirits, his cheery good nature making for the best that is in the game. … Of his work, it is sufficient to say that he was an esteemed employee with Messrs R. Puller & Sons at Ashfield Works [a silk-dyeing mill] all his days. He had been nearly fifty years married, and to his widow and family of two sons and three daughters the sympathy of many friends goes out in their bereavement.

Syme of Dunblane: a Tribute

So we have parted from my old and most treasured friend, Syme of Dunblane. To me he typified Dunblane and its many aspects.

He sang in the choir of St Mary’s Church both as boy and as man; he was one of the famous ‘Dandy Coons’ concert party of the Victoria Hall in earlier days [from around 1880 to 1920 ‘coon songs’ presenting a stereotype of black people by white men with blacked faces were popular]; he was a keen bowler, and ‘the green’ will miss his genial personality; he was a leader among Freemasons and at one time Master of Lodge No. IX, Dunblane; and he knew everyone in the town, the town’s history, and all the chances and changes of his passing years. To spend an evening with Syme in his charming home was to find happiness and enjoyment of no ordinary kind.

He was a member of the Church Council of St Mary’s and his advice was sought on many important issues; his wisdom helped to settle many important questions of direct action or policy. He was born, one might say, a member of the Episcopal Church of Scotland and all his family are church people …

It was specially gratifying to me that I was able to bring to Dunblane, by the kindly help of all the good folk at Ben View, and many other friends, my City of London Boy Players in the summer of 1939, just a week or two before the outbreak of the second great war. [Arthur Poyser was International Commissioner for Music, Master of the Lord Mayor’s Players and Singers [the Boy Players], and founder in 1908 of the Lord Mayor’s Own 1st City of London B.P. Scouts]. The Symes, by their unqualified and heartening enthusiasm, made that visit to Dunblane something we — both myself and all the young players and singers under my charge — shall always remember with deep gratitude.

So we salute, as he goes upon his journey, a very dear friend who made life for all who knew him, a happier thing than it would otherwise have been: once whose welcoming smile and heartfelt loyalty meant so much to all of us who knew Syme of Dunblane intimately.

Rector’s Weekly Letter – 25th June 2020

Dear friends,

Yesterday I received an appointment to have my hair cut in a few weeks’ time when hairdressing businesses open again. I felt a great sense of excitement and relief — it represents for me another step towards returning to normal life. And yet, I know that on the day, I will feel the same apprehension and anxiety I experienced last week when I visited a supermarket for the first time since lockdown. This is a time of strong and mixed emotions for us as individuals and as a church. We now have permission from the Government to open the doors of St Mary’s for private prayer and at the end of next month it may be possible for us to gather for worship. I know that there is among us a yearning to return to the church building and to meet together again but that at the same time, we share a deep concern for the safety of those among us who are most vulnerable to the virus. Members of the Vestry expressed these feelings when we met to discuss how to proceed. Approaching the question prayerfully and with detailed guidance from our bishops, we decided to make the church available to individuals for private prayer by appointment only. If you or anyone you know wish to spend some time in the church, please get in touch with me and we will arrange to meet with all necessary precautions in place. Over the weeks and months to come, as lockdown is relaxed, Vestry will have more difficult decisions to make on your behalf. I ask that you continue to pray for us that these decisions will be made wisely and out of love rather than fear. My prayer for you as weeks of separation turn to months is that our sense of connection with each other as a worshiping community will stay strong and that God’s love will bind us together as we continue to serve and pray for those in need here in Dunblane and across the world.

With love,