Rector’s Letter – December 2016

Dear folks,

Here we are again at the beginning of a new liturgical year (year ‘A’ in the 3 year cycle for anyone interested in the lectionary), and approaching a new calendar year. So it’s our traditional double festive issue of the magazine packed with lots of good things about upcoming festivals, events and celebrations.

Of the plethora of festivals that lie ahead the most significant during the period that this issue covers is one of the two major events celebrated by the church, the birth of the promised Messiah, known to all as ‘Christmas’. So I’m guessing that you won’t mind me focussing on it again!

I have a question for you to ponder… If you could give the world anything at all for Christmas, but just one thing, what would it be? Healing? Tolerance? Peace? Hope? A future? Love? Joy? A new beginning? Spend a few moments quietly to contemplate that…

…When it comes to trying to decide what to give your friends and family members, retailers are only too happy to spend a lot of money on expensive advertising designed to persuade you that they have all your loved ones could need or want. Each year the John Lewis advert is looked forward to with great anticipation by many excited shoppers. I have to admit that this year’s is quite entertaining, with the excited boxer dog, having watched the wildlife out of the window having fun all night, bounding down the garden on Christmas morning to play on the trampoline that has been built by Dad for the little girl of the family after she had gone to bed.

Another one which is something of a production is the animated Sainsbury advert (full version can be seen on Youtube – search for ‘Sainsbury’s official Christmas advert 2016’). I don’t particularly like it, but when pondering what to write in my letter this month it occurred to me that there is a good message in there.

The scenario it depicts is one of a loving but very busy working Dad, who is very much aware that he isn’t able to spend quality time with his family. In a reflective moment he finds himself pondering the question, ‘What is the greatest gift I can give my family?’ Having further reflected and concluded, ‘I’d like to spend the time with the ones I love so dear’, he comes up with an ingenious way of being able to give them himself.

Festive bells chimed in my head at that wonderful summary of the Christmas message and reminded me of this verse in John’s Gospel, “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son.” [John 3.16a – The Message]

Perhaps God, thinking of his beloved children, wondered, “What is the greatest gift I can give my family?”, and concluded that He would give Himself.

It is a brilliant, radiant truth that in Jesus, God gave himself so that we would receive many, many wonderful good things, not least the hope of unending life. That is the powerfully transformative Christmas message; the hope for all humankind that brings great joy and hope to all who take hold of it.

May your contemplations of what you might give this world inspire you to petition God in prayer. May He stir each of us to give more of ourselves to love and to serve. And may the approaching season be a time of great joy for you and all you love.

 

Have a wonderful Christmas,

 

Nick

 

Shoe Box Appeal

Thanks very much to everyone who filled shoe boxes for the annual shoe box appeal! The shoe boxes are now (or will be) on their way to the charity Blythswood Care for distribution.img_1115r

Young Church Mini-Fete

Young Church held a Mini-Fete in the hall after the 10.30am service this morning to raise funds for Christian Aid’s appeal to help crisis-stricken Haiti – Well done to Young Church and all who helped organise this event. The total raised so far is £301, which is just over the average annual income in Haiti.

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Rector’s Letter – November 2016

Dear folks,

This month begins with a Messy Bonfire on Tuesday 1st, and concludes with Advent Sunday on 27th.

In the middle of that we pause to refresh our memory of precious lives that have been and still are being laid down for our safety and security.
The feast of St Martin of Tours is celebrated on 11th November. The Hungarian born reluctant 4th century bishop and modern patron saint of beggars had an influence that reached as far as Scotland and Ireland.

Martin became a Roman Soldier as a teenager and experienced a strong sense of vocation as a young adult, which became more real when in the army. One day while out on patrol he came across a beggar without adequate clothing. Legend has it that he impulsively cut his military cloak in half and gave half to the beggar. That night, Martin dreamed of Jesus wearing the half-cloak he had given away. He heard Jesus say to the angels: “Martin, who is still but a catechumen, clothed me with this robe.” (Sulpicius, ch 2).

Centuries later the remnant of the cloak had become a holy relic and was carried around by kings and even into battle. The clergyman who carried the remnant became known as a cappellanu… ultimately all priests who served the military were called cappellani, the French translation of which is ‘chapelains’, from which the English word chaplain is derived. Small temporary churches were built for the relic and became known as “capella”, the word for a little cloak. Eventually, such small churches lost their association with the cloak and began to be referred to
as “chapels”.

Reflecting the Eden family ancestry the beautiful wee Chapel at Cromlix house has a strong military influence with its regimental drums, flags, and stained glass windows (no remnant of St Martin’s cloak though!) This is not unusual of course as historically the Church and military services have enjoyed a close relationship and military chaplains are still in service today.
But it was during his time in the army that St Martin faced his greatest faith dilemma – Just before a battle in the Gallic provinces at Borbetomagus (now Worms, Germany), Martin determined that his faith prohibited him from fighting, saying, “I am a soldier of Christ. I cannot fight.” He was charged with cowardice and jailed, but in response to the charge, he volunteered to go unarmed to the front of the troops. His superiors planned to take him up on the offer, but before they could, the invaders sued for peace, the battle never occurred, and Martin was released from military service. *

Perhaps it is no co-incidence that St Martin’s feast is shared with Armistice Day.

Our service men and women, some of whom are teenagers, indeed have great courage. While we remember the sacrifice made by those who paid the great cost for our freedom, and the willingness of all who take the same risk today, let us commit to pursuing international policies that require courage to be put in the forefront of bringing peace to the world without fighting.

We will observe an act of remembrance in both our morning services on 13th November. At the 10:30am service I am delighted to welcome the Explorer Scouts who will share in our service and act of remembrance. I hope you can make it too.

With every blessing,

Nick

* Read more about St Martin at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_of_Tours

Harvest Meal

A big thank you to everyone who helped with the Harvest Meal yesterday, particularly those who prepared and cooked the delicious shepherds/cottage pies, red cabbage, apple pies and trifle – We all had a very enjoyable evening.

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Rector’s Letter – October 2016

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20

Dear folk,

It seems a long time ago now when as growing up you could walk to a friend or neighbour’s house and go straight in. That was socially acceptable (within reason) when I was young and few people locked their doors.

On mission in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, when doing home visits one day I got to one parishioner’s door to discover keys in the yale lock, on the outside! I rang the doorbell and when the lady of the house greeted me I handed them to her. She promptly put them back in the outside reassuring me that she wouldn’t lose them there. “Why does she even have keys?”, I wondered!
Keys on the outside might give a strong message of trust and welcome. Keeping our church doors open is important because it gives that same message to the communities and visitors.

Another thing that gives a welcoming message is our new glass door. It has caused quite a stir since being fitted; there has been a stream of interested school parents popping into the church to admire it. I don’t think anything else so far has yielded such an instant and positive response from people who don’t come to St Mary’s.

Doors enable us to have access to environments of security, warmth, quiet. They provide a way into and out of walled areas or buildings/places of containment. Since we were back in the church building early in June many commented that they liked the open aspect with no inner doors, but not having doors on the church caused some real frustration with noise from the street, and cold draughts and wind, even though it was supposed to be summer!

Missionally, there is much to be said for open air worship, or at least worship outside the walls of our buildings. We are not a secret society, or the persecuted church in a hostile land. We do want people to be able to see us and worship and join in. But as worshipers in Scotland, we need walls and roofs to protect us from the elements. But roofs and walls do not a church make!
The reason for our having a glass door is to improve accessibility and visibility, so that the life of the real church, the gathered Jesus-people, can be seen by all who pass by. It’s also about reducing obstacles and barriers that make the metaphorically steep steps into any church, flatter and more inviting.

That same challenge is also true of the gospel that is preached to all who enter our lovely building. For those yet outside, walls stand in the way of them being able to see the risen Lord alive and present among his people. That’s where things like our new Life Groups come into play. You can read about them in this issue. Also too about the recent Men’s retreat to the Isle of Cumbrae.
To turn the Revelation of John around for a moment, imagine Jesus standing on the inside of a church building, knocking and asking to be let out, shut in by his people? Certainly not a sound interpretation of this text, but arguably a very true picture of ways of doing church that confine God to buildings and sacraments. Not just a picture of corporate worship either but perhaps also of personal faith; keep the walls up and the doors shut, not allowing the radical life of Jesus to be seen in us.

I know that’s not the St Mary’s way, and pray that all who pass by or visit us continue to see and be attracted by the life of Christ in us and in all we do, inside and outside of our lovely building.

Yours,

Nick

Rector’s Letter – September 2016

“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers – the moon and the stars you set in place – what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” Psalm 8.3-4 (NLT)

Dear folks,

Who doesn’t like colour and light? That’s one reason why ecclesial buildings are so beautiful with brilliant sunshine splashing vibrant colours through stained glass onto beautiful stone architecture, moving around and lighting different features and corners as the day goes by.

I recall being given a Kaleidoscope as a birthday gift when I was a boy. Perhaps you had one too? It was exciting to look through the eyepiece and feel as if you had entered into a world of patterns and colours and light. Then I was shown to turn the end of it while looking through, and the patterns changed and changed, never once repeating the past.

As an adult I became interested in astronomical telescopes and star-gazing. The thrill of astronomical telescopes is that they transport us beyond the constraints of our world and allow us to venture into a universe that is beyond comprehension and filled with vivid colour and celestial beauty. We see amazing deep space objects such as nebulae, exploding stars, galaxies, and planets, brought near by this wonderfully simple piece of technology.

As I look forward through the lens of faith into the future of St Mary’s Church, I see beautiful patterns of worship, vivid colours of a vibrant and diverse community, bathed in and aglow with divine light.

Once every few months I look at the St Mary’s Church Profile document that was sent to me when I first enquired about coming to you. It was foundational in my process of discernment because it painted a picture of St Mary’s, set out who you were looking for, and how you hoped that person would lead. It was a picture of colour and of light. Page 3 is where the profile gets into that, talking first about the desired attributes of the new Rector, and then reveals some of your hopes of what their ministry at St Mary’s will include…

  • Continuing to build a diverse community into an integrated family whose members value each other’s gifts and differences.
  • Helping to develop our worship in diverse forms which will express and enhance a sense of oneness in nurturing and nourishing our faith together.
  • Developing lay ministry by moving beyond delegation to empowerment – becoming a community which ministers rather than a community which waits to be ministered to.
  • Supporting and developing ministry with children and young adults.
  • Promoting outreach to young families moving to Dunblane and to those who are already here.
  • Inspiring confident and sensitive evangelism, developing an openness to God, one another, and the community.
  • Reaching out in mission and service to the wider community in partnership with other churches.
  • Working with the congregation to develop a vision for the future, based on a prayerful discernment of God’s purpose for St Mary’s.

There may be diversity of opinion as to what degree they are being fulfilled but I’m pleased that we can see several of these things happening or in the process of emerging. I don’t see the list as exhaustive, nor restrictive so there are things I have brought that weren’t there, but it is entirely consistent with my understanding of the ministry of the priest and pastor and finds resonance in my heart. That’s why I applied for the post. Further, I think I was appointed because this church was ready for new direction, vision, and all that those things will bring.

I aim to continue to lead you to reach for all that together we prayerfully discern that God has planned for St Mary’s, not so I can put it on my CV, but that you can become all that God has planned for you to be, and be effective and blessed.

Assuming that the basic competences are present to whatever degree (I know my own shortcomings!), I think the most important requirements of any church leader/pastor/priest is that they have a sincere and open love for God, for the flock they are called to shepherd, and for those outside the fold, in that order. It has to begin with love for God, the model and depth of which will determine how deeply and selflessly we can love and lead others. I hope that above all else you can see that threefold love in me as I continue to serve you as faithfully as I am able.

But without focus the patterns in the kaleidoscope would be a blur. Without focus the view through the telescope is indistinguishable. Without focus, our vision for St Mary’s is incomprehensible. Let’s pray for greater focus that the patterns and colours that emerge will be beautiful to behold, and irresistible to all who observe them.

Yours,

Nick

Rector’s Letter – July/August 2016

“ ‘…choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’ ” Joshua 24:15

Dear folks,

We are delighted to be back in church for our services now, and it is looking wonderful – sincere thanks to Vestry and to all who have worked so hard to achieve that! Read more in the church magazine (page 12).

Also straight on the back of our first service back in the church, we welcomed our guests from St James’, Kolkata, with whom we have established a link relationship following my visit to Kolkata with Bishop David last year. I’m grateful to everyone for the warm welcome extended to Rev’d Shreeraj, Arun, and Priscilla. Having enjoyed sunny weather in Livingston the week before, on the day they arrived in Dunblane the weather turned and treated them to a more typical Scottish summer experience. Thankfully toward the end of their stay it began to try to brighten up, and actually Saturday was beautiful, but they noted still only like winter in Kolkata! You can read more about their time with us in the magazine (page 8).

Trips either way will be a significant aspect of our interaction/relationship. I’m told that there will be no shortage of volunteers from their side to come to us again in 2018, and so far there are at least 8 members of St Mary’s who have indicated an interest in going to Kolkata. I anticipate that will be late next January or early February. We will have a meeting soon to discuss that, and all who are potentially interested can come along.

The most important aspect of our relationship with St James’ will be communication. This can be done via email, Facebook between individuals and the churches, Skype, or good old pen and paper! I would encourage you all to take part in that.

I’m also very grateful to be getting up this morning to a new day where the whole Brexit debate which has been filled with speculation and scaremongering, is a thing of the past. Now we have to get on and make the decision work, not just for ourselves of course, but for the good of the world. This is a good attitude to have.

Unlike the populations of some nations, we in Britain enjoy living in a democratic society that allows us to have some say in decisions, even if it’s only to elect the next politician who might disregard our deeply held views. Even when democracy is facilitated with care and integrity by those elected to lead and govern, we may well find ourselves, for reasons which seem clear to us, out of step with the majority – it’s an inevitable consequence of the democratic process!

The problem with democracy of course is that for a whole host of reasons majorities don’t always get it right. The decisions of masses can be influenced by all kinds of means by promise of reward, stirring territorialism, creating anxiety, offering hope, and by discrediting the opposition.

As Western Christians we operate democratically, but are people who have come to realise that ultimately the whole universe is subject to a Theocracy. Theocracy in the proper sense is where people recognise God as the only true authority and source of all wisdom, and look to discover God’s leading in all decisions. We still are able to make choices, and we should listen to and challenge human voices of influence. But the ultimate decision is not whether we vote ‘for’ or ‘against’, but whether or not we choose to “follow the Lord” over and above any human ‘wisdom’ or deeply held views. This applies for us in every area of life.

There has been so much diversity of opinion over the European Union issue that many people are utterly bewildered. Learned and wise people have given strong arguments for both cases and it is evident that no-one can say with any degree of certainty what the immediate or long term consequences might be. But we will now find out!
However you may have voted (if you did), the outcome of the referendum is secondary to the willingness of all God’s people to make the best of the predicament that we find ourselves in today, to serve God and build a better life for all, not only for ourselves and our own.

Where folks can’t do that, democracy and theocracy break down, and anarchy creeps in. Where they can, people live in harmony and God is honoured. May that continue to be the witness of St Mary’s!

With love and thanks,

Nick

Visit from Kolkata

A big thank you to everyone at St Mary’s who helped host our visitors Rev’d. Shreeraj, Arun, and Priscilla from St James’ Kolkata this past week – We hope they will take back with them many happy memories of their visit to Dunblane.

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Rector’s Letter – June 2016

Dear folks,

And now we head into a long season of green! I’m not just thinking about the foliage although it’s wonderful to see the lush green leaves and flowers flourishing. I am also thinking about the liturgical colours, which having fluttered through the whole array over the past couple of months now settle on a long run of green as we enter what the lectionary rather uninspiringly refers to as ‘Ordinary Time’… But I’m not keen on the word ‘ordinary’ because I hear it as meaning things like ‘plain’ or ‘dull’, and if it were not for the fact that it spans the summer months might make this liturgical season as exciting as a rainy Tuesday afternoon in a damp caravan (an experience which I am vainly hoping to avoid repeating again next month). You might understand why I don’t like to think of green as ordinary, not just because of my family name of course, but because the colour green represents life and hope.

I am not sure that for a people committed to serving and following Jesus, who see life, opportunity, and challenges to be risen to all around us, that there even is such a thing as ordinary time. And certainly for St Mary’s, the month of June is promising to be anything but ordinary…

Our eighth Messy Church is on Tuesday 7th June. On the 12th we are back in the church for our first service, on Wednesday the 15th welcome our visitors from India, it’s the Casting the Net Gathering on Saturday 18th, and we are having a church meal after the service on Sunday 19th. Young Church will be having their end of season picnic on Sunday 26th, and last but not least, having thanked Kate Nash for faithfully serving as our Treasurer, we will be appointing her successor at the start of the month.

I’m particularly excited about the visit of our friends from St James’ Kolkata. Priscilla Dawn Kerr is aged 51yrs and is married to Douglas, also Kolkata born and bred. Arun Durairaj is 57yrs old and his facebook page says that he works as a consultant at ABS Sound Solutions. He is born and bred in Kolkata and is married to Priscilla Papiya Durairaj (not the same Priscilla that is coming on the trip!) Their vicar the Revd Shreeraj Mohanty is in his early forties. Shreeraj says, “We are all… young at heart and enjoy the spirit of adventure.”

I am presently working on the itinerary for their visit with a view to giving them as broad an experience of life and ministry here in Dunblane and Scotland as one can reasonably fit in a few days with time to process what they see and enjoy their visit. I am very grateful to the folk who have offered our guests accommodation during their stay. It would be great if one or two more were able to host the group (3 of them) for lunch or dinner during their week with us? Please let me know as soon as possible if you would like that. We will all have an opportunity to dine with them as Vestry have agreed that it would be nice to have a shared meal in the hall after the service on Sunday 19th (at which Shreeraj will preach). It would be lovely if one or two folk would like to help me co-ordinate that? Just drop me a line or call.

So, lots to look forward to and get involved in!

I hope and pray that the season ahead is full of life and hope, anything but ordinary!

God bless,

Nick

Thanks to our retiring Treasurer

Kate, our retiring treasurer, was thanked after our morning service today and presented with a pot of plants and a card from the congregation.

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MSF Event

The MSF event on Friday night hosted by the Women’s Group raised over £930! Thanks to all who organised, helped and supported.

Rector’s Letter – May 2016

Dear folks,

I believe. I believe in all kinds of things, but most specifically in this instance mean that I believe in the power of God to redeem and transform the world, and you and I, and the corporate bodies that we are part of. This is made possible by the giving of the Holy Spirit who, when welcomed by prayerful invitation and humble but expectant souls, transforms us and shapes us as we allow Him access to the whole of our lives. The Spirit helps us discover our vocations and gives us the courage to step into them. He leads and inspires us. He forms and shapes us, rounding off our corners, filling us with His grace, and warming our hearts to love, and giving us an increasing desire to live holy lives that are honouring to God.

The wonderful thing about God’s transforming power is that while it ‘renews us and remakes us’, He doesn’t destroy all that we were, but uses it and builds into something beautiful and powerful, often using flaws and weaknesses to His glory. He takes what we are, all that is unique and precious of our character and personality, and builds us into a holy temple in which His Spirit dwells.

I also believe in our church building improvement project. I also believe that it is inspired. It’s not easy for all kinds of reasons; we have been out of the church for 4 months now, and there is a lot of work involved in setting up for worship in the hall each week and clearing away. It was wonderful to be back in the church to celebrate our Easter services which took quite a lot of work (thanks to those of you who helped get the church ready and nudged me to make that happen!) Although we can’t go back in to celebrate Ascension or Pentecost, I’m delighted to say that it seems we are on track to achieve our date of Sunday 29th May, as phase one of our improvement project is completed.

Phase 2 involves reordering of the chancel, options for which are presently being considered by the Vestry and diocese. We have taken into account and considered all the written and verbal responses we received following my presentation to the congregation in January. When we have agreed the details of proposal for the reordering of the chancel area, before we submit a formal application to the diocese for permission to go ahead, we will advertise the full details of the proposed reordering to the whole congregation and invite your comments. Those will then be considered and taken into account before the formal application is submitted to the diocese.

The administrative process will take at least 4 to 6 months, but is already underway so we expect this Phase 2 to happen possibly later this year or early 2017, after which the transformation will be complete. Unlike our own transformation which is a lifelong process!

William Shakespeare wrote, “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

The truth is that our destiny in Christ, and God’s will for us is to become more like Jesus through the Spirit shaping and forming us. So often though we tend to think we are completed and that it’s just the world around us that needs to change! Yet God has so much more to impart, so much more for you to become in addition to that which we know we are. Read this account of what happened when St Paul met up with some church-goers who didn’t realise that God had much more in store for them…

Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
Acts 19:1-6

It was a powerful Pentecost experience for them through which their lives were changed forever, as God’s work really began within them to the glory of His name.
Are we content to simply be church-goers, or are we willing to welcome the Spirit to come upon and transform us by His power, and build us into a holy temple that gives glory to God on earth?
I believe that God is already at work among us.

God bless,

Nick

Rector’s Letter – April 2016

“Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.” Mark 16 (NRSV)

Dear friends,

Before the world could know that the resurrection had occurred a stone had to be rolled away.

This week a team of volunteers were hard at work moving left over stones from the new prayer garden wall off the rectory lawn. There were some quite big ones which were very difficult even for two or three men to move. I helped with one and the struggle caused me to wonder how heavy the stone that was placed in the entrance of Jesus’ tomb must have weighed, and how difficult that must have been to put in position. I am sure it would have needed a few strong people using wooden props to lever it!

That stone in front of Jesus’ tomb was indeed very heavy, and it was firmly set in place. That was necessary to stop grave robbers, as grave clothes and personal items placed in tombs were often of value. But by Sunday morning that weighty stone was about to become a prop in the Easter story that would convey significant meaning, the moving of which would be symbolic of God thwarting human efforts to bury the truth, but more significantly, that the grave was powerless over Jesus. As the cross is the symbol that all our failure and wrong doing has been atoned for, so the stone that was rolled away and the empty tomb shout of the life that Jesus promised to all who welcome him now.

How did it move from the groove into which it was rolled? Did anyone see it happen? Matthew tells us it was an Angel of the Lord who then sat on it as if to labour the point. Luke and John don’t speculate. One thing I am sure of however is that in our spiritual journey of discovering and rediscovering the wonder of the empty tomb, you or I were never intended to pick that stone up and carry it around on our backs. Yet so many Christians do and so live under such a heavy burden.

I am not going to speculate about what that stone might represent to you, but for me it is my need to know that I am doing the right thing; It is my anxiety that I don’t leave anyone behind of those God has given me to care for; it is the knowledge that in my commitment to please God I will occasionally find myself at odds with people I care about. It is the thought of all that lies ahead and what might be required of me, set against my awareness of myself and my limitations. And while I rejoice in the new life that I have received through Christ, these things are the stone that was rolled away from my spiritual tomb, yet which continues to weigh me down as I carry it around in my new life in Christ.

In chapter 11 of Matthew’s gospel Jesus tells his followers, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (NRSV)

Is that such an easy thing to do? It sounds a bit like letting a wee old nun carry piles of stone off my lawn. Is it fair to dump our burdens on the Lamb of God, the Holy One. There is after all much to worry about in these troubling days and we all have responsibilities and people we love and care for. But if we can’t hand our burdens to Jesus, we won’t ever know the life of true liberty that God intends for us.

That Easter stone is not supposed to be on your back! It is meant to be at the side of the tomb, discarded and powerless to hold all who have taken hold of Christ in faith, as a symbol of hope and deliverance.

So be free to live and soar according to God’s will for your life, forgiven, unencumbered, and liberated by Jesus’ death and resurrection, and enjoy a special and happy Easter!

God bless,

Nick

Rector’s Letter – March 2016

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”                                                                                 Philippians 1.6

Dear friends,

One of the challenges for Vestry in looking at ways to improve our lovely church building so far has been finding tradesmen(/people!) to even turn up to give a price for work. Whether this is peculiar to Dunblane or a wider phenomenon we don’t know. But an almost universal experience for anyone having any kind of work done is that tradesmen, especially builders, are notorious for starting a job and then not coming back the next day. Even the good ones do it because they have to earn money while waiting for things to dry and set, so they start another job and then return a few days later to finish the job. Sometimes that really is a test of faith for their customers; if you know the tradesman well enough you know that they’ll come through. But some are not entirely honest and make up all kinds of excuses for not showing up. The poor old van gets used a lot as a scapegoat! It wouldn’t be so bad if people were just honest and told you that they wouldn’t be back “tomorrow at 9am” so that at least you would not be wasting your days waiting in for them. It’s not as if the excuses are convincing; we see straight through them.

Lent is a time when we are encouraged to be open and honest about our own shortcomings, failings, and to cease making excuses. That can be a rather unsettling experience because when we do see ourselves more clearly as others see us, and more importantly perhaps get a glimpse of ourselves as God might see us, it can be easy to be discouraged.

So much of what we learn about ourselves from the Scriptures apply corporately to the church as a whole body, as to the personal journey of each individual of which the church is built. At present at St Mary’s we are part way into a major commitment to improve the interior of our splendid church building. There has been a significant amount of clearing out and moving around. Some things have been stripped back and others laid bare. It’s an ambitious and expensive undertaking but we believe God has set something going here that we had to pursue. We are trusting that God will bring it all together in the right time and reward our commitment. And, our tradesmen have been outstanding so far.

Speaking of the universal church built of Christian disciples like you and I, Jesus told St. Peter, “I tell you… I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it”. Matthew 16:18 (NRSV). Right now you may question that! Jesus seems to have disappeared off site before the job is done, promising to return and complete it one day. Have we got faith to know that he will, despite the crumbling buildings and tragic discord that are so typical of the church in decline in the West?

But, these are exciting days, days of opportunity! Churches that have grasped that in faith and are trusting that Jesus is coming back to complete his work in the lives and hearts of his people, are growing. That is becoming our testimony too!

I doubt that the work on our church building will be completed by Easter, but certainly the work going on in the body of believers and seekers that is the church seems as though it has a long way to go, as does the work that God began in my own life. But I am confident that he will complete it. God never leads us up a dead-end only to abandon us there with no resources or hope. God is faithful to us.

We have the choice; to follow him in faith, or remain with the familiar, unchanged by his calling on our lives and his redeeming love and saving power. Yes, there is risk, not least the risk that things may never be the same again. But there is also promise, of greater things to come.

With love in Christ,

Nick