Rector’s Letter – April 2021

Dear friends,

The Spring weather has drawn the gardening team back into the grounds of St Mary’s and there’s plenty for all of us to do. One of my favourite jobs at this time of year is clearing last year’s growth as it can make such a dramatic difference to the appearance of a garden and enables new growth to flourish. There is added excitement for me when working in the burial ground at St Mary’s as I never know what I’ll find under the bracken, brambles and ivy. Last week I came across a stone bowl, some seven inches in diameter with four crosses incised into it. I have no idea how old it is or what it was originally used for, but I was delighted to find it as the restrictions on movement in church during services means that we will not be using the font at our Easter services this year.

It’s easy to forget the connection between Easter and baptism these days, when baptisms, especially of adults, are such a rare occurrence. A look at the traditions and customs of past centuries, however, reveals that the practice of baptizing at Easter is almost as old as the Church itself.

We know that around 150 AD, becoming a Christian generally involved three stages: an initial assent to the faith, followed by a period when the new believer was expected to show the sincerity of their new faith by a change in their life patterns, and then a time of fasting and praying during the days before their baptism on Easter morning. By the early third century, the process became much more rigorous: the second stage involving three years of training and the final stage, a week of daily exorcisms, services, prayers, fasting and an all-night vigil leading to baptism at Easter dawn. When Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire in 313 AD, people flooded into the church, but many did not progress past the first stage and were Christians in name only. The bishops developed a solution to this problem by condensing the training time into an intense, serious period of forty days before Easter. Eventually, the whole church community became involved in the practices of Lent, and Easter became a time for us all to renew our baptismal vows.

So as we gather to celebrate the resurrection of Christ once more this Easter, we join with Christians around the world to remember also our own spiritual resurrection at our baptism. This year, as we remake the promises, whether at home or in the church building, I expect that we will experience a heightened sense of rebirth to new life. This Easter is the beginning of a new start for us as restrictions are relaxed and we move towards full life as a worshipping community once more. As we set off on this new journey, my prayer is that the Lord of life will walk with us and through us, leading each one of us and all of us together, to growth, to risk, and to service of others.

With love to you all,


Garden Furniture Wanted
Please get in touch with Nerys at rector @ if you have any garden chairs or tables in fairly good condition that you would like to pass on. We are hoping to make use of the Rectory lawn and the newly paved area behind the house for small outdoor meetings during Spring and Summer while restrictions to meeting indoors are still in force. Thank you

St Mary’s Gardening Team
Anyone is welcome to help to maintain and develop the grounds at St Mary’s. Any assistance with weeding, clearing, pruning or planting would be appreciated. Please get in touch with James at property @ if you would like to get involved or if you know of anyone who might benefit from doing a spot of gardening. We work individually and every care is taken to keep team members safe.

Material For Worship on Palm Sunday

Nerys writes: Palm Sunday is a strange day of mixed emotions. It is the day when we accompany Jesus to Jerusalem, joyfully proclaiming him king, knowing that this journey would cost him his freedom and his life. It is a time of looking back at our Lenten journey, giving thanks for God’s faithfulness towards us in difficult times, as we set off on a new journey to the foot of the cross and beyond. As you light your candle today you may wish to say this prayer:

Lord, you have brought me through the wilderness
And delivered me to the gates of the Jerusalem.
As I prepare for the mysteries of Holy Week,
Let me share my heart with Christ
As Christ shares his risen life with me.

Before reading the Gospel of the Palms, take a moment to reflect on the palm cross you have been given. It is not easy to imagine it as a living, shining, green frond growing on a tall, majestic tree. To the people of Israel, the date palm represented peace, plenty and fruitfulness. Palm branches were often depicted on coins and were carved into the walls and doors of King Solomon’s temple. In the ancient world, they were used on festive occasions as tokens of joy and triumph. Kings and conquerors were welcomed with palm branches being strewn before them and waved in the air. Among the Jews of Jesus’ day, palm branches and the cry of ‘hosanna’ were an important part of the Feast of Tabernacles, the culmination of the spring festivals which started with the Passover, but since the Macabbean revolt a hundred and fifty years earlier, they had become symbols of nationalistic pride. They were reminders of the belief that the Messiah was coming to raise up an army which would overthrow Roman oppression and free God’s people. It was these palms that the followers of Jesus used to greet him as he entered Jerusalem for the last time, intent on a very different kind of victory.

As you listen to Alastair read Mark 11.1-11, I invite you to use your imagination to enter into Jesus’ mind.

You may also wish to explore a recreation of the scene in an African setting from the Jesus Mafa series.

I offer also these words of reflection by the American artist and author, Jan Richardson:

It can be challenging enough to walk with intention into a future that is unknown. But to move with purpose toward a destination that is known, and fearsome? That is quite a different path, one that requires grace and courage we cannot conjure on our own.
Such a path offers a curious freedom, too, because it invites us to enter our future not as victims, helpless before our fate, but with intention and discernment, knowing that the path we choose—any path we choose—will hold its occasions of dying and rising. When we can meet those occasions with courage and grace, the perils of the chosen path begin to lose their power over us.

The palm frond in your hand, the symbol of victory, has been shaped into the sign of the cross, an instrument of torture, humiliation and death. The second of today’s readings is the Gospel of the Passion, Mark 14.1-15.47 (or 15.1-39). Hold on to your palm cross as you read it to remind you that this is ultimately a story of victory. After a time of silence to reflect on what it means for you, to feel God’s presence with you and listen for the voice of Love, you may wish to use the following prayer of commitment.

Almighty and everlasting God,
may this palm be for me
a sign of Christ’s victory over sin and death;
and may I who have been baptised in his name,
worship him as king, obey him as Lord,
and follow him in the way of the Cross, which leads to eternal life.
I ask this through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

You are invited to bring your time of worship to an end with prayers of intercession:
• For our world and all its people …
• For all in positions of authority and influence …
• For those in need …
• For those who are suffering …
• For the Church which is Christ’s body …
• For yourself and those you love …
You may also wish to listen or sing along to David playing Henry Hart Milman’s hymn,

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
Hark! all the tribes ‘Hosanna’ cry;
O Saviour meek, pursue thy road
with palms and scattered garments strowed.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ, thy triumphs now begin
o’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
The winged squadrons of the sky
look down with sad and wondering eyes
to see the approaching sacrifice.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh;
the Father on his sapphire throne
expects his own anointed Son.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
bow thy meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, thy power, and reign.

Holy Week and Easter at St Mary’s, Dunblane, 2021

Palm Sunday

8.30 and 10.30 a.m. Eucharist with Distribution of Palms and Reading of the Passion

4.30 Service for Families with Children

8 p.m. Night Service

Maundy Thursday

8 p.m. Eucharist and Vigil

Good Friday

12 – 1 Stations of the Cross

1 – 2 Silent Reflection

2 – 3 Liturgy

Holy Saturday

8 p.m. Easter Vigil, including the new fire, renewal of Baptism vows and the first Eucharist of Easter

Easter Sunday

8.30 and 10.30 a.m. Eucharist

Please contact Sue at services @ if you wish to attend

Material for Worship on the Fifth Sunday in Lent

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”.

Today is known as Passion Sunday, writes Ven Peter Potter. It is a kind of curtain raiser to the events of Palm Sunday and Holy Week. In modern English, the word passion denotes intense feeling, generally love, whether for another person, a football team or a political cause. It actually derives, however, from the Latin passio, “I suffer”. The word compassion (literally “suffering with”) retains this meaning, for a compassionate person enters into the suffering of another and tries to sooth it.

The German pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a poem about how our suffering and God’s are interconnected. Let us follow the words as David plays the tune:

We turn to God when we are sorely pressed;
we pray for help, and ask for peace and bread;
we seek release from illness, guilt and death:
all people do, in faith or unbelief.
We turn to God when he is sorely pressed,
and find him poor, scorned, without roof and bread,
bowed under weight of weakness, sin and death:
faith stands by God in his dark hour of grief.

God turns to us when we are sorely pressed,
and feeds our souls and bodies with his bread;
for one and all Christ gives himself in death:
through his forgiveness sin will find relief.
Words, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. English translation (c) SCM-Canterbury Press

Jeremiah’s prophecy tells us we can come to God in penitence and confess our sins because we have confidence in his compassion for us. Take a moment to consider what you need to bring to God in penitence today and then listen to Jeremiah 31, 31-34, read by Tom.

But why does “passion” encompass both suffering and love? The events of Holy Week show us how Jesus allows himself to be given over (i.e., passively) to pain out of love for sinful humanity. In other words, he suffers in order to gain a new and better order of things. In the same way we are being urged to put up with the restrictions of lockdown for the sake of the public as a whole. This is more than self-interest; it is literally an act of compassion. “We are all in it together” actually has a spiritual as well as a moral dimension. Today’s Gospel reading (John 12, 20-33) is about some Greeks (probably Greek-speaking Jews who had travelled to Jerusalem for the Passover festival) asking to be introduced to Jesus. Jesus, however, does not directly answer their request but starts talking about wheat dying and growing. We listen to Alison reading the passage.

Why didn’t Jesus just say to Andrew and Philip, “OK, bring them here”? Did they actually get to see Jesus? We don’t know, but Jesus’ answer is surely saying that not only these Greeks, contemporaries of Jesus and his disciples, saw Jesus but that we can too in our day and in the circumstances of our lives. When we encounter situations like a grain of wheat lying in the ground apparently dead but then growing and bearing fruit, then we see Jesus. Suffering (as was soon to occur when Jesus was “lifted up from the earth” on the cross) does not have to be a dead end but can be a new beginning.

To go back to passion – love hurts, as the saying has it. One of my favourite hymns is Morning glory, starlit sky, which has the lines:

‘and the nails and crown of thorns
tell of what God’s love must be.’

It’s a great hymn, with echoes of Paul’s song about love in 1 Corinthians 13. The author W.H. (Bill) Vanstone laboured long and hard in a rather unpromising parish in the north of England. He described his experiences in a book called Love’s endeavour, love’s expense. By expending his love for his parishioners shoots of growth appeared as a result of his endeavours. Here are the words played by David.

Morning glory, starlit sky,
soaring music, scholar’s truth,
flight of swallows, autumn leaves,
memory’s treasure, grace of youth:
Open are the gifts of God,
gifts of love to mind and sense;
hidden is love’s agony,
love’s endeavour, love’s expense.
Love that gives, gives ever more,
gives with zeal, with eager hands,
spares not, keeps not, all outpours,
ventures all its all expends.
Drained is love in making full,
bound in setting others free,
poor in making many rich,
weak in giving power to be.
Therefore, he who shows us God
helpless hangs upon the tree;
and the nails and crown of thorns
tell of what God’s love must be.
Here is God: no monarch he,
throned in easy state to reign;
here is God, whose arms of love
aching, spent, the world sustain.

Love hurts because, the more we love someone, the more we find it hard to bear when they are in trouble and we are willing to bear pain and make sacrifices for their sake. The lessons of Passiontide and Holy Week can be our guide and comfort as the weeks of lockdown still stretch ahead before us.

The Collect for Lent 5
Merciful God,
look upon your family as we travel to the foot of the cross:
and, by your great goodness, guide us in body;
that, by your protection,
we may also be preserved in heart and mind;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen.

Let us pray that Christ shall be glorified in the Church and in the world.
Lord, we pray for the peace of the world, especially in …. and other places of conflict and oppression; for places where crops die and do not bear fruit because of the effects of climate change; for governments and aid agencies in their task to bring relief to the suffering and needy.
Bless all who work to spread the Gospel and offer their lives in its service. … Guide the seekers after truth, that they may see your Son amidst the changes and chances of this life.
Have mercy on all who suffer in body, mind or spirit, especially … May they hear your words of comfort, be sustained in their affliction and find new life after loss.
We pray for those who have died to this world, especially … May they grow into the new life of heaven where joy is endless and where what has been offered on earth comes to perfect fruition.

Father, accept the payers we offer in the name of Christ, lifted on the cross for our salvation.

Material for Worship on Mothering Sunday

Nerys writes: For a number of years, our Mothering Sunday services at St Mary’s have been all-age gatherings but today is a rare opportunity for a reflection aimed at adults only.

For many, this is normally a happy day, a time to show our love and gratitude to our mothers, to receive cards and gifts from our children and to enjoy precious time with our families. For some, however, this celebration of motherhood brings the pain of longing, loss, grief or guilt. For those of us who were here in Dunblane in March 1996, Mothering Sunday is inextricably linked with memories of the tragedy that struck our community. And now, it will also carry a reminder of the beginning of the first Lockdown and all the suffering and loss caused by the pandemic. Mothering Sunday can be a bitter-sweet day but it is also an opportunity to remember that we have a mothering God whose care for us extends throughout our lives and beyond and who has promised to be especially close to us in difficult times.

So, as you light your candle today, take a moment to bring to mind what Mothering Sunday means to you and to share your joy or pain with God who is listening.

You may wish to finish your time of prayer by listening to a modern hymn based on the writing of the medieval mystic, Julian of Norwich, sung by Moira.

Mothering God, you gave me birth
in the bright morning of the world.
Creator, source of every breath,
you are my rain, my wind, my sun;
you are my rain, my wind, my sun.

Mothering Christ, you took my form,
offering me your food of light,
grain of life, and grape of love,
your very body for my peace;
your very body for my peace.

Mothering Sprit, nurturing one,
in arms of patience hold me close,
so that in faith I root and grow
until I flower, until I know;
until I flower, until I know.
Words, Jean Janzen; Tune, John Bell

Today’s readings, 1 Samuel 1.20-28 and Luke 2.33-35, acknowledge both the joy and pain of those who are mothers or who care like mothers, and give an insight into the heart of God. They are taken from two stories set in Jerusalem featuring two mothers who had brought their sons to the Temple to be dedicated to God. The first, read here by Colin, is the story of Hannah who had known the desperation and shame of childlessness and the delight of answered prayer. The second, read by Mary, is the story of Mary whose pregnancy was a source of potential disgrace, who was forced to seek refuge in a foreign land soon after the birth but who carried with her the secret joy of the angel’s message and all that she had seen and heard in Bethlehem. Both had come to the Temple to offer their sons back to God, Mary in accordance with Jewish law and Hannah to honour her promise. In order to allow them to fulfil their calling, both mothers would need to step back and stay in the background as their sons’ lives unfolded. Simeon’s prophecy is a reminder of the painful cost of that letting go. As Mary stood at the foot of the cross, pierced to the heart, I wonder if she remembered those glorious and dreadful words?

Mary’s was not the only heart to be pierced that day as Jesus allowed himself to suffer and die for love of the world. Our mother God was suffering too and continues to suffer alongside mothers in war zones, refugee camps and in situations of poverty and injustice. In her writing, Julian of Norwich returned again and again to the necessity of trusting in God’s mothering love and to her confidence that with God, ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’. I invite you to join with me to pray for each other, that when we experience the pain of the world’s suffering and the cost of caring, we would know God with us, bringing us all the perseverence and hope we need to continue to give of ourselves for the sake of others.

‘Compassion’ by Sister Mary Southard, a member of the Congregation of St Joseph, La Grange Park, Illinois.

Our prayers today have been written by Hugh. You can listen to him here, or read them yourself.

Holy and loving God, on this Mothering Sunday we give thanks for all who nurture and care for your world and all its people. Help us all to play our own part in that work, according to the different gifts you have given to each one of us, to give of what we have to share in that work.

We give thanks for the signs of new Spring life all around – the snowdrops, bulbs emerging, the longer days. Help us to care for your world, seeking and speaking out always for a fair sharing of its resources. We pray for those in countries already affected by rising seas, those suffering from drought and deprivation.

We pray for those who are finding it difficult in this pandemic – the lonely, the sick, those out of work, those struggling to meet living costs. We give thanks for the scientists, care workers, doctors, nurses, and all who are working to keep us safe and well. Thinking of countries who do not yet have enough vaccines, encourage leaders here and elsewhere to ensure fair sharing of those. We give thanks for the work of World Health Organisation and others seeking to bring medical help to people in all countries.

We pray for those in other countries forced to flee from their homes, thinking especially today of the people of Yemen and Myanmar. We give thanks for those who work to support and care for them and those seeking ways out of the violence.

We remember today the children and the teacher whose lives were cut short here 25 years ago. We pray for their parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers, and all those directly affected. We know that you share with us the pain of that time and of our present time where people continue to die at the hands of others. Open our hearts to the fullness of your love, help us to live in true community, at one with all who are suffering or in need, that none may feel themselves excluded or eliminated.

We pray for those in our own community and beyond, and for those known to us personally, who are experiencing any kind of hardship or ill health or mental distress. Lord bless them and comfort them.

We pray for St Mary’s, for all who serve in this church, for all who are part of the church community, and all in the broader community we seek to serve.

Holy and loving God, help us to live and work in a spirit of love and care for all, inspired by this mothering Sunday and the life and message of Jesus, your Son our Lord, in whose name we pray.

If we were meeting for worship in church today there would have been an opportunity to make a donation to the Mothers’ Union Make a Mother’s Day Appeal.

If you wish to give a gift which will help empower women and girls in developing countries to flourish, please visit

Rector’s Letter – 10th March 2021

Dear friends,

I was surprised and delighted with the news this week that we will be allowed to open the doors of the church building not only for Easter services but also for Palm Sunday and Holy Week. We will need to wait for the guidance of the Bishops’ Advisory Committee before we can make any firm plans but I hope that we will be able to move forward into the season of Easter with eucharistic services, whilst offering home communion to those who will not be able to attend. It’s great to be able to look forward with confidence once more after so many weeks of uncertainty. I feel so grateful to the Scottish Government for recognising, not only the importance of gathering for worship for the well-being of church members but the contribution churches have made in caring for their local communities.

Bishop Ian has chosen two local charities from opposite ends of the diocese for his Lent Appeal this year. We at St Mary’s are very familiar with and proud of the work of Start-up Stirling which provides practical help and emergency food for those in financial difficulties. The other organisation, Angus Creative Minds, based in Forfar, was established in October 2019 with the aim of bringing people of all ages and walks of life together to engage in creative activities. The dream was to have a space in Angus where trained artists, photographers and authors could work side-by-side with folk who were trying something for the first time or who are living with loneliness or mental health issues. A building was acquired and adapted in Forfar and volunteers had started running art, creative writing and photography groups and planning larger events when the pandemic struck. Gatherings are now on line and imaginative activities like the ‘Postcards from …’ project have been initiated enabling those in need of support to continue to receive it.

This year’s Diocesan Synod was held on line last Saturday with a record number of clergy and lay representatives attending. Once essential business was completed, we took part in a series of presentations and discussions on the theme of ‘Looking Forward’. We learnt of the plans for a Season of Pilgrimage including events in early September which groups from St Mary’s might like to attend. We are invited to walk a section of the Fife Pilgrim Way from Culross to St Andrews, to take part in a guided pilgrimage by car and bike along the Three Saints Way from Killin to St Andrews and to attend an ecumenical gathering at St Andrews hosted by Bishop Ian. Next year pilgrimages to the Holy Land and retracing the journey of St William of Perth to Canterbury will be organised..

Synod was also introduced to members of the newly formed Diocesan Youth Committee and heard about their plans to provide resources for charges like ours which have young people. This Lent, the group is running a competition called ‘Church of the Future’, encouraging youngsters in the Diocese to share their ideas on what might be done to make their own congregations more eco-friendly. This is a response to the resolution made in our General Synod to work towards becoming a carbon neutral church by 2030. We had an opportunity to discuss on Saturday what local charges can do and what we need help with, in order to reduce our carbon footprint. We were also encouraged to give feedback on the proposals to revise Canon 4 on the election of bishops. As these include important but potentially contentious changes to the way our church appoints the leaders and pastors of its dioceses, consultation is widespread.

To finish this week’s forward-looking newsletter, here is a poem by Emily Dickinson sent to me by Peter H.
It will be Summer — eventually.
Ladies — with parasols —
Sauntering Gentlemen — with Canes —
And little Girls — with Dolls —

Will tint the pallid landscape —
As ’twere a bright Bouquet —
Tho’ drifted deep, in Parian —
The Village lies — today —

The Lilacs — bending many a year —
Will sway with purple load —
The Bees — will not despise the tune —
Their Forefathers — have hummed —

The Wild Rose — redden in the Bog —
The Aster — on the Hill
Her everlasting fashion — set —
And Covenant Gentians — frill —

Till Summer folds her miracle —
As Women — do — their Gown —
Or Priests — adjust the Symbols —
When Sacrament — is done —

Peter writes: Given the year it has been, we can share the poet’s anticipation of better times, and her optimism of what summer will bring. The initial picture she paints is one of ladies and gentlemen relaxing in the sun and little girls playing. It becomes clear that her imagination of their colours and enjoyment contrasts with the paleness of the landscape at the time of writing; the poem is being written, as one can see from the reference to the village being “drifted deep” in snow, in late winter. She offers a lovely comparison of the snow having the whiteness of Parian marble. But what summer will bring is then imagined by a wonderful evocation of the colours and sounds of the natural world.

As is often the case , Dickinson ends the poem with a broader perspective. In the first instance, she uses the image of women folding their gowns to signal the end of summer. The second image, of the priest who is tidying the various vessels associated with communion, gives, I think, a sense of completion and fulfilment: following the expected cycle, the summer, like the service, has come to an end. There is a deep feeling of satisfaction that the ordering and progression of things has been fulfilled.

As with all her poems, Dickinson uses hyphens in place of more conventional punctuation. She was anxious that her poems be heard, so the hyphens indicate how she wanted these breaks to be a part of the music of the poem.

Thank you for your generous response to the appeals for warm clothing for homeless people in Glasgow and for jigsaws and other items for the folks of Clare House. Please continue pray for the Ministry Team and Vestry as we plan for the weeks ahead. I hope to have more information for you in the next newsletter. In the meantime, please be assured of my prayers for you and your families.

With love,

Material for Worship on the Third Sunday in Lent

Our reflection this week for the third Sunday in Lent was prepared by Rev Moira Jamieson.

You may wish to sing along to or read the words of this hymn;

Jesus Christ is waiting, waiting in the streets;
No one is his neighbour, all alone he eats.
Listen, Lord Jesus, I am lonely too.
Make me, friend or stranger, fit to wait on you

Jesus Christ is raging, raging in the streets,
Where injustice spirals and real hope retreats.
Listen, Lord Jesus, I am angry too.
In the Kingdom’s causes let me rage with you.

Jesus Christ is healing, healing in the streets;
Curing those who suffer, touching those he greets.
Listen, Lord Jesus, I have pity too.
Let my care be active, healing just like you.

Jesus Christ is dancing, dancing in the streets,
Where each sign of hatred he, with love, defeats.
Listen, Lord Jesus, I should triumph too.
On suspicion’s graveyard let me dance with you.

Jesus Christ is calling, calling in the streets,
”Who will join my journey? I will guide their feet.”
Listen, Lord Jesus, let my fears be few.
Walk one step before me; I will follow you.

© WGRG, Iona Community, 1988.

This week as I have been preparing this reflection, I have been thinking about the many injustices going on in our world right now. Injustices which have escalated in the light of the Coronavirus pandemic. Our government has been trying to do their best to protect everyone by rolling out their programme of vaccination, and I commend them. However, in poorer countries people are dying from the virus because they are already weak from hunger and disease and their governments, because of international debt, cannot afford to buy the vaccine that is needed. In today’s gospel passage, John 2 v 13-22 (read here by Rob ) Jesus sees injustice going on in the Temple and he rails against it. This is not an easy passage to read. We find Jesus, the caring loving Jesus who heals the sick and has compassion on those in need, storming into the Temple in a rage! It’s an image that is disturbing and uncomfortable. I don’t know about you, but I remember as a child, fighting or arguing with my brothers and stomping off, slamming doors and then facing the wrath of my mother. And so, I suppose, I should find this passage about the cleansing of the Temple quite reassuring, after all here is Jesus throwing things around in a ‘church’ of all places – the Jesus who was so good the rest of the time. It makes me remember that he was also human as well as divine.

This story is more complex than we think. The whole system of commerce in the temple was well established, and indeed, became a money-making exercise for the temple authorities. Historians tells us that once a year, Jewish males had to pay a temple tax and that tax could be paid only in temple coin, not with Roman or Greek coins, which is why the moneychangers were there. But the moneychangers charged a huge fee for the exchange; often up to half the amount being changed went into their pockets, out of which the temple took its substantial cut. Additionally, any sacrifice offered at Passover had to be that of an animal without blemish. The temple authorities offered perfect animals for sale. Anyone bringing his own animal had to have it inspected by the priests. Not surprisingly, the animal was nearly always rejected, and the person had to buy another from the priests. Therefore it was not simply the presence of the moneychangers and the animals offered for sale that so angered Jesus – after all, they were services meant for the convenience of people who had travelled long distances to get to Jerusalem. It was the misuse of authority in the blatant and gross overcharging of even the poorest people that set Jesus off. It is that blatant misuse of authority which is happening in our world today which must tear at the heart of God, as he sees injustice and deceit playing out here on earth.

From the Jesus Mafa collection

John tells us that that chaos ensued, with Jesus overturning tables and driving animals out with a whip made of cords. People, including the disciples, were stunned and confused, a situation not helped by Jesus when they asked for an explanation. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” That didn’t make sense to them. The temple had been under construction for 46 years, how could Jesus raise it up in three days? As with so many things, the disciples only worked it out later, in the light of resurrection hindsight. They came to realise that the temple of which Jesus spoke was his body, not the bricks and mortar of a building. However, there is another lesson to be learned from this reading, and that is the need for righteous anger in face of injustice, extortion and especially the exploitation of vulnerable people should not be tolerated. The plight of refugees, those fleeing from oppressive regimes and war, and the callous people who exploit their vulnerability should make us angry. Anger at such things is not a bad thing, it’s a good and cleansing thing. Such anger is not the opposite of love. Anger at injustice is an appropriate expression of love and a cry for righteousness. Righteous anger is not a loss of control, Jesus is not out of control, in fact he is noticeably clear about the targets of his wrath. Righteous anger is about taking control, it’s a move out of passive acceptance towards change. St. Augustine of Hippo once said. “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage: anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”

Before Lent, some of us met on Zoom to discuss the theme of Worship. What it means to us and how we have had to adapt during lockdown, among other things, and we had a final session with Bishop Ian exploring the future of worship in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Over the years the church has had to adapt and change as the world and society have also changed. Sometimes these for some, have changed and upset established tradition, and seem to have created chaos. But God’s wisdom often works in the midst of chaos, and in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 1:18-25 (read here by Kathryn) Paul extols the grace of God, who saves his people from their foolishness as he tells them, “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” In this passage, Paul helps his readers (and us) understand the wisdom of God and how it should show itself in their (our) lives, transforming them (us) in the way that they (we) think and behave. People who have been transformed from unbelief into belief and who grow strong in their faith, have a strong connection to God through the love of Christ on the cross. During Lent, we can take time to ask ourselves how close our relationship to God is and how, being a Christian has shaped us and moulded us as we grow in our faith and our belief. Paul asks us to believe in the wisdom and power of God to work in people’s lives, transforming us, and moulding us to be the people he wants us to be. Let us try to keep faith this Lent and take time to reflect on the strength or otherwise of our closeness to God. “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” Amen.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, grant us wisdom to see the injustices of this world and to take action where we can. Help us not to be impassive and think that we cannot make a difference to the lives of others. May our prayers reach out to you as we pray for the people of this world. (Please add your own concerns here.)

We pray for all refugees who are fleeing violence in their own countries and who seek the safety of another land. May they be treated fairly and justly. Bless all who try to improve conditions in refugee camps and those who care for the health of those living in squalid conditions. We pray especially for the children.

We pray for those who are facing violence and abuse of any kind in their lives. May they find refuge for themselves and their families. At this time we think of the people of Myanmar and their situation. Bless the work of charities who provide refuge for victims of abuse.

We pray for all who are struggling at this time to feed their families. May they receive the help they need to enable them to keep their families strong and healthy. (Please pray for local initiatives like foodbanks.)

We pray for those who are ill at this time, especially those with Coronavirus and those with life-threatening illnesses. May they know the healing power of Jesus in their lives through those who care for them. We lift before God all those on the prayer tree at St. Mary’s. (Please pray for those you know who are ill at this time or in need of prayer.) Heavenly Father surround them with your love.

God of mercy and compassion we lift all these our concerns to you and ask you to keep us walking in your ways as we continue on our journey of faith this Lenten tide.

Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Rector’s Letter- 3rd March 2021

Dear friends,

I had a funny experience last week which gave me pause for thought. It happened during an on-line meeting with colleagues from across the Province. An item came up on the agenda which was close to my heart. I waited for a chance to give my opinion. I started with a question but instead of responding to me, the next speaker raised another issue. I asked my question again at the next opportunity. Again nobody gave me an answer and the discussion moved on. Puzzlement soon turned to hurt and annoyance. Why were they ignoring what I had to say? Why was my point of view deemed unworthy of a response? What was the purpose of me being on the committee if the rest weren’t ready to listen to me? It was only later in the meeting that I realised that I had forgotten to press the ‘Unmute’ button on my computer to allow the others to hear me!

‘You need to unmute yourself,’ is not a phrase any of us would have predicted a year ago that we would be saying to each other but it has now become a common expression in on-line meetings of all kinds. In our day-to-day life, some of us have a tendency to stay mute on issues that are important to us because we’re afraid to upset others or to be labelled in some way. A church community, however, should be an environment where everyone feels safe to give voice to their thoughts, opinions and feelings. I hope that in the months ahead we at St Mary’s will have opportunities to talk together about thorny issues, not by debating them but by sharing our experiences. It is only by taking time to prayerfully listen to each other’s stories that we can build the trust we need to disagree well and without fear. Please get in touch if there is an issue you would like to learn more about.

At another on-line meeting last week organised by Christian Aid, we were discussing how churches can help change the attitude of world leaders when they meet in Glasgow later in the year for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (also known as COP26). We agreed that the first step is for us to unmute ourselves. We need to start speaking and praying together within our own worshiping communities so that we can then raise our voices together on behalf of those who are most affected. Dr Martin Luther King said, ‘There comes a time when silence is betrayal … Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter … In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends’. I hope that as we prepare for Christian Aid Week this year, we will engage with the issues and come together with members of other churches in Dunblane and across Scotland to make our voices heard.

It is very easy in these difficult times to put God’s voice on mute and focus on ourselves. My prayer for us all is that we use Lent as an opportunity to listen to the voice of Love calling us through our praying and our reading of Scripture to walk in Christ’s footsteps.

With love to you all,


Materials for Worship on the Second Sunday in Lent

Nerys writes: On the altar in St Mary’s stands this icon written by Diana, the late wife of Hugh Grant. It is there as a reminder that this year we focus on the writing of St Mark, author of the shortest and possibly the most puzzling and challenging of the four Gospels. Although it was the first Gospel to be written down, it didn’t attract the attention of the great commentators of the early church, and for many hundreds of years it wasn’t used much in public worship. Yet, there are many stories of the extraordinary impact it has had on the lives of all sorts of people. One of these is the famous German theologian Jürgen Moltmann who first read Mark’s Gospel when he was a prisoner of war in Kilmarnock in 1945, soon after he and his fellow-prisoners had been shown photographs of the horrors of Belsen and Buchenwald. In his autobiography he writes: ‘I read Mark’s Gospel as a whole and came to the story of the passion; when I heard Jesus’ death cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I felt growing within me the conviction: this is someone who understand you completely, who is with you in your cry to God and has felt the same forsakenness you are living in now … I summoned up the courage to live again.’

Because it is so short, Mark’s Gospel can be read in one sitting. What about joining me in reading it as a whole this Lent, at this time when so many are feeling forsaken?

The passage for today is at the heart of Mark’s Gospel. I invite you to listen to it with the ear of the heart, allowing God to speak to you through it.

First you may wish to light a candle or have a moment of silence and then say:

Lord God, I open my ears to hear you.
Lord God, I open my eyes to see you.
Lord God, I open my heart to love you.

As you listen to Barbara reading Mark 8.31-38, notice what thoughts or feelings arise within you. If a particular word or a phrase stands out, take some time to reflect on it before listening to the passage again, this time read by Andrew.

As you let the words of Scripture resound in your heart, notice any prayerful response that arises within you. As you bring your Lectio Divina or ‘holy reading’ to an end, rest for a while in God’s presence beyond thoughts and reflections.

It is only the second week of Lent and already we are on the road towards Jerusalem, the cross and the empty tomb. Jesus has asked his followers who they think he is. ‘You are the Messiah’ was Peter’s response. And now Jesus informs them what that means: rejection, suffering, death and resurrection. Peter can’t handle this and objects, only to be publicly slammed down. Then Jesus speaks to all who are listening. If we want to follow him, Jesus tells us, then we must be prepared to deny ourselves and take up our cross.

Take up your cross – what a huge challenge lies in those words! For Mark’s first audience which was probably a persecuted community, possibly in North Africa, the message was straightforward. And the same is true for Christian communities today in Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Eritrea, Egypt, Yemen, and Nigeria who live with discrimination, harassment and even the risk of death because of their faith. But what about us at St Mary’s? Take a moment to ask yourself, what does it mean for us as a Christian community in Scotland to deny ourselves, take up our cross and faithfully follow Christ? As you do so, you may wish to reflect on the image below of Jesus taking up his cross from the Jesus Mafa Collection or read or sing along as David plays the tune to C.W. Everest’s hymn, ‘Take up thy cross, the Saviour said’.

Take up thy cross, the Saviour said,
if thou wouldst my disciple be;
deny thyself, the world forsake,
and humbly follow after me.

Take up thy cross: let not its weight
fill thy weak spirit with alarm;
his strength shall bear thy spirit up,
and brace thy heart and nerve thine arm.

Take up thy cross, nor heed the shame,
nor let thy foolish pride rebel:
thy Lord for thee the cross endured,
to save thy soul from death and hell.

Take up thy cross then in his strength,
and calmly every danger brave;
’twill guide thee to a better home,
and lead to victory o’er the grave.

Take up thy cross and follow Christ,
nor think till death to lay it down;
for only they who bear the cross
may hope to wear the glorious crown.

To thee, great Lord, the One in Three,
all praise forevermore ascend:
O grant us in our home to see
the heavenly life that knows no end.

‘Jesus takes up his Cross’ from the Jesus Mafa Collection

Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness asking himself what it meant to be Jesus the Messiah. In his Gospel, Mark sets out to answer this question and by doing so helps us to answer our own question of what it means to be disciples of Jesus the Messiah. For Peter in today’s passage, Jesus’s answer is unacceptable and unbelievable. He vehemently rejects the idea of a suffering self-giving Messiah, causing Jesus to rebuke him just as he had rebuked the Tempter in the wilderness. It is difficult for us also to accept Jesus for who he is and to follow in his footsteps. Time after time, we will be tempted to take the easier route in order to avoid risking the conflicts which are bound to accompany committed discipleship. It is only by letting go of our preoccupation with ourselves that we can walk with Jesus in the paths of love and service.

Let us pray to our loving God to increase our faith. May we be more ready to trust you and move forward with you wherever you lead us.

Let us pray for the persecuted church, for their oppressors, for nations that foster persecution, and for those who ignore it.

Let us pray for all leaders and their advisers to have the courage to be honest, the will to be just, the greatness to be humble and the openness to learn.

Let us pray for those who suffer and are in need, asking God to show us how we can love and serve them.

The Collect for today
God of patience and humility, in your love you gave your Son to be rejected and raised up on a cross. Gather us under its shadow and open our eyes to its mystery, that we may share even now in the life that is from above; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Rector’s Letter – 24th February

Dear friends,

Last week I came across this little poem on the cover of a Welsh poetry magazine. It made such an impression on me that I decided to attempt a translation.

In this darkness
something is hiding.
It’s sometimes a shy thing
although it shouldn’t be.
Hope is its name.
And it can’t be killed.

I catch myself saying ‘but’ quite often these days in phone conversations with friends and family and even in my brief exchanges with those I meet on my daily walks. In fact, I have found that questioning the negative attitudes of others has become an important part of my day-to-day ministry. Challenging people’s thinking is not something that comes naturally to me. I had always found it easier to respond with a resigned shrug or a vague smile but the pandemic has changed that. Engulfed by the darkness of so much fear, loss and grief, it is so easy for us to become fatalistic or cynical or judgmental of others. It’s easy to disregard the many blessings we enjoy every day and all we have to be thankful for. It’s easy to blame and criticise others, forgetting to put ourselves for a moment in their shoes. And it’s especially easy to lose sight of the rays of hope which can lighten the darkness and transform it.

As a child I always enjoyed looking for signs of the coming of spring in the hedgerows on my way to school. I learnt where to find the first snowdrops, the primroses, violets and lesser celandine, catkins, frogspawn and birds’ eggs. Now as I read or listen to the news and explore social media, I look with the same eye for signs of hope for the future. Hope is indeed a shy thing, hiding behind the headlines, but we find it in stories of the selfless service of front-line workers, in the amazing co-operation between pharmaceutical companies, in the ingenuity of organisations seeking to support those in need, in the efforts of thousands of volunteers and fundraisers, in countless small acts of kindness and generosity, in a renewed sense of community in streets up and down the land.

A famous preacher once said that hope is like a star. Stars are amazing but we can only see them in the dark. The darker the sky, the brighter they shine. Often people only discover hope when they are facing suffering, when they feel overwhelmed by the darkness of loneliness, grief, depression, anger or anxiety. Sometimes they need our help to see the light of hope and to be reminded that it can dispel any darkness. As a child who was scared of the dark, I loved the idea in Psalm 139 that even the darkness is not dark to God, ‘the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you’.

My prayer is that this Lent, as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus towards the cross and the empty tomb, we may be bringers of God’s light of hope into the lives of all who cross our path.

With love to you all,


Material for Worship on the First Sunday in Lent

Today Rev. Jeanette Allan leads our worship for the first Sunday in Lent.

Today Sunday is the first Sunday in Lent. However, did it arrive so soon? I know Lent is early this year, but! Just to convince ourselves that we really are in Lent let’s read the words whilst David plays ‘Forty days and forty nights.’

Forty days and forty nights
Thou wast fasting in the wild;
forty days and forty nights,
tempted still, yet undefiled.

Sunbeams scorching all the day,
chilly dew-drops nightly shed,
prowling beasts about thy way,
stones your pillow, earth thy bed.

Shall not we thy sorrows share,
and from earthly joys abstain,
fasting with unceasing prayer,
glad with thee to suffer pain.

And if Satan, vexing sore,
flesh or spirit should assail,
thou, his vanquisher before,
grant we may not faint nor fail.

So shall we have peace divine;
holier gladness, ours shall be:
round us too shall angels shine,
such as ministered to thee.

Keep, O keep us, Saviour dear,
ever constant by thy side,
that with thee we may appear
at the eternal Eastertide.

So that’s conclusive, we are in Lent, but what does that mean to us in the lockdown in which we are living, even if there is hope on the horizon? Well, I heard of a community in Eire whose Lenten discipline this year was for everyone to take a dip however short, in the sea every day. I struggled with that one a bit, it’s certainly a discipline, but to what purpose? Just to prove you can do it? If the sea dippers were sponsored, raising money for a good cause, then at least someone benefits. So, what is Lent really about, well, historically it was a time when new Christians prepared for their Baptism at the Easter Vigil; for medieval monks and nuns it was the great fast when their diet was even more limited than usual, in preparation for the great Festival of the Resurrection at Easter; but what is it for us now in 2021 in the middle of a pandemic? We are already restricted in what we can do in our world. Which could be a good thing as that actually makes more room for what we can do in Lent, which could be a variety of things like reassessing our relationship with God and asking to be shown how we can draw closer to our Creator and the Source of our being; asking God’s help to discern how we are failing in our discipleship, and what we can do about it. Psalm 25 puts it very well and could well become a daily prayer during Lent. It makes it clear just how much we owe all we have and are to God’s love and mercy, and how we can live our lives more closely tuned with our Creator.

Let’s listen as Anthony reads us Psalm 25 v. 1-10

Being in Scotland we can’t ignore the Scottish Psalter with its metrical Psalms so, as David plays let’s read the words of the metrical version.

Lord, teach me all your ways,
reveal your paths to me;
and lead me in your saving
truth show me what I should be.

Remember, Lord your love,
your care from ages past;
and in that love remember me,
in kindness hold me fast.

Forget my youthful faults,
forgive my sinful ways;
within the kindness of your love
remember me always.

God who is just and good,
shows all who sin his way;
he leads the humble in right paths,
their teacher day by day.

All pathways of the Lord
are kindly, true and sure
to those who keep his covenant
and in his ways endure.

Both those put things quite clearly, you are free to choose your favourite. Nerys has already given us examples of Lenten literature we might find helpful. Let’s face it, none of us are perfect, nor will we ever be we could all do with a bit of a wash and brush up now and again and Lent can be the ideal time, a time when we can not only have our rough edges smoothed by God’s forgiveness, but also bathe in the wonder of God’s love and mercy and learn how to live more truly as the body of Christ here in our world. What special task does God have for you?

Let’s listen now as Morag reads the Gospel for us. Mark 1: 9-15

Whenever I read this passage I am always struck forcibly by the juxtaposition, of God’s commendation of Jesus “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased” with what happens next. ‘And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the

If any of us had just the vestige of a notion that because we are disciples of Jesus life should go well for us, and we should go through life comfortable and happy, get such a notion knocked completely into a cocked hat by what happens to Jesus, both in the wilderness and on the cross. We follow the one who said, “Take up your Cross and follow me”. No way are we to expect no difficulties in our lives. What we are to expect is that whatever does happen to us in our lives we will never have to face it alone. God’s love, comfort, forgiveness, and strength will be there for us every step of the way, for as long as it takes.

So let us pray:

Come Jesus, do not smile and say
you are already with us.
Millions do not know you, and to those of us who do,
what is the difference?
What is the point of your presence if our lives do not alter?
Change our lives, shatter our complacency,
Make your word our life’s purpose,
Take away the quietness of a clear conscience.
Press us uncomfortably.
For only thus that other peace is made,
your peace. [Dom Helder, Brazil]

For our incapacity to feel the sufferings of others,
and our tendency to live comfortably with injustice.
God forgive us.

For the self-righteousness which denies guilt,
and the self-interest which strangles compassion.
God forgive us.

For those who live their lives in careless unconcern,
who cry “Peace, peace” when there is no peace,
We ask your mercy.

For our failings in community,
our lack of understanding.
We ask your mercy.

For our lack of forgiveness, openness sensitivity
God forgive us.

For the times we were too eager to be better than others,
when we were too rushed to care,
when we were too tired to bother,
when we don’t really listen,
when we are too quick to act from motives other than love.
God forgive us.
[Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness South Africa]

As we conclude our time of worship together let’s Listen to David play the tune as we read the words of Timothy Dudley Smith’s hymn.

Above the voices of the world around me,
my hopes and dreams, my cares and loves and fears,
the long-awaited call of Christ has found me,
the voice of Jesus echoes in my ears:

I gave my life to break the cords that bind you,
I rose from death to set your spirit free;
turn from your sins and put the past behind you,
take up your cross and come and follow me.’

What can I offer him who calls me to him?
Only the wastes of sin and self and shame;
a mind confused, a heart that never knew him,
a tongue unskilled at naming Jesus’ Name.

Yet at your call, and hungry for your blessing,
drawn by that cross which moves a heart of stone,
now Lord I come, my tale of sin confessing,
and in repentance turn to you alone.

Lord, I believe; help now my unbelieving;
I come in faith because your promise stands.
Your word of pardon and of peace receiving,
all that I am I place within your hands.
Let me become what you shall choose to make me,
freed from the guilt and burden of my sins.
Jesus is mine, who never shall forsake me,
and in his love my new-born life begins.

Reflection for Ash Wednesday

From dust we come
To dust we will return.
We belong to God.

We come in penitence,
We come in confidence,
We belong to God.

At the beginning of Lent
At every moment of our lives
We belong to God.

In ancient times, ashes were used to express grief and sorrow for sins and faults.

Job says to God, ‘My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.’

The prophet Jeremiah urged the wayward people of Israel to express their contrition by putting on sackcloth and rolling in the ashes.

Christians continued the practice of using ashes as a sign of repentance and by the end of the 11th century it had become a custom for ashes to be sprinkled on the heads of the faithful on the first day of Lent which became known as Ash Wednesday.

We are not be able to meet together to receive a cross of ash on our foreheads this year, but here is an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of that symbolic action, to acknowledge our brokenness, accept God’s forgiveness and commit ourselves to allowing God to work in us this Lent, transforming us from the inside out.

You are invited to prepare yourselves for worship by listening or singing along to Davie playing the tune of ‘Be still and know that I am God’.

Be still and know that I am God,
be still and know that I am God,
be still and know that I am God.

I am the Lord that healeth thee,
I am the Lord that healeth thee,
I am the Lord that healeth thee.

In thee, O Lord, I put my trust,
In thee, O Lord, I put my trust,
In thee, O Lord, I put my trust.

Listen to our Old Testament readings for today read by Ruth and Nerys: Joel 2.1-2, 12-17 and Psalm 51.1-17

Having reflected on God’s invitation to the people of Israel to return to him expressed by the Prophet Joel, on King David’s expression of repentance and on Mark Lawrence’s painting, inspired by the opening words of the psalm, we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness.

Prayer of Confession
Loving God, you made us from the dust and ashes. You know the situations we face, the decisions we make, our motives, our passions, our desires. We long to act justly, with love and kindness, towards those around us but so often we fail.

Lord have mercy upon us.

We acknowledge, and cry out in shame for our part in the wider issues that affect our world. We remember: the world’s poor, kept poor by our wasteful lifestyles; Creation’s beauty, marred by our selfish carelessness; the innocent, caught in the middle of unjust conflicts.

Christ have mercy upon us.

In all these things, we call out to you to act, to forgive and renew. To restore in us the brightness of your love, and the radiance of your glory.

Lord have mercy upon us.

Loving God, we receive your forgiveness. We receive your empowering to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with you. Amen.

Listen to Catherine singing a traditional Mexican hymn translated and adapted by John Bell.

When we are living, we are in the Lord,
and when we’re dying, we are in the Lord;
for in our living and in our dying
we belong to God, we belong to God.

Each day allows us to decide for good,
loving and serving as we know we should;
in thankful giving, in hopeful living,
we belong to God, we belong to God.

Sometimes we sorrow, other times embrace,
sometimes we question everything we face;
yet in our yearning is deeper learning:
we belong to God, we belong to God.

Till earth is over may we always know
love never fails us: God has made it so.
hard times will prove us, never remove us;
we belong to God, we belong to God.

Prayer of Turning Around

Loving God,
truly dust we are, and to dust we shall return;
and truly yours we are, and to you we shall return.
Help this to be a time of turning round and beginning again.
Through the forty days of Lent, help us to follow you
and to find you: in the discipline of praying
and in the drudgery of caring –
in whatever we deny ourselves,
and whatever we set ourselves to learn or do.
Help us to discover you in our loneliness and in community,
In our emptiness and our fulfilment,
in our sadness and our laughter.
Help us to find you when we ourselves are lost.
Help us to follow you on the journey to Jerusalem
to the waving palms of the people’s hope,
to their rejection, to the cross and empty tomb.
Help us to perceive new growth amid the ashes of the old.
Help us, carrying your cross, to be signs of your Kingdom. Amen.

(Jan Sutch Pickard in Eggs and Ashes, ed. Ruth Burgess and Chris Polhill)

Pray for God’s Holy Spirit to come upon you, upon our church and into our world as Davie plays:

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me
Melt me, mould me
Fill me, use me
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us
Melt us, mould us
Fill us, use us
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us.
(Daniel Iverson)

We have come before God in penitence and faith, we’ve acknowledged our brokenness and accepted God’s forgiveness. We’ve committed ourselves to observe the season of Lent and asked God, through the Holy Spirit, to help transform us. Now let’s listen to the advice Jesus gave to his first followers in Matthew 6. 1-6, 16-18. Hugh is reading from the Message.

The desert waits
ready for those who come,
who come obedient to the Spirit’s leading;
or who are driven,
because they will not come any other way.

The desert always waits,
ready to let us know who we are—
the place of self-discovery.

And whilst we fear, and rightly,
the loneliness and emptiness and harshness,
we forget the angels,
whom we cannot see for our blindness,
but who come when God decides
that we need their help;
when we are ready for what they can give us.

(Ruth Burgess in Eggs and Ashes, ed. Ruth Burgess and Chris Polhill)

‘Angels bring food to Jesus in the wilderness’ from A Mirror of Holiness of Father Jerome Xavier’, Mughal India, 1602-1604. Click here for more information.

As you prepare yourself for the weeks ahead, listen to or join in with Catherine singing ‘Sent by the Lord am I’ by Jorge Maldonado.

Sent by the Lord am I;
my hands are ready now
to make the earth a place
in which the kingdom comes.

The angels cannot change
a world of hurt and pain
into a world of love,
of justice and of peace.

The task is mine to do,
to set it really free.
O help me to obey;
help me to do your will.

From dust we come
to dust we will return
we belong to God.

Grace us with your blessing
today and always.
Keep us close to you, God,
Keep us close to you. Amen

Rector’s Letter – 16th February 2021

Dear friends,

When I was growing up, we lived next door to two elderly sisters we called Aunty Mary and Aunty Peg. Every Shrove Tuesday, they would come to our house at tea time carrying a plate covered with a cloth with steam rising from it. My reaction would be to run into the pantry for the tin of golden syrup, excitedly shouting, ‘Crempog, crempog!’. The pancakes had arrived and I was in seventh heaven!

We aren’t able to hold our usual Pancake Party in the hall this year, but the Young Church leaders are hoping to create good memories for younger members of the St Mary’s family by gathering together on line for a virtual celebration. We will be dancing to the music of Mardi Gras dressed up in costumes and masks, exploring traditions associated with the day and using the story of the tempting of Jesus in the wilderness to help us consider how we will observe Lent this year.

I hope you also will be able to mark the day in some way and will put aside some time tomorrow for our Ash Wednesday Reflection which will be posted in the morning. There is still time to register for the Dunblane Churches Together Lent Study which will be held at 4 p.m. every Thursday, starting this week. Please contact Anthony on lentgroups @ You will find ideas of other ways of observing Lent if you in our ‘Preparing for Lent in Lockdown’ post below. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you’d like to borrow a Lent book or a Bible study. I would encourage you to make the most of these last weeks of Lockdown if you can.

With my love and prayers,

Christian Aid – Climate Justice Petition

John Hamilton, our Christian Aid representative, invites us to add our names to a Climate Justice petition organised by Christian Aid.

Coronavirus disrupted our lives in an unprecedented way. Now we face a choice – we can go back to business as usual, perpetuating the climate crisis and growing inequality.
Or we can take positive steps to build justice after the pandemic, and towards a healthier, safer future for everybody. This year the UK government has some crucial opportunities to do the right thing.

You are invited by Christian Aid to sign a petition to the Prime Minister to ensure that the UK fulfils its responsibilities and its promise to build back better.
Call on the PM to:

• Increase financial support to the world’s poorest countries and push for their debts to be cancelled
• Invest in a green recovery that leaves no-one behind
• Stop the expansion of fossil fuel energy and support clean energy.

Click here to add your name to the petition:

Climate Justice Petition 2021 – Christian Aid

Material for Worship on Transfiguration Sunday

This Sunday, our reflection has been written by Kate Sainsbury, a Lay Reader, the founder of the Appletree Community and a new associate member of the St Mary’s Ministry Team.

“There’s no such thing as magic!”
Or is there?
Walking in a wood once, I suddenly found a sycamore helicopter spinning in the air below my finger, seemingly without support. The spider’s thread that connected us was invisible at first glance. I was with my son, Louis, who is profoundly brain-injured.
“Look, Louis!” I said, lifting my arm to raise the spinner up towards his face, into his field of vision. “It’s magic!”
The delight of this event put great emphasis into my voice, an energy that broke through Louis’ lack of understanding, to lodge a new phrase in his memory.
He looked from the spinning bit of green to my face, his eyes fixed on mine, shining with reflected amazement and love.
“It’s magic!” he repeated.
In Louis’ language, which lacks consonants because of damage to the 7th cranial nerve, what he said sounded like …. i …. a … i ….
He began to smile. His whole body took it up, he rocked backwards and forwards from his waist, he became happy in front of my eyes, all of him, his face, his body, his whole being. Mum was happy: Louis was happy. We existed in this moment, united in our love for each other, triggered by an encounter with something beyond understanding.
The incident, and the word, were lodged forever as a shared memory for us both. Even today, when we go back to the phrase, ‘it’s magic!’ we get a little bit of the feeling we had that day.
I can never know what Louis thinks, can never hear his explanation, from the inside. But the outward evidence is all I need to know that we are talking about the same thing: encounter in love.
It was both magic … and, with the scientific explanation of the spider’s thread that I had brushed against … NOT magic.

Our Gospel reading today, tells us a story of something that is MAGIC. Take a moment to listen to Margaret reading Mark 9.2-9. (The image is from the Vie de Jesus Mafa series.)

This Transfiguration follows Peter’s recognition of Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus’s teaching that leadership as Messiah means suffering, death and rising again. That had been followed by Jesus’ invitation to the crowd and disciples to take up their own crosses, to go into uncertainty and suffering, trusting God would bring about new life through them.
Our story was an intimate gathering. Peter, James and John, were taken up a mountain by Jesus, where they knew that Moses encountered God. What happened next was as amazing as Moses’ own experience had been.
In front of his friends, Jesus’ was transfigured – he became shining white, they saw him talking with both Moses, the lawgiver, God’s messenger, and Elijah, the great prophet.
It was MAGIC.
The veil of time and place slipped aside, the three disciples found themselves existing in a new dimension, for which Peter had no words. This was holy space, they were drawn in and at the same time, terrified. Peter, the practical one, cast about to pin down the awe of the moment. ‘Shall we build some booths, Lord? temporary temples, like those we make at our festival, to contain this holiness?’
James and John – called elsewhere ‘Sons of thunder’ – say nothing. Perhaps their tempestuous nature makes them more used to living with uncertainty. Then a cloud comes over them, just as a cloud had descended on Moses. Out of the cloud God speaks to them, an echo of God’s address to Jesus at his baptism. ‘’This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’
How did they make sense of that?
Perhaps it took years, the events of the last days of Jesus’ life, his death, resurrection and Pentecost, for them to learn that the God who is Father to Jesus, was father to them too, that each of them, was beloved, each was a part of the whole.
How do we make sense of the mystery?

At the heart of this story I find certainty, the power of love, a guarantee that each of us is precious. That matters to me, as Louis’ mother. I find the Transfiguration a story of hope, a vision of a just world coming into being through God’s love. It powers me to pursue a vision of a long-term home for Louis and others with disabilities. At Appletree Community, Louis’ calls us to his table to be fed by the God of love, who asks each of us to participate in living well, equal with each other, loved equally.

The vision, grew out of need. When Louis’ care home shut there was nowhere for him in Scotland. Its particular shape follows from asking ‘WHO is Louis?’ recognising his sociable nature, his wish to live with others, the benefits for staff of being able to support one another. The Court of Protection approved my plan to use Louis’ medical negligence funds to buy a house. Care will be given 24/7 by professional carers from Scottish Autism, funded by the local authority, who economise through overnight care shared amongst three.

The house is a converted steading, with plenty of space for shared living, indoors and out, and self-contained ensuite bedrooms for all. It has the security of a south-facing, enclosed courtyard and gardens. Its wooden floors and high ceilings make a calm atmosphere. It is close to the A9 at Aberuthven, semi-rural, yet accessible. Alongside is a barn for developing future day activities.

Partnership with Scottish Autism, will be crucial. We seek to encourage long-term commitment in staff. It takes a while to learn Louis’ language. When he is understood, communication is a pleasure. In the hospital now, where he is not heard, he resorts to shouting or protest. Developing a centre of excellence for Louis and his house-mates, will contribute to a sea-change that is going on all around in social care in Scotland for the better. As Bishop Ian says of work inspired by the Holy Spirit, ‘Find out what’s going on and join in!’

In December 2019 we held our first Appletree Christmas party, where over forty people joined us, friends, neighbours. We sang carols, prayed, enacted the journey to Bethlehem in search of the star. We met our second resident, Ewan, who came along with his family. He felt so at home, he went off for a sleep. A guest, Laura, who played the part of Mary, has become one of our Patrons.

A year after lockdown, there is much to be thankful for: building adaptations progress; a core Scottish Autism staff team is getting to know Louis and Ewan. Relationships with wider society grow, we are supported through prayer, newspaper coverage, donations, invitations to speak. We participate in arts groups and United Nations young people’s groups. We have academic links with the School of Christianity and Autism at the University of Aberdeen, policy links to Scottish Government. PAMIS (Promoting a More Inclusive Society), a charity for people with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities advocates for us.

We are supported and blessed by Bishop Ian, who sees us like a new way of being church, a diaconal movement, with Benedictine roots, where ‘to work is to pray’. We are prayed for by local churches. We move, with wider society, into an unknown future, one step at a time, listening, giving thanks, trusting God, holding to values of justice, equality, joy and love. It’s magic!

On this Valentine’s Day, you are invited to listen to Mary singing ‘Love is the touch of intangible joy’ by Alison M. Robertson.

Love is the touch of intangible joy;
love is the force that no fear can destroy;
love is the goodness we gladly applaud:
God is where love is, for love is of God.

Love is the lilt in a lingering voice;
love is the hope that can make us rejoice;
love is the cure for the frightened and flawed:
God is where love is, for love is of God.

Love is the light in the tunnel of pain;
love is the will to be whole once again;
love is the trust of a friend on the road:
God is where love is, for love is of God.

Love is the Maker, and Spirit, and Son;
love is the kingdom their will has begun;
love is the pathway the saints all have trod:
God is where love is, for love is of God.

Here is an opportunity to pray with the words of St Paul’s famous chapter on Love before we bring to mind all those who need our prayers today.

Loving God,
Help us to be patient; help us to be kind; help us not to be envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Help us not to insist on our own way, not to be irritable or resentful. Help us not to rejoice in wrongdoing, but to rejoice in the truth. Help us to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.

Let us pray for all who are lacking in love,
for those who don’t receive the love they need,
for those who cannot show love to others.

Shine your love upon us, Lord,
so that we might reflect it out into the world.

Help us to live out your life in our actions,
especially towards those we find hard to love.

We bring before you all those in positions of authority and influence …

We pray for those who are sick in body or mind, bereaved or lonely …

We pray for the church all over the world and especially for the Appletree Community.

May love be the force that drives us and the power that binds us,
we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.

More of Kate’s story …

Louis enjoying a winter’s walk. Louis is currently detained in a locked hospital unit because there is nowhere else for him in Scotland. He was recently pinned down and injected, because, even after two years, there isn’t sufficient understanding of his language to take a gentle approach. He is traumatised by such incidents. Louis has the understanding of an 18-month old.

Louis’ friend, David, photographer and artist, my godson. For eight years, Louis and David enjoyed communion services together, adapted for additional needs, called ’Comrie Special Friends’. David co-led worship at the last national Lay Reader conference 2014, with Bishop Bob Gilles and was a guest worship-leader at TISEC. We shall start ‘Appletree Special Friends’.

The bedroom wing undergoing total remodelling, with soundproofing and new walls, creating two ensuite bedrooms, one wheelchair accessible, with ensuite carers’ bedroom

A local estate gifted us five huge boulders that will stand in the courtyard, their solid weight a reminder of time, of matter. Their grouping will express how we are all dependent on each other and on forces greater than ourselves. To me they seem to say, ‘Yes we can!”