Vocations Sunday – Nerys in conversation with Godwin Chimara

Rev Nerys Brown in conversation with Godwin Chimara from the Diocese of Aberdeen, a student at the Scottish Episcopal Institute:

Stations Of The Cross

During Lent, members of St Mary’s have worked with Revd Jeanette to produce a prayer resource for Holy Week.

Here is Jeanette with a word of explanation:

Those of you who have been to the Holy Land have probably in the course of you trip walked the Via Dolorosa, following in the steps of Jesus as he made his journey to the cross. There is now historical doubt as to whether that actually was the route Jesus took, but that does not make it any less of a journey in faith with Jesus to the pilgrims who walk it. Nor should it.

The Stations of the Cross we have created, replicate that journey remotely, going even further on in the story and ending with Jesus in the tomb. With Bible readings, reflections and prayers, they help us to understand more deeply the agonies Jesus must have suffered as he willingly gave his life for us.

Stations as we know them today developed over the 15th and 16th centuries, with a varied number of Stations, anything from 7 – 30, but the 14 we now have became the standard. They can be found round the walls of many Churches, and different denominations, Methodist, Lutheran, Anglican and Catholic, either pictures or plaques with the number of that particular Station. St Luke’s Glenrothes had a set of embroidered ones, which were simple but lovely. Holy Trinity Stirling also have a set around their walls.

The set of images we have used are paintings by Seiger Koder, a German priest-painter who died in February 2015, shortly after his 90th birthday.

Thanks to the following for taking part: Rob Smallman, Alison Diamond, Peter Holmes, Mary Birch (Readings), Alastair Christmas, Jill Wisher, Martin Wisher (Prayers), Jeanette Allan (Reflections), Moira Langston (Song), and a huge thank you to David Jamieson for putting the video together.

Attending a Service at St Mary’s during Spring and Summer 2021 – Some Frequently Asked Questions

Can anyone attend a service at St Mary’s? Yes, subject to seating being available, and you would be made most welcome.

How do I book a place? Please contact Sue at services @ stmarysdunblane.org or by phoning 01786 824004. To ensure that the maximum number of people can attend a service, Sue needs to know each week who wishes to attend. Sue knows this might be a bit of a pain, but can you please contact her by Friday each week if you wish to attend a service/services that weekend; this will enable her to fill as many places as she can and not unnecessarily disappoint others who might otherwise have been able to join us. Places will be filled on a first come first served basis, so please get your booking in early! Please let Sue know also if you are ready to flexible.

What if I just turn up? If there is a spare place, you will be asked to complete a form giving your contact details for NHS Test & Protect. This information will be held by the Rector for 21 days.

When should I arrive? The building will be open 10 minutes before the start of the service. You may need to queue outside for a little. Please make sure that you social distance while you wait.

What happens as I enter the building? A welcomer will greet you outside the door and check your name on the list of attenders. You will need to wear a mask inside the building. You will be asked to sanitise your hands and pick up your service sheet.

Where will I sit? You will be directed to a seat by a second welcomer. The pews furthest from the door will be filled first. Alternate pews will be taped off so that there will be a space of 2 metres behind and in front of you. If you have come on your own you will share a pew with one other person sitting, 2 metres apart. If you have come as part of a larger social bubble you can sit together in a pew. You will be asked to stay seated throughout the service.

What if I need to use the disabled entrance? Just let Sue know and we will make the necessary arrangements. There is a space for a wheelchair towards the front of the church and towards the back.

What about children? Children of all ages are welcome to attend and take part in Sunday services. They will need to sit with the rest of their household. An activity pack will be provided for them, to be collected on your way in. Please indicate the ages of the children when you contact Sue. A Families Service is held in the church hall at 4.30 p.m. on the last Sunday of every month. This service is short and informal with activities and discussion around your family table and music provided by the band. Please contact Liz on events @ stmarysdunblane.org for more information or to book a table.

What will the service be like? The Early Morning Service at 8.30 a.m. is a said Communion Service using traditional language. It provides a calm space for reflection and prayer. The main Sunday service at 10.30 a.m. is a livelier and more interactive communion service with readings and prayers, a short address and hymns played on the organ or by the band. The Night Service at 8 p.m. is a short, reflective, candlelit service using a variety of styles from traditional Compline to Taizé.

What about music? There will be organ music most Sundays at the 10.30 Service and the band will sometimes play. We are not allowed to sing together but we can listen to hymns or songs being played, following the words on the service sheet, and solo singers can contribute to the service. At the Night Service there is usually music, live or recorded.

Will there be a collection? There will be a bowl at the back of church for you to leave an offering if you wish but we would prefer you to donate by BACS or by standing order or direct debit, if possible. For details, please contact Alastair at treasurer @ stmarysdunblane.org

Will the service be filmed? The main service will be livestreamed so that those who can’t attend can watch it at home. It is broadcast on Facebook Live, which can be easily accessed via our Facebook page and will hopefully appear on your ‘home’ screen if you follow St Mary’s on Facebook. A video recording will appear on the St Mary’s website, www.stmarysdunblane.org, soon after the service. Only those taking part will be filmed. The camera is switched off during the distribution of communion.

What about communion? Every baptized Christian is welcome to receive communion at St Mary’s and anyone can come forward for an individual blessing. Each person, couple or family group will come to the altar individually, wearing a mask, having sanitised their hands. They reach out their hands to receive the bread, take a step to the side to consume having partially lifted their face mask, and then return to their seat. Then the next person, couple or family group will come up. The presiding priest will wear a mask while distributing communion and will avoid touching communicants’ hands. An arrangement can be made for the Stewards to place anyone who is unable to come to the altar at the aisle end of a pew. The priest will take communion to them wearing a mask.

What happens at the end of the service? Please stay in your seats until you are invited to leave by a welcomer. The pews nearest the main door will be emptied first. Please take your service sheet with you. Once you’re out of the building, please don’t cluster around the main doors of the church. Sadly, we are unable to provide refreshments at this stage.
What if I need to go to the toilet? The toilet in the church (through the door to the Vestry which is clearly marked) will be available. Please lower the cover before you flush. It will be cleaned straight after the service.

What if I need to speak to a priest? Whoever is leading the service will be around outside at the end of the service, weather permitting. You are always welcome to phone the Rectory on 824225 or send Nerys an email on rector@stmarysdunblane.org to make an arrangement to see her another time.

How is the church prepared for services? After each service, the occupied pews are wiped and all surfaces which may have been touched are disinfected. In addition, Carol, the church cleaner, gives the church building a thorough clean every Wednesday afternoon.

What provision is there for those who can’t attend services? In addition to the recording of the main service, every Saturday, Material for Worship is sent to those on the congregational email list and distributed to those not online. It contains audio recordings of the readings for the day by members of the congregation, and a reflection and a prayer by a member of the Ministry Team. If you wish to receive this regularly, please contact Nerys.

Can I come into the church building at any other time? As we are not allowed to have the church open without supervision, the building is closed at the moment. If there was a desire to have the church open for a few hours a week for private prayer, this could be arranged. Please contact Nerys if you would find this helpful. The porch of the church is open during daylight hours and contains a prayer board and materials to take away. There will also be prayer activities in the grounds during the Spring and Summer including opportunities to walk the labyrinth on the Rectory lawn.

What about weddings and baptisms? Yes, they are possible with limited numbers and safety measures in place. Speak with Nerys if you would like to know more.

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,

Nerys

P.S.
Garden Furniture Wanted
Please get in touch with Nerys at rector @ stmarysdunblane.org 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 @ stmarysdunblane.org 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.

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 @ stmarysdunblane.org if you wish to attend

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,
Nerys

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,

Nerys

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.

BUT
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,

Nerys

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 @ stmarysdunblane.org 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,
Nerys

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

Thank You from Aberlour

A thank you message from Aberlour…

Rector’s Letter – 10th February 2021

Dear friends,

Many of you are aware that almost every morning and evening for the last eleven months, I have walked from our home in Argyle Way to the church and back again, a distance of about a mile each way. This routine not only keeps me physically fit but also gives me the time and space I need to keep me well mentally and spiritually. I find that it is helpful as I walk to focus on whatever I can see and hear around me, from the spectacular views of the hills at the start of my journey to the call of the robin welcoming me at my destination .

I particularly enjoy looking for signs of the changing of the seasons, especially now that Spring is around the corner. Early in the new year, however, I had been concerned by the fact that the bank between the Police Station and the India Gate was covered with brambles and the remains of last year’s growth. How would the daffodils which had given me such delight last spring manage to grow and blossom? To my relief, one morning I came across a volunteer from Dunblane in Bloom strimming the debris and within days the green shoots were emerging from the cleared ground.

We are approaching a new season in the Church Year, a time perhaps to seek to clear away those things in our lives that are getting in the way of God’s love. Lent in Lockdown is an opportunity to turn inwards, to deal with any old hurts and fears and the feelings of grief, guilt, unworthiness or anger that accompany them. It’s the perfect time to make more space to allow Hope, Love and Joy to grow in our hearts and minds. We may not be able to meet together to receive a cross of ash on our foreheads this year, but we can take some time on Ash Wednesday to reflect on the meaning of that symbolic action and commit ourselves to allowing God to work in us this Lent, transforming us from the inside out. Readings and prayers will be sent to you next week to help you make the most of this opportunity.

I am looking forward to marking Shrove Tuesday with Young Church families at an online Mardi Gras party. Photos of church members or friends making or flipping pancakes would be welcome for next week’s newsletter…

With love to you all,
Nerys

(Photos courtesy of Dunblane In Bloom)

Preparing for Lent in Lockdown

Nerys writes:

It has become clear in the last few days that we will be starting our Lenten journey in Lockdown so what about doing something special this year? Ash Wedensday is on 17th February so you have a couple of weeks to look for something that would suit you. There are so many resources available that I thought I’d mention a few possibilities for you to explore.
Dunblane Churches Together is putting on weekly ecumenical study groups. For more information about ‘Opening the Scriptures: Setting our Hearts on Fire’ and to register interest, contact Anthony on lentgroups @ stmarysdunblane.org

If you enjoy reading, there are many books designed to guide you through the forty days of Lent or to help you focus on a particular theme or issue. This link will take you to a review from the Church Times of over a dozen of this year’s offerings. For those of you who enjoyed our Advent course Simply Wait, Moira Langston suggests The Way of Benedict: Eight Blessings for Lent by Laurentia Johns, a Benedictine nun at Stanbrook Abbey. Others who remember the study we did many years ago of the film Chocolat, might like Still Standing which is based on the Elton John movie Rocketman. If you have Lent books from past years you would like to recommend and/or lend to others, please get in touch so that the information can be included in next week’s newsletter.

There are also accompanied online retreats run by various organisations.

The Ignatian Spirituality Centre in Glasgow is offering Knowing Jesus, an opportunity to pray with Scripture, pictures and music on your own or to join in a weekly group meeting on line. Visit www.iscglasgow.co.uk/lent2021.html for more information. The BBC Radio 4 Daily Service will be taking up the themes every week.

The Bield Retreat Centre will also offer some material for reflection and companionship on the journey. Information about ‘Lent with the Bield’ can be found on Facebook and on www.bieldatblackruthven.org.uk

Finally, this might be an appropriate time to watch the acclaimed TV series ‘The Chosen’ based on the life of Christ. For more information and on opportunity to meet with others to reflect on it, please contact Liz on events @ stmarysdunblane.org

Rector’s Letter – 4th February 2021

Dear friends,

Jeanette and I have been overwhelmed this week by the response we’ve had to the video reflection for Candlemas which was shared with you and on the St Mary’s website and Facebook page. A number of you were in touch on Sunday to say how helpful you had found it and how much you had enjoyed the choice of songs and images. And then on Monday morning, out of the blue, I received a phone call from Lorna, a retired headteacher and Church of Scotland member in Edinburgh, who had stumbled upon the video by accident while searching for another St Mary’s church. She had been so blessed by the prayers and reflections that she just had to get in touch! She must have sent a link to Joyce Watson, the Episcopal priest on Iona and a friend of mine, because yesterday and email arrived with a request from Joyce for a copy of one of the images we had used. She loved how we had chosen portrayals of the scene in the Temple from different cultures but it was the contemporary Dutch picture by Jan van tHoff with the faces of Simeon and Anna lit by the light of Christ which had touched her. ‘A lovely picture to share, and probably to keep for myself as reminder of how precious old age is’, she wrote.

Today came another request for a copy of another picture. Peter Lee who had lived and worked in Africa in his youth wanted to know more about the image which depicts the characters in Luke’s story as African people. I had to admit to him that I had failed to find the name of the artist but promised to look again. I decided to investigate the term ‘Jesus Mafa’ which accompanied one copy of the image and found that Mafa is the name of an ethnic group in Northern Cameroon and surrounding countries. Further research led me to a series of more than 70 paintings and a fascinating story …

The Vie de Jesus Mafa collection is a response to the Gospel by a Christian community in the Cameroon. In the 1970s, a French Catholic missionary, François Vidil, worked with Mafa Christians to build a resource that would help them teach others about Jesus in a way that connected with their culture and way of life. As the local people acted out scenes from the Gospel set in their own environment, Vidil and his team would sketch and photograph them. These became the basis of a vast collection of paintings depicting almost every story in the four Gospels, made by a team of French artists and returned to the community. You can explore the collection by searching for Mafa Jesus Series Images on the internet.

I wonder if there is an image that has been helpful to you during this difficult year? You are welcome to share it with us by sending me a message on rector @ stmarysdunblane.org
Looking forward to hearing from you,

Nerys

Rector’s Letter – 30th January 2021

Dear Members of St Mary’s,

As someone who grew up on the coast in Wales where it is very unusual to have snow, I get excited when the weather turns wintry. I still miss the fun we had sledging, throwing snowballs and building snowmen when the children were little. I know that I will feel sad when the snow disappears but at this time of year it can also be exciting to see what has been growing under that white carpet. In the church grounds, the snowdrops are starting to appear and other spring flowers are putting up green shoots. Isn’t it amazing how these small plants are able to push their way through the frozen soil. All through the autumn and winter months they have been waiting underground in the dark, their roots reaching out into the soil to fill the bulbs with nutrients to give them the energy to grow the shoots that reach up towards the light. And now that Spring is just round the corner, here they are again, ready to produce their flowers. Many of you are having to wait in your homes until things get better. It’s not always easy, but like the spring flowers, we can make the most of it, allow God’s love to work within us and become a blessing for others.

Next Tuesday, 2nd February is Candlemas, an ancient festival marking the first day of Spring. It was a day when people brought the candles they would be using in their homes for the year to the church to be blessed. The story we read from the Bible on that day tells of Mary and Joseph taking the child Jesus to Jerusalem. In the temple that day were two elderly people who had been waiting all their lives for God to send a special person to bring the light of love into the world. Simeon recognised Jesus in the crowd and started praising God whilst Anna danced with joy. How did they know that this ordinary little baby with his ordinary mum and dad was the one promised by God? Luke’s Gospel doesn’t tell us but we know that every day for many, many years, these two had come to the temple to worship God and to pray.

We know that regular worship and prayer transforms us. In the words of one participant in our Exploring Worship sessions, when we worship and pray regularly, God’s love works away in us shaping us from the inside. I hope that you will manage to continue to meet with God during this second Lockdown. The Ministry Team will be sending out weekly Materials for Worship and also the occasional video with readings, reflections, prayers and songs. The livestreaming of services will resume once public services are allowed once more. In the meantime, here is some information about a number of online activities planned for the weeks ahead,

Young Church Candlemas Online Celebration, Tuesday 2nd February at 5 p.m.

Young Church Virtual Pancake Party, Tuesday 16th February at 5 p.m.
Please spread the word among young families you know. Contact Liz on events @ stmarysdunblane.org

Men’s Group Zoom Meeting, Saturday 13th February at 11 a.m. Contact Martin on mensgroup @ stmarysdunblane.org for more information

Ecumenical Lent Groups, ‘Opening the Scriptures: Setting our Hearts on Fire’. For more information and to register interest, contact Anthony on lentgroups @ stmarysdunblane.org

Thank you for your prayers for me and my family. You’ll be delighted to hear that my mother and father-in-law both received their first vaccinations on Saturday, the one in Aberystwyth and the other in Aboyne. What a coincidence!

I will continue to pray for you and look forward to seeing you back in church.

With love,
Nerys