Advent at St Mary’s

PEACE (December 4th) 8.30am Traditional Communion 10.30am Sung Eucharist and Young Church 8pm The Forgotten Women - Celebrating the Women who made the first Christmas possible, part of #16Days; JOY (December 11th) 8.30am Traditional Communion 10.30 am Sung Eucharist and Young Church 8pm Reflections on Walking the Camino; LOVE (December 18th) 8.30am Traditional Communion 10.30am Service for All Ages 4pm Christmas Carol Service followed by mince pies and mulled wine. PLUS Monday 5th December, 3.30pm – Advent Labyrinth for Families in church hall.

Winter Quiet Afternoon

Rector’s Letter, December 2022

Dear friends,

I am writing this letter in the midst of preparing to travel to Wales to visit my mother who will be 90 in the spring. I am looking forward to a few days spent at a different pace, enjoying unhurried, lovingly-prepared meals, leisurely walks, meandering conversation, afternoon naps and early nights. If it happens, it will be a great start to the season of Advent, the season when we’re called to slow down in order to wait watchfully for the coming of Christ. As you prepare for Christmas this year, I hope that you will be able to make time for Advent and to join your church family on our journey together.

Our Season of Remembrance came to an end with the celebration of Christ the King and Rachael’s memorable image of the Church as a ‘rowboat society’, facing backwards as we move forwards. As we enter this new season, I hope that we will take up the challenge to look over our shoulders to where we are going. In order to do so, we need to slacken the pace so that we can catch glimpses of the One who is our destination.


In our services there will be plenty of opportunity for reflection, as we sing our Advent and Christmas carols and explore the writings of Isaiah and Matthew. At Night Church we’ll journey with the forgotten women of the Bible and on the pilgrimage route to Compostela. As the Posada makes its way from household to household, there will be opportunities for young and old to spend time getting to know each other better. Please pray for the families who will be introduced to the practice of labyrinth walking at our after-school Advent event and for all the pupils who will take part in the inter-church Christmas Journey initiative.

As we prepare for our Christmas celebrations, we will continue to walk alongside those who are finding life a struggle. During the Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender Violence, we have an opportunity to remind ourselves and others of the need to eliminate violence against women and girls. We are invited to join with the United Nations campaign to ‘Orange the world!’ and to contribute to the Mothers’ Union collections for Women’s Aid and the Family Help Hub at Cornton Vale Women’s Prison. Through our Christmas Appeal, we can once more support the wonderful work Aberlour, Scotland’s Children’s Charity, is doing to keep families together and provide emergency funds for those in crisis. Our Quiet Service for those who find the Christmas festivities difficult falls this year on 21st December, the longest night. If you know of anyone who has had a hard year for whatever reason, please let them know about this service, or, even better, offer to bring them.


In January we are offering a Quiet Afternoon to reflect on ‘A journey through Winter’ using art or poetry, an indoor labyrinth or a walk outside, There is also an invitation for you to explore in a safe environment those faith questions you have always wanted to ask but have been afraid to voice. The Living the Questions course is based on the premise that faith is not a destination but a journey. An ecumenical team of facilitators is preparing to accompany you.

Our young people will also have an opportunity in the New Year to go deeper in their understanding of their faith and of being part of the Church with Rachael as their guide. Bishop Ian has been invited to join us at Pentecost for a special service of celebration where candidates of any age are invited to affirm the promises made at baptism and renew their dedication to participate fully as part of the Church within the Episcopal tradition. Any adult who hasn’t been confirmed or who has come to St Mary’s from another denomination and wishes to explore the possibility of expressing their commitment in this way, is welcome to speak with me about it.

As you discern your path towards Christ this Advent, I invite you to use the simple prayer of Thomas Merton:

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Amen.

 

with love to you all,

Nerys

Solo Harp Concert

Join us next Sunday evening for an exciting performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons arranged for harp by the performer, internationally recognised soloist, Keziah Thomas, in the beautiful surroundings of St Mary’s Church. Entry by donation.

Autumn Quiet Afternoon

This retreat is open to people of all denominations or none.

Rector’s Letter, October 2022

Dear friends,
On the first Sunday of the Season of Creation we were joined by Pam Martin, a lay minister from Levens in South Cumbria who is an ambassador for the Christian Environmental Charity, A Rocha. After her visit, Pam sent me the following reflection. She wrote it for her parish magazine last winter in the midst of the pandemic but it contains good advice and encouragement for us at St Mary’s as we enter into the colder months in equally difficult circumstances.

Hope in dark times
I had an elderly friend – she was 96 when she died – who used to go into a real depressive decline at the onset of Autumn. This is a season which I love for its mellow light, its vivid colours and its earthy smells, and I found it difficult to understand why she found it so hard to bear. She tried to explain that autumn gives way to winter and the prospect of months of decreasing light values, increasingly cold weather, long nights and short days served only to remind her of her own mortality and the way her life was changing as she got older. I really didn’t want her final years to be blighted by such negative thoughts, so I prepared an ‘autumn’ prayer station where I tried to show how, just as the year was drifting to its close, there were already clearly visible signs of renewal in the natural world.

In our current challenging times, when everything we have depended on has been swept away and life has been turned upside down, we too can look to the natural world around us for signs of comfort and hope. Just look at the trees – apparently bare and lifeless – yet even before their leaves fell to the ground in the autumn, the buds protecting the new growth of next spring were already visible, and by this stage of the winter they are already swelling with the energy of new life. In the fruits that hang on the branches in the form of berries, nuts and winged seeds there is also the promise of the continuity of the familiar.

During a covid lockdown in 2020 my little granddaughter’s home-schooling programme included a winter nature walk. The teacher had sent pictures of 24 things to look out for and tick off on our walk, but most of them were not visible at all in the winter, and if that had been all we had to focus on it would have been a pretty depressing walk. So we went out armed with my i-phone and its camera to photograph things of beauty and would you believe that on February 3rd we found Viburnum tinus in flower, early daffodils breaking bud in the flower beds, primroses blooming bravely in the snow, a quince plant absolutely covered with a deliciously rich array of apricot-coloured flowers, hellebores flowering their socks off in a wee flowerbed outside someone’s front door. We saw cotoneaster berries rich and red just ready to drop to the ground and put the seeds in contact with the earth to enable the birth of a new plant, and we noticed the delicate, pointy, cigar-shaped buds of a beech tree protected from the harsh winter weather by the dry dead leaves the tree chooses to hold on to instead of letting them drop to the ground. The thick buds of Azalea praecox were just on the point of opening to share the wondrous beauty of their pale lavender flowers with whoever had eyes to see – and of course the s snowdrop – so easily overlooked precisely because it is ubiquitous and so very small – was really enriching of the soul because of its modest simplicity and beauty.

So if you are finding the times in which we live stressful and unsettling – just go out and immerse yourself in God’s wonderful creation. It is no wonder that it has been referred to as the first gospel, because it tells us so much about our wonderful God. And who can remain depressed when confronted by such majesty!

We will be revisiting some of the themes of Pam’s reflection and spending time in God’s creation at our Autumn Quiet Afternoon on 22nd October. Please contact me at rector@stmarysdunblane.org if you wish to attend.

Pam also shared some exciting practical ideas while she was with us, including joining the Recycling for Good Causes scheme. This is an opportunity both to help improve the environment and to raise money for the church’s environmental projects by collecting unwanted electronic gadgets, such as cameras, games consoles, mobile phones, sat navs, MP3 players and tablets, and also watches and jewellery (anything from plastic beads to old broken gold chains), old currency both UK and foreign and used stamps. For more information, please visit www.recyclingforgoodcauses.org.


A fortnight will be set for you to bring your donations to church in late October or early November. In the meantime, please start rummaging in your drawers, garages and attics!

The Season of Creation comes to an end with a Harvest Thanksgiving Service on the morning of 9th October which will be led by our curate, Rachael Wright. Please continue to pray for Rachael who is to be ordained at our cathedral in Perth on 2nd October and for Charlotte as she supports her.

I would also ask for your prayers also for Revd Ruth Kennedy who was ordained at Dunblane Cathedral on 8th September. Ruth has been appointed as a Pioneer Minister working with people under forty in the Cathedral, St Blane’s and St Mary’s and in the local community. I hope that we will get to know Ruth and have opportunities to support her exciting ministry during the months ahead.

Ruth was ordained on the evening of the death of Queen Elizabeth. As I reflected on that day, I realised that it was a watershed, not only in the history of the United Kingdom but also in the story of the churches of Dunblane. Rachael and Ruth represent a new generation of ordained and lay leaders who have been called to serve our community, bringing with them different approaches to ministry and mission from those we are used to. I hope that we at St Mary’s will embrace any new ecumenical initiatives that they introduce.

After our Harvest Celebration we will return to Sundays in Ordinary Time for a few weeks before the Season of Remembrance begins. During this in-between time at the onset of winter, there will be opportunities to think how we can respond to the huge increase in poverty which is likely to be caused by the food and fuel crisis. Bob Gill the convenor of Start-up Stirling which runs our local Food Bank will be in conversation with Rachael at the 10.30 service on 16th October. At the Night Service on 30th October, Revd Martin Johnstone will be sharing his thoughts, based on over 30 years involvement in a range of charities and third sector agencies focused on anti-poverty and tackling social injustice, including Christian Aid, Faith in Community Scotland and the Poverty Truth Network.

Dunblane Cathedral have reopened their café in the Cockburn Lounge between 10 a.m. and noon on Mondays to Fridays and are preparing to open a Winter drop-in for those in need of a warm space. We have been invited to help with this initiative, but I wonder if we are also called to develop a project of our own to offer hospitality and support to those in our community who will be struggling this winter? If you have any thoughts on this, please get in touch.

The October issue of the St Mary’s magazine is available in the porch of the church. If you would like to contribute to the November issue, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the editor at magazine@stmarysdunblane.org or to speak to me.

Holding you all in my prayers,
Nerys

Harvest Thanksgiving Service 2022

A service for people of all ages together.

Prayers for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

You are welcome to use the church as a space to say a private prayer for the repose of the soul of Queen Elizabeth and for the Royal Family.

 

Almighty and eternal God, you uphold and govern all things both in heaven and on earth, and by your grace alone kings and queens do reign. We thank you for all the blessings which you have bestowed upon us through our late sovereign lady, Queen Elizabeth, whom you have called from this life in recent days. We thank you for the wisdom of her guidance and her love of peace, for the care and devotion with which she served her people, for the example of her gracious life. We pray that you would fill our hearts with gratitude for all these good things, and give us grace that we may use the memory of them as a perpetual call to live according to your will, for the good of all the world, and the glory of your great name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Rector’s Letter

Dear friends,

It’s been a good summer for home-grown fruit here in Dunblane. In addition, it appears that there will be a bumper crop of apples and pears this autumn, the horse chestnuts are laden with conkers and the rowan trees are aflame with berries. But as I delight in this year’s abundance of wild raspberries, blaeberries and blackberries, I can hear my grandmother’s grim prediction that a hard winter is on the way. She taught my mother and I to prepare for the winter months by filling our larders with jams, jellies and pickles. Having endured the deprivations of two World Wars and the Great Depression, it was second nature for her to squirrel away supplies and to be always ready for a crisis.

We will probably never know the nature of the crisis over a thousand years ago which caused members of a Christian community in south-west Scotland to hide their most precious possessions in a hole in the ground. As I explored the National Museum of Scotland’s wonderful exhibition of the treasures of the Galloway Hoard at Aberdeen Art Gallery last month, it struck me that the experience of these ancient churchmen might have been similar to those fleeing conflict today. Depositing their gold and silver in such a way was clearly an act of desperation but it also represented their hope that they would one day return to rebuild their community. Our prayer for our asylum-seeker friends living in Castlemilk and for the Ukrainian refugees living in our midst is that one day there will be peace and justice in their native countries and an opportunity for them and their children to flourish.

In the meantime, we have an opportunity to befriend and support them and to offer them hospitality. I am delighted that we at St Mary’s are co-hosting a regular Saturday morning arts event for the Ukrainians with HSTAR, a charitable organisation which provides counselling, therapy and workshops for women and youngsters affected by trauma or abuse. I hope that during the autumn and winter there will be many more opportunities for us to share meals, develop friendships and provide support. Look out for information about another visit from the asylum-seeker families organised by Pippa. The joy of young and old alike as they tried out the play equipment in the Laigh Hills and joined us for a simple picnic was something I will never forget.

The autumn is traditionally a time when we give thanks for the Harvest and this year it will be a special celebration at St Mary’s as it will be our curate Rachael Wright’s first Sunday with us following her ordination at St Ninian’s Cathedral the previous week.  Our Harvest Thanksgiving on 9th October will be the culmination of the Season of Creation which starts on 4th September with a special service when I’ll be joined by Pam Martin, a lay minister from the Lake District who has been involved for many years in organising environmental action. The theme of this year’s ecumenical Season of Creation is ‘Listen to the Voice of Creation’ and the symbol of the burning bush was chosen not only to refer to the devastating wild fires which are a consequence of global warming, but also to the episode in the Book of Exodus where fire symbolizes God’s presence close to all who are suffering and our need ‘to take off our shoes’ and connect once more with God’s natural world.

At the launch of the Season of Creation which I attended on line in February, Revd. Chad Rimmer, Chair of the Steering Committee said:

‘In prayer, when we centre the cry of the Earth and the cry of those livelihoods who are threatened by habitat loss and climate change, communities of worship can amplify the voices of young people, indigenous people and affected communities who are not heard in society and those who are displaced or have been disappeared from public spaces and political processes.’

By learning from those with expert knowledge like Pam Martin and also Anne Murray from Water Aid who will be joining us on the evening of  11th September, I hope that we will find ways to speak out for those most affected. But it is important also that we spend time in prayer individually and together so that we can hear God’s ‘still small voice’ speaking to us.

A striking feature of the Galloway hoard is that it had been arranged in two distinct layers. The top layer was probably intended as a decoy to convince plunderers that they had found everything worth taking. The real treasure lay deeper in the ground. The same is true of church life. It is very easy to throw ourselves into action and miss the call to delve deeper. I hope that we will all, young and old, find opportunities during the Season of Creation to be still and to explore the precious mysteries of God.

With love to you all,
Nerys

News Update

Dear friends,
Whenever I visit my mother in Aberystwyth I always try to get to the sea front. It is a place that holds many memories for me of childhood outings, the three years I spent living there as a student and of walks with friends and family in all weathers. Even on dismal winter days there is always something to see and somebody to meet. Last month was no exception as Llys y Brenin Square had become the setting for a visiting sculpture, the National Monument Against Violence and Aggression or ‘The Knife Angel’ as it is more generally known.

I had heard of this figure made from over 100,000 seized blades, which has been touring the UK to raise awareness of knife crime, but I wasn’t prepared for the impact it would make on me.
It is an imposing structure rising 27 feet from the ground. From a distance, there is beauty and elegance to the bronze wings which glint in the sun but as I approached, I shivered as I realised that they were made up of thousands of rusty blades of all shapes and sizes from hatchets and swords to tiny daggers. And the colours on the torso are from the handles of thousands of penknives also seized by the police or yielded in knife amnesties around the country. Some of the blades are inscribed with messages from the families of victims – a chilling reminder of the devastating impact of knife crime. As I stood at the barrier, my eyes were drawn up to the angel’s grim face modelled on that of its sculptor Alfie Bradley. I found it difficult at first to interpret its expression. Was it sorrow, grief or anger or all three? And then I noticed that the angel was looking down at his upturned hands and it dawned on me that the whole sculpture is simply asking the question ‘Why?’.

As I reflected on the experience of visiting the sculpture in the days that followed, I became aware of the frequency of that question in my prayers during the last year as I have shared with God my sorrow, grief and anger about the state our world is in. ‘Why, Lord’, is a frequent question in the Psalms of Lament as the authors, at the end of their tether, turn to God for help. This summer and autumn, during the season of Ordinary Time we will be using the Eucharistic Prayer for Times of Lament in our services from time to time. According to the introduction to this new liturgy, ‘Lament is not only about bemoaning suffering and tragedy in the world, but also about acknowledging God’s sovereignty, remembering God’s saving work in the past, and discerning God’s continuing work in the present and into the future – and committing ourselves to being part of that work of transforming the world, so that humanity may live in justice and peace’.

I hope you will be encouraged  to continue to be part of that work of transforming the world through prayer and action by reading the updates below:

It is a year since Kate Sainsbury came to St Mary’s during Carers’ Week to introduce us to her son Louis and to the Appletree Community near Auchterarder which was to become his home. Much has happened in this time including the completion of the renovation of the steading to accommodate up to three people with profound and complex needs. The main challenge, however, has been the putting together of a team of carers to support Louis and  to prepare and train them for their task.

Thanks to a great deal of prayer and hard work, the stage was reached last month where Louis was able to be discharged from the secure hospital ward where he had been held. For a number of weeks before hand, visits and overnight stays were organised so that Louis  was prepared for a very different way of life from the one he had been used to. The transition hasn’t been easy with Louis showing signs of trauma from his five years in captivity but there have also been moments of great joy and signs of  hope that he will flourish as he settles into his new life with  trusted relationships, in a purpose-built, beautiful place, with routines and regular activities.

The photos show Louis welcoming friends to his new home, crafting with his mother and enjoying a family meal

In the meantime, Kate, who is a Lay Reader,  has been busy raising awareness of the plight of people living with autism and the issue of the lack of adequate pay for support workers, by sharing Louis’ story in conferences and in the media, at meetings with leaders and policy makers and with faith communities. Please continue to pray for the Appletree Community and if you feel you can help in any way, please get in touch. You are also welcome to join Kate, Nerys, Jeanette and other supporters of the community  at the  weekly Appletree on-line prayer meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday evenings

 

Please continue to pray also for our friends who visited from Castlemilk Refugee Project last month. Along with their project leader, Eileen Baxendale, and her husband Keith came twenty mostly young people and children who belong to asylum-seeker families. They had come to thank us for organising the monthly collection of  children and baby items which are distributed to families in need in Castlemilk and to refugee families across the Central Belt. They had also come to worship with us and make friends.  We hope to organise another visit before the end of the summer.

Many of you have been asking how you can support these families further. Eileen has been thinking and praying about this and has  proposed a way of supporting one very gifted young  asylum seeker from Castlemilk who is a member of Cricket Scotland’s National under 15 squad. There is more information on how you can become one of Ali’s sponsors in the summer edition of the St Mary’s magazine or feel free to contact me.  In addition to our usual collection of children’s clothes, shoes, toys and baby equipment we are now looking for back-to-school items – pencil cases, stationery, school bags, white or pale blue polo shirts, pants, socks, vests.

 

I was delighted to catch up with Abby Parkhouse from Aberlour Childcare Trust, to hear how the money from our Christmas Appeal has been spent and to find out about new services which are being developed across Scotland.

To date Aberlour has distributed £1.34m from its Urgent Assistance fund helping 3,195 struggling families, directly supporting 11,000 people across Scotland. In the wider Stirlingshire area, £6,545 was awarded in the Financial year 2020, and a further £11,232.35 has been awarded between April 2021 and May 2022. The majority of the applications are from families living in poverty, as well as from single parents, people who are unemployed and parents with mental or other health issues. They have included requests for money to purchase beds, clothing, bedding, food, a cooker or oven and fridge freezers, amongst other things. Very few ask for help with utilities, as families are spending what little money they do have on their gas and electricity.

Aberlour’s  new Sustain services work with families to prevent their child or children being taken into care. These families may be affected by domestic violence, poor mental health, drug and alcohol use, unemployment, financial stress, disability and autism, housing issues or social isolation.  In Perth and Kinross and in Falkirk,  Aberlour’s  workers spend time with these families  in their homes in order to understand what they  need to thrive. They  work with the whole family to encourage the building of routines and resilience, helping parents, carers, and kinship carers to develop their ability to look after  their children, and to build their ability to engage with the community. The service also provides 24/7 emotional and practical support.

Aberlour is also  working with the Scottish Government to establish two new dedicated Mother and Child Residential Recovery Houses. The houses will be designed to enable children of women with problematic substance use to stay with their mothers as they receive treatment to help them recover from their addiction. The first house will open in Dundee in Autumn 2022. The second house located in Central Scotland will open in 2023. Each house will support four women and their children at any one time.

For more information about these projects and many others and to give regular support to Aberlour visit www.aberlour.org.uk

 

And finally, I would ask for your prayers  following the huge success of the Eco Fest, bringing together many key organisations and making information about sustainable living and care for the environment available to members of our wider community. Where do we go from here with our Environmental Plan? Please pray and get in touch with your ideas.

In the meantime, I look forward to seeing you in church during the Summer.
With love
Nerys

Dunblane Eco Fest, 11th June 2022

So excited about this new initiative!  So many organisations coming to Dunblane on Saturday to share their expertise! Opportunities to learn how to save energy and look after the environment. Fun for all the family!  Come any time between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Stalls in the hall and gazeebos outside. A chance to chat with  local owners of electric and hybrid cars. Meet the Bike Doctor and  Hedgehog Champion, local bee keepers, upcyclers and many more. Refreshments provided by St Mary’s Parents’ Council.

Eco Question Time Wednesday 18th May, 7.30 p.m.

Eco Question Time is an exciting opportunity to come together to listen to  four experts speak on various aspects of the climate crisis and to ask them questions.

It will be held in St Mary’s Church Hall at 7.30 p.m. on Wednesday 18th May but there is an opportunity also to watch it live on the St Mary’s Church Facebook Page.

 

Dr Martin Johnstone has been involved at national level for the last 30 years in tackling social injustice and poverty. He will focus on the overall threat of global warming and the consequences of this for climate change.

Laura Young is a climate activist, environmental scientist, sustainability communicator, and ethical influencer. She will illustrate how the climate crisis is already hitting those living in the poorest countries in the world.

Alasdair Tollemache is the Green councillor for Dunblane and Bridge of Allan. He will talk about issues specific to climate change in Scotland, and what we need to do to preserve the environment  locally.

Malcolm Rooney  is currently co-chair of the UK Branch of the Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group [ESRAG] and has recently been appointed Chair of Global ESRAG Groups from July 2022. He will focus on the steps each of us can take to reduce emissions and waste, and the cumulative positive impact these steps can have.

Following the talks, each of which will last for fifteen minutes, there will be an opportunity for members of the audience and those watching the livestream, to ask questions about the issues raised by the speakers. This will be an important opportunity to explore a wide range of issues of relevance to us as we seek to find ways of limiting global warming.

 

Please also remember the next initiative – the Dunblane ECO Fest – that takes place on Saturday 11th June in the Church hall and in the grounds, starting at 11am and lasting until 4pm. There will be exhibitors from regional and local organisations who will be keen to discuss a wide range of topics, including the steps we can all take to reduce consumption, and ways of being more environmentally friendly.

For more information or if you would like to be involved please contact Peter Holmes on hall @ stmarysdunblane.org

Praying for Peace in Eastern Europe

Dear friends,

Just to let you know that space has been set up in the church for you to come and pray about the situation in Eastern Europe.

Also, on Sunday evening, instead of our planned service, we will hold a vigil for peace.

Between 7 and 8 p.m. you are welcome to drop in to listen to some Ukrainian sacred music, light a candle and take away a prayer to use through the week.

The service which starts at 8 p.m. will consist of short chants and silences and also an opportunity for those attending to share Bible readings, poems and prayers. There are plenty available on the internet. You are invited to bring something which speaks to you or to write your own prayer or poem to share.

Please spread the word and invite friends and family to join us in prayer.

In the meantime, here is a prayer by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

with love

Nerys

 

Letter from the Rector

Dear friends,
Recently I have enjoyed many spectacular skies as I have walked home at sunset. A number of them have been captured and shared on line by local photographers like Raymond Dormer who took this image from his bedroom window.

What I didn’t know until a friend explained it to me, was that these beautiful sights were due to the massive volcanic eruption in the South Pacific on 15th January. They were created when the sun’s rays reflected off the particles of ash thrown up by the Hunga Tonga volcano which has caused thousands of families to be without clean water, food, and shelter. What had brought me pleasure here in Dunblane had caused suffering to many on the other side of our world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us more than ever how interconnected we are globally. It is becoming clear that the vaccination gap between richer and poorer nations is not only causing devastation the other side of the world but has contributed to the emergence of new variants which are affecting all of us. This interconnection is at the very heart of the message of this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight which starts at the end of this month. Ensuring economic justice for the poor farmers on the other side of the world who produce food we enjoy is crucial in the global fight against climate change. At the UN COP26 summit last year, the richer nations failed to recognise the urgent need to invest in these small farmers, delaying until next year the funding they had promised to the countries most vulnerable to climate disaster. During Fairtrade Fortnight we can help make sure that politicians turn their promises into action at COP27. There will also be opportunities to spread the message that we here in Dunblane have the power to make a difference to the lives of thousands of people simply by the choices we make when we shop.

Our responsibility as people of faith is made very clear in our Gospel for this year, the Gospel of Luke, which has a particular emphasis on Jesus’ compassion towards the poor and oppressed. It is difficult to read its pages without hearing the call of God’s Spirit to respond through prayer and action to their need for justice. I hope that you will join me in taking time to at least think about these things as we approach Lent and Easter.
With love to you all,
Nerys

Letter from the Rector

Dear friends,
I wonder how and with whom you intend to celebrate Christmas 2021? We have more freedom to choose what to do this year but the experiences of the last twenty two months have caused many of us to re-evaluate and re-prioritise. Time spent visiting or receiving family members and friends will be more precious to us, live music, drama and sport will be a special treat, and I hope that the opportunity to worship together in church will also be high on our agenda. We, at St Mary’s, are intending to offer a range of Advent and Christmas services, some of them old favourites and others more recent additions to our calendar. I hope that there will be something to appeal to everyone. Mindful of the fact that some will find the Christmas festivities difficult, we will also hold a Quiet Service on the Sunday evening before Christmas. There will be no carol singing, just time to reflect, recall, regroup in the peaceful, prayerful atmosphere of the church. If you know of anyone who has had a particularly hard year for whatever reason, please let them know about this service, or even better, offer to bring them, and pray that those who come will find the space and hope which the Christmas story offers.
During the year, we have learnt of the appeal of outdoor worship, especially to families with children and young people. We will, therefore, be building an Advent Spiral on the Rectory Lawn as part of the Families Service on 12th December, and inviting folk of all ages to come together after dark during the rest of the month to take turns to prayerfully walk the path marked by evergreen boughs carrying a lantern to light from a central candle. For more information, please contact Liz Owen on events@stmarysdunblane.org. There will also be an opportunity for children of all ages and their families to come to church for the Christingle Service at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve and also to join with the rest of the congregation for the Eucharist on the second and fourth Sundays of Advent as well as on Christmas morning.
For those who enjoy singing, we will be offering three carol services. The first will be an Advent Carol Service with poems and prayers at 8 p.m. on Sunday, 28th November. The second will be a Christmas Carol Service at 4 p.m. on 19th December for which you are invited to contribute suggestions of carols, poems and readings. Then on 9th January, we will be involved in a Joint Epiphany Carol Service at Holy Trinity Church in Stirling at 6.30 p.m.
At each of our services, there will be an opportunity to contribute towards our Christmas Appeal for Aberlour Childcare Trust. Information about the recent work of the charity and its special relationship to the Scottish Episcopal Church is to be found in this issue of the magazine along with an invitation to support Women’s Aid in Stirling and to get involved in Mothers’ Union’s Christmas Gift Appeal for women in Cornton Vale Prison.
After the sad losses of the last two months, I have some joyful events to look forward to before Christmas. Please pray for Ben and Stefanie and Laura and Gareth whose weddings I’ll be celebrating at Cromlix House Chapel and also for Ian and Kirsty Hamilton who will be affirming their vows before family and friends. I also look forward to being involved in ‘The Christmas Journey’, an ecumenical event for Primary 7 pupils in Dunblane, exploring the story of the first Christmas in a multimedia, hands-on and thought-provoking way.
I would appreciate your prayers for these events and also for my new role as Interim Pastor for St Saviour’s Church, Bridge of Allan who are currently without a Rector. This additional responsibility will only occasionally take me away from you on Sundays as it mostly involves supporting the Vestry and helping the Ministry Team to provide pastoral care to the congregation. Please pray for them and also for our Vestry as they work together to develop the Church Hall and the new website and to implement some of the ideas contained in our Environmental Action Plan. Please consider offering practical support for any of these projects if you are able. Many hands make light work!
Whatever form your Christmas celebrations will take this year, I hope that you will make space for the Christ child and make time during the weeks of Advent to prepare for his coming once more to our world and into our hearts. May this Advent and Christmas be a time of joy and blessing for you and your loved ones.
With love,
Nerys