Rector’s October Letter

Dear friends,
This month, the Season of Creation comes to an end with our services of thanksgiving for the harvest and we move on to the Season of Remembrance and the end of the Church Year. It is important, however, that we continue to express our concern for the environment in prayer and action.

The gardeners among you have been telling me that it’s been a very good year for some produce and an unexpectedly bad one for others. After a bumper crop of blackcurrants last year, I was disappointed to see the bushes bare this summer. In the world’s poorest communities, most families’ lives depend on growing crops to feed themselves and to earn an income. In order to do so they need a reliable water supply which most of them don’t have, and the changing climate is making things even more unpredictable. Our Harvest Appeal for Water Aid will help make sure that some of these families will be able to produce crops that flourish year after year, whatever the weather. In order to establish a meaningful relationship with the charity which works to provide clean water in 28 countries, from Nepal to Ethiopia, one of Water Aid’s local speakers, Anne Murray, will join us at the 10.30 service on 17th October. There will also be opportunities this month to get involved with Christian Aid in the preparations for the COP 26 Conference in Glasgow in November.

Vestry has been busy putting together an action plan for St Mary’s to ensure that concern for the environment is woven through every aspect of our life as a church. The stimulus was a request by the Diocese’s Climate Change Group to consider how we will play our part in the Scottish Episcopal Church’s quest to reduce our carbon emissions to zero by 2030. Vestry members agreed to undertake an environmental audit which was wider than that required by the diocese, looking at our care for the natural environment and for those worst affected by the Climate Crisis in addition to ways of cutting our carbon emissions. The resulting action plan covers our spiritual living (our worship, prayer and teaching), our practical living (our buildings, grounds and supplies), and our global living (how we influence and learn from the lives of one other, our local community and overseas concerns). Please take some time to read it, to prayerfully consider how you could get involved and to share any thoughts and ideas that come to you with a member of Vestry before our next meeting on 20th October. This is an ambitious plan to be implemented over a period of months and years rather than weeks. For it to succeed, it needs the prayers and involvement of each one of us.

We will also continue to pray for one another and especially those who are frail or unwell, and on Sunday 31st October, All Saints and All Souls Sunday, we will remember those we have loved and lost. As the numbers of those with Covid in the local area remain high, I will not visit you without an invitation but please get in touch on 824225 if you wish for me to come to your home with or without communion, or if you would like a chat on the phone.

With love
Nerys

Message from Castlemilk

The third Castlemilk collection since Covid travel restrictions were lifted was taken away on August 9th – a large van full of donations of second-hand baby items and children’s clothes and toys, bedding and towels from Dunblane families along with a sizeable amount of new ‘Back to School’ items donated by members of the St Mary’s congregation and the wider community. Thank you all for your generosity. The next collection with a focus on warm clothes, winter coats, boots and wellies for children of all ages will happen in mid September.

In the meantime, here is a little of the story of the of our church community which has been working with asylum seekers and refugees in Castlemilk for 20 years now.

The Castlemilk Churches Together Refugee Centre opened in the Baptist Church in response to Gilles from Africa, turning up at the Parish Church to ask for help for him and the other asylum seekers being delivered to our local flats by overnight buses from London.

We started with the practical help asked for: heaters for cold flat, winter clothes, English classes, a safe place to meet, somewhere to play football. We’ve grown and changed over the years but sadly the need for help for new arrivals is a great as ever. Fast forward to 2021 and we are still based in the Baptist Church. We’re now a mixed group of local Scottish people, well established “New Scots” refugees and asylum seekers all working together to help whoever comes in the door in need. Our new asylum seekers “settling in” programme of English classes, discussion and activity groups and international lunches has just been fully funded.


We also help local people who are struggling as well as our international friends, with furniture, household goods, baby/toddler equipment and clothes. It’s amazing that the donations we receive all the time enabled us to help over 350 households last year. For this we thank God and those he uses, such as our long-term supporters in Dunblane, for this generosity.
Two months ago we grieved with Wonder over the death of her brother in Africa. Last Sunday we rejoiced with her as she has now been granted leave to remain in the UK. This means she can start the process to have her 7 year old daughter join her. But we continue to pray for Aruba whose young children are still in Africa. “You don’t understand” she said to us recently “what I’m going though”.

Your prayers and support are appreciated.

Eileen Baxendale
Project Coordinator

Rector’s Letter

Dear friends,
The beginning of Jean Hudson’s poem in Autumn, Ruth Burgess’ latest collection of liturgical resources published by Wild Goose, seems to me to sum up the month ahead for us at St Mary’s.

A month of change as one season dips into another,
never an easy transition.
Misty mornings, occasional frosts,
gleaming sunshine, sharp showers,
rainbows, an Indian summer,
anything is possible
and often we have it all …

It will be a month of change as we respond to the further relaxation of Covid-related restrictions, as we enter into the Season of Creation after the long sequence of Ordinary Time Sundays, and as we are offered more opportunities for social interaction both in person and on line. I hope that in our services and gatherings there will be a great deal of variety with something that will appeal to everyone.

I am delighted that Bishop Ian will join us to lead the 10.30 a.m. service on 12th September followed by coffee in the hall to which you are all invited. I am also looking forward very much to introducing you to Rachael Wright, a ministry student with the Scottish Episcopal Institute who will be undertaking a five-week placement with me from 5th September to 10th October. And it won’t be long now until Ven. Peter Potter returns from Switzerland …

This year, the Season of Creation assumes a greater significance because of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 26) held in Glasgow in early November. On the first Sunday of the season, we will join with over a thousand local churches across the United Kingdom and Ireland to hold a climate-focused services to pray and commit to action as individuals and as a church community. During the weeks that follow, our families with children and our young people will meet outside if the weather allows, to worship, and to explore the natural environment and find ways to help make it more wildlife-friendly. Our Night Services will focus on aspects of the natural world that are crucial to the wellbeing of our planet. We will hold a Celebration of Bees and Beekeeping on September 12th and also a reflection on ‘The Water of Life’ on 26th September. The latter will be led by Jeanette whose passion for the work of Water Aid, the UK’s dedicated water charity, is infectious. Its aim is to provide clean water to the 771 million people in the world (one in every ten of us) who don’t have a well or a tap close to home. Without clean water, overcoming poverty is just a dream for them. By supporting their work, our Harvest Appeal this year will help transform the lives of many of these people who are also affected by Climate Change.

Look out for a mischief of mice (yes, that is the correct collective noun!) which will appear in the porch of the church over the next few weeks. They are colourful, cute and knitted and are to be given as a thank-you gift to everyone donating to our Harvest Appeal. Some of these mice are being crafted at the fortnightly Monday Gathering which has been well attended during the last month and is enabling some of you who are unable to come to church services to meet and pray with other members of the congregation. At the first meeting in September, we will be joined by Kate Clement from St Columba’s Church in Crieff, the local organiser of the Christmas Shoe Box Appeal which will be launched in early October. I look forward to finding out who receives our gifts, what they need and how the boxes are transported to them and to having an opportunity to pray with Kate as she and her team start their work.


At least two on-line groups will start this autumn. Liz Owen will organise another opportunity to watch and respond to The Chosen, the acclaimed multi-season TV series about the life of Christ, and Moira Langston has offered to start a quarterly book discussion group. Look out for more information later this month.
Finally, I would like to ask your prayers for another group which will be launched before the end of this year called ‘Living with Loss’. On my way back in the hearse from my first funeral as Rector of St Mary’s, Bob Robertson, the undertaker, asked me if I would consider setting up a bereavement support group as there wasn’t one for the Dunblane area and there was a great need. After a time of prayer and discernment, it became clear to me that this was a project which we at St Mary’s could and should provide. During Lockdown, June Sproston did a great deal of research and planning; recently we met to start the ball rolling. We agreed that the team of coordinator and a pair of facilitators would provide a warm welcome, friendship and support, a listening ear and a good cup of tea or coffee and cake. Information and signposting to more specialised services would be available. Members would be referred to the group by local undertakers and health staff and would also self-refer as the service would be advertised in the local community and on line. There would be supervision and training for the team, including an introductory session by Revd Marion Chatterley, who has worked extensively in bereavement support including people living with HIV, and offers chaplaincy to Marie Curie Hospice in Edinburgh.

With love to you all,
Nerys

News Update

 

 

Dear friends,

I’m sure that many of you will be glad to hear that from Sunday, congregational singing will be allowed at St Mary’s once more. We will still need to wear masks during the service to protect each other but at the 1030 a.m. service we will once more stand for hymns, the Gloria, the Peace and the Blessing. We will continue to keep alternate pews vacant for now but more people can sit in each pew if they wish to do so, so long as a 1 metre space is kept between households. Please let the Welcomer know what you would prefer. This means that you will no longer need to book a place at a service in advance although welcomers will continue to make a note of your name for Contact Tracing. We will be reviewing the arrangements for attending church at our next Vestry meeting on 18th August. Please get in touch with any thoughts.

Our next Monday afternoon gathering will be on 26th July in the church hall. This is open to anybody who would like to meet with other members of the congregation over a cup of tea or coffee between 2.30 and 4 p.m. There will be a short time of prayer and you are welcome to bring a crafting project, a table-top game or just yourselves! Two-metre distancing will be observed in the hall and all other precautions will be in place.

A new way of providing refreshments after the 10.30 service is being explored. The idea is to hold mini coffee mornings so that church members or groups from the wider community can raise money for a charity they support. If you would like to know more, to volunteer or to get involved by ordering supplies or keeping the calendar, please get in touch with me. The scheme will be trialled on a monthly basis from mid August.

The deadline for contributing ‘back to school’ items for needy families in Castlemilk is 30th July. Please bring them to the Rectory or get in touch if you wish for them to be collected. The Rectory garage is starting to fill up once more with donations of children’s clothes, toys and baby equipment kindly donated by Dunblane families.

With love to you all,
Nerys

Rector’s Letter, July 2021

Dear friends,
I wonder how many of you watched Jimmy McGovern’s gritty prison drama starring Sean Bean and Stephen Graham? Its title, ‘Time’, is obviously an allusion to the saying ‘doing time’ but there’s more to it than that. It got me thinking about our attitude to time, especially since our freedom has been curtailed by the pandemic. Then, this graphic appeared on my Facebook feed …


I suppose some people will see the whole of 2020 as a weird loop in the chronology of their lives; a period when time stood still, nothing moved forward, and everything was wasted. For these people, time is measured according to targets met, goals achieved, and life is all about pursuing progress. For people of faith, however, our growth is gauged by the grace we offer and receive. No step is wasted as we walk with Christ the path of prayer that leads us to become more wholly human, more fully faithful. Our aim is not to go further, faster, but to go deeper, dancing to the easy, unforced rhythms of goodness and grace.

The shape of a labyrinth is a visual reminder that the journey of life is rarely linear, and yet as we follow the twists and turns of the path, we are drawn ever nearer to the centre of God’s love.

This summer, I invite you to take time to find a pattern of prayer that suits you and enables you to go deeper with God. You are welcome to walk the labyrinth on the Rectory lawn or to explore the finger labyrinth included in the July-August issue of the St Mary’s magazine.. You may prefer to experiment with the imaginative method of reading scripture called Lectio Divina, to set aside a time to reflect on your day using the Examen as your framework, or to try using set prayers or words to help you connect with God. For guidance visit the ‘Ancient Prayer Rhythms’ page at www.24-7prayer.com or speak to me or another member of the Ministry Team.

With love,
Nerys

Rector’s Letter – June 2021

Dear friends,

By the time you read this, we will be in Ordinary Time, the longest season in the Church Year, stretching from Pentecost to the beginning of Advent. After the extraordinary year we’ve experienced with its great uncertainties and challenges, its many losses and unexpected joys, I for one am looking forward to settling into the rhythm of the tempus ordinarium which literally means ‘measured time’. With the great festivals of the church behind us and the easing of restrictions to our worshiping and our meeting together, my hope is that the summer and autumn months will be a time for us to enjoy some of the ordinary things of church life, things we took for granted before March 2020.

In his poem ‘The Bright Field’, R. S. Thomas recalls his experience of seeing sunlight breaking through onto a small patch of land. It is only later that he realises with regret that the field contained the treasure for which he yearned. I hope that you will join me, if you can, in making the most of any opportunities to worship and meet together in the weeks ahead. It won’t be as it was before the pandemic or as it will be when the danger of the virus has passed, but, in the words of the poet,

Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past.

It’s so easy to miss the pearls of great price that lie along our way because we are too busy looking over our shoulders or scanning the horizon.

It was only when they sat down together with the risen Christ that the two on the road to Emmaus recognised him in their midst. Sometimes it takes a turning aside, an inner shift, to enable us to catch glimpses of the glory of God in the ordinary present of our lives and to become aware of the Spirit of Love at work within us and among us. My prayer for the weeks of Ordinary Time is that despite the limitations imposed on us, we as a congregation would take pleasure from our time together in God’s presence, be that in our Sunday services or when groups gather once more in the hall.

I hope that we will continue to listen deeply to each other as we discern together the way ahead, embracing new initiatives, encouraging and supporting those who ready to work for the future of St Mary’s. Members of the Vestry and others are making great progress on different fronts to ensure that there will be opportunities for growth in the years ahead, Leaders of Young Church are experimenting with new patterns to make our worship more accessible to families with children, and members of the Pastoral Care Team are figuring out ways to better respond to the needs of those in our midst who are lonely or bereaved. Please pray for them and please get involved if you are able.

I hope that we will also listen out for the voices of those in need in our local community and across the world and find ways to respond with compassion. It was a privilege last month to host the service to launch Christian Aid Week in Dunblane and to learn more about the way the charity is helping those living in Climate Chaos and raising a voice on their behalf. Over £6,000 was collected by means of the envelopes and the Just Giving Page. Thank you to everyone involved.

This month we will return to the ‘Faith into Action’ conversation series of previous years, focussing on the way God is calling ordinary people to serve others in extraordinary ways. We will start by marking Carers Week in the company of Kate Sainsbury who has founded the Appletree Community near Auchterarder to provide a home for her son Louis and other young people with profound and complex needs. Look out for an opportunity to add prayers for carers and those who are cared for to a noticeboard in the church porch. These will be read in the services on Sunday 6th June. For more information on Carers Week and to add your voice to the call to Make Carers Visible and Valued, visit www.carersweek.org

Later in the month you will be invited to make ‘people chains’ to help show our readiness as churches to walk alongside all refugees and asylum seekers and their families. On World Refugee Day, 20th June, Hugh Grant will introduce us to Forth Valley Welcome which helps New Scots to integrate into their local community. I hope that this will be the starting point for a conversation about ways in which we at St Mary’s might wish to be involved in supporting displaced people both locally or globally. For more information, visit www.refugeeweek.org.uk

The livestreaming of the 10.30 a.m. eucharist and the distribution of the Materials for Worship at Home will continue for the time being with a review at the end of the month. Please get in touch if you are benefiting from these resources and wish for them to continue.

With my love and prayers,
Nerys

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 Autumn 2021 – Some Frequently Asked Questions

Can anyone attend a service at St Mary’s? Yes, and you would be made most welcome. There is no longer any need to book a place in advance. If you have any questions, please drop an email to Nerys on rector @ stmarysdunblane.org or phone the Rectory on 01786 824511

What happens as I enter the building? A welcomer will greet you and ask you for your name and phone number or email address for NHS Test & Protect.  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 welcomer. We are observing one metre distancing but if you wish to sit 2 metres apart from others and would like to be near the exit, please let the welcomer know.

What if I need to use the disabled entrance? Just let Nerys 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.  A Whole Church Service is held roughly once a month. There is an informal Families Service in the church hall at 4.30 p.m. on the last Sunday of every month and also outdoor gatherings from mid August. Teenagers (from P7 to S6) will gather in the Quiet Garden at 10.30 a.m. on Sundays for Cafe Church. Please consult the Calendar and contact Liz on events @ stmarysdunblane.org for more information.

What will the services be like? The early morning service at 830 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 including traditional and modern Compline, Taize and Iona.

What about music? There will be hymns and organ music most Sundays at the 10.30 Service and the band will sometimes play.  At the Night Service there is often instrumental music. We are now allowed to sing behind masks.

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 is usually 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 . The pews nearest the main door will be emptied first.  Once you’re out of the building, please don’t cluster around the main doors of the church but spread out to chat. We hope to provide refreshments after the 10.30 a.m. service soon.

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.

What if I need to speak to a priest? Whoever is leading the service will be around outside at the end of the service. 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 week.

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 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? The church building is now open for individual prayer.  You are also welcome to walk the labyrinth on the Rectory lawn.

What about weddings and baptisms? Yes, they are possible with 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