Rector’s Letter – December 2020

Dear friends,

In recent years, the end of November has been for me a time of tension between the necessity to ‘get busy’ with preparations for Christmas and my desire to ‘go slow’ as we enter into the season of Advent. This year, the pressure for us as a church to jump straight into the celebrations is even greater as the opportunities for Christmas cheer are so scarce for young and old alike in these troubled times. Paradoxically, though, it is precisely because we’re in such difficult days that our need to keep Advent as a season of quiet, expectant waiting on God, is more important than ever. If our Christmas at St Mary’s is to be about the real, unconquerable light of God’s love shining into the real darkness of our broken world, then we need to prepare our hearts for its coming.

I am delighted that so many have expressed an interest in using the Simply Wait Advent resource by Pamela Hawkins, and I look forward to joining some of you on Zoom during the next few weeks for our Prayer Gatherings. It isn’t too late to order an electronic version or to ask for a print copy of the first section from me by emailing We meet on Wednesday and Friday evenings at 7.30 p.m. but you are welcome to work through the book by yourselves or with a friend if you prefer.

Another initiative born out of the Covid crisis is our Advent Spiral, an opportunity for two households to come together on the Rectory Lawn after dark to take turns to walk a path of evergreen boughs with a large candle at its centre. Each person walks slowly and quietly into the spiral carrying a lantern which they will light from the central candle. As they return, they will place it at the edge of the path, adding to the collective light. This was originally intended as an outreach activity for families with children, but seems to have aroused the interest of others within the congregation and beyond. Anyone is welcome to get in touch with Liz Owen on events @ or give me a phone on 824225 to book a slot at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. any evening from 12th December to Christmas Eve.

Advent has also become for me, since my appointment as diocesan chaplain to the Mothers’ Union a few years ago, a time to focus on what is being called the Shadow Pandemic. There has been a substantial global rise in gender-based violence during the last nine months. In Scotland, Women’s Aid has reported to Government its concern that for children and women experiencing domestic abuse, lockdown can mean spending extended periods of time at home with their abuser. Calls to Scotland’s Domestic Abuse Helpline indicate that abusers are using measures imposed to combat the pandemic as a tool in their abuse, for example increasing their control of women’s movement, keeping them isolated, threatening to expose them to the virus, or discouraging women from seeking help by telling them that services are not operating or that the police will not respond. Leaving an abusive relationship does not mean the end of the abuse. Women who have left their abuser may feel increased fear because their abuser knows that they will be spending time at home, increasing the risk of stalking. For children experiencing domestic abuse, closure of schools has removed a safe space, the opportunity for specialised support, and respite.

This year the Mothers’ Union’s campaign to raise awareness of gender-based violence is centred on the unacceptable fact that 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced domestic or sexual abuse. At St Mary’s, we will follow the MU’s Global Day of Action with a special Night Service on 6th December to lift our voices in prayer and protest. I hope that many of you will join with MU members across to world in our resolve not to be silent but ‘to speak out against the abuse of power, especially in our homes; to speak up for those who have been pushed down in any way; to speak to the needs of those who are suffering at the hands of another’.

In the meantime, there are preparations afoot for our Christmas celebrations at St Mary’s. The tree which this year will stand outside the church, has been ordered. The Posada will soon be on its way. Almost 100 angels for us to pass on to others with our love and prayers, have been knitted. A congregational card which you are welcome to sign, has been made and will soon appear in the porch. More than 30 of you are preparing to take part in our virtual Carol Service which will be available on DVD for everyone in the congregation to enjoy. Two Christingle services are being planned as well as a lovely Night Service reflection on ‘The Wonder and Mystery of Christmas’ and a Christmas morning celebration. To ensure a place at any of these services, please contact Sue on services @

Finally, at our AGM, our Christmas Appeal for Aberlour Childcare Trust was launched. A recent report produced by the charity, based on information gathered from the recipients of its emergency grants which have supported 3,264 Scottish children since March, reveals a level of poverty that is ‘fundamental and absolute’. Most of the families who applied for a grant from Aberlour needed it to buy basic necessities: 6 in 10 families who applied could not afford to feed their children and 1 in 2 families could not afford to heat their homes. The organisation needs our support to help prevent thousands more families from falling into poverty due to the economic impact of the pandemic. You may contribute to our appeal by putting cash or a cheque in an envelope marked ‘Aberlour’ in the church plate or through the Rectory door or by emailing Alastair Christmas at , for bank transfer details.

My prayer for all of us this week is that this year, the tension between the demands of Christmas and our longing to mark the season of Advent would energise and inspire us to travel with the Light-bearer and experience His peace, joy, hope and love.