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 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

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 or to speak to me.

Holding you all in my prayers,