Christmas message from the Primus
This year's Christmas message from the Primus comes from St John's Church in Arpafeelie, where the Most Rev.Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness, recorded a number of messages during lockdown earlier this year.
The Primus chose the location to reflect the experience of the past year, and to speak directly to the Scottish Episcopal Church community, who have shared challenging circumstances as people did their best to keep in touch by whatever means possible without being able to meet in person.
The video message is available on the usual provincial channels, at facebook and on YouTube. A transcription is reproduced below.
A joyful Christmas to you.
We’re here in St John's, Arpafeelie because I wanted to tell you something of this church, because in a way it mirrors our own Church. Having broadcast in so many places and written so many words for the Press, I wanted to have an opportunity to talk to us, to the Scottish Episcopal Church. To offer Christmas greetings to you who have worked so hard, and have done so much, to enable the life and witness of the church to continue during this most peculiar year; to remind you that we are here to celebrate Christmas in whichever way we can.
This isn’t a time for angst over whether we did it the right way or the wrong way, this is a day of giving thanks for the birth of Christ.
This church was built shortly after the last Jacobite rising and has seen so many changes. It was closed in the 1960s because following the two world wars, the number of people in this community just reduced and reduced. The church itself only survived because local people wanted it to survive. It continues to worship week by week. Sometimes there are small numbers, sometimes there are greater numbers but there is faithfulness in its worship. And yet it too has struggled this year, being unable to open, being unable to worship face to face, but actually sharing with everyone else across our Church, the possibility that we can worship in ways that keep us together even when we can’t be together.
Here in this church there is a depiction of the birth of Jesus, a depiction you will see across so many of our churches. It is the centre and heart of what we are about, that God, through the incarnation came among us, and ultimately through sacrifice offered us the possibility of eternal life.
That’s what this message is about. It’s not about how we get through the next two or three days. It’s not about how we worship in the next two or three months. It’s not about whether we are in face to face with each other or doing it digitally. These are all means of communicating the love of God in the world, and we must use it as an opportunity to compete about who’s better at doing which, and who should be doing what.
Because what I pick up from across Scotland is people just rejoicing that we have said anything, that we have remained there, that we have rung our bells when we can, that we have proclaimed the word of God in so many different ways. There’s not a right and a wrong way of doing this. There is a way which is there to touch the hearts of those who are listening.
I have had do many letters, so many emails, and thankfully the majority of them are letters of thanks.
So on this joyful Christmas Day, as we give thanks for the birth of Jesus, as we remember what those promises are, then help us to be the family of faith; not judging people by their results but judging them by how much they love, how much they have done, how concerned they are about the people they have helped, about all that has happened, new and old, traditional and modern, and let us do it all by genuinely seeking to love one another.
When I sit down for my Christmas dinner, there will be empty spaces at the table as there will be in so many places. But as I sit there, I will remember church after church, Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting, people gathering for a time and then not being able to, but still in contact, still sharing, still loving, still proclaiming Christ. So please, this wonderful Church, let’s not allow ourselves to become argumentative about the right and wrong way of doing things, but to rejoice together.
For unto us, a child is born. Unto us, a son is given, and the path of righteousness is open before us. A very holy and happy Christmas, and I hope, God willing, to meet, to share, and to be with you all in the New Year.
- The Primus has also written a message for the Christmas Eve edition of The Herald newspaper which can be read here.
Ten church leaders offer joint Christmas message
The Most Rev Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, is one of 10 church leaders who have each recited a line of a heartfelt joint message for Christmas.
The members of the Scottish Church Leaders Forum offer their video message in recognition that many individuals and families are grappling with difficulties and uncertainties due to the impact of Covid-19.
It is hoped that sharing the Good News about the birth of Jesus Christ will bring some comfort, hope and peace to those who are struggling.
You can watch the video message here.
The Scottish Church Leaders Forum was formed in March in response to the pandemic to speak on issues of mutual concern with one voice. The forum is responsible for the ecumenical prayers published for use every Sunday at 7pm.
The text as narrated in the video has been translated into Gaelic here.
Virtual choir assembled for online Christmas worship
To help churches which have been unable to open, and congregation members who have been unable or unwilling to return to physical worship, provincial online services have been enhanced over Christmas to help as many people as possible to worship together at this important time of year.
A number of extra services and offerings have been available via the Scottish Episcopal Church website during December to mark Advent and Christmas, including an online Carol Service, a Crib Service, Midnight Mass and the Christmas Morning Eucharist.
The Advent Lessons and Carols service on Tuesday 22 December was particularly received, as a Scottish Episcopal Choir of over 30 volunteers came together to offer that element of worship so many have been missing – singing. Those following the service at home were encouraged to sing along with the virtual choir.
The choir sang a selection of Carols, and there were also other musical contributions and bible readings. The choir was made up of members from all of the seven dioceses within the province, who raised their voices together from their own homes, with organ accompaniment from Michael Bawtree.
The service can be watched again here.
At time of publication of this edition, the following services have still to come:
Thursday 24 December: 11.30pm Midnight Mass;
Friday 25 December: 11am Christmas Morning service
Saturday 26 December: 6.30pm St Stephen’s Day
Sunday 27 December: 11am Eucharist led by Bishop Anne Dyer
Monday 28 December: 6.30pm Holy Innocents
Links to Christmas services can be found here.
BBC worship programme comes from St John’s, Aberdeen
BBC Scotland weekly worship programme The Service will come from St John the Evangelist in Aberdeen on Sunday 27 December.
The Rt Rev Anne Dyer, Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney, will lead worship (pictured right), assisted by the Rev Jenny Holden (pictured above) and Mr Tom Ferguson.
Filming took place in mid December, and the broadcast will be screened at 12 noon on the 27th on the BBC Scotland channel. Further details are available here and the programme can be watched again online after the initial broadcast. Co-incidentally, Bishop Anne will lead online provincial worship on the same day, starting at 11am.
The SEC was featured by the BBC on several occasions during December. The significance of the nativity was discussed by the Rev Diana Hall on BBC Radio Scotland’s Sunday Morning programme with Sally Magnusson on 20 December. Rev Hall, Rector of St Anne’s in Dunbar, told the programme: “The nativity symbolises one of the most important things about the Christian faith. We hear the word ‘Emmanuel’ at Christmas and Emmanuel means God with us, and so the nativity symbolises this belief that Jesus came to live among us."
She added: “In the end, the story of the nativity is a story of hope in the midst of hard times, a story of light in darkness; it’s the promise that God has come to us to be with us and that God never leaves us, and always offers hope for the future. I think hope is what many people are needing right now, and I hope that’s what the nativity will speak to people this year.”
You can hear Rev Hall’s full interview on the BBC Sounds website here at the 50-minute mark.
Earlier the same day, the Rev Philip Blackledge led worship on BBC Radio Scotland programme New Every Sunday from Holy Trinity in Melrose. The broadcast can be heard on the BBC website, here. New Every Sunday also came from Melrose previous weekend, when Rev Blackledge welcomed Gaudete Sunday, also known as Rejoicing Sunday. You can listen again to that 13 December broadcast here.
BBC One Scotland’s weekly worship television programme Reflections at the Quay featured library footage of Once In Royal David’s City being sung beautifully at St Paul’s Cathedral in Dundee, pictured above, as producers delved into the archives to add music to the programme at a time when we are not able to sing in church. The programme can be seen again here.
And St Moluag’s at Eoropaidh on the Isle of Lewis, featured on BBC One’s Countryfile, pictured right. In a Christmas special of the popular programme, presenter John Craven explored the ancient tradition of Gaelic psalm singing, and as part of the item, renowned Gaelic composer Calum Martin sang inside St Moluag’s and was then interviewed in nearby Ness. Countryfile can be watched again here with St Moluag’s appearing just after the 29-minute mark.
Earlier in the month, American writer Garrison Keillor’s reminiscences of everyday life in the imaginary small town of Lake Wobegon, where the news is usually good, were evoked when Bishop David Chillingworth, former Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, delivered Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Scotland prgramme Good Morning Scotland. Bishop David can be heard here at the 1hr 21min 30sec mark.
Information about the availability of Covid vaccines has been welcome news in recent weeks. Details of the vaccination programme in Scotland can be found here.
Meanwhile, the SEC Advisory Group guidance for churches can be accessed on the provincial website here.
Short list published for Argyll & The Isles episcopal vacancy
Three candidates have been short-listed for election to the office of Bishop of Argyll & The Isles, following the translation of the Rt Rev Kevin Pearson to be Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway in July 2020, having served the Diocese of Argyll & The Isles as Bishop since 2011.
The three candidates have been selected by a Preparatory Committee consisting of clergy and lay church members from the Diocese of Argyll & The Isles and across the wider Scottish Episcopal Church. The next stage in the election process is an online meeting of each of the candidates with an Electoral Synod (representatives of clergy and lay church members from the Diocese of Argyll & The Isles only). That meeting will take place on Saturday 23 January 2021 with the election of the new Bishop on 30 January 2021.
The candidates are:
The Very Rev Canon Margaret (Margi) Campbell, Provost of St John’s Cathedral, Oban, Rector of St James, Ardbrecknish, and Canon of the Cathedral of the Isles, Cumbrae, all since 2018, and Dean of the Diocese of Argyll & The Isles since 2020.
The Rev David Railton, Rector of the linked charge of Holy Trinity, Dunoon and St Paul, Rothesay, Diocese of Argyll & The Isles, since 2019.
The Rev Canon Dr Keith Riglin, Vice Dean since 2020 and Chaplain since 2012 of King’s College, London, with Permission to Officiate in the Diocese of Argyll & The Isles since 2012.
Commenting on this stage of the process, the Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said: “I am delighted that the Preparatory Committee has completed its task and can now present these three names to the Electoral Synod of Argyll and The Isles. I want to thank the members of the committee for the work they put in to achieve this short list, and I especially want to thank them as we were working under the very different Covid conditions.
“I ask the church to pray for David, Keith and Margi as they continue on this path of discernment and also for the electors of Argyll and The Isles as they prepare to meet digitally in January 2021.”
Pictured above are, from left to right, The Very Rev Canon Margi Campbell, The Rev David Railton, and The Rev Canon Dr Keith Riglin.
Highlights from General Synod 2020
‘We cannot challenge others if we do not challenge ourselves’ was the message from the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church as he gave his charge during the morning session of General Synod 2020 on Saturday 5 December.
The Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness and Primus of the SEC, raised the difficult issues of bullying, bias and racism awareness in his opening address, and pointed to the issues that the Church should speak out about, such as international aid, gender violence, modern slavery and climate change.
On a historic occasion at St Paul’s & St George’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh, with just a handful of core participants present in the church building, the Primus told the first-ever online General Synod: “We have questions of what sort of investments we place our money into but also questions about how we heat our churches, how often and how far we travel, about the resources we use to run this institution.
“We need to get our own house in order if we are to keep putting pressure on the governments and industries of the world. You can’t challenge others if we don’t challenge ourselves.”
His theme echoed throughout the day, most notably when Synod members backed a motion which paves the way to a commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
The motion was carried by 98 votes for, zero against, and five abstentions. It calls on the Church in Society Committee, working in conjunction with other appropriate bodies, to bring forward a programme of actions to General Synod 2021 to resource the SEC in working towards achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
Speaking after the climate change debate, the Primus said: “We are now set for a year of hard work as the committee and others across the church and in our partnership organisations seek to bring to Synod a programme of actions that we know will challenge many of us. Clearly there will be financial implications, implications on how we look after our buildings and how we use the resources of our planet.
“I am very aware of how important this work is going to be as we strive to reach a target that will enable us to move from users of creation towards being custodian of all that the Creator has given us.”
Earlier, the Rev Elaine Garman spoke for the motion, telling Synod members: “During the past nine months we have changed our lives to protect ourselves and others during the pandemic restrictions. Imagine if we had worked on reducing our carbon footprint the same way. Whilst some of the Covid changes have helped reduce our carbon footprint – it shows we can make changes but there is so much more to do. We are in a climate emergency and we need to mobilise like never before.
“For too long the Anglican Communion’s fifth mark of mission: “to safeguard the integrity of creation and to renew and sustain life on earth” has been seen by many as something we’ll get around to at some point or that someone else will deal with. But it doesn’t work that way. We all must act, and act now. As a church, we must lead.”
On a similar theme, Synod discussed an interim report from the Ethical Investment Advisory Group, which was set up after last year’s Synod and tasked with, among other things, achieving fossil fuel divestment in the Unit Trust Pool (UTP). Standing Committee was pleased to note that the UTP no longer has direct investments in companies engaged in fossil fuel extraction, and commended the EIAG report to Synod while acknowledging that the work of the Group has a long way to go in what is a complex landscape to navigate.
Elsewhere during the afternoon session of Synod, a new Safeguarding Policy was adopted, there were discussions on the work of the Administration Board and the progress of the Canon 4 Review Group, and a video from the Provincial Youth Committee which showed what had been achieved during 2020 despite the restrictions of the pandemic.
In the morning session, the main item of business was the passing of a motion to agree a quota figure of £600,000 for the year 2021, representing a 19.1 per cent reduction on the previous year in response to the financial impact on dioceses and charges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Votes for the motion were 100 for, and none against, which followed a half-hour discussion on the pandemic experience in break-out groups.
Earlier motions included a series of elections, which were all passed: Bridget Campbell was appointed convener of Standing Committee, the Very Rev Sarah Murray was appointed Convener of the Mission Board, the Rt Rev Anne Dyer was appointed Convener of the Institute Council, the Rev Marjory McPherson was appointed for a second term on the Institute Council, the Rev Deborah Davidson was appointed a member of the Administration Board, and Fraser Falconer, Susan Horne, Rev Canon Professor John Richardson and John Whittall were all re-appointed for an additional term on the Clergy Discipline Tribunal.
Also passed were ratification of the appointment by Standing Committee of Robert Phillips as a member of the Preliminary Proceedings Committee, continuing his current term of office until General Synod 2024; the extension of the term of office of Richard McIndoe as Chair of the Pension Fund Trustees until General Synod 2021; and the appointment of Robert Gordon, out-going Convener of Standing Committee, as a General Synod Trustee.
Full reports can be found on the provincial website here.
Q&A with Robert Gordon as he stands down from Standing Committee
General Synod marked the end of Robert Gordon’s tenure as Convener of the Provincial Standing Committee.
Robert enjoyed a long and rewarding career in the civil service, with highlights including appointments as Principal Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Scotland, Head of Constitution Group responsible for setting up the Scottish Parliament and Executive, Chief Executive of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, and Head of the Justice Department.
But whether all of that experience is enough to prepare anyone for the particular challenges of Standing Committee is another matter. Nevertheless, Robert can’t have been put off the SEC entirely over the course of his convenership, because he has subsequently been elected as a General Synod Trustee, and continues in his other provincial role as chair of the SEC Advisory Group, which issues guidance for churches on coronavirus implications.
Inspires Online caught up with Robert, pictured below, to reflect on his five years with Standing Committee, and take a look to the future.
Q: How did you become Convener of Standing Committee?
A: Out of the blue a former colleague phoned apparently for no reason. He suggested coffee and disclosed that his term as Convener was ending. He and others were on the lookout for a successor. Would I consider letting my name go forward? Reassuringly he volunteered that other candidates would emerge and it was unlikely that I would have to take on the role! After thought, prayer and discussion with others I agreed to stand, met GSO staff and most of the College. And waited for the other more suitable candidates to appear. They didn’t and so it was that General Synod 2015 approved my appointment. By that stage, I had actually warmed to the possibility of being Convener and hoped I could make a contribution.
Q: Did you have any doubts about taking the role?
A: I had been a member of an SEC congregation for 30 years. I had been involved in the governance of St Paul’s and St George’s in Edinburgh from soon after the arrival of Rev Roger Simpson in the mid 1980s and the beginning of the growth of the “Christ centred, culturally relevant worshipping community” which attracted folk of all ages and a wide range of backgrounds over the early years. We wrestled with massive building issues and the challenges of rapidly growing numbers. I confess that amid all the busyness of York Place I paid very little attention to matters diocesan or provincial. So I did have real doubts about taking over the Convenership of a Committee I hadn’t even known existed! I also lacked much experience and knowledge of traditions within the SEC other than the one I had found so enriching over the years at St Paul’s and St George’s. (That has changed now!)
Q: What were your hopes when you were appointed?
A: My initial hope was that I would be able to Chair the Committee effectively and help it reach decisions that would advance the mission of the SEC. This seemed to mean the wise allocation of financial resources; the effective working of the Provincial deliberative machinery (boards and committees and so on); the thoughtful planning for and assiduous follow up to the annual General Synod and constructive support for the work of the staff in the General Synod Office. Others will judge whether that has been achieved.
Q: What have been the biggest challenges for Standing Committee?
A: Possibly for members of the Committee the challenge has been to cope with my eccentric and demanding Convenership! We have faced and face a range of recurring challenges. For instance for years we have planned for balanced budgets but have repeatedly out-turned surpluses. On the one hand that means we didn’t spend as intended but on the other it does mean at this historically difficult time we have reserves to draw on to see us through. Planning the agenda for General Synod can also be a challenge. There is always a lot to fit in and sometimes it is difficult to predict how sessions will run, the level of demand to speak and so on. As a consequence feedback after Synod can sometimes be a bit prickly.
At a personal level I was over-optimistic in my hope that it would be possible quickly to review, refresh and articulate a clear, concise and compelling vision and strategy that would equip the whole church for the 2020s and would determine priorities for Provincial action and expenditure. To achieve this requires sustained joint working between Standing Committee and College of Bishops which for a variety of reasons - other pressures on diaries, episcopal vacancies and this year the disruption of Covid - has not been possible. That said the work of the Task Group working through our response to the pandemic shows promise.
Q: What has given you satisfaction during your time as Convener?
A: I guess more than anything occasions when the Committee has acted to move issues forward. For instance, by enabling the work on ethical investment following GS 2019 leading to the thoughtful and well received interim report of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group to GS 2020; also the changes to the governance of the communications function and its development particularly in the digital area which has proved so essential over the last year. Another example of the Committee at its best has been the way it has worked through the events of 2020. This included scanning the horizon, taking stock, monitoring action to respond to church closures and re-openings and establishing a task group to plan for the future. This has allowed us to identify a number of areas for action and to bring financial proposals to “virtual” General Synod. These aim to provide early relief to dioceses by reducing Provincial quotas in 2021, maintain spending in all areas in the years 2021-23 and set aside resources for a recovery and renewal fund to prioritise new opportunities for mission and service.
Q: What do you think you will miss?
A: I will miss chairing a thoughtful Committee which works well and where a range of voices and experiences come together to tackle sometimes tricky and challenging issues. I will also miss the opportunity to work closely with members of the GSO staff who are able, professional, experienced and dedicated to serving SEC to the best of their ability.
Q: What are your hopes for the Scottish Episcopal Church as we look ahead?
A: My fervent hope is that we will emerge from this awful season stronger. We will have the courage to identify what is not sustainable and will be prepared to make changes which may be painful and unwelcome but will equip us better for the future. I also hope we will see and seize new opportunities to serve and to welcome those who are seeking “an encounter with the living God” (as Bishop Kevin puts it) either by coming back to engagement or by exploring faith for the first time. Despite the COVID restrictions, many of our churches have been to the fore in meeting needs and providing support over the last year - sometimes in new and unexpected ways.
My prayer for the decade ahead is that, in all our various settings across Scotland, we will be thoughtful, prayerful, imaginative and intentional in sharing the good news of Jesus, building community, showing compassion to those in need and working to protect and restore creation all with a new energy and passion.
SEC in print & digital media
Bishop Anne Dyer's regular column in the Press & Journal newspaper was published on Christmas Eve, headlined 'Christmas is not just a day, it’s a season'.
"Each of the 12 days is an opportunity to give to another person, to do an act of kindness for someone else," writes Bishop Anne. "Sometimes we have to be kind to ourselves, so that we are well enough to give to others.
"This year, when so much is not as we would have it be, might be the best year to recover a habit of 12 days of giving to others. We can do this knowing that small gifts given each day can make all the difference to those who are lonely or struggling."
The full article is available here.
There was substantial coverage of General Synod in the Church Times, which produced four articles about the day’s proceedings, headlining on the 2030 net zero target motion, the Ethical Investment Advisory Group interim report, the cut to annual quota, and the Primus urging the church to hold dear the Advent message. NB: registration to the Church Times website is required if more than two articles are to be viewed in one month.
The Guardian reported that senior faith leaders from around the world came together at an event backed by the UK government to call for an end to the criminalisation of LGBT+ people and a global ban on conversion practices. The newspaper said that more than 370 figures from 35 countries representing 10 religions, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, signed a historic declaration ahead of a conference on 16 December in a move that will highlight divisions within global religions. The declaration was signed by the Most Rev Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, who spoke at the event. The Guardian report is available here and the story was also covered by the BBC, Reuters, Daily Telegraph, Irish Times, Pink News and Church Times.
A joint letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer signed by The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Rt Rev John Armes, Bishop of Edinburgh, along with 500 other church leaders, calling for action to address the rising household debt crisis, was reported by The Observer. You can read the coverage here and the full letter can be read here.
The National featured the initiatives taken by various denominations to include those who are elderly and/or isolated during Christmas, and spoke to Bishop Andrew Swift about how the Scottish Episcopal Church has brought communities together in different ways this year. The article appears here.
On a similar theme, the Press & Journal reported on how churches in Orkney, including the Scottish Episcopal Church, were set to make history as they joined forces for the first time to mark Advent. Story here.
Elsewhere, The Courier reported that St Luke’s in Glenrothes is ensuring youngsters get the best possible access to digital learning after presenting its local primary school with 50 new computer tablets. “The donation is part of a larger partnership planned between the church and school to support young children’s learning,” says the report, which can be read in full here.
Two ordinations in Glasgow & Galloway … and another announced
There have been two ordinations since the last edition of Inspires Online, both in the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway.
On Sunday 29 November, the Rev Harriet Johnston was ordained by the Rt Rev Kevin Pearson, Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway, at St James the Less, Bishopbriggs, where Rev Johnston is serving her Title.
Despite coronavirus restrictions limiting the number of people who could be present and necessitating social distancing, Rev Johnston was able to be joined at the ceremony by her husband, the Rev Lee Johnston, a Curate serving at Christ Church, Lanark. The couple are picture below.
“Bishop Kevin preached a memorable sermon that he made personal to me,” said Rev Johnston afterwards. “As you might imagine, the moment of ordination was deeply profound for me too. Only 20 people were permitted to be in the church but that made the service intimate and personal. Due to the travel restrictions, my family watched the ordination on Zoom from their kitchen. It was good to know they were there along with many friends and members of St James’ Church.”
The Rev Liz Crumlish, pictured at top of article, was ordained deacon at St Oswald’s Maybole on Sunday 13 December. Rev Crumlish is now serving her Title in that congregation while working for the Church of Scotland as the National Coordinator for Renewal and Pioneering. She was ordained in the Church of Scotland 25 years ago.
Rev Crumlish’s ordination was filmed, and can be watched in full here on facebook.
More coverage of the two ordinations will appear in the next edition of the Scottish Episcopal Institute Newsletter, which will be published on Monday 5 January. The December edition is available here.
A further ordination has been scheduled for 2021. Dr Lisa Curtice, who has trained with the SEI for the past three years, is to be ordained to the diaconate in Glasgow & Galloway at Michaelmas 2021. Dr Curtice will be curate in the Renfrewshire Region.
Thanks offered as Rev Cedric Blakey steps down from Interfaith role
The Primus has led grateful thanks offered to the Rev Cedric Blakey as he steps down after five years as Convener of the Interfaith Relations Committee.
Rev Blakey’s role ended formally at General Synod earlier this month, with the Convener’s chair passing to Rev Bonnie Evans Hills.
The Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said: “I want to thank Cedric for his tireless work in encouraging us all to be more aware and involved in interfaith matters. The relationships he has helped forge across Scotland has helped create a more tolerant and understanding community.
“I would also thank him personally for spending time bringing a new Primus up to speed and holding my hand when I was in unknown territory.”
There was a further tribute from Imam Razawi, Director General of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society, pictured above with Rev Blakey, who said: “Though part of professional life is retirement and moving on, there are some who make such a profound impact that when they do leave, you cannot help but feel saddened. Friendship of course does not stop at retirement, and is much more than one’s professional interactions.
“The work Cedric has been engaged in from the moment I met him, is an example to me of what Jesus would have wanted. It is the work of God. What does the work of God mean to me, you may ask? The work of God is bringing people together, bridging hearts and not just closing distances - it is loving thy neighbour, and so Cedric will be missed for all of these admirable virtues.
“Speaking on behalf of my community, we are closer as two faiths than ever before in Scotland’s history and I commend Cedric for much of that hard work. On behalf of myself and my community, we wish Cedric all the very best in all of his future endeavours. With God’s blessings.”
Rev Blakey joined the Committee for Relations with Peoples of Other Faiths (CRPOF) in 2013, becoming convener in 2015, where he has overseen the process of that sub-committee of the Church in Society becoming a pendent committee of the Faith and Order Board in its own right and being renamed the Interfaith Relations Committee.
After retiring in 2018 as Vice-Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, he has been able to dedicate much of his time to encouraging interfaith work in the SEC, and to raising the profile of the SEC in the interfaith communities of Scotland and beyond.
Although Rev Blakey will remain as a member of the IFRC for a few months to help ease the transition to a new convener, he will now have more time to properly enjoy his retirement in the Scottish Borders.
Members of the IFRC wish him every blessing going forward.
Rev Blakey’s successor, the Rev Evans Hills, came to Scotland after several years as interfaith adviser in the dioceses of Chichester, Leicester and St Albans and has made significant contributions to Churches Together in Britain and Ireland interfaith theological advisory group, the European Council of Religious Leaders, the World Council of Churches and the UN office for the prevention of genocide.
Rev Evans Hills, who is priest in charge of St Margaret's, Leven, in the diocese of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane, is a speaker and published writer on interfaith dialogue, ethics, migration and refugees, Christian ministry, women's grassroot engagement and Christian activism. She is also proficient in Persian and Quranic Arabic, is a musician and keen walker.
“I am thrilled that the Faith and Order Board have approved the nomination of the Rev Bonnie Evans Hills as my successor as convener of the provincial Interfaith Relations Committee,” said Rev Blakey.
“I know Interfaith Committee members are looking forward to working with her at a time when there continues much to be done to promote effective interfaith relations and dialogue in Scotland and the world at large.”
Worship for children added to online offerings
Provincial online worship has been dominated this month by Advent and Christmas, with O'Brien-Stewart Thursday’s Evening Prayer slot taking a break to allow us to accommodate additional broadcasts during December.
Advent Sundays have been marked with services from St Columba in Nairn, St John’s on Princes Street in St Ternan’s in Muchalls, and St John’s in Perth. There have also been daily video recordings of the O Antiphons, as well as an Advent Lessons and Carols Service (the latter is detailed elsewhere in this edition).
The communications team is delighted to have been able to welcome an additional offering on Sundays, thanks to an initiative driven by the Rev Canon Audrey O'Brien-Stewart, Canon Missioner in the Diocese of Glasgow & Galloway.
Rev O'Brien-Stewart was keen to address a gap in online worship, by offering something for children, recognising that the existing provincial broadcasts are aimed at adults.
On Sunday 20 December, Advent 4, she led a short act of worship for young children on facebook, a scene from which is pictured above. The full video can be viewed here.
The response to the 12-minute video was good, with a very encouraging number of views and positive feedback left as comments. It is hoped that a short act of worship for young children can become a regular offering.
Periodic Review declares confidence in SEI’s Common Awards Programme
The Scottish Episcopal Institute underwent a Periodic External Review (PER) in January/February 2020.
The PER described the overall outcome as one of confidence. In the report there were many commendations, describing the SEI as having high standards in its operation. Many aspects of the Institute’s life show good or best practice. The review involved a wide range of stakeholders, from the core staff team and present student body, through to all involved in support and governance. It is very good that the Scottish Episcopal Church can have confidence in the ministerial training given to those in the care of the Institute.
On behalf of the Institute Council, who was itself part of the PER, I want to commend the four members of the staff team for all of their hard work, that is Revd Canon Dr Anne Tomlinson, Revd Dr Mike Hull, Revd Dr Richard Tiplady, and Linda Harrison (all pictured above). They will rightly describe this outcome as a team effort. Nevertheless, their leadership and vision has been essential in establishing a high standard Institute in Scotland.
The Rt Revd Anne Dyer, Convenor of the Scottish Episcopal Institute Council
How the PER was conducted
The six-yearly Review is an evaluation of those Theological Education Institutions (TEIs) which are part of the Common Awards family, conducted by the Quality Assurance (QA) division of the Church of England’s National Ministry Team in conjunction with staff from the Common Awards team, Durham University. It thus brings together under one evaluatory process both academic and formational quality assurance.
The Scottish Episcopal Institute was inspected in January-February 2020 by a team of reviewers, led by Dr Sally Buck (pictured left), Warden of Lay Ministry, Diocese of Lincoln, which comprised the Rt Revd Dr Brian Smith, former Bishop of Edinburgh, the Revd Dr Kevin Francis, Rector of St Bride’s, Glasgow, and the Revd Dr Jack Dyce, Emeritus Research Professor, Scottish United Reformed and Congregational College. Team members consulted with a wide range of stakeholders in the months leading up to their three-day stay in Scotland, the latter comprising meetings with teaching staff and student supervisors, as well as attendance at a meeting of the Institute Council and a residential weekend in Perth.
Quotes from PER Report
“Our conclusion is that the Scottish Episcopal Institute continues to provide an appropriate environment for ministerial formation and is fit for purpose for preparing candidates for ordained and licensed ministry within the Scottish Episcopal Church. We say this in respect of the SEI’s teaching and learning, its worship and spirituality, its staff team and leadership, its community life and its contextual learning opportunities.”
“We commend the way in which the whole SEI body is permeated by formational and community values and, in particular, the way in which this is made possible by clear leadership and trust in others to inhabit these values in a variety of personally authentic ways.”
“Students spoke of the value of placements and context-based learning. There was a sense that all aspects of formation are approached by staff with a deeply prayerful and supportive attitude towards the planning. One person wrote of being ‘stretched, disturbed and rewarded’.”
On receipt of the Report the Principal of SEI, Anne Tomlinson, said: “The SEI staff team is delighted by the Team’s response which captures beautifully what we have tried to do in the first five years of the Institute’s life; namely place ‘formation’ at the heart of the task of shaping vibrant missional ministers for today’s world.
“We were pleased by the Team’s appreciation of the ethos of prayerful reflective practice and contextual training which underpins all we try to do, and of the high academic standards encouraged by the teaching staff and the Journal.
“The Recommendations have challenged us appropriately to create a detailed Action Plan for the next five years, spurring us on to creative conversations with the College of Bishops and others as we seek to shape the next generation of such missional leaders for our church and the URC.”
The full Periodic External Review report can be read here.
Winter edition of SEI Journal published
The Winter 2020 issue of the Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal has just been published online, and offers a rich and varied mix of content. In addition to an article by John N. Collins, an international scholar of the diaconate, there are six articles on the vocational diaconate by authors linked to the Scottish Episcopal Church: John Reuben Davies, Norma Higgott, Stephen Mark Holmes, Harriet Johnston, Richard Tiplady and Anne Tomlinson; the Scottish Episcopal Institute Annual Lecture 2020 by the missiologist Cathy Ross entitled ‘Mission and Formation in a Time of Lament and Hope: Reflections after Covid-19’; a response to the Doctrine Committee’s ‘Theology of Authority in the Ministry of the Church’ (Grosvenor Essay no. 13) by John Hind; an article about pilgrimage and running by Mark Calder; an informal reflection on ministerial practice by Gregor Duncan; and, finally, five book reviews.
The Journal can be accessed here.
Huw Edwards announces award for Port Glasgow church
St Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church in Port Glasgow has been awarded £15,000 by the National Churches Trust to help fix its roof.
Broadcaster Huw Edwards, vice president of The National Churches Trust, said: “The UK's historic churches and chapels are a vital part of our national heritage and have done so much to help local people during the Covid-19 lockdown. But to survive, many need to carry out urgent repairs and install modern facilities. The cost of this work is far beyond what most congregations can pay for themselves.
“So I’m delighted that St Mary's Scottish Episcopal Church in Port Glasgow is being helped with a £15,000 National Churches Trust Cornerstone Grant. The repairs are an early Christmas present for this important church and will facilitate the project and will help secure the future of this much-used building.”
The good news came a week after St Mary’s won the Marsh Church and Community Heroes Awards from the National Churches Trust, in recognition of the outstanding volunteer services the church provides to the community.
Meanwhile, St Cuthbert’s in Edinburgh used some of their prize money from coming third in the Ecclesiastical Insurance’s Parish Pixels photographic competition – reported here in The National - to install an illuminated depiction of the nativity in the church grounds, which is being enjoyed by the congregation and the local community in Colinton. (With thanks to Rev Nicki McNelly for supply of photograph).
2021 Kalendar now available
The latest version of the annual Kalendar of bible readings from the Scottish Episcopal Church has now been published for 2021.
The Kalendar contains all the references for Daily Prayer readings through the year along with all the holy days. Following some feedback a couple of years ago it now includes the readings for Sunday Eucharists too.
The Kalendar is an easy way of finding out which readings should be read in church or in private devotions and particularly this year might be useful to people sustaining their spirituality through daily prayer and bible readings at home.
In addition to the readings the Kalendar contains the Bishops' Instructions for Fasting, GMT/BST dates, sunrise and sunset times for Easter, key interfaith dates, a list of those saints' days next year which are omitted though falling on Sundays and other feast days and details of the main moveable feasts for twenty years ahead.
The Kalendar used to be published annually by the General Synod Office but following a gap of some years is now published annually by the Provost of St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow, the Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth.
Copies of the Kalendar can be ordered here.The Kalendar is also available on kindle from Amazon here. (Works better on a tablet than a phone due to the tabular nature of the information).
Mission Board report
The Board held its final meeting for 2020 a few days after General Synod in December. The Very Revd Sarah Murray was officially welcomed as the Board's Convener. It was also noted that the Revd Liz O'Ryan has been appointed by the Diocese of Edinburgh as the Diocesan Representative to the Board and we look forward to welcoming Liz to her first meeting in the New Year. The Revd Canon Audrey O'Brien Stewart was welcomed back to the Board following her maternity, and the Revd Reuben Preston was thanked for representing Audrey over the last year.
Amongst the reports received from the various pendant committees, the Board received reports on Intentional Discipleship and how a Season of Discipleship could follow on from the Season of Pilgrimage.
The main update from the Church in Society Committee followed on the from successful motion brought to General Synod 2020, regarding Climate Crisis and the churches decision to work towards achieving net zero carbon emission by 2030. It is acknowledged that there is much work to do in relation to this generally and also to bring a wider piece of work to General Synod in 2021. This work will be carried out and will engage across the breadth of other groups and committees across the church.
The Provincial Youth Committee updated the Board on both the virtual activities that have taken place and the impact the pandemic has had on young people and the way in which the church engages with young people. Lorraine Darlow attended to bring a report on Work with Children and this also highlighted some of the challenges and also opportunities that the pandemic has offered.
A number of items relating to the pandemic, Mission in Light of Covid-19 and Work with Children raised questions around research; looking at the impact and what might be learnt from this time and how it might inform the church moving forward. A number of pieces of research were highlighted to the Board as well as the possibility of undertaking our own research. It was generally considered that the time was too early to begin the work as the full picture is still unfolding, however the Board didn't wish to lose any of the immediate responses. This topic will form part of the agenda at the Board’s next meeting in February 2021.
Christmas: A family affair
Christmas is a family affair, writes the Rev Dr Michael Hull, Director of Studies at the Scottish Episcopal Institute, pictured right. My parents went to great lengths to ensure that Christmas was thrilling for my siblings and me.
They stayed up through the night each Christmas Eve — decorating the house, wrapping presents and hanging stockings — so that everything would be ‘perfect’ on Christmas morning. Christmas Day, church included, was spent with relatives, friends and neighbours, and anyone who stopped-by.
My siblings and I relished (re)arranging the nativity scene: the magi, who started at a distance and were placed closer and closer as the Epiphany neared; the shepherds, who were with their sheep; and, of course, Mary and Joseph, with Baby Jesus. Those Christmases past imbued within us with an awareness of the Holy Family and all who gathered with them as an ideal. With the newborn Christ Child surrounded by loving parents and everyone else described by St Matthew (1.18–2.23) and St Luke (2.1–20), we saw the significance of the nuclear family as well as the extended family, including those who came from next door, like the shepherds, and those who came from afar, like Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar.
In a way, my memories are akin to those in Dylan Thomas’s ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’, his autobiographical story wherein he describes how our minds often blend memories: ‘One Christmas was so much like another . . . that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.’ Thomas recounts family and lots of folk who come and go. He writes, ‘“Were there Uncles, like in our house?” ‘There are always Uncles at Christmas.’” As I have grown older and memories of Christmases past flood my mind, I too cannot remember who was six and twelve or how many nights it may have snowed, but I have no memories that do not involve family, friends, neighbors and erstwhile strangers.
My memories are no doubt melded with the amazing first-Christmas scenes as recorded by St Luke (2.1–20) and St Matthew (1.18–2.23) wherein there are no strangers, no outsiders. Everyone assembled around the gift of God in the Christ Child. In God’s Providence, there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn (Luke 2.7). There was no fixed place for the Messiah. Jesus came to us not in private for a select few, but in public for all. The stable had room for everyone: room for the poor nomadic shepherds, room for the rich stargazers from the East, even room for the animals. Jesus was at home with everyone and everything in God’s Creation. His Holy Family was never a closed circle, but a focal point around which all are welcome.
Jesus’ earthly life was marked by itinerancy. In a time of great disregard for women’s well-being, Mary was forced to travel at great risk (Joseph’s help notwithstanding) to her and Jesus’s health from Nazareth to Bethlehem for a headcount, whereupon they had to flee to Egypt lest a murderous despot have his way. As Jesus said of himself, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head’ (Luke 9.58). Jesus was, now and again, a migrant, a refugee, ‘a man without a country’, a sojourner over whom God watched (Psalm 146.9), mindful of the fact that his Hebrew forbears were once sojourners in Egypt (Exodus 22.21–24) before him. Jesus’ family has always extended outward from his manger.
If Christmas 2020 is to be a family affair, we ought not to let that aspect of the nativity scene escape us: there are no outsiders at Jesus’ birth. Our families are different in shapes and sizes; our circumstances and contexts are dissimilar; yet one thing remains the same: the Jesus who came for all. Those of us who would identify as his followers, as Christians, need to be sure that our family extends outwards from our home to migrants, to refugees, to those without countries, to the sojourners among whom Jesus feels most at home.
Thomas concludes his story noting the sound of music, the warmth of the fire, the taste of wine and, most importantly, I think, the laughter of others. If we share our music, warmth, wine and laughter with our extended family, with erstwhile strangers, as God shares his Son with us, we may end our Christmas Day with the sense of peace suggested by Thomas’s final sentence: ‘I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.’
Death of Mrs Mary Haggart OBE
We are sad to report that Mary Haggart, the widow of former Primus Alastair Haggart, passed away at Ellen’s Glen House in Edinburgh earlier this month, at the age of 96.
Born Mary Elizabeth Scholes, she trained as a nurse in Leicaster Royal Infirmary and Guy's Hospital in London. She moved to Dundee in 1963, becoming a member of the congregation at St Paul's Cathedral.
Mary became Matron of Dundee Royal Infirmary and Matron Designate of Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, and from 1973 to 1983 she was Chief Area Nursing Officer for Tayside Health Board.
She chaired or sat on several boards including the Royal College of Nursing and the General Nursing Council for Scotland, the Board of Management of Carstairs State Hospital, and Action on Smoking and Heath Scotland.
In 1983, Mary married Alastair, the Bishop of Edinburgh, and shared Bishop Alastair’s retirement for 15 years until his death in 1998.
She was awarded the OBE for services to nursing.
Mrs Lissa Smith, wife of another former Bishop of Edinburgh, the Rt Rev Brian Smith, paid tribute to her friend.
“Mary was very widely read, and I would say that reading was one of her greatest loves before, sadly, her sight deteriorated,” said Mrs Smith. “She was a well-known figure at a huge number of book festival events, which she really enjoyed.
“She also maintained a great personal interest in the church, both the wider Anglican Communion, and the goings-on of the Scottish Episcopal Church – the personalities, what they were saying or doing, who was the favourite to go to which charge or diocese, and why or why not! She usually seemed more informed than many, and obviously had interesting sources! She held strong opinions but was open to other views, and had a great sense of humour.”
Mary oversaw the family discussions annually to allocate the Alastair Haggart Bursary, an award made every year to help fund a sabbatical or similar leave of absence for someone in authorized ministry within the Scottish Episcopal Church.
The Bursary will continue to be awarded each year thanks to the kindness of Mary's family, although it had been agreed already that no award will be made in 2021 because travel plans cannot be made under the current Covid-19 restrictions.
Rev Gerald Mungavin, 1927 to 2020
It is with regret that we report the death of the Rev Canon Gerald Mungavin, who passed away on 17 December 2020.
Canon Mungavin retired in 1992, and thereafter held a warrant in the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway.
He was born in 1927, studied at Edinburgh Theological College from 1951 to 1954, and was ordained a deacon in 1954 and a priest the following year. He became a curate at Holy Trinity, Dunfermline, in 1954 then at the Good Shepherd, Hillington, from 1955 to 1957, followed by three years as Chaplain to the Forces.
From 1960, he was a curate at Stanwix in Cumbria for two years, before returning to ‘military service’ as Chaplain to the RAF for 13 years, spending time living in Germany. In 1975 he became rector of St Congan’s in Turiff for six years, followed by 11 years as rector of St Ternan’s in Banchory and Christ Church in Kincardine O’Neil. He was also an honorary Canon in the Diocese of Aberdeen.
Rev Mungavin’s son David was ordained a deacon in 1990 and then a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and was Rector of St Ninian’s in Troon before moving to Ireland to become Rector of Greystones, Co Wicklow in the Diocese of Glendalough in 2009.
Zoom event: ‘Christian belief and everyday habit’
Christians have been formulating 'rules of life' at least as far back as the fourth century. The sixth-century Rule of St Benedict is probably the most widely known Christian rule of life, but a lot has changed since then! Is there scope for a Christian rule of life in the twenty-first century?
Advances in technology and communication, particularly social media, enrich our present-day lives whilst at the same time driving us to distraction. A cacophony of voices vies for our attention: How do we hear the Gospel above them all?
The Rev Dr Michael Hull, Director of Studies at the Scottish Episcopal Institute, will facilitate an online discussion of issues about belief and habit, faith and practice, with insights from Justin Whitmel Earley's The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2019) available at https://www.thecommonrule.org.
The discussion will be held on Wednesday 20 January 2021 from 7pm to 8pm, on Zoom. Register here.