Pandemic outreach success gives food for thought
When the Rev Rich Cornfield founded Mustard Seed with his wife Jenny three years ago, they started this new initiative based on the idea of a community meal that was held every week at St Paul’s and St George’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh, called Soul Food.
St Margaret's Church on the Easter Road in Edinburgh kindly agreed to host Mustard Seed, where the new community held the core values of kindness, hospitality, creativity, justice and joy. Every Sunday afternoon there was a worship event with a meal at the centre of it and then eventually every Thursday at 5:30pm a new Soul Food meal began.
It was a challenge to establish this new outreach, but the community grew, and relationships steadily built up over the next two and a half years. However, a far greater challenge was presented this year when the coronavirus pandemic put Scotland into lockdown. For instance, how could Soul Food help the homeless, if the homeless had disappeared, like everyone else, from the streets?
It might have seemed unrealistic to expect that the level of support Mustard Seed had been providing up to that point could continue under the strict restriction of movement. But in fact, the organisation was about to embark on the most extraordinary period of its short existence. As Rich puts it, the operation “exploded”.
At one stage, meals were being provided for between 150 and 180 people every week on a Thursday alone, with a further 80 people enjoying family meals on a Saturday. Queues of people down Easter Road, waiting to get into St Margaret’s, were quickly identified as a threat to social distancing, and instead, the queues of people were replaced by queues of delivery cars driven by volunteers (all equipped with a letter stating they were providing an essential service), waiting to take meals to those who needed them all around the city.
“Half our congregation are homeless, and we spent the first few weeks of lockdown finding out where they were,” says Rich. “We tried all methods: social media, word of mouth, collecting telephone numbers. When we found some of them, we were able to give them an Amazon tablet plus mobile package with Wi-Fi, to allow them to keep in touch and to worship with us.
“We doubled in size very quickly. That’s when the numbers involved started to become something we had to address. We had to transform Soul Food on a Thursday into a takeaway service.
“When Edinburgh was empty, we were darting all around the city, delivering food parcels and takeaways for three months. The Government had done a great job getting a roof over the heads of those who found themselves homeless but many struggled accessing food provision. And many of them were housed miles away from their normal lives. They might have had a place to stay, but many of them didn’t have facilities for cooking food.
“The food was as good as we could make it, like you would have if you went to a friend’s for dinner. Think of the parable of the wedding banquet. That’s what we were trying to do. That has always been our inspiration.”
The ability to respond to this need was made possible in those early stages by support from the Scottish Government, other charities and individuals. Grants were secured, and very quickly the necessary finance was in place to not only maintain support for the existing community, but also to expand provision to meet this new need.
“The Scottish Government was outstanding at this point,” says Rich. “The Government gets a lot of flak, but the immediate response when we needed it was quite humbling.
“Then my wife Jenny set up other Soul Food centres. When Mustard Seed began, we always had the dream of making Soul Food a charity alongside it so we could encourage community meals in Edinburgh. Very quickly 'grab & go' Soul Foods were set up across Edinburgh, and before we knew it, we were providing 600 meals a week. And helpfully, two restaurants offered to help us. We partnered with The Little Chartroom in Albert Place, where Roberta Hall is the chef patron. She was on TV’s Great British Menu, and for many weeks she cooked for Soul Food families. The Little Chartroom also crowd-funded for us. Their generosity was astounding.
“The other restaurant was the Hawksmoor on West Register Street, at St Andrews Square. The staff were furloughed there, but they cooked a wonderful Sunday lunch for us every Sunday. We didn’t even do a Sunday meal normally, but suddenly 60 people found their way to it.
“Chefs from all over who found themselves furloughed got in touch with us and offered to help. This was so useful, because they had the skills to cook in the larger quantities that we found ourselves having to cater for. Their experience, willingness and skill really kept us going and we are so grateful to them.”
When lockdown eased, the demand changed. And as furlough schemes are being ended, Soul Food is finding new demand from people who are facing delays in getting their new benefits through or who have never had to face food poverty. Soul Food sees this as an issue that could rise over the coming months, and Rich and Jenny would like to speak to any churches who might be interested in starting a Soul Food as a way of supporting their local community.
“Soul Food started at Ps & Gs six years ago and it introduced me to the most fantastic ministry, with justice at the heart of it,” he says. “We created this community that is more than about having a meal.
“In the Soul Food room, I felt the whole of life was there. As a church minister, I longed to engage with real life. Jesus and justice are at the heart of it. It is not just study and worship, but a way of engagement and listening to people stories.
“We might see a need and want to meet it, but there is more to it than that. It is about friendship, relationships and getting to know the person, and saying to them: ‘I am prepared to be with you in this and be your friend in whatever that setting is.’ Soul Food is like the Eucharist. We meet with Jesus as we sit and break bread together.
“However, during lockdown even though we wanted to ‘be’ we realised we had to ‘do’. Charity can be a brutal thing to receive and we do not want to create a dependency culture where people are put on a pedestal looking down and offering help. We are just ordinary people walking alongside ordinary people who are dealing with issues of injustice.
“As lockdown eased, delivery became more complicated. We had fewer volunteers for delivery, and we had to go back to a ‘grab & go’ service. But we still want to have a relationship with people rather than just have people receiving.
“We have longed for Episcopal churches to join us, and some have. If any others are keen on engaging like this, we would be really happy to share our story and some of the theology behind it.”
If anyone is interested in starting a Soul Food venture at their church, this recent blogpost is worth a read: https://www.soulfoodedinburgh.org/post/three-ideas In addition, the Rev Rich Cornfield can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
SEI Lecture 2020
This year’s Scottish Episcopal Institute (SEI) Lecture was given by Dr Cathy Ross on Thursday 29 October. Her topic for the lecture was ‘Mission and Formation in a Time of Lament and Hope: Reflections after Covid-19’.
You can watch the lecture again at our Facebook page and our Youtube Channel.
Dr Cathy Ross is the Director of Pioneer Mission Leadership Training Centre for CMS (Church Mission Society); and Canon Theologian at Leicester Cathedral. Dr Ross, one of the world’s leading missiologists, is a prolific writer. Her published works include Women with a Mission, Mission in the 21st Century, and Pioneering Spirituality.
Six October ordinations
Six more ordinations of Scottish Episcopal Institute students took place over during October, following five in September. Four were ordained to the diaconate, while two were ordained to the priesthood.
The first was in the Diocese of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane, where Rev Annie Mackay Hughes was ordained to the priesthood by the Rt Rev Ian Paton at St John the Baptist, Perth. Rev Annie will serve as assistant curate at St John the Baptist.
The following day, there were two ordinations, with Rebekah Cansdale ordained to the diaconate in the Diocese of Argyll & The Isles by the Rt Rev Kevin Pearson at St John’s Cathedral, Oban. Rev Rebekah will serve as assistant curate at St John’s.
On the same day in the Diocese of Moray, Ross & Caithness, Rev Donald Grant was ordained to the priesthood by the Most Rev Mark Strange in St Andrew’s Cathedral, Inverness. Rev Donald will serve as assistant curate at the Cathedral.
And the day after that brought a further three ordination ceremonies, with Joshua Cockayne (below) ordained to the diaconate in the Diocese of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane by the Rt Rev Ian Paton, at St Andrew’s, St Andrews. Rev Joshua will serve as assistant curate at St Andrew’s. At the same time, there were two ordinations in the Diocese of Edinburgh, both to the diaconate and both taking place at St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh. Russell Duncan was ordained to the diaconate by the Rt Rev Dr John Armes, and will serve as assistant curate in the Church of the Good Shepherd, Murrayfield, while David Todd was also ordained by Bishop John and will serve as assistant curate at St Mark’s, Portobello.
There is one more ordination to come next month, with Rev Harriet Johnston to be ordained priest by the Rt Rev Kevin Pearson in St James the Less, Bishopbriggs on Sunday 29 November, continuing to serve thereafter as assistant curate in St James the Less, Bishopbriggs, Diocese of Glasgow & Galloway.
We pray: Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, by your Holy Spirit you have appointed various orders of ministry in the Church: look with mercy on your servants now called to be deacons and priests; maintain them in truth and renew them in holiness, that by word and good example they may faithfully serve you to the glory of your name and the benefit of your Church; through the merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
BBC’s ‘The Service’ filmed in Inverness
BBC Scotland paid a visit to St Andrew’s Cathedral, Inverness this month to record Sunday worship television programme ‘The Service’.
In the absence of Provost Sarah Murray, who was on holiday, worship was led by the Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness, supported by Rev Katrina O’Neill and Rev Canon Dr John Cuthbert.
BBC Scotland has continued Sunday morning worship with ‘The Service’ for the rest of the year following the end of ‘Reflections at the Quay’, an ecumenical broadcast set up in April in response to the pandemic.
‘The Service’ allows different denominations to show their way of worship, and the broadcast from Inverness featured the Celebration of the Eucharist.
The programme was screened on 11 October and is still available on the BBC iPlayer here.
Also on BBC, Radio Scotland’s ‘Thought for the Day’ came from Rev Philip Blackledge, Rector of Holy Trinity, Melrose, on 16 October. Rev Blackledge highlighted ‘long covid’ and healing. “It can be a humbling experience, being laid low with a long illness,” said Rev Blackledge. “A friend of mine described it as a humiliation, as though it wasn’t fair that a healthy person can become an unhealthy person. It made her realise that her body was not just a machine that occasionally needed tweaking; it was more complex than that.”
He added: “While striving for good physical and mental health is always a worthy aim, being afraid of imperfection is not, because we are not machines with a blueprint; we are people, infinite in our variety and beautiful because of it.”
The broadcast remains available for a further two weeks here. Rev Philip is on at the 1hr 24 min mark.
We hope to welcome BBC Scotland back to a Scottish Episcopal Church in the near future.
Christmas is coming
Bishop Anne Dyer’s recent column in the Press & Journal newspaper about how to prepare for a different kind of Christmas this year led to an appearance on Sky News, where she was interviewed about what we can do to celebrate Christmas this year, and how we can help those who are isolated or vulnerable.
In her regular column, she said: “I think we have a choice. We could let all of this add to our misery and allow it to make us downhearted. Or we could decide right now to make of it the very best we can and do things differently.”
The Press & Journal column can be read here and a clip from the Sky News interview is available here.
In the Press
A joint letter from Anglican Primates sent to the Financial Times earlier this month received widespread coverage in the UK national media, with the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church one of five church leaders to warn the UK Government that the proposed Internal Market Bill would create “a disastrous precedent”.
The letter, which was quickly picked up by the rest of the media, saw Bishop Mark Strange along with the Archbishops of Canterbury, York, Armagh and Wales, predict that the Bill, if it is implemented in its current form, will “profoundly affect the future of our countries and the relationships between them”.
The letter warned that the Bill weakens existing and established devolved policy-making arrangements and thus undermines trust and goodwill in the rest of the UK.
Reports appeared in The Guardian, Daily Telegraph, The Times, Daily Mail, The Scotsman, BBC and others.
The full letter can be read here.
Meanwhile, another joint initiative was reported in The Herald, with Scottish faith leaders calling on the UK and Scottish Governments to make changes to the social security system to stem the rising tide of poverty.
The call, supported by the Primus on behalf of the College of Bishops and supported by representatives from Scotland’s major faith groups urged both Westminster and Holyrood to take action “that would reflect the care, compassion and support shown by people across the country into changes that would make a real difference to families and individuals living in the grip of poverty.”
The joint statement came shortly after a new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said that the Scottish government needs to display "bolder ambition" if it is to meet targets for tackling child poverty. More can be read here.
Regular readers of Inspires Online might recall an item published earlier this year about the planting of an orchard at St Ninian’s, Comely Bank in Edinburgh. The story was picked up again recently by The Herald, in a feature about how “rare Scottish apples are making a comeback”, with St Ninian’s initiative with The Orchard Project earning another mention alongside the main focus, a new project in Portobello. The feature appears here.
In Dundee, The Courier picked up on the re-opening of Holy Trinity in Monifieth where the Rt Rev Andrew Swift, Bishop of Brechin, led worship on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of Rev Canon Bill McAusland.
Elsewhere, the Sunday Post featured a new biography of folk singer Joan Baez which references her Scottish Episcopal Church connection. ‘Joan Baez: the Last Leaf’ by Elizabeth Thomson, recalls the singer’s 2003 performance at Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, the city where her mother was born. Joan and fellow performer, Chrissie Hynd of the band The Pretenders, visited St John’s Episcopal Church earlier the same day, where Joan’s maternal grandfather had preached when he was a curate. The Sunday Post article is here.
Online provincial worship
As we approach winter and the celebration of Christmas, it appears inevitable that worship within our churches will remain limited, and for many of us, this will mean a continuation of online worship either from our church or with the provincial services available on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings.
During October, the celebration of the Eucharist was led from St Mary’s pro-cathedral in Aberdeen for harvest, St John’s Cathedral in Oban, St Mary’s in Broughty Ferry, and St Cuthbert’s in Colinton, Edinburgh.
Evening prayer came from St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh and then St Paul’s Cathedral in Dundee for the Commemoration of Bishop Alexander Penrose Forbes, followed in subsequent weeks by prayers from two Scottish Episcopal Institute students. First was Dr Lisa Curtice, an ordinand in the SEI, who commemorated St Teresa of Avila, assisted by her husband John as responder. The next week, prayer was led by Pat Ellison, an SEI Lay Reader Candidate in the Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness.
All of the above services can be accessed on the Scottish Episcopal Church website.
We would like to remind everyone that a telephone service is available for online provincial worship services, for those who do not have access to the internet.
We have a loyal audience who call in every week, and we are keen to reach out to any others who might benefit from the service but might not have heard about it, have been unsure about trying it, or are not confident about how to access the line.
The facility is free of charge for anyone calling by landline or mobile phone from within the UK. It is helpful if those who have online access to worship continue to use that method rather than using the telephone line, to avoid unnecessary additional cost incurred by the GSO, and we would also appreciate help in reaching non-internet users who are unable to see this information.
Anyone who would like full details of how to access the telephone line, in order to share them with someone who needs this service should email AidanS@scotland.anglican.org.
‘Civic Society’ slot for church at politics conference
Rev Maggie McTernan was a guest speaker at the recent Politics Explained conference held by Holyrood Communications.
The annual conference was chaired by former First Minister Henry McLeish, and featured sessions with influential figures such as Professor John Curtice, Professor James Mitchell, Cabinet Secrtary Mike Russell, Lord Jim Wallace, and Iain Stewart MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, as well as MSPs Gillian Martin, Anas Sarwar, Alex Cole-Hamilton, Johann Lamont and Iain Gray.
Rev McTernan (pictured above), Assistant Priest at St Margaret's, Newlands, Glasgow, addressed the virtual conference on the subject of ‘The Role of Civic Society in Scotland: Engaging with Political Institutions, Influencing the Agenda and Forging Change’.
Picture perfect at St Cuthbert’s
St Cuthbert’s in Colinton, Edinburgh, has picked up third prize in the Parish Pixels competition, organised by Ecclesiastical Insurance to celebrate Anglican churches across the UK through photography.
The shot of a frosty winter scene in Edinburgh, with St Cuthbert’s lit up by the morning sun rising in a blue sky and the white bell tower of the church in the background, was named the regional winner ahead of a clutch of impressive entries from Scotland earlier this year. The photograph was put through to the next stage of the competition, where a public vote as well as a national judging panel determined the overall winner from nine UK regional entries.
Rev Nicki McNelly, Rector of St Cuthbert’s captured the image herself with her smartphone and added the caption: ‘Like the ice appears to break the window, we are a beautiful church in a broken world doing our best to live as Jesus commanded.’
“We are delighted and totally amazed,” said Rev McNelly earlier this month, when the YUK result was announced.
“One cold morning when I was going to church I noticed that there was ice on the inside of the windows in the rectory porch, so I took the photo and sent it to our treasurer, saying: ‘Bit cold this morning!’
“I hoped it would raise a smile, but there is a bit more to it than that. The reflection and the ice, it’s all God’s creation
“Marie (Neill) in our office said I should enter the photo in the Parish Pixels competition, and after that, she just kept pushing it by encouraging people to vote for it.”
The full story can be read here.
On 31 October 1517, Martin Luther, a young priest and lecturer in theology at the University of Wittenberg, posted his Ninety-five Theses on the main doors of the Schlosskirche (or Castle Church), the University’s chapel, writes the Rev Dr Michael Hull, Director of Studies at the Scottish Episcopal Institute. The doors were often used as a bulletin board to launch discussion. Halloween (or ‘All Hallows’ Eve as it was known then) was a propitious time because the chapel was dedicated to All Saints. Luther saw his Theses as a means of preaching to and stirring up the choir, for the entire University community would pass through the chapel doors on the following day, 1 November, All Saints Day. In twenty-first century parlance, his post went viral.
Luther hoped to stimulate debate among the whole people of God in the ‘catholic’ or universal church. He had no inkling that 31 October, which we commemorate annually as ‘Reformation Day’, would be a watershed moment. It would be the catalyst to centuries-long debates, contentions, even wars about the fundamentals of Christian life and doctrine in Europe and beyond. Over five hundred years later, it is well worth asking as millions of us commemorate Reformation Day and call ourselves ‘reformed’ - even if we Episcopalians are wont to call ourselves ‘catholic and reformed’ - What do we mean by reformed?
The first of Luther’s Theses quotes Jesus’ words as he began his public ministry among us: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matthew 4.17); the words are echoed by Peter as the Apostles took up Jesus’ mantle: ‘Repent and be baptised every one of you’ (Acts 2.38). Like many before and after him, Luther is keen to remind us of Jesus’ emphasis on the urgency of our personal repentance. Whilst the Reformers, those before and after Luther, would touch upon a broad and diverse range of theological issues, Luther began by eschewing the superficial, mechanical or complacent means of repentance that had become widespread in the sixteenth century, especially so-called indulgences. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a twentieth-century Lutheran pastor, sums up the gist of Luther’s thinking on this point in his book The Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer says that in the Christian dispensation there is no such thing as ‘cheap grace’, that is, preaching without repentance; there is only ‘costly grace’, that is, following Jesus with a contrite heart.
Bonhoeffer hits upon one thing to be borne in mind on Reformation Day, namely, that to reform is to follow after Jesus with a contrite heart. Reformation is neither a fait accompli of the sixteenth century nor some solemn aeon of the past. Reform is meant to be the ongoing task of Christians and their churches, yet this task is often and easily overlooked. The twentieth-first century, like the sixteenth century and every century since the Incarnation, brings challenges, and the churches have a unique mission entrusted to them by Jesus himself to ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation’ (Mark 16.15). Nevertheless, preaching begins first and foremost as we follow Jesus with contrite hearts. In other words, the choir has to be preached to and stirred up in terms of its own conversion long before it has the temerity to go out into the word and preach the good news of Jesus Christ.
Reform means taking a look in the mirror at ourselves before taking a look through the stained glass at others. It is our Lord who says that we ought first to take the plank out of our own eyes in order to see clearly in order to remove specks from the eyes of others (Matthew 7.5). Christians’ God-given duty to preach to others is predicated on their docility to a God-given summons to repentance. Too often we Christians and our churches adopt rhetoric to the effect that we are called to reform society in general, when in fact we are called to reform ourselves in particular. If there is one thing we reformed Christians and our churches need to keep in mind on Reformation Day, it is that Luther and other Reformers did not think of reformation as a one-off but as a fundamental approach to Christian theological reflection in the past, present and future.
Our brief as reformed Christians is to preach to and stir up choirs like Luther did to the end that we follow Jesus today and tomorrow with contrite hearts. The evils of the sixteenth century may have been different to ours in the twentieth-first century, but evils are surely with us today. Maybe on Reformation Day 2020 we should follow Luther’s example and post Matthew 4.17 on our church doors so that we can reflect on Jesus’ words again, as we enter our churches: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’. Who knows? Perhaps the post will go viral again.
Standing Committee report
The Standing Committee met in September. It continued to monitor the overall effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the Church generally and agreed to establish a short-term task group to identify the opportunities and challenges arising from the current period which bear on the longer term future for the Church. The task group will meet later this month and Standing Committee will lead a debate on the matters arising from its work at General Synod in December this year.
The provincial Treasurer reported to the Committee on information from Diocesan Treasurers on how local congregations were managing financially at the current time. It was pleased to note that, whilst there were some significant exceptions, most congregations appeared at the present time were continuing to cope, albeit some may have been utilising reserves, and there was a degree of uncertainty about the future. The financial position of the Church at provincial level was noted and in the light of that consideration was given to the level of provincial quota to be sought for 2021. The Committee agreed that a proposal be put to General Synod in December that quota should be reduced for 2021 with phased increases in the following years so as to return by 2024, broadly speaking, to the level of provincial quota collected in 2020. In addition, the Committee agreed in principle to make grants available to dioceses in 2021 in response to recovery and renewal plans containing proposals for adjustments to meet the challenges and opportunities they face as we emerge from the pandemic.
Plans for the forthcoming meeting of General Synod were discussed in detail and the Synod agenda and papers will be sent to Synod members during the course of November.
Noting that the Mission Board’s Local Mission Resourcing Group would come to the end of a three year experimental period in 2021, the Committee agreed to encourage the Mission Board to consider the creation of a new pendant committee to address issues of local mission development.
The Committee was joined by Alan McLean QC, the convener of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group, for discussion of the Group’s interim report produced in the light of the motion passed by General Synod 2019 regarding disinvestment from fossil fuels and related issues. The work of the Group in producing the report was applauded by the Standing Committee and it will be presented to Synod in December.
Administration Board report
The report of the Clergy Renumeration Package Interim Review Group was one of the main items of discussion at the most recent (virtual) meeting of the Administration Board, held at the start of September.
The report was presented by Ian Lawson, convener of the Review Group, and it addressed the adequacy of stipends, clergy housing, and retirement benefits.
After detailed discussion, it was decided that further deliberation is required. A brief update will be given to General Synod in December, before the Board considers the report again at its next meeting in March 2021, with a view to presenting recommendations to General Synod in 2021.
The Board is grateful to those who responded to a questionnaire sent to stipendiary clergy to seek their views on the above matters, which helped to prepare the subsequent report.
Elsewhere on the agenda, the Board was reminded that the SEC Standard Stipend was set at a level equivalent to the Church of England National Stipend Benchmark and that the figure for 2021 was not yet known, the Church of England having paused its normal process to allow it the opportunity to consider the impact of coronavirus and its implications for stipend levels. However it was anticipated that the appropriate bodies would be meeting in September and that the 2021 CoE benchmark would be known by late September or early October. (The Board has subsequently been advised that there is to be no increase in Church of England stipends in 2021 and that SEC Standard Stipend will therefore remain unchanged.)
Other matters discussed included the award of building grants in 2021, with a total of £229,740 awarded from the annual allocation of £257,500 so far this year. Applications exceed funds available by a significant margin, with total applications of £400,397 considered by the Buildings Grants Group by the time of the board meeting.
Finally, it could not have been a virtual board/committee meeting without discussion of the general impact of coronavirus on the Scottish Episcopal Church. Concerns were expressed about the financial impact felt by churches as traditional sources of income have dried up during lockdown and the continuing restrictions, such as fundraising, ‘plate giving’ and hall let income, as well as a fall in investment income. It was noted that the Treasurer has been liaising with diocesan treasurers on these matters and had provided regular updates to Standing Committee as it continues to monitor the situation and assess how best to provide any required support.
Mission Board report
The first topic of the agenda during September’s meeting of the Mission Board focused on Mission in Light of the Covid Pandemic and discussion took place around a paper titled ‘Being the Church and Doing Ministry in the time of Covid-19’ writes Board member Rev Dean Norby. In addition, an update was given by The Rev Dr Richard Tiplady, Director of Mixed Mode Training, who spoke on the course “introduction to pioneer ministry” which ran online and had a significant uptake. In light of this, future research is intended to be undertaken on pioneer ministry across the SEC.
John Stuart, the Secretary General, spoke to a paper on future Board Structure which was well received by the Board members and included a proposal that the Board create a new pendant committee with responsibility for "home mission" (working title). The main purpose for this committee would be to provide a focus for issues of local mission development within the provincial structure with the intention of assisting the Bishops and churches in mission and the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The new committee would supersede the Local Mission Resourcing Group which was set up in 2018 for a period of three years. The Board will work further on this proposal between now and General Synod 2021.
A report was given on the Board’s discussions with the College of Bishops on the issue of Intentional Discipleship. Those involved all agreed with Bishop Paton’s feedback that the session had gone well. It was recognized that being church in the pandemic affects how discipleship is understood and so the College is interested in further discussions around the idea of having a Season of Discipleship for the province to focus on.
The Board’s pendant committees gave their reports and feed back to the Board and it is clear that Covid has had a large impact on issues such as gatherings, applications for grants and change of focus to address the effects of the pandemic.
Discussion took place around Church Statistics and the Board heard from the Rev Dr James Currall and the Rev Canon Michael Last, on possible revision of the annual statistics form. They explained the new layout which had been piloted in the Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness and their experience in the use of that form for the purpose of capturing a broader picture of local church life. The main concern is that the existing form fails to record many significant aspects of church life. The new draft form was well received and will be recommended by the Board to the Episcopal Synod, which is responsible for approving any changes to the existing form for use throughout the Church. Any new form would not be introduced until 2021.
Lastly, the Board would like to thank churches for their continued effort during these times and to encourage local congregations in their initiatives in reaching out to their communities. In addition, we invite you to be in contact if there is anything the Board can do to be of assistance.
Red Book orders welcomed
Orders continue to come in for the 2020/21 edition of the Scottish Episcopal Church Directory, aka The Red Book.
Although the General Synod Office remains closed until further notice, are being distributed by post.
Each copy ordered costs £9 plus £3.20 for postage and packaging, unless collected by arrangement.
The book has been an annual fixture for over one hundred years, providing information and details about our churches, clergy and vestries.
And if lockdown created a gap in your collection because you didn’t get round to ordering a copy of the 2019-20 version, this can still be purchased at the discounted rate of £6, which is inclusive of postage.
To place an order, please send an email to email@example.com
Bookings open for Lay Training Day
A Lay Training Day is to be hosted by the Diocese of Argyll & The Isles next month, titled ‘Church at home: reflections on church and faith in lockdown’.
The event will be held on Zoom in two half-day sessions on the Saturdays of 7 and 14 November. The aims of the sessions are to:
- Reflect on our own, and our own congregation’s, experience of church, worship and faith in lockdown
- Learn from the experience of others in lockdown
- Distill out relevant lessons for the journey ahead
- Learn more about how to look after ourselves spiritually in times of stress and change
The event is open to all interested lay people, especially those with church leadership responsibilities. The two days form a whole, but those who can only attend one of the sessions should still find participation to be beneficial.
To book and receive the Zoom invitation, please contact Ros and Chris Brett, Mission Enablers: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 07802 746460 or 07711 944807.
Churches asked to take part in pandemic survey
Churches in Scotland have been invited to take part in a major piece of research into their response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Brendan Research has been commissioned by Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS) with the support of the Scottish Church Leaders Forum, to carry out research into the following four areas:
- To better understand churches’ experience of online worship and offer guidance for future development
- To inform improved emotional and practical support for church leaders
- To assess the development of new forms of Christian service and mission
- And to show the social benefits that churches and church leaders bring to Scotland.
The researchers would like to hear “the experiences of all ministers, clergy and pastors during the pandemic, and give you an opportunity to influence the future direction of the Church in Scotland”.
To take part, complete the research questionnaire here by 20 November 2020.
Scottish Interfaith Week, 8-15 November
The annual Scottish Interfaith Week in this year of pandemic lockdown, building closures and community isolation promises to be unique in many ways.
Taking the theme of “Connecting” there are online events anyone can engage with over the eight days starting from Sunday 8 November 2020. Never before have there been so many events people can join from home.
Check out the virtual tour of faith buildings in Edinburgh, an international conversation, along with artistic, musical and theatrical events. There is also cookery, a quiz, lectures, shared conversation and time for interfaith meditation.
For full details of the programme, go to the “Scottish Interfaith Week 2020” website or click here.
Poetry and Prayers: from Hooker to Herbert, and beyond
On the feast day of Richard Hooker, poet-priest Malcolm Guite will engage us in a spiritual journey with the poetry of George Herbert in an online event held on Tuesday 3 Noivember.
The day will run from 10am to 4pm on Zoom with plenty of regular breaks from the screen for reflection. There will be the option of Prayer Book Evening Prayer at 4pm.
Malcolm Guite published After Prayer, his poetic response to George Herbert’s poem Prayer in October 2019. Malcolm has a particular interest in the imagination as a truth-bearing faculty and continues to reflect deeply on how poetry can stimulate and re-awaken our prayer life.
He recently retired as Chaplain and is Supernumerary Fellow of Girton College, Cambridge, and teaches at the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge.
The day is hosted by the Craighead Institute of Life and Faith, Glasgow in partnership with St Bride’s Episcopal Church, Hyndland, Glasgow.
The cost for the day is £10. To register please visit here.
Parenting as a church leader
A half-day course titled ‘Parenting as a Church Leader’ is being delivered via Zoom on 3 November 9.30am to 2.30pm by The Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF), which brought us Messy Church. The cost is £10, or £15 with a copy of the book of the same name by Rachel Turner. For more information and to book a place please click here.