This morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Scotland:
‘Welcome home, Father’. The flat vowels of the passport officer at Dublin Airport. I’m caught – misty-eyed – between Ireland which is home in the sense of deep belonging and family history and Scotland which is home by choice and calling, the place which has made me welcome, the place where my grandchildren are growing up with Scottish accents.So Good Morning to you on this St Patrick’s Day
One of the things which Ireland and Scotland share is the story of migration – movement from Ireland and particularly west Donegal to lowland Scotland – but of course a much wider diaspora to the New World and elsewhere. They were driven mainly by need and poverty, the Highland Clearances in Scotland and the Great Famine in Ireland. Work, dignity, place to rear a family .. and somewhere to call home.
Our faith traditions all have hospitality embedded – for Christians our welcome to the stranger as if welcoming Christ himself. Nothing in any of that about building walls and fences higher – dividing walls are for taking down. As peoples who have a history of migration ourselves we have an instinctive desire to welcome.
On Wednesday evening I was one of over 350 people in the Scottish Parliament for an event organised by the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society – which is rooted in the Moslem community. The theme of Exodus gave a gathering of people representing almost every strand of Scottish Society a chance to explore the issues of migration and hospitality
I heard people talking about the ‘new Scots’. That’s when the stranger made welcome begins to settle down, to experience what it is to feel at home in a new place and to share in the shaping of the society of which they are now a part.
This evening I’ll be at the party in Edinburgh for the Irish Community. We’ll all be talking nineteen to the dozen about home and how we miss it – but home is where you are welcomed at a deep level and wherever that is becomes home
Over 350 people in the Scottish Parliament last night – apparently a record.
The Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society promoted this event on the issue of migration and refugees. Almost every strand of Scottish society was represented. This is one of those moments when Scottish attitudes and values are distinctly different …. accepting, welcoming and affirming, I suspect that in Scotland, as in Ireland, there is a shared historic memory of the welcome and acceptance which Scottish people have received around the world. The frustration evident in this gathering was with the refusal of the UK Government to accept more
This is our statement on the call for a second Referendum on Scottish Independence
STATEMENT ON THE REQUEST OF THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT FOR A SECOND INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM
The decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union is an event with far-reaching consequences, many of which have not yet become visible. In those parts of the United Kingdom which have devolved administrations, particularly in Scotland, the Brexit debate had a slightly different feel. That difference was most clearly seen when the vote in Scotland was in favour of ‘remain’.
The Scottish Govern ent has announced that it intends to seek permission for a second Independence Referendum. Such a request is not unexpected. It reflects a continuing weakness in the relationship between the Scottish Government and the British Government. They have found it difficult to give creative consideration to the implications of this new situation together. That difficulty reflects a wider failure to make space for a debate about how the developed nations will relate together in the future, But at this moment, refusal on the part of the British Government to allow a second referendum will inevitably give rise to further ill-feeing in relationships.
Scotland is already a distinct national entity. It is rich in its history and culture. The Brexit debate has revealed that Scotland is also distinct in its values. The ‘independence question’ is an opportunity for a community to discuss and resolve whether its distinctiveness is such that it justifies separate constitutional arrangements and is therefore a question of national self-determination. Beyond that lie wider questions about Scotland’s relationships in the wider world and its future in challenging economic times.
Faith communities in general have adopted a position of active neutrality in response to this issue. They should exercise care about adopting positions ‘for or against’ on constitutional issues. But faith communities also care deeply about the quality of the national conversation – about the need for all voices to be heard respectfully. It is also important that the debate attempts to do justice to the depth and the complexity of the issues and does not become over-focused on the single issue of constitutional status.
People of faith will pray for our political leaders on all sides and will also pray for the future of Scotland and of all the nations of the British Isles.
I was in St Mary’s, Dunblane, last Sunday for the Confirmation of Hazel and Ruth.
Our generation of bishops has been supportive of Confirmation – believing that catechesis is a core activity of the church. I do believe that baptism is full initiation – but I also believe in ‘nurture for decision’. It’s good for those who come to be confirmed – and it’s good for the congregation as a whole.
This was a remarkable day. Since I was last in St Mary’s, there has been extensive renovation of the church. It is now an attractive and well-lit space conducive to worship of all kinds. They are now considering a re-ordering of the sanctuary area. There has also been some renovation – in the sense of renewal – of the congregation. I greeted many children at the Peace and they seem content with their sense of belonging in the congregation.
Yesterday was a special evening for our congregations in St James the Great, Cupar, and St Mary’s, Ladybank. As happens all too often, the congregations have had a long wait for a new Rector – but as the arrival of Revd Roy Anetts and his wife Kate became a moment of hope and possibility for the future.
Roy comes from Birmingham and had a great love of Scotland. We hope that he and his family will be very happy with us and we look forward to the contribution which he will make not just in his congregational ministry but in the wider life of the diocese.
I was honoured when Roy asked me to preach. I did my best and this is what I said
It doesn’t surprise me that people want to talk about the spirituality of pets. At the remarkable age of 21, Poppy our Brown Burmese cat decided to pre-empt my retirement by staging her own. She leaves a big space in our lives – and in our Family Room.
She had an extraordinary life. In the first period, she was the cat of our teenage children and was accompanied by Rollo who was a totally not streetwise Red Burmese. That had two effects on her life. Firstly she was entirely mute because he did all the talking for both of them. And she was a house cat because Rollo couldn’t be let out with any confidence at all.
Rollo died shortly before we left Portadown in 2005. Because Poppy was, by the standards of Burmese cats, already quite elderly, we decided not to stress Poppy with the introduction of another cat. So she lived on and on and on in sole feline occupation of Blogstead.
Fast forward some years and the cat of our teenage children has become the cat of our grandchildren. Wherever the children were, there too was Poppy.
In this phase of our life, she took on diabetes. Her Personal Physician Harvey uttered the words, ‘There are very few real emergencies in cat medicine but this is one of them.’ Approximately 3500 insulin injections later, Poppy decided to move on from diabetes to pancreatitis. She ate hugely but gained no weight. And she talked all the time very loudly because she was deaf. Successive PA’s have got used to a running commentary from Poppy behind the dictation.
Meanwhile she continued to travel – to Edinburgh to stay with Anna when we went travelling – to her second home in Donegal where she was pictured stretched out on the paving under the fuschia hedge on her 20th birthday.
Poppy also embraced the social media revolution, maintaining her own Facebook Page and a wide circle of Facebook friends only some of whom were dogs.
No anger or prejudice – bearing no grudges – faithful and accepting. No wonder they talk about spirituality.
It’s been a day both ordinary and extraordinary. We made the announcement that I shall retire in the summer and, overnight, I wrote to our clergy to explain.
‘How do I feel about that?’ people ask. Well the period between now and then will go in a flash, partly because it will be extra busy.
As my letter says, I think I have had a most extraordinary time in ministry and I am very thankful for that.
But I like the idea that, for the first time since I was ordained, I shall have quite a bit of time. I like the prospect of time for family – particularly the time that Alison and I will give to our children and to our grandchildren, Eve, Jack, Esme and Alice. I like the possibility that unexpected and different things may turn up. I’d like to be trimmer and fitter. I have some things that I want to do and others that I need to do ….
This is the letter I wrote to our clergy
And this is the link to the announcement on the SEC website
Earlier this month, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met with 11 Church Leaders and Representatives to discuss some of the issues facing Scotland today. The Scottish Episcopal Church was represented by the Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunked & Dunblane and Primus.
The meeting focused on social care needs for an aging population and the particular challenges faced by those with dementia and their carers. There was discussion about the importance of community cohesion and freedom of religion and conscience. Church leaders highlighted Home Office immigration restrictions and their impact on international church relations and spoke about the Meet Your MSP Project which encourages churches to get to know their elected representatives.
Chloe Clemmons, Scottish Churches Parliamentary Officer, explained the value of the meetings saying “Churches are an active and valuable part of communities across Scotland; I am delighted that Church Leaders and Representatives have this opportunity to share stories about some of the work we are doing locally with the First Minister in the coming year.”
Speaking after chairing the annual Action of Churches Together in Scotland which brings leaders from a range of denominations together First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said “Scotland is becoming a more diverse country, particularly with free movement of people from other parts of Europe to Scotland, and the arrival of refugees and asylum seekers. Each group of people bring their own cultural identities, faiths and background. Scotland is a place where we celebrate our differences, while recognising the many things that unite us and where people of all races, faiths and background feel safe and respected.
“It is important that everyone is open to each other’s values and it is essential that we safeguard our shared vision of a multicultural, open and tolerant Scotland. Our faith communities play a significant role here, and abroad, and we welcome their contribution and input into our nation’s civic life to enrich us all.”
I found myself in a panel discussion on Thursday at the showing of this film in St Andrews. The event was promoted by Childreach
It’s the story of a young Nepalese girl who is – so easily – persuaded to leave her family. The promise is of work with a good family so that she can help her family to put a tin roof on their home to keep the rain out. It happens over and over again. Instead of the good family, she finds herself trafficked as a child prostitute in Kolkata.
The film was harrowing and violent. Too much for some. But we need to be reminded how easily this happens – how astonishingly easy it is to persuade a family in a hill village in Nepal to let go of their young daughter. There are all sorts of other issues as well – I reflected on the campaign by the Anglican Communion Family Network to encourage birth registration. Without birth registration, children can simply disappear or be trafficked or become child soldiers.
I made this statement yesterday:
“The Scottish Episcopal Church has had a long commitment to the development of interfaith work. Over many years, we have sought to develop friendship, understanding and mutual respect between our Christian faith and the other great world religions. This work, like all works of reconciliation, must be founded on truth. We approach others with open hearts but we stand in the truth of the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
“Those who seek to work in the area of interfaith relationships must weigh carefully whether the choices which they make are appropriate or otherwise. In today’s world, those judgements must give careful consideration to good relationships which have been carefully nurtured over many years in a local context. They must also weigh carefully the way in which national and international issues shape perceptions of what is appropriate or inappropriate
“The decisions which have led to the situation in St Mary’s Cathedral are a matter for the Provost and the Cathedral community but the Scottish Episcopal Church is deeply distressed at the widespread offence which has been caused. We also deeply regret the widespread abuse which has been received by the Cathedral community.
“In response to what has happened at the Cathedral, the Scottish Episcopal Church will bring together all those who are involved in the development of interfaith relations. Our intention will be as a Church to explore how, particularly in the area of worship, this work can be carried forward in ways which will command respect. Our desire is that this should be a worthy expression of the reconciliation to which all Christians are called.”