In the East Neuk #pisky


If you haven’t visited the East Neuk of Fife, you’ve missed a real treat. Head south from St Andrews for about half an hour and you meet Anstruther, Crail, Pittenweem, St Monans and Elie. Beautiful villages with houses with red tiled roofs – tiles which came as ballast in trading ships. The area reminds me of Cork where I went on childhood holidays – and there is a whiff of Brittany about it as well. The villages are also a bit like villages on the Greek Islands – convoluted streets which make it possible to get lost within the compass of about 100 yards.

We have two faithful congregations there – St Michael’s is in a ‘tin tab’ in Elie and St John’s is in Pittenweem. Alison had a great day with them on Sunday. I enjoyed the moment when I found that the glass in my hand had part of the Declaration of Arbroath etched on it!

And did I mention that they are looking for a part-time Rector?

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Working Together

I’ve been in Glasgow this afternoon to take part in the celebrations which mark the 20th Anniversary of Scottish Churches Housing Action

If you look at their website, they do interesting work across Scotland. To keep any piece of ecumenical infrastructure going for 20 years is in itself a significant achievement.

It seems obvious to me that it is simpler to encourage churches to work together when the purpose is something worthwhile which is common to all of them. Far better than struggling with an ecumenical agenda which seems never quite to go anywhere.

We need more of this – and of course food banks are an obvious example where churches and community come together f or a common purpose. At Revd Anne Tomlinson’s suggestion, I’ve been reading ‘The Stop’ which is the story of how a Food Bank in Toronto worked hard to move beyond ‘just handing out food’ to become an agency which was truly transformation in people’s lives – involving, educating, sharing.

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Paperless. #pisky

Many of us are constantly defeated by the struggle with myriad bits of paper

Meetings – and there are many of those – all have shoals of it. Minutes of the last meeting demand, usually unsuccessfully, to be linked with the Agenda and other stuff for next. The struggle to have the right bits of paper at the right time and to know how to dispose of them properly afterwards defeats even the best of us.

There is still plenty of paper around our office. But the first stage was the movement towards no longer filing anything in paper form. Today’s photocopiers which scan easily and effectively have dealt with that. And electronic filing increases the chance of finding it again – I remember a session on administration from John Truscott who said, ‘Remember it’s not a filing system. It’s a retrieval system’

But working out how not to carry the paper took much longer. And the answer for me appears to be Dropbox. Anything I need to have with me and be able to refer to can go into Dropbox and be accessed from the IPad. And gradually I find myself arriving at meetings with just the IPad. To dispose of the papers after they are needed is the work of a second

Can it really be as simple as that? Time will tell.

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Clergy Conference 2015

We had our Clergy Conference earlier this week – my eleventh since I managed one before I officially arrived.

Remarkable guest speakers – Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University and David Male with Alistair Warwick working on music.

Most obvious and encouraging was how we were as a group. Last year the empty chairs of losses from our clergy group were all too obvious. This year we had the stimulating presence of newly-appointed clergy and morale is significantly higher. Clergy Conference for us has always been very important. Our clergy don’t get to meet and encourage one another as often as we would like – the content of the Conference is important but that meeting even more so.

The theme of the Conference was Our aim for the conference is to help people to understand more clearly the interface between the
church and the secular world, and to discover how we can be more effective in bridging the gaps.

I offered three homilies in the worship

Clergy Conference 1
Clergy Conference 2
Clergy Conference 3

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Defending Freedoms #pisky

I was with the congregation in All Saints, St Andrews this morning. Like a number of our congregations at present, they are beginning the process of seeking and appointing a new Rector. Not that I’m advertising at this moment of course ….

The events of last week in France are much in everybody’s mind – so I did my best to address some of those issues. I find that, as I think about it, there are some aspects of freedom of speech which I am more comfortable with than others.

This is the sermon

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Institution at Highland Perthshire


This was the Institution this evening of Revd Liz Baker as Rector of the Highland Perthshire Group – in Holy Trinity, Pitlochry.

This marks the completion of the re-grouping of our congregations up the length of the A9 – trying to shape our resources on the ground in a way which makes sense in response to the way in which the local communities work. It’s taken a while – moving things with congregations always does. But giving it time means that people have now come to understand that this makes sense. And we have moved to having two full-time clergy. Revd Shona Boardman is now serving in Birnam and Stanley – developing our ministry in the growing communities to the north of Perth. Revd Liz Baker will cover the distinct Highland Perthshire area – Pitlochry, Kilmaveonaig [Balir Atholl], Strathtay and Kinloch Rannoch.

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A New Year article for Sunday Times #pisky

I should I have put this article in ages ago – published on the Sunday after Christmas.

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Another thought – about Ebola and the NHS #pisky

In the BBC in Dundee this morning at 0722. Dark, wet and bleak it was. On the other hand, one of the things which still lights me up is the presence of the BBC’s analogue clock which moves second by second as you try to get the timing exactly right! It gives me that feeling of being in the presence of Lord Reith.

This is what I said

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Christmas #pisky

One of the times when I still miss parish ministry. Why? Because as a bishop I miss the build up – and that takes all kinds of forms. I was away for various things in December. So I lost the rhythm of Advent, which is my favourite season of all. And I don’t get to do the unending round of Nativity Plays, Carol Services and Senior Citizens’ Christmas Dinners. So I’m liturgically parachuted into Christmas.

This year as usual, I enjoyed being part of the Midnight Eucharist in our Cathedral and on Christmas morning I went to our congregation at St John’s, Forfar.

Here is the Sermon

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Farewell to Bishop Michael Hare Duke. #pisky

We gathered today in St Ninian’s Cathedral to say our farewells to Bishop Michael Hare Duke. He was bishop in this diocese for 25 years and exercised significant influence beyond that.

Here is his obituary

Inevitably – since it was the funeral of the bishop – I did some reflecting on it all while we were in church together.. And two things in particular seemed important,

The first was that we had a proper funeral liturgy – a Eucharist, some wonderful music, reflection on Michael’s life and proclamation of resurrection hope,

That’s important because our funeral rites are under considerable pressure – pressure to have a small funeral service for close family followed later in the same day by a Memorial Service. I am entirely opposed to that. Memorial Services have their place – removed at some distance from the time of death, But they are no substitute for a funeral service with its sense of progression – and its combination of support for the bereaved, thanksgiving for a life and faith-filled proclamation of resurrection hope.

My second reflection was about the nature of episcopal ministry and the mixed feelings with it engenders. I suspect that it is difficult to the point of impossible to exercise authority in the church – however carefully and pastorally – without experiencing conflict.

It was a worthy send-off – a good expression of the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral strengths of our church – a worthy response to a remarkable ministry

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