We were in All Saints, St Andrews, last night for Candlemas. Those who know All Saints will understand that we were immersed in – or illuminated by – the riches of liturgy. If you haven’t explored this distinctive strand of the life of the Scottish Episcopal Church, All Saints is one of the places to find it.
My primary reason for going there last night was to mark the completion of the renovation and restoration of the Rectory. It is an astonishing building – spread over three floors, it is dauntingly large. But the attention of most clergy is drawn to the magnificent book-lined study just inside the front door. Here at Blogstead, my facilities in that department are slightly less grand – indeed rather more cell-like.
Restoring the house has of course been a real challenge for the Vestry – but a challenge to which they and their Rector, Rev Alasdair Coles, have risen admirably. The group of buildings at All Saints arise through the generosity and benefaction of Mrs Younger. They express a holistic vision – church, Rectory, hall, library, gymnasium. So to lose any part of that would diminish the whole.
And of course this is St Andrews …. In St Andrews, St Andrews, our other congregation in the town, we came to a similar conclusion. In a compact university town, the Rector and his family should be living at the ‘heart of things’ That means visible and accessible to a student population whose life is concentrated within a relatively small area. In each case, a large Rectory is to be used not just for family – but as a focus for the building of wider community.
Like many churches, the Scottish Episcopal Church went through a difficult period in the last century – a sort of loss of confidence. One of the signs of that was the failure or inability of Trustees to protect and safeguard buildings – assets and infrastructure which are now needed to resource mission in more confident times. That of course has affected me personally as one of the losses was the Bishop’s House in Perth.
So it was good to see the real pleasure and pride of the people of All Saints in what has been achieved – good to know that since Christmas several hundred people have already passed through the Rectory. A job well done.