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.”
Here at Blogstead na Mara in Donegal we have seven volumes of Arthur Ransome on the bookshelf – Swallows and Amazons of course but also some of the others like Peter Duck and Winter Holiday. The obvious absentee is the great ‘We didn’t mean to go to sea’ and I’ll pick up a copy of that somewhere or other.
I don’t read them all the way through. I just pick one up as I pass and open it at random. And I enter a world which takes me back to childhood – back to childhood reading and also back to the time when I too was a child in a sailing boat on a lake. That was Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh where I learned to sail.
It’s a timeless world but very much of its time. John the eldest is a chap – a big brother who is responsible to the point of dullness. Mate Susan seems untroubled by gender stereotypes. And then there is Able Seaman Titty aged nine and a half. She draws maps in Indian ink and names everywhere with names like Rio and Darien. Last of all is the lookout Roger. Father is perpetually on his ship in the South China Sea. Mother rows the whaler across to the children’s camp on Wildcat Island. As mothers do, she rows with long steady strokes.
Time to watch the Swallows and Amazons DVD. Disaster. My childhood idyll was obviously far too tame for the film makers. Spies are everywhere and mainly out to get Uncle Jim, aka Captain Flint. Four children messing about in a boat on a lake are suddenly in imminent and constant danger of death. For reasons where are beyond me, Titty is now Tatty. Children having adventures of the imagination are now having real and dangerous adventures.
You are right. I HATED it.
I went today to a ’round table’ on Brexit hosted by the Church of England at Lambeth Palace. They had gathered up a significant group of church leaders from all over the UK for a conversation with Lord Bridges of Headley, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DEXEU – the Department for Exiting the European Union.
On the flight this morning, I fortified myself by reading the 39 pages of the Scottish Government’s document, Scotland’s Place in Europe. This has a sort of internal discussion of the link between Brexit and a possible second Independence Referendum. But what is between the lines and almost everything else I have read lately about the lack of ‘Brexit bounce’ suggests that the answer to that is ‘Not now’
But the document is well worth a read because of what it says about the post-Brexit options. In setting out options for the whole of the UK other than the seemingly inevitable ‘hard Brexit’, it offers a far fuller discussion than anything which has come from the government at Westminster. In looking at possible options for Scotland, whether independent or not, it explores and pushes to what feels like the limit the concept of differentiation – that different parts of the UK might have different Brexit outcomes. And Theresa May has promised to listen.
Of today’s conversation – which was very worthwhile – I came away with a feeling that the government’s thinking has not caught up with the idea that a UK with devolved institutions is now a diversity of nations – and that things look a bit different from Perth, or Bala or Bleary. I can see the awesome complexity of all this and respect those who are trying to find their way through it. Maybe they are keeping their cards close to their chest. Or maybe the still febrile political atmosphere down south means that any speculation about policy options other than the most radical will instantly be condemned as betrayal. Or maybe they just don’t know. Or maybe it’s a bit of all three.
GOOD MORNING night’s tragic events in Berlin – whether the action of a single individual or the work of a terrorist group – certainly cause terror. It’s the currency of these horrific events that they happen with complete unpredictability – dominating the headlines as they choose. What those who carry them out want us to believe is that nowhere is safe – any crowd anywhere is a risk – concert, football ground, railway station, airport, shopping mall, seaside promenade.
Some say that the violence of terrorists is ‘mindless’. I don’t agree. Heartless maybe. But not mindless. There are causes and ideologies. Toxic memory from political failures of past and present. And no limits to action.
For those of us who, whether believers or not, are rooted in a tradition which affirms the sacredness of human life, this is really difficult. At one moment we are the deeply loved spouse, parent, friend. And the next we are simply victims, conscripts in somebody else’s savage pursuit of their cause. I hear reverberating in my mind the words from the old funeral service, ‘in the midst of life we are in death’
So what is to be done – what do the person of faith and people of goodwill everywhere think or do?. Well I think there are two responses and strangely they are mutually contradictory. First we have to maintain a sort of indifference to terrorism. In the years when I lived and worked in Northern Ireland, we did that. Never took unnecessary risks – but never allowed terrorism to affect our lives and our freedom. But we must also do what distinguishes civilisation from barbarism – we attempt to ‘imagine the other’ – to try and work out why human beings can act in this way. The terrorist sees the person simply as another number in the tally of death. People of all faiths see every person as being of infinite value, unique because expressive of the creator who gave them life.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who suffer today – in Berlin and in Aleppo and elsewhere,