Suspiciously like the church

We reached the end of the Eucharist in St John’s, Alloa, last Sunday. But it took a while before I could say ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’

People – lots of them – kept standing up and reminding the congregation about things – there were some pastoral concerns for people .. and the Healing Rooms … and the Quiz … and the Prayer Group

The building looks magnificent after a second (this time successful) renovation of the stonework. There is a mosaic of the Last Supper by Salvatori behind the altar. There is a small list of churches which have pieces of this work – as well as St John’s Alloa it includes Westminster Abbey and Holy Trinity, Brompton.

Did I mention that there is no Rector – no priest regularly in pastoral leadership until Rev Swarup Bar from our companion diocese in Calcutta returns next year?

Congregations like St John’s can’t afford Stipendiary ministry – not more than a small proportion of a stipend anyway. They have indigenous ministry resources – lots of them. It would be great if we could find a NSM priest or a Lay Reader or a Deacon – congregations also need leadership to help them to address medium and longer term issues and to ensure that they are well linked to the diocese

That’s a pattern which we are seeing more and more. It looks suspiciously like the church

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Commemorating World War I



I spent much of yesterday at the Commemoration of the Centenary of the start of World War I. The Service in Glasgow Cathedral was remarkable. No flags or marching or any of that. Instead we had a series of readings – much of it material written by serving soldiers at the time. What made it more poignant was that it was read in the accents which fitted the material.

My great-uncles Reggie and Cyril served in the Canadian forces and both died in the conflict. Cyril was a Medical Orderly and was awarded the Military Cross. He died in the last week of the war bringing bodies back from No Man’s Land.

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Loaves and Fishes

So back to work today. Four weeks off was wonderful – the problem is that we could have perfectly happily carried on for another four.

But St John’s, Forfar, called – a visit in advance of the retirement of Revd Andy McCafferty at the end of this month. The congregation is aware that Andy’s ministry has been special in many ways – the congregation want to know if I can produce another priest just like him.

One of the things which I have done in recent years is to learn to appreciate miracles of grace. The Scottish Episcopal Church teaches you that – one of the things which is a ‘make or break’ in the ministry of many of our clergy is whether they learn to do much with little. So today’s Gospel Reading – the Feeding of the Five Thousand – is special for us. This is some of what I said:

The gospel reading today offers us a pattern for the life of the Christian community and for its ministry which is very important. Jesus and the disciples are faced with 5000 hungry people and almost no food to give them. He takes the bread, gives thanks and breaks it – and they share it and share it and share it. That story belongs in what we sometimes call the miracles of grace. The Casting the Net/miraculous catch of fish is another of them. It is about the way in which by God’s grace ministry, faith and service grow as they are shared.

That becomes a pattern for us – for the life of the church. Resources are always slender. There will never be enough. The future will always look uncertain. The needs and the challenges will always look limitless. So we are called to miracles of grace – that we set out prayerfully and faithfully to do God’s will, to minister to his people, to gather people in – and the miracle is that there will aways be enough grace and love to go round. Indeed there will be more than enough.

If you want to read the whole of it and to find out what I think about how clergy are chosen and appointed ….. it’s here

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Signing Off

When I say that I am taking a blogbreak, I usually don’t
Like when I say ‘more tomorrow’, there usually isn’t

But my real ‘end of term’ was the Royal Garden Party today. And it’s now four weeks in Donegal and back at the beginning of August

I’ve been keeping very well but probably doing more than is wise. So I’m just going to stop for a while.

If you are going away on holiday, have a wonderful time and travel safely.

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I spent this afternoon on the Esplanade at Edinburgh Castle for the firing of the 21 gun salute which marks the arrival of the Queen in Scotland.

The view is remarkable – I never tire of admiring Edinburgh.

I had time during the firing and the staccato shouting of orders to ponder what it would be like if the Scottish Episcopal Church was in charge. No 1 gun would be fine. No 2 would have set up a short-life working party to consider more collaborate ways of working. No 3 would happen but a bit late. No 4 would have decided to be conscientious objectors and would read a lengthy statement to that effect. No 5 would be bang on time as it were. No 6 would have wandered off, etc., etc

But actually these things are really about the networking which goes on before and after.

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DSCN0402 - Copy

Yesterday’s Petertide Ordinations in our Cathedral – Gerry Dillon and Diana Hall with the Rectors with whom they will serve, Revd Thomas Brauer of Central Fife Group and Revd Professor Trevor Hart of St Andrews, St Andrews, and our Dean, Very Revd Kenny Rathband. It was a remarkable evening – one of those moments when we seem to be able to show that we are both serious and passionate about what we do and somewhat bigger than we really are. Diana and Gerry are remarkable people who will make a wonderful contribution to ministry.

That brought to an end a remarkable – and remarkably positive week. Starting in Shetland, it moved through the launch of the Church Graft in the ABI Group. Then there was the appointment of a new Rector in St John’s Perth [to be announced on July 13]. And in between, there was the joy of Sarah and Willie’s wedding, a meeting and dinner for the College of Bishops, a meeting of the Provincial Standing Committee and Glenalmond Commemoration – and Sunday morning in St John’s, Perth.

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Glenalmond Commem

Glenalmond Red Arrows Flypast 2

Commemoration Day at Glenalmond College always gives me that ‘end of term’ feeling. It’s really Speech Day – with Mark Beaumont as the Guest of Honour. And it’s Leavers’s Day. I once described it as Hogwarts meets Glyndbourne – Range Rovers and picnics in wicker baskets. I come and we have a Service which has bits of the Funeral Service from the Book of Common Prayer. Strange really – but that’s the tradition. Glenalmond is an Episcopalian foundation so it’s important for us and I am fairly deeply involved – not just in the ceremonial but also in the management.

I guess that Gladstone, whose statue stands in the Quadrangle, would have covered his ears as the Red Arrows flew over at 1653 precisely – making a slight shimmy to the right on their way from Edinburgh to Armed Forces Day in Stirling. The flypast was arranged by their Manager, Squadron Leader Ruth Shackleton, as a mark of her own time at Glenalmond.

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Grafting at ABI

Dean norby

On Tuesday, we marked the launch of a Church Graft in the ABI [Aberdour, Burntisland and Inverkeithing] group of congregations with the Introduction of Revd Dean Norby as Priest in Charge. At the beginning of the Service, I said that we sometimes have to work very hard to discern what God calls us to – and sometimes it seems to be there in front of us. It’s been like that here – Dean believes that he is called to build up the church in Fife. The three congregations are keen to grow. There is a Fife Connect Group already meeting in the area. The population in Fife just across the Forth Bridge is growing and the new Crossing will increase that growth. St Paul’s and St George’s is keep to develop a church-planting ministry.

So we all came together on Tuesday evening in Inverkeithing Parish Church. Revd David Richards from P’s and G’s was the preacher and we set out in hope together.

There will be challenges and difficulties ahead. But I am fascinated by the amount of interest – and approval – which this move has generated in our own diocese. It’s exciting.

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More from Shetland

The visit to Shetland was to join in the 150th Anniversary of our congregation at St Magnus on Lerwick.


Anniversaries of churches are wonderful moments and I enjoyed this one. This is part of what I said:

Many of you will have come to this service with memories and maybe with photos. Those memories will be of ways in which your story – the important moments of your life – are interwoven with the story of this church. You’ll think of baptisms, weddings and funerals – of Christmas, Easter and Harvest. You may think of people who are no longer with us – but no less deeply loved in our memories and our hearts.

And here is the full script


I also took part in a Confirmation Service at Burravoe on the Island of Yell – it’s the most northerly Anglican Church in the British Isles. The scale of the scenery is wonderful and the light is extraordinary – particularly at this time of year. Here we are – Bishop Bob, Revd Neil Brice and Reverend Mother from the Community of Our Lady of the Isles on Fetlar. If you think we might have centered the photo better, we were just making room for the majesty of God’s creation over my left shoulder

This is part of what I said:

For me this Confirmation Service is about the growth of the church. It’s the church doing what it is called to do – adding to the community of the believers. It’s the church testing that it has at its heart the ability to kindle living faith in the hearts of people. It’s each generation of faith making sure that they are not the last. For if the church loses the will or the ability to bring people to faith, it will die.

Here is the rest of it

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Simmer Dim

We are in Shetland for the 150th Anniversary of our St Magnus’ Church and we have been enjoying a day or two looking around with Bishop Bob and Liz. It is of course mid-summer night here – sunset is nominally around 2230 – but there is very little darkness around


So it’s a great time for festival and lots going on.

We spent a day walking round the island of Noss which is quite close to Lerwick. It was about 9k to do the circuit and we were making good progress until we met the puffins. It was a great experience


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