With 84 Margarets

St Margaret2

St Margaret's Chapel

I am an Honorary President of St Margaret’s Chapel Guild – along with the Moderator and the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. The Chapel is the oldest building in the complex of buildings at Edinburgh Castle – and probably the smallest. It’s used for weddings and other events – and cared for by the members of St Margaret’s Chapel Guild – all of whom are called Margaret.

I was glad to be with them on Monday. I’m still amazed that I managed to get there for the target time of 1150 when I only left Blogstead at 1020. It was a close run thing and it didn’t involve a helicopter. They were a delightful group of people – a wonderful cross-section of Scottish life – linked together by a remarkable building and the history of Margaret.

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Preaching Uphill

Is it my imagination – or are the readings getting more difficult for the preacher?

I certainly thought that last Sunday’s were particularly challenging – as will be obvious if you take a look at what I said in our Cathedral.

But if I was to be charitable to myself … I’d probably say that in earlier life I just wasn’t aware of just how demanding it is!

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Change does come #pisky


It is the fate of veterans to come home to a land changed – a land where they no longer belong. None more so than the Irish men and women who served in the British forces in the First World War and came home to Ireland after the 1916 Easter Rising. It is only in recent times that Ireland has found the political generosity to recognise their service and their sacrifice – and the Queen’s visit to Ireland was an important step along that journey.

So today for the first time an Irish wreath was laid at the Cenotaph. For the third time, Taoiseach Enda Kenny laid a wreath at the War Memorial in Enniskillen – where I grew up. It seems a long time since the horror of the Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen.

If only we could see the same steady political progress within Northern Ireland ..

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St Paul’s, Kinross

We celebrated All Saints today at St Paul’s, Kinross

It was good to be there – music bright and brisk … children … and a feeling of a congregation shaping a style and a quality of worship.

I took the opportunity of talking about life, death and the life beyond – and about the day Mother Theresa sat down beside me on a plane. As I told the congregation, we had a conversation in some depth. But all attempts to get more were met with ‘If it is God’s will’ I must remember to do that with the next meeting I have with a Vestry.

The full text is here

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Breaking the habits of a lifetime

I’ve always been deeply committed to building ecumenical relationships. That’s partly because it seemed to be essential – I almost said ‘a matter of life and death’ – among the divisions of Northern Ireland. It’s also because denominationalism is profoundly unattractive – churches are better in relationship. My problem has always been that I don’t much like the institutional expressions of ecumenism. I have profound respect for those who cope better than I do with the long agendas …

So I find myself firmly trumped by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s invitation to be the Anglican Co-Chair of the forthcoming dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the World Communion of Reformed Churches. And I’ve just spent two days in London working with others to shape what will probably be a five year programme of talking and exploring.

It’s an honour for me – and for our church – that I should be asked to do this. And there are reasons why it makes sense. The Church of Scotland is an influential member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches – indeed the HQ of the former World Alliance of Reformed Churches was in Edinburgh until 1948. I’m encouraged to see our relationships with the Church of Scotland growing and deepening in all sorts of ways at the moment. So there will be interplay between what happens in the forthcoming dialogue and what happens in Scotland.

So it’s deep breath – and time to face up to the long Agendas

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Believing in God. #pisky


I recently found myself starting to complete one of these surveys. By the time I reached Q4, I stopped and binned it. There were two reasons for that.

Firstly the relatively small size of our church means that any set of responses risks not being representative of the whole

Secondly I think it is always unwise to deal with deep and personal issues by responding to a set of questions posed by others. The result is likely to be what we see in this article. In a very different context, we regularly respond to requests for responses on matters of policy from the Scottish Government. I am usually an advocate of a response in which we disregard the supplied Questionnaire and write a statement of our position. Only in that way can we hope to achieve clarity with balance.

I see no evidence that clergy of our church are sceptical about God. We are at present seeing an influx of people into our processes of discernment – people wanting to test an inner conviction that God is calling them to ministry in our church. As part of that discernment, we expect people to be able to articulate clearly their experience of God at work in their lives – and their deep conviction about God’s presence, power and love. Nobody would make the commitments – and the sacrifices – which are involved unless they had that faith present as a vibrant reality in their lives.

But of course there are other realities.

We minister and pursue our mission in a very secular society. That society is full of quiet voices which erode conviction and attenuate passion. When you are tired and disappointed, the inner voice which says, ‘This isn’t doing any good, you know’ can be a disturber.

I see clergy who have done their best – who have bravely pointed the way forward – but have been ‘knocked back’ one time more than their resilience can stand.

Yes this is difficult – difficult because we carry faith right at the very centre of our being. So when we are hurt in the cause of faith, we are deeply hurt.

People who read this may say, That’s what you would expect’. To them I say that they should look at the life of the Scottish Episcopal Church today – at our energy and growing confidence, at the quality of our clergy and our ordinands …

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Harvest at Glamis Castle



Something a little different today – Harvest Thanksgiving with the congregation in the Chapel at Glamis Castle and with the Chaplain, Canon Dr Joe Morrow. Glamis is famous as the childhood home of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

The Chapel is 17th Century and in the Episcopalian tradition – a private chapel for the Earl of Strathmore.

The congregation consists of people who work on the estate – and people from the village of Glamis. I didn’t could today – but the little Chapel was full. No sign of the Grey Lady who is reputed to haunt the Chapel.

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With the Celtic Bishops


Our meeting with the Bishops of the Church of Ireland and the Church in Wales is one of the better events in the calendar. A slight Celtic vagueness means that I a not quite sure whether it happens every two or every three years. But it happens – this time at Portmarnock just to the north of Dublin. It was also enlivened by the presence of the Irish football team so I kept meeting a bearded Roy Keane in the corridor.

So what did we do? We had a look at Ministry Training – we are all in transition on that one. Also at issues of faith and identity – particularly in the light of our Referendum, And we looked at patterns of ministry

It always surprises me that there is relatively little contact between these churches. We’ve seen a small amount of movement among clergy – myself included. But I suspect that we each measure ourselves off against the establishment weight of the Church of England – rather than against one another,

That’s a pity because there is much that we share – relatively modest size and the challenges which go with that; disestablishment and not-establishment; complex history around faith and identity. We are all sufficiently fleet of foot to be attempting some brave steps in mission and growth.

I came away hopeful ….

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Hong Kong


Like me, you will be watching events in Hong Kong with great concern.

None of this F&O course comes out of nowhere, I took this photo in the Autumn of 2012. Protestors are occupying an urban flyover. The police have arrived and have positioned a large inflatable just below. People watch, it’s over very quickly. But even at that point it was a daily event as anti-Bejing feeling grew,

Please remember in your prayers the ministry of the Anglican Church in Hong Kong. It’s small but very influential – particularly through its schools. I think particularly of the ministry of Dean Samson Fan and Archbishop Paul Kwong.

And Hong Kong is fun. Here we are – just off the overnight flight – exploring place of snakes in the Pet Service at the Cathedral with Samson Fan


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The Camino was all very well. But I’m a cyclist at heart. You get your exercise sitting down – and you get to freewheel on the downhills which is a but difficult when you are walking.

This is National Cycle Route 75 – the canal heading west from Edinburgh. Not much freewheeling here, of course. But it is a remarkable journey which shows you familiar places from a very different perspective.

This is the aqueduct where the canal crosses the many lanes of the City Bypass at Hermiston Gait.

And if you really want to see things from a different perspective, try cycling across the centre of Edinburgh along the Water of Leith

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