From the Rector’s Desk
This Advent sees a change to our usual practice of a joint Advent Carol Service on advent Sunday at the Good Shepherd. This year we will joint to congregation at Saughtonhall URC to celebrate with Advent Carols and their 90th anniversary of founding. 90 years to the day on 1st December. The next joint worship, also at Saughtonhall will then be the watch night service. The joint service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity also sees a change with the service to be held at the Good Shepherd, when we will celebrate the Eucharist together.
Once again, we are joining with the Cathedral and other churches in the city filling shoeboxes with Christmas gifts for the young homeless in our city. For many of these young people this will be the only gift they will receive. Shoeboxes can be filled with underwear, hats, gloves, scarfs, sweets, biscuits and toiletries -see display for more information at the back of church. Please note: no razors, aerosol deodorants or alcohol.
Thank you for your support once again. The collection date is yet to be announced by the Cathedral but boxes can be brought to church throughout November and early December.
10am on Christmas Eve there will be a Vigil Eucharist to help us prepare for the coming Feast of Christmas. The Vigil is an opportunity to reflect and take things quietly and slowly for half and hour. This is followed at 5pm by the Crib Service with the journey to Bethlehem. If anyone knows of a local baby, or if you have one coming to you for Christmas, who you think might like to take centre stage please let me know. The Watchnight Service follows at 11 for 1130pm at Saughtonhall URC. On Christmas Day we celebrate at 10am in the morning, the Festal Sung Eucharist of the Shepherds.
Advent Study Course Mondays 2nd, 9th & 16th at 7pm
Russell D and Dean will lead us through a short course exploring ‘Looking for Christ in the Arts’. Russell will focus on music and Dean will offer Breugel’s Census at Bethlehem painting. Each event will last about 45 minutes.
Congregational Christmas Lunch
Our annual lunch takes place this year on Wednesday 11th December please make sure that you have chosen your menu. See Pat S for more information.
The Afternoon Christmas Service
2pm Tuesday 17th December - All Welcome
Paula Rego Exhibition - the Curator’s Tour
3pm Saturday 11th January
Please sign up for Alice S’s tour of her latest exhibition. Rego is a provocative painter whose work will challenge and inspire. If you are not a member of the Galleries you will need to pay the exhibition entry fee (payable on the day). We also ask for a £2 donation towards a thank you book token for Alice, please pay when you sign up.
The Epistle to the Flock
Once again, we are approaching the turn of the year and the Christmas festivities that surround it. It seems no time at all since we were preparing to celebrate the new millennium at the end of 1999 and two thousand years of Christ’s Incarnation. We are now a fifth of the way into a new century but one thing remains constant and that is Christ’s incarnation.
A large majority of the world’s population celebrates Christmas, whether as a religious festival or a secular event. For people of faith or no faith this festive season is important. It is an opportunity to get together with family and friends, to remember those we may have fallen out of touch with a card or telephone call; and to give a gift to someone we care about. For those of us with a Christian Faith it is more than just an opportunity to party, or to enjoy giving and receiving cards and presents. It is an opportunity to stop and give heartfelt thanks for the birth of Christ and the promises of God he fulfilled.
Jesus was born into a very ordinary human family but to parents who were both prepared to do extraordinary things on God’s behalf. Both Mary and Joseph said yes to God, the Gospels of Luke and
Matthew tells so. In Luke’s account Mary is visited by Gabriel and says; ‘Yes’ to God’s request that she bear his son. In Matthew’s account Joseph has a dream in which an angel came to him and assured him of Mary’s faithfulness and encouraged him to accept Jesus as his own and raise him on God’s behalf. Both Mary and Joseph in different ways had to say; ‘Yes’ to becoming parents. I have often wondered what each of them truly thought was going on but I am also impressed by their trust in God, that all would be all right. Two very ordinary people who did very extra-ordinary things.
Have you ever asked yourself how you might have responded to God’s request? Would you have said; ‘Yes’ as Mary and Joseph did? Perhaps this is something you might want to ponder on during Advent and the run up to Christmas, in one of those moments when you are not rushing around trying to get everything done. Keep that pondering going over Christmas and into the new year, regularly asking yourself; ‘Is God calling me to do something different?’ Who knows where that pondering will take you or what your ‘Yes’ might lead you to?
Happy Advent, Christmas and New Year and may your pondering and prayers lead you to new life in the new born Christ.
Goodness knows what the festive season will be like? If the past few weeks have been any indication, I suspect that I am in for a busy and bumpy ride, as they say. The dining room has been full of wrapping paper and stuff for weeks and having heeded Archie’s stern warning to be vigilant about something called ‘sticky tape’ I have yet to be attacked by invisible forces that seek to stick ones fur together and drive one mad. Poor Archie, seems to be somewhat traumatised by events of the past, heaven knows what he and my auntie Lady Gladys got up to. I do hear tales of collapsing trees and encounter with the Christ Child under the table but I actually have no idea what they are about. Christmas, however, in this house does seem to arrive very early. Although the parcels do seem to be diminishing daily as they ‘get posted off’ to different parts of the world. I hear the ‘Dog-Collar’ say; that if they are not done early they won’t get sent at all.
Well, all that aside, I can say that I am looking forward to my first Edinburgh Christmas and New Year. I do hope that there are fun japes to look forward to and the odd gift. a cashmere cat blanket wouldn’t go a miss because that utility room gets awful cold at night. Archie is not a bad heater when I can actually get in the basket with him - he is a rather large cat in a small basket but I can normally snuggle down, even if sometimes he ends up sleeping on me!
I do hope that I hear from my family in Stratford-upon-Avon and at least some of my kittens. They have been dreadful at keeping in touch but I suppose that is the younger generation, they all assume a text will suffice when a card would be so much better. As this is my first Christmas in the Rectory, I really don’t have an idea of what Christmas will be like. I hope I at least get a whiff of turkey but I doubt it very much as the ‘Dog-Collar’ tends to favour a nut roast. I ask you cashew nuts rather than plump turkey legs! Quite what is the world coming too.
With my best wishes for a Very Happy Christmas and a joyful New Year
HSH Lady Grace Fortescue de Monceaux Grand Duchess of Milgil
P.s. Archie has just informed me not to worry about the turkey as the ‘Other-One’ always has something meaty to compliment or save him from the nut roast. Dei Gratis.
Notes from the Organ Loft
I write with the sounds of our celebration of Christ the King still ringing in my ears! It was wonderful to have the excuse of a birthday to invite friends and family to join the congregation and choir – and to indulge myself with my favourite hymns and composers. I hear from Dean that the attendance numbers just topped 100 when Walter arrived midway. Thank you all for coming along to help me celebrate, and especially those invisible angels who tidied everything up afterwards. And thanks for all your kind messages on the back of Dean’s beautiful tapestry work: a lovely memento of a very happy birthday.
Earlier in the month we had another group of additional choristers join us for Remembrance Sunday – all family and friends of Bruce W: Angela providing the alto line, while their daughter Rosanna and her school friend gallantly devoted two mornings of their precious weekend to practising and singing soprano. Greatly appreciated.
The end of the church year also marks the temporary withdrawal from the choir of Pat G who is taking a Sabbatical to get a chance to draw breath between her other church activities. She has been a great strength and stay since I took over as organist, and we shall miss her – haste ye back!
Finally, I have had the good news that the Vestry has given formal approval to the completion of all aspects of the organ restoration next summer, including the provision of new stops, which were ‘prepared for’ but not installed at the time of the last major overhaul in 1967. I will be meeting with the organ builder in the near future to agree the order for pipes. Anyone who’d like to sponsor a pipe – or set of pipes – do let me know!!
The story of the ECUDARE project based in Ngong, Kenya and Murrayfield Churches Together
Murrayfield Churches Together (MCT) is an ecumenical partnership of some 30 years standing, and part of the cement of the partnership has been our connection with the Ecumenical Day Care and Support Women (ECUDARE) project. This is based in Ngong, one of the poorest areas of Kenya, to the south-west of Nairobi.
Ecumenism has shaped our approach to ECUDARE from the very beginning, when the partnership with ECUDARE was chosen as a suitable way of celebrating MCT’s 21st anniversary in 2008. The partnership was nourished initially by a visit from Esther to MCT in 2008, this was then followed in 2010 by a visit to Kenya by a group from MCT. In 2012 contact continued with a visit to MCT by Esther and her husband Daniel.
ECUDARE was set up in 2003 by Esther Wanjohi, the Director, to provide quality of life and holistic care for women and their families who were living with, and affected by HIV/AIDS. There were three initial strands to the project: centrally run income generating projects, a Revolving Fund giving loans to participants to set up their own income generation projects and poverty relief. A further project has been added since MCT’s initial involvement, which is the establishment of a pre-school and primary school.
We have raised funds through a wide range of fundraising activities, many of which have had the added benefit of enabling increased fellowship amongst MCT members. Other local partners have been involved, including a local primary and nursery school.
Esther keeps us up to date with the ECUDARE activities by sending us frequent photos and clips of news. The small-scale nature of the project and the personal links that have been established have enabled the three congregations to feel closely involved with the lives of the women and children in Ngong.
CHRISTMAS VIRTUAL GIFTS for ECUDARE
During the course of this year a group of the ECUDARE women were able to buy the title deeds to a patch of land on which they plan to set up and develop their own businesses. For the virtual gifts this year we wanted to support the women in developing this project.
Esther asked the women what they felt they needed most, and they proposed some very basic, practical requirements: rolls of barbed wire, concrete posts and starter seedlings for avocado trees. Avocados grow well in Kenya, and are consumed locally, but they also have potential as an export crop. Esther sent us the following suggestions:
£3 Bag of nails
£10 5 Avocado tree seedlings
£20 10 Avocado tree seedlings
£40 Concrete post
£50 Roll of barbed wire
Please look out for the leaflets/envelopes that will enable you to choose a gift to send to ECUDARE and thank you for your continuing support for the women and children in Ngong, Kenya.
ECO – Congregation News
At the end of October Phil S attended an Edinburgh Active Citizenship Group Seminar addressing the Climate Crisis. Representatives from Extinction Rebellion, Edinburgh Youth and Friends of the Earth spoke at the seminar. The actions recommended were:
- Undertake the common list of eco-activities we all know so well - cutting waste and recycling, energy efficiency, cutting unnecessary travel, changing our diets, buying less
- Get a bit more ‘political’ - our politicians need to know what we think and what concerns us so that governments can provide the framework and legislation for actions on the ground
- Join local community groups for action e.g. Citizen’s Assemblies and help build an increased awareness of the crisis
- Stop flying or at least fly a lot less
- Eat less meat and dairy
- Tell retailers why we’re changing habits, if we boycott them they need to know why
Waste and Recycling
Thank you to everyone who took part in our short survey on waste and recycling at the end of October
Of 38 people in church on that Sunday, 29 took part in the survey.
Do you usually recycle paper and cardboard and clean and recycle plastic, tins and glass:
yes: 29 no: 0
How do you dispose of food waste:
Council Food waste bin: 14 Home compost: 8 Landfill: 8
Do you avoid single use plastics?
No: 4, Sometimes:4 Most of the time: 21
A couple of people have mentioned to me that their flats don’t have facilities for any kind of food waste recycling so this is a limiting factor for the second question. Figures from SEPA show that for Scotland as a whole, about half of household waste (by weight) is recycled or otherwise diverted from landfill. The amount of waste generated per person has shown a very slight decrease between 2017 and 2018. Let’s hope that this trend will accelerate as more people understand the detrimental effects of excess packaging and single use products. The City of Edinburgh website indicates that much of our non-recycled waste is now sent to the Millerhill incinerator. Food waste is sent to a biogen plant on the same site that produces electricity and fertilizer. The recycling is processed by a variety of different companies and it’s unclear to me whether any of this is sent abroad.
Christmas Action Reminder:
As we near the festive season, three top eco-tips:
- If you're using fairy lights, make sure you get LED ones – they're the most energy-efficient.
- Try where possible to use recycled wrapping paper, recycle your old Christmas cards as gift labels and remember to recycle all the waste that you can
- Try to make Christmas travel greener by sharing shopping trips and lifts with friends and family, and using public transport where possible.
- Meaningful gifts don’t need to cost the earth. Think about choosing an experience gift such as theatre tokens or an art course. Choose Fairtrade, sustainable products, or even agree with family to make charity donations instead of exchanging gifts.
Milk Bottle Tops
The Milk Bottle Tops collection was set up for palliative care to furnish the Margaret Kerr Unit in the Borders General Hospital with tea/coffee makers, televisions, radios, library books and other facilities for visitors and family of long-term patients.
Other beneficiaries are Marie Curie and Macmillan Nurses. All sorts of people and families benefit from different help such as the Lavender Trust who provide massage with oils which aids with pain relief.
These services have received the money raised at the polymer factory in St Boswells, just down the road from St Peter's Church in Galashiels where the milk bottle tops are sorted. The polymer factory turns the tops into tiny balls (like vermicelli) before it goes to make the fiberoptic cable covers used with TVs, computers, telephones and even periscopes.
As most of the work is done in the Borders it is the community and services there who benefit.
Embrace The Middle East
Stuck for Christmas Cards or Gifts? Why not try the Embrace the Middle East catalogue available at the back of the church?
MCT Faith Discussion Group
The Faith Discussion Group considers different topics to do with faith to try better to understand what faith is and how it affects us both as individuals and as a community. All are welcome to our meetings, including doubters and sceptics.
Meetings will again be on Tuesday evenings, from 14th January to 31st March 2020 (excluding 24th March) at 7.30 in the Upper Room at Saughtonhall URC.
Before leaving Christmas behind, we start with one of Dean Fostekew’s enlightening talks about paintings – this time The Census at Bethlehem by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Having just finished reading the New Testament, we will discuss Who wrote the New Testament? using a three-part series originally shown on the S4C TV Channel in 2004. This looks at the origins of the writing, considers questions of authorship, and why these 27 documents were accepted into the canon while others were not.
Embrace the Middle East is a Christian charity helping people of all faiths and none to free themselves from a life of poverty and injustice. Together with local Christian communities they bring lasting change to the Middle East through healthcare, education and community development projects.
Our Lent studies will be the 2020 study from Embrace the Middle East entitled Journey to the Cross. This journey travels with Jesus through his mission to the cross, looking at people he met on the way – a journey that visits the Middle East today.
It was intended that we would study heresy in the early church. However, the DVD for the study is not yet available in the UK. We hope to return to this topic in the future.
The weekly programme is:
14January The Census at Bethlehem by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, with Dean Fostekew
21 January Who wrote the New Testament? What is truth?
28January Who wrote the New Testament? Maintaining the truth.
4February Who wrote the New Testament? But whose truth was the truth?
11 February Journey to the Cross – Celebrating family
18February Journey to the Cross – Healing
25February Journey to the Cross – Breaking down social barriers
3 March Journey to the Cross – Speaking out against injustice
10March Journey to the Cross – Mental Health
17March Journey to the Cross – Forgiveness
24March No meeting
31March To be decided
Social Evening – date to be confirmed
The Sunday Readings
The Gospel of Matthew
The Sunday lectionary readings for 2020 centre around the gospel of Matthew. I would like to share with you some nuggets of background information about this Gospel which may be useful as we explore it together.
- The Gospel of Matthew was written between 80-85CE as a kind of revised and expanded version of Mark’s Gospel. (90% of Mark’s gospel is incorporated into Matthew.)
- The author is unknown. The association with Matthew (the tax collector mentioned in Chapter 9) dates from the second century. However it is unlikely that this individual was the author since the book draws so heavily on the gospel of Mark. An eyewitness apostle would not have needed to work from an existing author in this way.
- The gospel became more important than Mark and so was placed first in the New Testament canon. It was particularly valued as the only gospel to refer directly to the ekklesia (church).
- Matthew’s editing of Mark includes making the language more sophisticated, removing less relevant details and other changes to make the text read better for Matthew’s ethnically Jewish audience. He displays the disciples in a more positive light when compared to Mark and increases the sense of opposition between Jesus and the Jewish leadership. (Sadly some texts from Matthew where used historically to justify anti-Semitism.)
- In addition to the material from Mark, Matthew incorporates other material which is shared with the gospel of Luke. Often this material is referred to as ‘Q’.
- Further additional material which is not found in Mark or Luke includes the story of Jesus’ birth and post resurrection appearances. (Only Matthew and Luke include birth narratives and our traditional nativity story is a melding together of Matthew’s Kings with Luke’s Shepherds.)
- Other material found in Matthew but not Mark is arranged in five blocks of teaching. The most well-known of these is the Sermon on the Mount.
- Matthew emphasises Jesus’ Jewish heritage by starting the book with a genealogy (but note the differences between this and the genealogy given in Luke 3). Another reason for Matthew’s position at the beginning of the New Testament is that it is the gospel that most links the life of Jesus back to the Hebrew Scriptures.
- Matthew uses many references to the Hebrew scriptures. Often in order to show Jesus’ fulfilment of specific prophecies. The way that Matthew quotes the Hebrew bible prophets was in-line with the approach of his time – making connections with individual words or phrases. Modern exegesis emphasises the importance of context and as a result we can sometimes be surprised by Matthew’s use of quotations.
- The gospel ends with the words of the great commission: ‘’go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. This satisfying conclusion to the narrative shows Christ has now become an object of worship – equal to God the Father. It also marks the beginning of the next chapter of the Christian story, of which we are all a part.
Summarised from: Stephen, L, Harris, 2007, Understanding the Bible Mcgraw-Hill and Mark Allan Powell (ed), 2011, Bible Dictionary, Harper Collins.
2019 Group Events
Few of us can fail to appreciate the uplifting and beautiful sound of our now elderly organ. Restoration work will resume in the summer but in the meantime, we continue to raise the vital funds required for this work.
Immediately after the AGM on Sunday 8th December, everyone is warmly invited for coffee and cake in the Hall, where there will also be a ‘Bring and Buy’ Table Top Sale.
Please bring jams, chutneys, home baking, bottles of wine and other such saleable items to help raise funds for the organ. The more we bring, the more we will raise.
On 16th November, in the Church, the talk by Simon Green on the subject of ‘The Lost Buildings of Edinburgh’, was a marvellous success, attended by around 100. With the aid of projected pictures and photographs from Edinburgh’s archives, Simon took us on an authoritative and highly entertaining tour of the city’s more impressive and sometimes fantastical ‘lost’ buildings. Some of these never came into being, some were destroyed by fire, others demolished.
The event raised not far short of £600 for the Fund. Our thanks to Simon and to Liz E, who organised it, and to all who took part.
Many thanks to all who helped to create such a colourful display for the Harvest Festival on 6th October. We had an excellent supply of greenery, fading leaves, dried hydrangeas and berries, and although most of the arrangements had just three types of flowers - carnations, chrysanthemums and alstroemeria (all good value and very long-lasting) in either yellow or white, the various creations were all very different. In a change from the usual, the windows on the left were laden with pumpkins, apples and other eatables.
We are looking forward to Christmas and would welcome any new helpers, no expertise required. We will be decorating the church on Saturday 14th December at 10am. Please sign up at the back of the church.
December 2019/January 2020