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No change in Church lockdown. Latest news from the College of Bishops

Submitted by Dean on Thu, 28/05/2020 - 15:34

NO CHANGE TO COLLEGE OF BISHOPS’ GUIDANCE AT PHASE 1 OF EASING LOCKDOWN

Following the announcement by the First Minister that Phase 1 of the Scottish Government’s route map will take effect tomorrow [Friday 29 May], the College of Bishops has confirmed that the minor easing of lockdown restrictions permitted under Phase 1 does not result in any change to existing guidance previously issued by the College of Bishops for the Scottish Episcopal Church. Church buildings therefore remain closed for the time being and the guidance issued on 23 and 26 March 2020 remains in place.

The Advisory Group established to provide guidance for SEC churches has had its first meeting and is working to address the respective phases of the Government’s route map. Initially, therefore, it is concentrating on guidance for Phase 2 which will be issued as soon as it is available.

When, in due course, the reopening of churches becomes permissible, as the College of Bishops has previously indicated, no church will be required to reopen against its will. The vestry of each church will be responsible for assessing, in the light of guidance produced, whether it wishes to reopen and is in a position to put in place the measures which will be necessary for any such reopening. It will then need to approach the Bishop for consent to reopen. Guidance will indicate the appropriate process to follow but, in substance, the intention is that both the vestry and Bishop will need to be content before any reopening can occur.

General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church         Scottish Charity No SC015962

Sing Out!

Submitted by Dean on Wed, 27/05/2020 - 14:39

Sing Out!

There is a well known phrase associated with St.Augustine of Hippo a 5th century theologian which goes:

“He who sings, prays twice.”

or in the original Latin; Qui bene contat bis orat’ which actually translates as; ‘He who sings WELL prays twice’. Either of these phrases are good, although the correct translation is probably more accurate about singing wellTo be truthful, though, St.Augustine did not actually say either of them! He did write that:

“..singing belongs to one who loves..”

or more accurately:

“For he who sings praise, does not only praise but also praises joyfully; he who sings praise, not only sings but also loves Him whom he is singing about, to or for.”

Basically, what St.Augustine is saying is that singing is an act of love. Not only do we sing to God out of love, we sing to each other as a love gift too, regardless of how our voice actually sounds!

Think of the times when you may have sung to someone you love and care about; lullabies to a baby, nursery rhymes to an infant, the lyrics of ‘your song’ to your partner or as I did as my aunt was dying the words of her favourite hymn. No matter how good or bad our voices may be we have been given them to sing out with. I suspect that we humans have been making singing noises since we first evolved the ability to speak.

Just look at how a small child learns to talk, they not only repeat words they sing them and by singing them they memorise them, while playing with them at the same time. We adults sometimes forget to have fun with our voices and singing can be a good reminder to us to enjoy our vocal abilities – whatever sound we make is God given and as such acceptable to God.

In this time of lockdown, singing to yourself or for another or even with another on a video call or the telephone can be a great comfort and good fun. As you sing your favourite hymns sing them with love; love for God and for each other and as we do so we will pray twice, whether or not St.Augustine said it originally.

Sermon for the Sunday after the Ascension (Easter VII) by the Rev'd David Warnes

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 23/05/2020 - 13:06

For many years I have been a casual collector of famous last words – the final utterances of the great, the good and the not so good. By the 19th century it had rather come to be expected that great men and women would use their final breath either to express some profound truth or at least say something memorable. One of my favourites, because of its combination of wit and theological soundness, was uttered by Charlie Chaplin. When the priest who was attending his deathbed said “May the Lord have mercy on your soul” Charlie retorted. “Why shouldn’t he? It belongs to him.” And belonging is one of the themes of this Sunday’s Gospel, in which Jesus says of his disciples:

“All mine are yours, and yours are mine”

This Gospel doesn’t have Jesus’ last words, but it is part of his final prayer for his disciples. It appears in St John’s Gospel shortly before the account of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus, so it might seem an odd choice for the Sunday between Ascension Day and Pentecost because it takes us back to the day before the Crucifixion. It’s an appropriate choice because one of the other themes of this “Prayer of Farewell” is change – change for Jesus because his earthly life is about to end, change for the disciples because their understanding of Jesus will be transformed by his death and, after a brief, tragic “in between time”, by his Resurrection. For the same disciples, the interval between the Ascension and Pentecost was a time of waiting for change, another “in between time”.

The “Prayer of Farewell” can speak to us in a very difficult “in between time”, the weeks and months between the normality that ended with the beginning of the lockdown and the new normality that we cannot yet fully discern, and in the shaping of which we are called to play our part. In between times can be very difficult. The poet Matthew Arnold, a man who mourned the loss of faith – his own and other people’s - found himself

“Wandering between two worlds, one dead, The other powerless to be born”

Jesus understood the difficulty of “in between times” and his prayer acknowledges that he will not be present to the disciples in the way that he has been. He says

“And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world.”

The thrust of the prayer is that the disciples are being called to live in the way that Jesus has lived his earthly life – accepting change, and believing that change can be transformative, even the bitter and painful change of his death. Jesus’ acceptance of change made possible astonishing, empowering changes in his followers – the changes which we shall celebrate at Pentecost. They came to understand that their

calling was to be the continuing presence of Christ in the world, affirming the reality and the value of that world, while at the same time pointing to a greater reality. That became possible for them because they understood and began to live out the experience of belonging, of belonging to God and belonging one to another. And they lived it openly and open-endedly, seeking to share the possibility of abundant life which they had discovered.

It was that sense of belonging that made them receptive to the Holy Spirit and open to change. Our calling is the same as theirs; to live in the world, to engage with it and to care for its people. That involves challenging the world’s assumptions when those assumptions are obstacles to human flourishing. The practical witness that we and other Eco-Congregations try to make is an example of that kind of challenge. I think we are also called upon to challenge politicians when they treat people as a means to some social or economic goal, and when they employ the rhetoric of “We’re all in this together” while pursuing policies which penalise some in order that others may prosper.

“We’re all in this together” isn’t a bad summary of the Christian gospel, but the “this” that we are all in is nothing negative. The Christian doctrine of human togetherness rests on the understanding that we all belong to God. If we live out that truth, that sense of belonging, then the possibility of being “changed from glory into glory” can be realized.

Amen.

 

A prayer from Christian Aid for the people of Bangladesh & India

Submitted by Dean on Fri, 22/05/2020 - 16:25

'O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, Behold, I will set your stones in antimony,

And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.' (Isaiah 54:11)

God of refuge, 

protect our sisters and brothers in Bangladesh and India, 

tossed far from their homes by Cyclone Amphan. 

Some afraid to evacuate for fear of a pandemic disease,

surrounded by catastrophe and debris. 

Comfort them as they journey and where they stay. 

Your love knows no distance, O God be near your children in peril.

Set them on their way to safety, let them find your help. 

Awaken in our hearts a love that reaches out –

a love that shelters neighbours from the storm,

a love that lays the foundations for recovery,

a love that perseveres. 

We pray for their protection to you, 

our God who never gives up. 

In Jesus name, 

Amen

To donate to Christian Aid go to www.christianaid.org.uk

 

A sermon for Ascension Day Thursday 21st May 2020 by the Rector

Submitted by Dean on Wed, 20/05/2020 - 10:08

Ascension Day Thursday 21st May 2020

On Ascension Day, I always think an appropriate anthem should be that unforgettable song from the finale of the ‘Sound of Music’:

“So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu; to you and you and you and you and you …”

It would be an appropriate anthem because it speaks of leaving, of farewell but also gives us just the possibility of return. Adieu is not as final as farewell.

Today, Jesus leaves his disciples, or more correctly, today 40 days after his resurrection he leaves this earthly realm for his Father’s heavenly Kingdom. If we were being chronological about the Ascension then we should really read the Gospel portion before the Acts reading. As the Gospel reading ends Luke’s first book about the life of Christ and the Acts piece begins his second book about what happens to Jesus’ followers once he has returned to heaven.

No other human being, that we know, of has ever disappeared after a resurrection, as he did. Quite how he ascended is a bit vague and those paintings and stained glass windows that show his feet dangling below the clouds don’t really help to solve the mystery either. Suffice to say (and this is an act of faith) in some way Jesus departed from us on earth but with a promise to return.

Jesus was born into our fleshly life and today he makes or takes his leave of us in this earthly, fleshly form.  He was born as we are but was both God and human at the same time. The hymn writer Graham Kendrick says in one of his hymns:

“From heaven you came helpless babe,

  Entered our world, your glory veiled.

  Not to be served but to serve

  And give your life, that we might live…”

Jesus came to us in flesh, both human and God.

He came ‘God incarnate’ to prove God’s love for us, his creation, and he did so by atoning for our sins on the cross. In doing so he cleansed each and every one of us for all eternity and by the example of his life we are shown the path to eternal life in God.

When we die, we in our turn and in our own way ascend to God. Our souls return to our Creator, the One who made us of his very self. Throughout our lives our souls are restless and yearn for God - we desire to be one with him again. This in part explains our restlessness in life, we are forever seeking to return to God as Jesus did.

Like Jesus, when we die, we die in the hope of and with the promise of new life at the end of time. Quite what this means is unclear but we hope, we have faith, that it will be a glorious restoration of all whom we love into one new Kingdom of God. That is our Christian hope and it is this that Jesus affirms for us today, in his ascension. That is also our hope for all who have died recently during this pandemic time.

By his ascension, Jesus shows us that by taking his leave of us, he will and can return at another time. Just as we hope that we too will return at the day of the final resurrection. BUT in order to return you do have to leave in the first place. Once you’ve gone you can come back and to do so in the knowledge that those who love you will be glad to see you again is important. Remember the old saying:

“You have to let then go, in order for them to come back.”

Our parents and perhaps we ourselves, will have said or heard this phrase many times in relation to ourselves and those we love. In letting our loved ones go, we hope to see them again because we will always leave the door ajar for them to push open. This is what we are doing today saying; “Au revoir” to Jesus and hoping that we will see him return one day in this life or the next.

Today we are letting him go free, we are not clinging on to him, or trying to stop him; we are letting him go knowing that he has promised to return.

Amen