Bishop Mark's Blog
The latest blog entries from the Right Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness (please see the archive for all past entries). Please use the enquiries form in this section to contact Bishop Mark.
Posted Wednesday 27 November 2013
I came home to complete a retreat that had been programmed around my holiday. I spent time in reflection following conversations with a number of people from across the church both here and in other provinces, conversations on mission and about affirming my vocation and ministry. I came home feeling refreshed and challenged.
The first duty back was a delight, I presided at the wedding of Zahra and Will at the Chapel of St Francis of Assisi on the Ben Alder estate. The chapel looked its usual stunning self and the church was soon filled with family and friends including a large number of children, so many that I saw fit to sit on the altar step during the service to talk to them, they were brilliant.
On the Sunday we were back in Badenoch and Strathspey at St John’s Church, Rothiemurchus. Today was the day when Rev Roddy Shaw was retiring….again, this time swapping his License for a Warrant (see Scottish Episcopal Canons for definition). In effect he now has the right to say no when anyone asks him to do anything! We had a great service; the congregation was boosted by the attendance of the neighbouring congregation from Grantown on Spey and with loud singing, laughter and praise we gave thanks for this ministry. The morning ended with lunch at the Cairngorm Hotel where we were joined by friends from across the area, and then we drove back over the Slochd feeling warm and happy.
This feeling continued as we joined the congregation at Arpafeelie for an evening service of Harvest Thanksgiving. A service of word and music and with the memory of our Rogationtide processions of springtime. There really was a feeling of the Church giving thanks in this rural community. I could swear I heard the sheep in the field behind us joining in with the singing!
On Monday I was in Elgin with Fr Christopher as we conducted the funeral of Michael Baxter. Our prayers continue for his family. The rest of the week was made up of meetings as I caught up with Diocesan Business that is until Friday when I snuck out to Dufftown to take assembly for Mortlach Primary School. Mortlach is one of a small number of places I have re-engaged with across the diocese, places that allow me to remember the ministry I had before becoming Bishop. Mind you I turned up to talk about All Saints and as met with them all in their guising costumes, took a bity of working round.
On Saturday I celebrated my Birthday by presiding at a Eucharist for All Souls at Arpafeelie and attending the St Columba’s Regional Synod - exciting stuff so I spent a quiet evening at home with Jane.
Posted Wednesday 27 November 2013
Early Morning On the Canal
Posted Wednesday 27 November 2013
Under Spaghetti Junction
This is a brief diary of the Strange family boating holiday 2013. Sadly the original plans were thwarted by a combination of work commitments and studying and it was only three of us who arrived at Rugby Boatyard at on the Saturday morning.
We very quickly set off and over the next two days we made our way to Leicester climbing the Watford flight and descending the Foxton flight. After Leicester and a shared journey assisting Anna and her boat to the moorings we continued down the River Soar and up the River Trent and Trent and Mersey Canal to Fradley Junction. From there Jane, Mara and myself headed for Birmingham where we were to meet Beth.
The journey was going to be heavy going then we discovered that a boat was stuck in a lock on the Aston flight. So we added locks and miles onto the journey but had the fascinating experience of climbing up to the centre of the city under Curzon Street Station, past Typhoo Basin and then up the Farmers Bridge flight to Gas Street Basin. Here we moored up amidst the hurley burley of a vibrant city centre Friday night. Beth arrived at New Street Station and we had a noisy but lively evening moored right in the middle of all the fun.
From here the four of us headed down to Stratford upon Avon and a great evening in the town, then back up the locks to Lapworth where we waited for Aidan’s train to arrive. So now all five were together and we worked our way down the Hatton Flight in the pleasant company of Keith who was single handed.
The next few days passed in a boat full of laughter and fun until we turned back into the basin and headed home, dropping Aidan off in Carlisle on the way.
Posted Thursday 3 October 2013
Bishop and Canon Nicholas
This week was to be the England Week! Once every three years the Bench of Bishops of the Church of England invite the Bishops of the Church in Wales, The Church of Ireland and the Scottish Episcopal Church to join them in Oxford to- well that is a good question, as this year’s agenda seemed to give very little opportunity for cross province discussion. We discussed a number of issues which had no bearing on our province at all and I must say that they depleted number of Celtic Bishops in the afternoon session rather indicated this. I did stay for each session, largely because I wanted to know what was going on and when possible to put our points of view on certain matters. I have to say it all got just a bit ridiculous when one bishop declared to having discovered £6 million in a church schools fund , having the money was bad enough but not knowing how much flabbergasted me. I can tell when an extra tenner floats into the Diocesan funds! All that being said, it was good to catch up with friends and to make new ones, the atmosphere was as always very friendly and warm.
Home on Thursday and time to prepare for a new venture. I have decided to hold a Eucharist in the Diocesan Office once a week, an opportunity for those who wish to come and pray for the work of the Diocese in the centre of operations. It is a simple and relaxed celebration and hopefully it can be established in the calendar of the Diocese. Friday was the first such service. We had nine of us and if the bible study and conversation was anything to go by then this was something people want. The scones weren’t half bad either.
On Saturday I drove up to St Andrew’s, Tain to lead a morning on the Theology of Eucharistic Ministry and the use of Reserved Sacrament and then drove straight back to Inverness to lead a memorial Eucharist for Joan Sessford the widow of one of my predecessors +George Sessford. Joan had wanted a very private send off and having fulfilled her wishes we now held a very simple service in St Michael and All Angels, Inverness. Heather Widdows joined me for the service and all the normal ritual of St Michael’s was followed, the congregation felt comforted by the service and after light refreshments e all headed home.
160 years ago a small church building was completed on the shores of Loch Meikle in Glenurquhart. Not much has changed in the building except it is no longer thatched with heather, it is still open for worship and prayer, the congregation and the faithful priests who serve there have continued to welcome the stranger and to offer care for the community and today we were having a party to say thank you. It was part of a weekend long event and it was good to see so many of the congregation in good heart and to be joined by Rev Holly who used to minister here. Christine the present priest had ensured a splendid service and the exhibition and lunch were a credit to the skills of those in the kitchen and those who spent time in the local library. Following the service Jane and I headed to the station and caught a train to Edinburgh where I was to attend a Faith and Order Board meeting the following morning.
In Edinburgh we met up with our son Aidan and we went out to dinner to celebrate his birthday. In the morning he headed back to Carlisle, Jane went shopping and I sat through a meeting, great life being a bishop!
The rest of the week never quite caught up with itself and I managed to miss a couple of events I had hoped to be at, but people needed to talk to me and that care is part of my ministry. Not just going to the big events but also pastoral care of people in the Diocese. Mind you the week ended up with me being interviewed for BBC Alba to talk about a small training programme we have put together to help the clergy lead the liturgy in Gaelic and on Saturday we held an open day at the Cathedral. People looked into all the rooms and spaces, some went off to visit Bishop Eden’s Primary School, we sang plainsong, metrical psalms, Taize chants, traditional hymns and modern songs. Some people painted Icons, others blethered at a blethering session and at the end of the day we Installed Nicholas Court as Canon Nicholas Court. A good day all round.
On Sunday I led the worship at a Black Isle Joint Service in St Regulas Cromarty before sitting in choir for the Choral Evensong at the Cathedral.
Now I am going on retreat and a much delayed summer holiday. See you when I get back.
Posted Thursday 3 October 2013
I think I need a holiday, soon
This was to be a Cathedral Weekend, starting with the annual Mothers Union Eucharist on the Saturday afternoon; we welcomed Jean the Scottish President to the service and as always the members joined in with the service with gusto.
The following morning I was back at the Cathedral to confirm two young ladies from the Cathedral Family, the nave was well filled for the service and it was good to catch up with old friends in the hall afterwards. I also received a special gift as Geoff Hinder presented me with his wife Doreen’s home communion set, Doreen had been our priest in Glenurquhart before retiring to the cathedral from where her funeral was held. I have never had a “proper” set and I was very touched by this gift which was clearly so special to Geoff.
In the afternoon I was back at the Cathedral to preach at the Blas Thanksgiving service. This is the second year we have hosted this service where we give thanks for the Gaelic culture of these communities. We had some beautiful singing of psalms, delightful choral singing from the Inverness Gaelic Choir and a truly powerful playing of bagpipe and organ as we left to Highland Cathedral.
We had my Cousin Fiona to visit for a couple of days and spent much time nattering and laughing. As she headed off South so did I, once again to Edinburgh for a meeting of the Provincial Standing Committee meeting. Oh Dear, as I headed home the inside of my body was in rebellion, head, limbs and stomach, just one General Synod and EastCoast mainline sandwich too much. I struggled through the following two days commitments which included a trip to Ben Alder and Dalwhinnie, where I even refused a rather wonderful looking cake and a good afternoon in Inverness with the LGBT youth committee who were leading a conference on Inclusion and how to support young people in our communities!
Then I gave in and headed for bed with a bowl of soup and a mug of tea and nearly 14hours of sleep. My apologies to the people I didn’t get to, especially the Day of Faith event with the Roman Catholic community of the Diocese of Aberdeen.
I was up and fresh as a daisy in time for Donald’s Confirmation at St Mary in the Fields, Culloden. Once again I was in a church where every spare seat from the building had to be squeezed into the church for the service, the confirmation was joyful, the celebration of twenty years in our building in Culloden was happy and full of memories and stories and the band played beautifully
Posted Thursday 3 October 2013
Fun at St John's
A soon as everyone headed back to school the meetings began again in earnest and I had my first post summer day in Edinburgh, this time to attend a meeting of the Canon’s Committee. The week continued with diocesan Standing Committee, a vestry meeting in Inverness and a few meetings with clergy. On Saturday we drove over to St John’s Inverness to join with them for a Songs of Praise to celebrate their 110th anniversary in the present building, I had prepared the service by looking at the story behind each hymn and explaining it to the congregation. As usual at St John’s we finished the evening with a buffet and a splendid cake, then Jane and I drove over to Glenlivet for a couple of days rest.
Just as well I had a couple of days gentle walking in the Glen as the following week contained twelve meetings, including a L’Arche chaplains meeting and a vestry meeting over in Keith. The weekend arrived so quickly that I nearly forgot to prepare two special sermons. One was for the annual Gaelic Mass at St Paul’s, Strathnairn and then the following day for the centenary of St Finbarr’s, Dornoch. The service at St Paul’s was well attended, each year the numbers at this service have grown and we are joined by members of many denominations and those who are new to any form of religion. Dean Emsley Nimmo of Aberdeen celebrated and I preached and gave the blessing. It was good to see so many friends from across the Highlands.
The service at Dornoch on the Sunday was also well attended, with extra chairs being brought in and people squeezed up in the aisles. This is a beautiful and simple church on the hill overlooking Dornoch and the ancient Cathedral of Caithness. As I said in the sermon, one of the reasons we built here was to keep our presence in one of our Cathedral Cities. The congregation was a wonderful mix of ages and it was good to see so many teenagers in the congregation. The morning ended with a great lunch in the village institute where an exhibition of the Churches history was on display.
On Monday I drove through to Elgin for the funeral of John MacLean of Westfield. John’s family have been members at Holy Trinity, Elgin for many years though he was the first to comment on his infrequent attendance. The funeral was led by Canon Alan MacLean then I read the commendation and led the Committal at the local cemetery. As so often happens at such sad events, we also found ourselves surrounded by many friends and local worthies, the day ended with lots of chat and good stories while we stood on the lawns at Westfield House.
The following day I was off to Edinburgh for a 36 hour meeting of the College of Bishops before I headed home to prepare to preach at the first Patronal Festival held at Gordon Chapel, Fochabers. The congregation had asked if they could have a Saints dedication for their building and after much debate they had decided on St Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. So back in the car and off to Fochabers, a good service and yet another splendid buffet supper. I am so glad I am able to go on long walks again, otherwise I would be waddling.
Up early on Friday as I had to drive to Tongue for the monthly service at St Mary at the Cross. I was joined for the journey by Emma Haley who wanted to see more of what we are up to in the diocese. The journey is long but through some stunning scenery and just before 11.30am we arrived at Fir Clis where the service takes place. The upstairs chapel soon filled with the wonderfully diverse congregation, we celebrated Out Ladies birthday and- you guessed it another wonderful buffet. With the sun beginning to touch the edges of the glen we headed back to Arpafeelie.
Posted Thursday 3 October 2013
I climbed a mountain
Over Loch Ness
This Sunday we were to be in the East of the Diocese in the morning but in the North of the Diocese in the evening. I don’t catch myself doing such odd days too often but this was one of them. We had a lovely service at St Margaret’s, Aberlour and it was good to meet new people and to have a chat with one of those being married here later in the year. I then drove home for lunch before heading to St Ninian’s, Invergordon where I was to lead their monthly contemplative Eucharist. It was good to see so many turning up for this thoughtful evening celebration; in fact the Lady Chapel was fairly full of prayerful bodies.
On Monday the school summer holidays ended and I spent some time looking back at the summer visitations and some of the brilliant things we had got up to. It also reminded me off the most important day of the summer, the day I once again climbed a mountain! As anyone who has followed this rambling reflection of the day to day ministry of a Highland Bishop will know, I have spent the last three years struggling with times of ill health. I have had both DVT’s and pulmonary embolisms and to be honest I had at times wondered if I would be able to keep this ministry going. Wonderfully the Doctors have sorted me out, told me to go away and to get on with my hectic life. Great I thought, but I am still struggling with my breathing etc. Jane and I decided to go on a woodland walk and as we began to climb up to the tree line I decided we should just keep on going. Up we climbed on a stony path and I felt tired but happy, we passed others walking down and even some walking up. Suddenly we were at the last climb before the false summit of Meall Fuar-mhonaidh. We could stop there and have a cup of tea and head back. No, I thought, I want to keep going. Now I know this isn’t a major mountain and is walked by many hundreds of people. I know for many, including us at one time, this would have been a simple stroll but for me this is becoming emotional. We kept on walking and as Jane reached the summit I was just behind her and as I reached the cairn I started crying. I think Jane was worried but I simply couldn’t hold in the sheer emotion of having reached the summit of a mountain. Something so much part of us but which I thought I would never achieve again. I must have looked a sight as I stood weeping with joy on a mist covered hill. Jane sorted me out, cup of tea and egg sandwiches appeared from the rucksack and after a short stop we headed back down. I Had climbed a mountain.
Posted Sunday 15 September 2013
Down He Comes
Proving my Claims
Posted Sunday 15 September 2013
The Last to Leave
More Pictures of the Youth Trip to The Diocese
Posted Sunday 15 September 2013
Loch Morlich Picnic
The visit of the young Canadians got off to a very religious beginning. On the Sunday morning they and the local group headed off to St Andrew’s, Fortrose for a morning celebration with their compatriot, Canon Mel , and his congregation. +Dennis and myself headed over to St Paul’s, Strathnairn, there I celebrated the Eucharist, preached, blessed a renewal of marriage vows, interned ashes and looked at the flowers from the flower festival!
The other party spent time looking around Fortrose and stopped at the Clootie Well at Munlochy. When all were back we headed off to Clava Cairns (again) and then to St Paul’s, Strathnairn (again) where I led a Songs of Praise for the Flower Festival and +Dennis Preached.
On Monday we all piled into the mini bus and visited Culloden Battlefield. As usual this brought many mixed emotions for people whose families had originated here in Scotland, this group of young people were no different, and we spent a long time looking at the visitors centre and then had a long and in-depth walk across the moor, with prayers being said at the memorial cairn. At lunchtime we met up with Jane and the girls at the Cathedral, they had arrived with a car full of lunchtime goodies. The young people then spent some time shopping in town before they were shown around the Cathedral by the Provost who then led us in Evening prayer. We then drove back to Arpafeelie for dinner and an evening watching DVD’s.
Tuesday was the Eastern Day, we had a slightly later departure time and drove over to Pluscarden Abbey in time for the service at Midday and then we drove into Elgin where we were joined by a number of the local youth group and leaders. We visited the Cathedral and we held a mock Chapter meeting in the Chapter House during which we sentenced Archdeacon Edward to reduced rations as he had sloped off for a cigarette. A visit to the Biblical Gardens and a walk in the park ended our stay in Elgin and we were off again to Keith. Rev Sarah had prepared afternoon tea for us all and along with helpers form the congregation they gave us a wonderful welcome. We ended the visit with a Celtic Style Evensong in Holy Trinity Church and a series of photos of the young people in the Seabury Chair, the seat in which +Kilgour sat when he consecrated Samuel Seabury as the first Bishop for the USA. We stopped on the way home to pick up that great Scottish delicacy, fish suppers and haggis suppers which were eaten with gusto back at Arpafeelie.
Wednesday was Nessie Day as we cruised down the Caledonian Canal and out into Loch Ness, the weather was wonderful, blue skies and bright sunshine. It gave time for the group to chat to each other as friendships across the group began to grow, I just love watching young people forming friendships and growing in confidence in each other’s company. Back at Bishop’s House, Jane had prepared a Highland Feast with every type of local food you can imagine. We ended the day with much laughter and joy.
On Thursday we headed south and joined the congregation of St John’s Rothiemurchus for their midweek Eucharist. There was a good turnout of locals to welcome the visitors and after the service we all trooped into the hall for coffee and cakes. We then drove up to Loch Morlich and sat on the beach there for our packed lunch, it was peaceful and calm, but the moment of truth had arrived. Let me explain. A few years ago I was asked to give permission for a high ropes course to be set up in the woods beside the church, after much conversation and a little argument I agreed and had always been promised a good welcome and the opportunity to try out the course. Needless to say I had avoided that moment until now. So harnessed up and suspend from a wire I followed the group around the easier course, it was exhausting, but the Bishop of Quebec was ahead of me and I couldn’t lose face. We arrived at the start of the big course and I kept on going and then looked down and smiling up at me from hundreds of feet away was +Dennis. He had only completed the first course and then gone back to ground level, while I was now committed to the High Way. I have to confess that by the end I was speechless, bruised, very hot and shaken, but I had done it, Yaah Boo My Lord Bishop of Quebec! We then drove back to Arpafeelie and were joined by all those who had helped build our links with Quebec, those who had helped with this trip and the Youth Week that went before, and we had a Barbecue. This meant I stood outside in the rain and cooked while everyone laughed at me through the windows, but a good time was had by all.
On the Friday morning the last of the visitors left, some requiring 5.30am trips to the airport! The house was suddenly very quiet, we spent the day putting everything back in its place and then collapsed in the living room and prepared for a day off.
Past blog entries are available in the blog archive →