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 Thursday 6 March 2014
The newly cleared view of the Beauly Firth
Logging in progress
I chaired yet another AGM on Sunday; this time at St John’s, Inverness and despite some difficult decisions that needed to be taken the whole event went off very well. It was also good to see such a good turnout. The service had been interesting - the opening hymn struck up and the congregation looked quizzically at each other “don’t know this tune!” the organist got the hint but looked anxiously at me. “ Go on” I said, “they will learn!”
Let me explain, since the last resident priest left the congregation has been brilliant at arranging everything, including the choice on hymns. The organist only manages to play for us once a month and as usual had been sent the appropriate numbers. He understandably used the traditional tune for the opening hymn, ‘Lord of All Hopefulness’, the congregational only knew the tune “Slane” The offertory hymn chosen was ‘Be Thou My Vision’, tune “Slane” and the setting for the Eucharist at St John’s uses hymn tunes, the tune for the Sanctus and Benedictus, you guessed it “Slane”. I offered Ian a special prize if he could fit the final hymn ‘Guide me O’ to the tune “Slane”, I suspect the hymn choosers will now also look at the tunes!
Life at Arpafeelie became noisier this week as the log lorries arrived to begin extracting timber in the woods behind us, the track began to suffer from more wear and tear! The week continued with a series of meetings and evening visits until on Friday I drove through to Fochabers to have a meeting with Sarah our Curate and to eat some wonderful cake at Baxters, as usual I spent too long talking and had to drive with haste over the back roads to Duffus where I was leading the end of week assembly at Aberlour House Prep School, I made it in time, without breaking any laws and without ending up in a ditch!.
We were back in Moray on Saturday for a birthday party for one of our dear friends but I had planned badly, so instead of staying overnight we drove home as on Sunday we had to be in Lairg by 8.00am (if that means nothing to you, look up the atlas). Lovely service in Lairg, they now have a member who is also an organist so we sang as the dawn broke over the Highlands. From Lairg we drove slowly down to Tain and the second service at St Andrew’s Church, lunch was a wonderful affair at Sylvia and Don’s house, roast and many veg. The third service was an Inter Church event at St Ninian’s, Invergordon at which I was the guest preacher, after the service more food appeared and eventually we were free to head for home.
The following week was yet again made up of a series of meetings and pastoral visits, that is until Friday Evening, I had been invited to propose the toast “The Land We Live In” at the Elgin Burns Club Annual Burn’s Supper. I had prepared a speech that talked of the area covered by the Diocese and related some of the memorable and amusing moments in my Episcopal ministry so far. The speech was well received, I was delighted to see so many old friends and managed to catch up on so much local news, a really good evening that was concluded with a star lit drive home in the early morning.
Posted Monday 3 February 2014
On Boxing Day, the Feast of St Stephen, we were up early and busy packing. This frantic activity was delayed by a lovely visit from my brother and sister in law with granddaughter Jessica. They had arrived to take my Mother home again. We were packing because we had decided to drive down to Carlisle to spend a day with Aidan who was now back to work that evening, as Musical Director of the Carlisle
Panto. We arrived after a very quiet journey to discover that our planning hadn’t been that good nowhere was open, the small hotel we were in had no food on and we were getting very hungry. I was now being scowled at as I desperately searched for food outlets. Nando’s is open I shouted and off we raced. Caught up with Aidan after the show and had a good if slightly unusual family gathering. The following day we stayed in Carlisle and went to see the Panto - oh yes we did - and then began the journey home.
We had a house full for New Year’s Eve and the Hogmanay celebrations went with a swing, nice walk on New Year’s Day, and on the 2nd Aidan got home at last. This led us to another round of Christmas treats and present opening, and on the Sunday that lovely moment which has become precious, when all four of my family kneel together at the Altar rail to receive communion. This was at St Michael’s on the Sunday of the Epiphany as we censed the Magi, Blessed the chalk and splashed the incense.
On Monday Aidan headed off and Jane and Mara headed back to school and I prepared for an Ordination. Iain Macritchie was Ordained Priest in Inverness Cathedral on the Evening of the Epiphany. Iain has travelled a long journey to reach this point and it seemed appropriate to mark this on the day the Magi reached their destination. The Cathedral was full, with people of many denominations all coming together to pray and rejoice with Iain, it was a wonderful night.
The rest of the week was taken up with a number of pastoral meetings and trips to visit those who needed cheering up, until on Friday I came to a halt and as usual recognised too late that I had overdone it. I slept for hours and the house was apparently remarkably peaceful.
Posted Monday 3 February 2014
Nativity at >Lossiemouth
Christmas Dinner Table
The fourth Sunday in Advent is always busy, that time of liturgically hanging on to the anticipation of the Nativity while being aware of all the preparation and excitement around. I am always filled with warmth as I watch people’s families and friends arriving back in the Highlands. The railway station and bus depot in Inverness are filled with those who work away but who come home for the festive period.
That is the sense of anticipation and excitement that we as church need to link into. I am always surprised at how few people realise that the church calendar follows the full story leading up to the Nativity. In church day by day from the 17th of December until the Eve of Christmas we hear of Elizabeth and Zachariah, the Birth of John, the Annunciation, the Visitation everything including the genealogy of Jesus, bringing us right to the stable in Bethlehem. The church doesn’t just ignore the story until Christmas Eve, it builds the excitement just as the secular world does, we need to worship more rather than less in these last few days. encouraging people to hear the story.
Anyhow - enough of my sermonising and back to the Sunday. We enjoyed a Morning Eucharist in St Columba’s, Nairn and as usual a lively and welcoming congregation, all wanting to talk and ask questions about what I am up to. This was followed by lunch at the rectory and a drive back to Inverness and the afternoon Christingle service at St John’s, Inverness. Here was lots of excitement and lots of laughter and singing. Next stop the Cathedral for the Carol Service, a good number of people having travelled right across the Diocese to be there, the Choir sang well, the congregation joined in with gusto and we all enjoyed a time of fellowship in the Old Boy’s School afterwards.
The Monday was my day to go shopping and I was delighted to be joined by both my daughters, we had great fun deciding what to buy Jane and sorting out last minute items off the shopping list. On Christmas Eve the final touches were put to the decorations in the house, the dining room was prepared and I made the pork pie for supper. Then the last hour of peace, I just love this last quiet time, finding space to think about all we have prepared for and then we were off.
Cathedral Christingle service followed by evening Eucharist at St Ninian’s, Invergordon, and the journey there was exciting, waves breaking over the sea wall, flooded roads and fierce winds, it was a windswept congregation that gathered in the church by the Firth, the spray was almost reaching the church windows. Then back over the Cromarty and Kessock bridges and down to St Michaels and All Angels for Midnight Mass.
When we got home we were just a bit deflated. The weather that had been battering the country had also caused havoc with power lines and transport and Aidan, who had been coming home for Christmas for the first time in a few years joined the many others who were unable to reach home. Clearing his place at the dinner table was painful. (You may wish to know that Aidan reached the shops before they shut, bought a gammon and a bottle of port and eventually caught up with others who were also stuck.)
Christmas day and the short walk to St John’s, Arpafeelie and once again a church full of local people, lots of children and some brilliant singing, it was a really happy service and full of great joy, we had certainly listened to the angels. Back to the house for sherry and mince pies shared with the congregation then coffee and cake with my sister, brother in law and some of their grandchildren as they brought my Mother over to Bishop’s House. Then after the presents were opened, which included an exercise machine for me!! We all sat down for dinner.
Posted Tuesday 14 January 2014
Iain Macritchie and +Mark
I went off to TISEC (Theological Institute of the Scottish Episcopal Church) on Friday night to visit the students and to see what was happening. I was also asked to talk about “relationships” and decided to try and use the time to reflect upon some of the more difficult relational matters that can face someone in ministry. Unfortunately I misread the brief and had far less time than I thought, so sorry to those who had to put up with me. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!
Back to the North in time to head off to Courthill Chapel, Kishorn for the morning service and a congregational meeting, we then drove over to Nostie for another meeting before heading home. Tiredness was beginning to set in again!
On Tuesday I ordained a new Deacon in a lovely service in the choir of the Cathedral, Iain has joined us from the Church of Scotland, a journey he has been on for many years. It was a very beautiful and peaceful service, with much love and support shown from friends in many churches.
By Thursday the Christmas avalanche was proving difficult to keep at bay as I was asked to lead a small Christingle service for the Nursery that meets in St John’s, Inverness hall. This is the second year we have run this service and we had a number of mums and dads joining us again this year. The service started just as the builders turned up to fix the church floor; it was all a bit chaotic, but great fun.
On Saturday we held the annual buffet for the serving clergy of the diocese, once again the house was filled with chat and noise, stories of funerals, difficult bishops they had known and such unlikely things!
Sunday was a Sutherland and Tain day. The charge was holding a joint service in St Columba’s, Brora during which we would be beginning an experiment with a new altar and a slightly more spacious sanctuary. The effect was very good and the worship was both powerful and joyous. It was great to see this little tin church filled with people, prayer and praise.
The rest of the week was filled with Carol Concerts at school, the Staff party at Bishop’s House and the end of school term. This year the pupils of Bishop Eden’s Primary School joined the flower guild at the Cathedral to prepare the Christmas tree for the festivities, young and old working together in a very positive way! The term ended with the Traditional Christmas end of term service. Now to get the house ready.
Posted Tuesday 14 January 2014
St Boniface Synod
I was at Gordonstoun School on the Sunday morning worshiping with the whole school where I spoke about commitment. The service was followed by a simple celebration of the Eucharist at which I expanded the theme for those who had stayed. Following a lovely lunch at The Chaplain’s house- thank you Willem and Caroline, we headed home to prepare for a week of complicated pastoral meetings. In the middle of the week I conducted a confirmation service in the St Barnabas Chapel of the Old Northern Infirmary. This is a remarkable building for its time; the chapel has three spaces with three tables, a Communion Table for the Kirk, and two altars in side chapels, one Episcopalian and the other Roman Catholic. The week ended with a meeting of the St Boniface regional synod, during which we had a long discussion on Gaelic and its use in the church.
What has been a fairly locally based week was followed by something very different. It started with a trip to St Margaret’s Aberlour for the morning service and for the AGM which followed. We got home just in time for another pastoral meeting. Monday saw me in Strathnairn where I gave a talk on the leading of the Ministry of the Word before joining them for an evening Vestry meeting. On Tuesday I spent the day with Mary McKinnell as she videoed me discussing the missionary part of my ministry. I got Mary back onto the Train for Aberdeen, rushed to the cathedral for the Evening Eucharist and then chaired a Vestry meeting at St John’s, Inverness. On Wednesday I was back in Aberlour for a funeral and a meeting with the Diocesan Curate, on Thursday I had a series of meetings including one looking at the Blas programme for 2014.
By Friday I was ready for a break and one arrived in the shape of a trip to Ireland. I flew out of Aberdeen Airport on Friday afternoon and then spent the evening in the delightful company of +Patrick, Alison and Susanna Rooke. We went out for dinner in Dublin and then Patrick and I headed off for a couple of pints of Guinness. I was in Dublin because the Church of Ireland has elected the first female bishop in the British Isles and I was to represent the Scottish Episcopal Church at the Consecration. So on Saturday morning I met up with the Primus and his wife Alison, and I was shown around their old haunts at Trinity College before we all walked up to the Cathedral. The Consecration of Most Rev Pat Storey was an historic moment that I was very pleased to be part of and the splendid service was followed by a reception in Dublin Castle; we were really being treated well. It was then followed by a brief visit to +Patricks Mother and a long drive to the West of Ireland and into the Diocese of Tuam.
On the Sunday we drove over to the MacWilliam Park Hotel in ClareMorris where we were to hold an Advent service. The hotel was packed, I thought to myself- lots of religious members of the Church of Ireland waiting for us. No they were all there for a Mike Denver Country and Western weekend! Rev Anthea who led the worship had been at the concert the night before! Mind you a fair number of people came to join the congregation for the service, during which I was asked to preach on Advent. In the evening +Patrick and I drove over to St Patrick’s Cathedral, Killala for the annual Advent Carol Service and Institution of new Canons. Interestingly the Canon’s stalls are along the West Wall underneath the gallery and this required much loud proclamation up and down the length of the building! Wonderful refreshments followed.
Home on Monday for a quieter few days. I think.
Posted Saturday 28 December 2013
Muirton Locks on the Caledonian Canal
+Mark on the train from Edinburgh
All Saints Sunday was spent over in the West. We drove to Ullapool for the morning Eucharist and spent time with a very lively and happy bunch of churchgoers. Everything seemed very relaxed and I was so pleased to see the grounds at the back beginning to appear out of the jungle!! We then had a bite to eat at Gilly and Fr Nicholas’s before all piling into one car and heading down to Achiltibuie. The congregation of St Boniface of Ross always surprises me, almost as much as they surprise each other. “Won’t be many today Bishop, lots away” then the door opens and unexpected but very welcome faces arrive, it was good to catch up with everyone and to drink in the view!
I had a quick drive through to Forres on the Monday and then after a series of meetings on Tuesday we headed off to St Ninian’s, Invergordon to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of their “new” building. The history of this congregation is fascinating, in 1915, a Scottish Episcopalian congregation gathered in Invergordon and the following year a church, made out of wood and metal, was erected by the Admiralty, Invergordon being the home base for part of the Royal Navy Fleet. The church building served the congregation well but it began to suffer as the fabric began to fail. So in 1989 a new church was built on the same site, incorporating trusses and the stained glass from the old Naval Church, this was the building we were celebrating. The service used the hymns and prayers used at the Consecration and this time we finished off the evening with a great buffet and fireworks, which lit up the waters of the Cromarty Firth.
The rest of the week was taken up with meetings and we managed a day off on Saturday. This was much needed as Jane is working full time at the moment and we really wanted a day to ourselves. Remembrance Sunday dawned in the way that so many Remembrance Sundays seem to start, with clear skies and a frosty morning. We were off to the Cathedral for the act of remembrance and for me to preach and preside at the service. It was good to see a number of young people in the Cathedral who had come to remember. I then had to rush off to St Michael’s and All Angels to address their AGM, they had sat and waited very patiently. We then grabbed a bite of lunch at Eden Court before joining the city at the main war memorial at Cavell Gardens on the banks of the River Ness.
The following week was an Edinburgh week, a meeting of the Provincial Standing Committee followed by two days of College of Bishops. I did manage to sneak out and join friends for dinner on Tuesday; I don’t think the authorities noticed! I got home in time to prepare for the weekend and on Saturday I celebrated the Feast Day of St Margaret, shared time with the Isla Deveron vestry at their away day here at Arpafeelie, went for a walk with Jane and then drove over to Elgin to celebrate our friend Helen’s birthday.
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.
Past blog entries are available in the blog archive →