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.

Lots of Friends

Posted Friday 4 July 2014

Glen Leaders

Glen Leaders

The house was chaotic as this week began, we were to have a large number of extra people with us over the coming week and we needed to sort beds, bunk house and kitchen. The first arrival was Beth, she came home and was immediately recruited into the sorting out brigade, then +Dennis of Quebec arrived closely followed by Aidan, or was it the other way round? +Dennis left to hurry home to care for a sick daughter (all is now well) and Hedge arrived from London.  Then Jane’s parents arrived and we all drove down to St Michael and All Angels for Ascension day. Jane’s parents then left after we had celebrated her dad’s birthday and 27 Glen Almond leaders arrived for a weekend of full board and lodgings.

I managed to escape the madness on Saturday and drove through to Fochabers to speak to a wonderful group of communication fanatics who are also ministers, both lay and ordained. They were a very friendly and cheery lot and I enjoyed my lunchtime with them.

On Saturday night I lit a bonfire in the garden and then had a very happy evening (and early morning) with Glen leaders old and new. We sat and chatted, laughed and told old and embarrassing stories about each other, it was great.

On Sunday morning I was preaching and presiding at both the 9.15 and the 11.00am services at the Cathedral and had the joy of another confirmation service. By the time we got home the youth leaders had packed up, attended St John’s, Arpafeelie and headed home.  We then spent the rest of the day putting everything back where it belonged.

It was almost a relief to get back to a normal on Monday but by the time I had reached Thursday evening and had completed fifteen meetings I was wishing the gang back again. Fortunately the weekend was a bit less hectic. Jane and I drove over to Aberlour for the very happy and relaxed wedding of Charlotte and Andy, the reception was on the lawn at Kininvie House, the sun was shining and the company was good. We then drove up to Glenlivet for the night before heading down to St Michael’s Dufftown for the Sunday Eucharist, the church was very busy and it was good to see a number of children in the congregation.

Following a lovely lunch at the Duncombe residence we then drove over the Cabrach to Aberdeen, picked up Beth and her belongings and drove home to Arpafeelie, tired but content.

Ordination and Confirmation

Posted Friday 4 July 2014

The Road North

The Road North

Evening Contemplation

Evening Contemplation

This was going to be one of those madly chaotic but also wonderfully joyful weeks, it started simply enough with a series of one to one conversations with some of the clergy of the Diocese, then I had a quick drive to Invergordon to tell them that Rev Canon Ian Pallett had agreed to add their care to his ministry in Dingwall and Strathpeffer.

By Thursday things were speeding up, I drove over to Aberlour to meet with a couple whose wedding I am taking, the church looked great until I noticed that the bats were back- piles of bat poo and the unmistakable smell!  So much time and energy has been spent trying to solve the problem without success, it can be very disheartening.

From Aberlour I drove up to Glenlivet and prepared to consecrate the new Graveyard beside Drumin Castle. The local minister, the local Roman Catholic Priest, the Methodist lay Preacher and myself worked out what needed to be done and after prayers I set out across a soaking wet field, with grass about a foot long. I faithfully marked the boundary, leaving a space for non-Christian burials, my crosier drew the crosses and we sang a litany as my feet got wetter and wetter. The service concluded with reading and prayers and then we all drove over to the Croft Inn and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon tea in front of the log fire, needless to say my feet were placed close to the flames.  I then drove down the main road to Elgin for a brief conversation with the Rector and then back to the Black Isle for a business meeting.

Friday started in the usual way, Morning Prayer, time in the office, Eucharist at St Duthac’s and then down to the Station to greet our overnight houseguest.  From there off to the Cathedral for the Ordination rehearsal and home for an evening of planning and chat.

Saturday was a very special day as I ordained Rev Sarah Murray as a priest. The service was in the Cathedral and the atmosphere was wonderful, lots of joy, prayer and a few nerves as well. Sarah was surrounded by friends, family and the family of the church and you can see part of the service elsewhere on this Web Site.

On the Sunday we drove over to Lochinver for the afternoon service.  Once again we had a well filled community building, with people of all ages present, it was really good to hear the children joining in with gusto.  We then drove on up to Kinlochbervie, stopping for a while at the loch side to catch the beauty of the evening. At Kinlochbervie we again had a full church and there in the day room of the Ceilidh Place I confirmed a new member of the family. We drove home over the moors and down to Lairg with the sunset and the joy of a great weekend ministering in this wonderful land.

THE GYM

Posted Wednesday 25 June 2014

Who needs the gym

Who needs the gym

The dreaded day arrived, Jane had got me into the Gym, my Doctor had said it was okay and no excuses would be accepted.  So amidst complicated meetings,  midweek Eucharist , Presbytery meetings, I slouched my way towards the Thistle Hotel in Inverness.  I then cycled 8miles and went nowhere, I walked at speed for 3 miles and kept the same view of a wall the whole way and then swam a number of lengths before collapsing in the Jacuzzi. Now far be it for me to tell lies, but I actually enjoyed it, just don’t tell Jane.

The week ended with the annual Mothers Union quiet day at Arpafeelie, and yes I have heard all the jokes about MU and quiet, the day concluded with a sung Eucharist at St John’s, everyone seemed to have a good time.

On Sunday we had the visit of the Coarb of St Moluag and Dean Emsley of Aberdeen and Orkney ably escorted by Steve. Dean Emsley and Steve were walking and boating from Aberdeen to Lismore raising funds for the restoration of St Andrew’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, and my home church.  The route chosen brought them in contact with a number of places that St Moluag of Lismore had evangelised and so on the Sunday Evening we welcomed them to the Cathedral in Inverness and also welcomed the Bachuil of St Moluag, the pastoral staff of St Moluag. We had a great Evensong with opportunity for people to see the Bachuil and then the Coarb and the rest of the party adjourned to Bishop’s House for dinner and lively conversation.

The following week was a very happy one as we welcomed my Aunt Marion and both of my cousins, Claire and Fiona to the Black Isle. Marion spent three days at my Mothers in Culloden, the cousins drove them around and then collapsed back at Bishop’s House for a restorative glass of wine and lots of chat each evening.  My big brother Greg also turned up one evening and the chat got even louder! It was with a degree of sadness that we waved them all off as they headed south again.

On the Sunday I was preaching and presiding at St John’s Forres, on what has become known as Dibley day, two families had prepared lunch for us and in the true spirit of hospitality we ate them both!! Needless to say it was back to the gym for me!

Cascade and Cairngorms

Posted Wednesday 25 June 2014

The Cairngorms from Ruthven

The Cairngorms from Ruthven

St Columba's Kingussie

St Columba's Kingussie

I had looked ahead to this week with some anxiety and with joy.  That Easter feeling could be so easily high jacked by a series of complicated and potentially difficult meetings yet by the end of the week I had shared a number of experiences which reflected very well on the people of our churches.

The week actually started with the first set of CWOC meetings, that stands for Clergy Without a Charge,  These are meetings which are spread over a number of months when the Dean and myself catch up with the clergy who are retired, or in secular employment or in a resting mode in their ministry. These meetings are usually good occasions as we hear of fascinating insights and reflections and allow the clergy to talk about how they see their ministry for the next few years. The meetings are also at times quite emotional as we deal with those moments of transition in people’s ministry, as we discuss the meaning of retirement for example.

The next two days were taken up with the Cascade Conversations in Pitlochry, these conversations were set up to allow the church to have conversations about any issues that the subject of same sex relationships has raised in our church. The process had brought together people from across the spectrum of our religious life and I found myself talking openly and freely with people who have very different views from my own. To listen to those with deep anxieties who were also prepared to listen to those of us who don’t see these issues as problematic created an atmosphere of trust and respect.  I came away filled with hope and with certain amount of pride at what we can achieve when we stop and listen to each other. The process will now be repeated across this diocese as we give space for peoples voices to be heard.

I drove a number of the Moray Cascaders home and just had time to get to Inverness and do my superman act! I rushed into the vestry at St John’s with my suitcase, changed from civvies into my clerical shirt etc and then emerged ready for the vestry meeting. This was a vestry meeting that was presenting a financial challenge to the congregation, but with good grace, a deal of laughter and good spirits the challenge was accepted and I arrived home exhausted but content with my two days away.

Thursday brought more meetings, a meeting to appoint a new chair of our Mission and Ministry Board, a meeting of the Cathedral Chapter and an evening meeting of the Vestry of St Michael and All Angels, Inverness, who also agreed to pick up the challenge of new ministry.

It was therefore with a deal of relief that I was able to spend Friday afternoon performing a very different type of ministry. I drove over to Dufftown and led assembly for the Primary School; we talked about the Holy Oils and about health. I then visited Alice in her sheltered housing compex and caught up with all her family news and news of the local community before heading over to David’s for a cup of tea and a chat. I then drove up Glen Rinnes stopping to look at the small wood that is growing which departed friends Celia and Miklos planted around their old home. Eventually I arrived in Glenlivet and waited for Jane to arrive.

On Saturday we had a lovely walk around Glen Mhor and then drove down to Kingussie visiting Ruthven Barracks on the way.  I wanted to stop in Kingussie and get a couple of photographs of our old church in the village, one of four congregations closed down in 1966.  They were St Columba’s, Kingussie, now a Community Centre, St Mary’s, Highfield, now a private house, St John’s, Arpafeelie now reopened and active and St Drostan’s, Rothes, now a social club. I will try and get photographs of the others for a future post.

We were up early to drive back to Arpafeelie for the Baptism of young Rory and to pick up Mara who was coming back to Glenlivet with us for the night. We had a really relaxing time on Sunday evening before we drove home on Monday via Cawdor Castle and a welcome cup of tea.

Easter Week

Posted Tuesday 3 June 2014

Mark and Mara

Mark and Mara

Easter Garden

Easter Garden

We managed a full day of off, together on Easter Monday and then Jane was back to work and Mara back to school.  The house was quiet and I just headed out to the cathedral for the Eucharist at 5.00pm and then to join the people of Cromarty for an Evening Eucharist at St Regulas. At St Regulas the altar is in the middle of the church and we sit around it so I became very aware of two members sitting with big Vote No badges on and next to them a Yes Badge, we all exchanged the peace with no problems, just saying.

The rest of the week was quite quiet, except that is for coffee after I had celebrated the Eucharist at St Andrew’ Fortrose on Thursday morning.  There the conversation and the questions were as stimulating as ever, the conversation just kept on developing into different places, it was great.

On Low Sunday I was privileged to preach in the Inverness Methodist Church.  This was the first event in their celebration of the 250 year since John Wesley first came to the town. I had a great reception which included a question and answer session on what a bishop actually is! The congregation chatted very warmly and enthusiastically after the service, it all felt good. We shared lunch at Deacon Rogers’s house and with Rev Nigel and the ministry leaders of the Methodist church we put the world to rights.

Holy Week

Posted Tuesday 3 June 2014

Chrism Mass

Chrism Mass

Grantown Cross

Grantown Cross

Holy Week started with a Cathedral Palm Sunday service, we processed past the tourists and the Sunday Morning walkers and on into the Cathedral where we listened to a many voiced Passion reading and some very good choral music.

I had to rush off from the service and head up the hill to Strathnairn. The Strath runs through the hills and as the name suggests follows the path of the River Nairn, it is a place of majestic rock formations and ancient communities and it was through this Strath that Prince Charles Edward Stuart escaped from Culloden. You may be on the outskirts of Inverness but you feel you are in a very different place. I had to rush there to interview a prospective House for Duty Priest for the congregation of St Paul’s, Croachy. Rev Kathy seemed to have gone down well with the congregation and I was very pleased to have a chat with her, I also ended up taking her back the railway station in Inverness, “you will be passing it” said the Lay Rep.

In the evening I joined colleagues from the churches of the Crown Area of the City, we all met at St Ninian’s Roman Catholic Church and I had the privilege of preaching for the Ecumenical service there.
The Monday of Holy Week is the traditional day for the Chrism Mass here in the Highlands. In most dioceses this service takes place on Maundy Thursday but as all the clergy are expected to attend, it would be impossible for the Priests to attend in Inverness and be home in time for the services in their own churches. So on Monday we all gather in the Cathedral and I bless oils for Healing and Preparations and Consecrate the Oil of Chrism used at Baptisms, Confirmations and Ordinations. There was a good turnout of people from across the Diocese and it felt good to be with them.

On Tuesday Jane and I headed for Glenlivet to set up camp for the rest of Holy Week.  I was spending the week with the congregations of Keith, Huntly and Aberchirder and Rev Sarah Murray the Curate in that charge.  We had a couple of quieter days with Compline and meditations and then things got busier. On Maundy Thursday I celebrated and Stripped the Altars at St Marnan’s Aberchirder at 12.00pm, Christchurch Huntly at 7.00pm and Holy Trinity Keith at 9.00pm.  We also called in to Elgin for supplies and spent so long chatting to the variety of people we met in the street that we only just got back in time for the next service. As usual on a trip to Elgin we called into Dawson’s Butchers on Batchen Street, Mike’s Pork and Plum sausages are always worth the trip!

Good Friday was spent at Huntly, the Good Friday Liturgy was as powerful as it always is, it was good to share this with Neil and Tommy the local Church of Scotland Ministers who came and sat in the church with us.

On Easter Eve we all gathered at St Marnan’s, Aberchirder for the Easter Vigil, the church was full, the bonfire was very visible out over the village and I had the pleasure of confirming the first of the next generation of Burnett-Stuarts.  The drive back to Glenlivet was enhanced by a clear sky and the moon shining out over the summit of Ben Rinnes. Back at the house both Beth and Mara had arrived and so we all headed down to Keith for the Easter morning service and another confirmation. The church looked wonderful and it was good to see so many people there.

We then drove home to Bishop’s House and sat down to a lovely meal a number of cream eggs and an Easter Gin and Tonic.

Edinburgh

Posted Monday 26 May 2014

Arpafeelie Spring

Arpafeelie Spring

The School holidays had started and I soon realised I was in trouble, as I had agreed to a series of meetings in Edinburgh during the first week and the second was taken up with Holy Week. How to make it up to Jane? Well I arranged for her to join me for part of the time in Edinburgh. So on Monday morning we set off for the station and caught the train to Waverley.  In Edinburgh we booked into the ROC and Jane settled in while I sorted out my papers for the three days of meetings to follow.

So here we are, one evening free for the whole of the holiday, I did everything right, a good meal at First Coast, a lovely walk around the old town, a couple of drinks and then a slow walk back to the hotel. Ring ring goes Jane’s phone.  It is daughter number one; Beth is on her way home from Paris and has missed connections in Glasgow.  HELP she cries okay says mum and we spend the rest of the evening in St Andrew’s Square bus station awaiting our darling daughter. Final insult to romantic notions, she gets the last room, The Castle Suite, we on the other hand have the backyards of Rose Street Suite!!!!

The following morning Jane and Beth wandered off to meet Aidan who was coming through from Carlisle for the day while I attended the Provincial Standing Committee. I met up with Aidan and Jane after the meeting and we had an early evening meal and then put Aidan back on the train. They had a good day I had ….an interesting day!

Jane headed home on Wednesday morning while I went downstairs to join the College of Bishops for a two day meeting, eventually getting home at teatime on Thursday. As Jane drove me slowly through the road works on the Kessock Bridge her phone rang so I answered it and found myself chatting to Jodie on Moray Firth Radio.  Very nice I thought but why is she phoning? Then she tells me to tell Jane that she has just won £1000, excellent I thought that will pay for the Castle Suite in Edinburgh!

RAF Farewells

Posted Monday 26 May 2014

Stand Down March Past

Stand Down March Past

It must be that time of year again, the season just after Easter as the weather improves, the nights get longer and my spare time vanishes, I know it must be this time of year because I am so far behind with this journal, please bear with me, I will catch up.

I was in Lossiemouth on the 28th, it was the day that two squadrons were being disbanded,  617 Squadron The Dambusters and 12Bomber Squadron. As always the military carried out this operation with great precision but there is always a sense of pride and sadness evident as the colours are marched off for the last time. I met up with a great many people at the reception afterwards; it is always good to catch up and to network. Thankfully Rev Christopher Ketley was also there and he remembered to take photographs!

On the Saturday I headed to Kinlochbervie, along the wonderful A838, it was a beautiful day and I soon reached the Ceilidh House and joined the congregation for a Lenten Bible study. As always at Kinlochbervie food soon followed and after some lovely grub I headed down to the harbour to look at the wonderful gift we were being offered. Sven Ahlstrom of the Sutherland congregation was gifting a two bedroom bungalow to the diocese and I was to see if it would be a good mission gift.  It is and it is a most remarkable and generous gifting which we will seek to care for. I drove home filled with joy at the pleasure our acceptance of the gift had brought to Sven, blessings on him. I got home as Jane returned from helping out at the Bishop Eden Primary school fete, we both collapsed in front of the television and were soon dozing.

On the Sunday morning refreshed and raring to go we set off for Aberlour.  I was baptising Maisie Esme, daughter of Saul and Helen.  We had a lovely day, Maisie was very well behaved at the font and the rest of the family didn’t do badly either (they are old friends, it is okay). A lovely lunch followed with a good deal of catching up on news.

As usual the following week was a mixture of meetings and services; we celebrated the feast of St Gilbert of Caithness with a Eucharist in St Duthac’s. On Friday I joined the playgroup from St John’s, Inverness and their guests from Dores playgroup , I literally joined them as I led the worship sitting on the floor in front of the choir stalls, I got down elegantly but standing up again, oh dear! We had a great time though as they played the part of donkeys as I told the Holy Week story.

Dashing

Posted Monday 28 April 2014

Above Dounreay

Above Dounreay

Poolewe

Poolewe

I headed through to Elgin on Monday for a brief meeting with the representatives of Historic Scotland. We are hoping to hold a service in the ruins of Elgin Cathedral as part of the celebration of 900 years of the Diocese of Moray and I needed to have a chat with them and the Diocesan Group planning some of the events. The meeting went well and afterwards I drove the Dean and my Chaplain to visit the site of Spynie Church and Kinnedar Church, both former Episcopal seats. The Monday staff meeting then took place at Roseisle courtesy of Kate Middleton my PA, lunch being provided.

The rest of the week followed what you would hope for in Lent, time for prayer, reading and worship. I managed to get most admin done in the mornings and had time to think in the afternoon. Sadly this Lenten experience was soon shattered as we entered the following week, but there was much opportunity for mission and debate. It started on Sunday with a trip to Poolewe where we had a number of people to be confirmed and a new scout flag to be dedicated, it continued with an overnight meeting of the Faith and Order Board in Edinburgh before I had the pleasure of driving to the Crask Inn to celebrate the Eucharist.

The Crask Inn is on the A 836 13miles North of Lairg and 26miles South of Tongue. The A836 is a single track road with passing places and very few houses. The Inn is owned by Mike and Kai both long standing members of the Episcopal Church and people who are always prepared to get involved. The suggestion that we held a regular Eucharist in this vast open landscape surprised many but it has proven to be a wonderful experience. People arrive from all over Sutherland and gather in the dining room, Mike plays the old Harmonium and the congregation sing out. The mobile library or the bank or crofters on the road to the sales might stop and all are interested in what is going on. The average attendance is about 25.

The service was great, the singing powerful and the soup hearty. As I stood outside finishing a conversation the snow began to fall or it would be better to say, flew horizontally across the moor as the contours disappeared in the cloud. It really is a very empty landscape yet now regularly filled with the sound of praise!

I drove home and rested briefly before setting out again, this time to the East for a meeting in Keith. I really do need to get better listening to those telling me to slow down.

The weekend was a Caithness Weekend, Jane and I drove up to Thurso on Friday evening and booked into the Station Hotel. We had a quiet evening, dinner, a walk and a dram before heading to bed in preparation for the days ahead. On Saturday we explored some of the villages along the North Coast before I headed over to Wick for a meeting of the congregations. They are beginning to explore the future of our congregations in Caithness and they had come to share ideas with the Bishop. The meeting was full and frank and I was left with real hope for their future. Back in Thurso we met Rev Wendy for dinner to be given my instructions for Sunday.

In St Peter and the Holy Rude, Thurso I licensed Sue Berry as a Lay Preacher before driving over to Wick for a confirmation service and a very happy lunch.  We drove home in time for me to head off to the Cathedral for Choral Evensong, tired but content.

London and Back

Posted Monday 28 April 2014

new neighbours

new neighbours

I was off for a day trip to London, you heard right a day trip to London! I left the house just after 5.00am, and was glad I did leave myself plenty of time because there was a wide load crossing the Kessock Bridge so we were held up! I flew out of Inverness airport and arrived at Gatwick just before 9.00am; I then took the train to London Victoria and walked down to Westminster Abbey.

I was there to represent the SEC at the Nelson Mandela Memorial Service. Having been shown into the Lady Chapel I found myself surrounded by church leaders from across the UK, so amidst much robing I caught up on the lives of a number of friends and met some new faces. The service was splendid, the Soweto Gospel Choir almost got the congregation swaying and Desmond Tutu’s address was powerful. All too soon the event was over and I made the return trip and arrived home at about 8.30pm. Hectic but well worth it.

Shrove Tuesday was a day of preparation as we got ready not only for Lent but also the Diocesan Synod. I spent much of the day in the office but escaped to the Cathedral for the early evening Eucharist. On Ash Wednesday I led worship in the morning at St John’s, Arpafeelie, headed out for a pastoral visit then attended a Stewardship Meeting before heading off to Keith to preside at the evening Eucharist at Holy Trinity.

Thankfully Thursday was a bit quieter and apart from one visitor I managed to spent the time preparing for Saturday. It was just as well I did as Friday became one of those wonderful days when unexpected visitors to the office and the house filled everywhere with laughter and good humour, but I didn’t get much writing done!

The Diocesan Synod took place at a new venue this year, we all gathered at the Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football Ground and after a deeply powerful and prayerful Eucharist we proceeded to discuss the business of the day.  This year we did actually discuss as we were able to sit around tables and share thoughts and ideas. The Football Club staff was wonderful and the whole event went off really well. All I had to do was remember not to mention that I was a lifelong Aberdeen Supporter, especially as the League Cup final was drawing near. Back at Arpafeelie we joined the Diocesan Youth Club for Compline, they were staying at the Steading for the weekend. It was a lovely way to finish a good day.

This very hectic week ended with the Bishop in his Cathedral, I celebrated and preached at both the 9.15am Family Eucharist and the 11.00am Sung Eucharist. It was good to enjoy the toast that comes with coffee after the first celebration and meet and chat with people after both services.

Past blog entries are available in the blog archive →