Mixed Up Places
Posted Saturday 2 April 2011
Holly says goodbye
I have just celebrated St Boniface of Ross in the Diocese of Caithness, celebrated St Gilbert of Caithness in the Diocese of Moray, held a Vestry meeting for an Anglo Catholic congregation in a pub called the Mayflower and Instituted a Rector in a village hall. The joys of Highland Ministry- let me explain.
St Boniface was the founding Bishop of the Diocese of Ross, whose Cathedral was in Rosemarkie before it was later moved to Fortrose; his special day is on the 16th of March. This year instead of celebrating in the ancient Diocese of Ross, I found myself leading assembly at Dornoch Primary School, the ancient see city of Caithness. The children as always were fascinated by my regalia and loved trying the mitre on for size, one young man spent the whole assembly holding my crozier and he took his role very seriously indeed!
The vestry meeting for St Michael’s and All Angels was due to take place in the church but we remembered that the pipers were meeting in the small hall, two lots of huffing and puffing would have been just too much so we met round the corner in the local pub, owned by one of the congregation. Sadly Lent was already upon us so I simply looked at the wonderful range of Malts and sighed.
The weekend saw the diocese moving west. I was to Institute Fr Nicholas Court as Rector and Mission Priest for the North West Charge, this covers the area from Tongue on the North Coast of Sutherland all the way round to Loch Broom. Within this huge area we have a number of congregations and community links. These include St Gilbert’s in Kinlochbervie, meeting in the Ceilidh House day care centre, St Gilbert’s, Lochinver meeting in the Assynt Centre, St Mary’s, Ullapool a vibrant LCM congregation, the House of Prayer in Tongue and St Boniface’s at Achiltibuie who meet in the Coigach Community Centre.
It was in Achiltibuie that the service was to take place and Jane, myself, Canon Alison and the Dean all piled into the car and drove over the moors to Ullapool. We had a bite of lunch in the chippy as the Dean chatted up a group of motor cyclists before twisting and turning our way past Stac Pollaidh and into the village. The large hall had been laid out ready, the Church of Scotland ministers wife readied herself to play the keyboard, the clergy changed in the snooker room (as usual none of us had any money so no games ensued) the food was laid out in the lounge and at 2.00pm we filled the hall with singing, over eighty voices belting out the first hymn. It was wonderful to see faces from all the congregations, to be joined by friends from other denominations and to realise that for the first time ever a new priest had been instituted in this stunning place. We all headed home full of joy.
The following day the family drove over to St Ninian’s in Glenurquhart, this was to be my last service with Rev Holly as she is retiring and moving back over the sea to the USA. She has worked hard in this beautiful and unique corner of the kingdom and the community will miss her, as will we. The service ended with all sorts of questions about a new priest. Had anyone risen to the bait of this being a church with fishing rites? The new priest will be able to fish in the loch that sits below the church; I had to report that as yet we haven’t had as much as a nibble. Before we left to have lunch with Holly I was drafted in to help move a new picnic bench down to the loch side. This is the culmination of works at the church that have seen paths laid out from the church down and along the side of the loch, a lovely spot for a picnic, please feel free to use it.
Off to Edinburgh for an overnight meeting of the Faith and Order Board, one joint vestry meeting in North Ross-Shire, a celebration of Mass at St Michael’s for the Annunciation, a day off and we are back to Sunday and St Andrew’s, Tain and St Ninian’s, Invergordon. It was then back to the train as I headed to Edinburgh again, this time an overnight meeting of the College of Bishops and a further meeting on Wednesday. This meeting was about the 3rd Article Declarity of the Church of Scotland, look it up, it is fascinating. The meeting was good and I met up with colleagues old and new before the long journey home.
Out for tea on Thursday as we celebrated Jane’s birthday, nearly done but let’s not forget St Gilbert in Moray. This time I was leading Assembly in Dyke Primary School; same format- let them question the bishop. They did and asked some really searching questions! And as for Gilbert, well though he was Bishop of Caithness he had been Archdeacon of Moray so I don’t imagine he really minded.