As I begin to write this, I am reflecting upon our Sung Eucharist which took place this morning which indicated the beginning of Passiontide. The liturgical year moves so quickly, and it can be bewildering to some but commonplace to others. Each season of our liturgical calendar brings with it new hope, new expectations, new growth, and new challenges.
We are currently in the throes of a fairly substantial maintenance project which has seen scaffolding surround a large section of the church building. The finances invested in this ongoing work are essential so that any structural issues are addressed at an early stage thereby allowing intervention to avoid a more costly repair. The Vestry and I believe that this is a right and proper method of taking care of our beloved church and that we will experience the benefits on a long-term rather than a ‘sticking plaster’ approach.
Unfortunately, we have experienced damage to one of our rose windows which was blown out during a storm. I was thankful that the church was empty when this occurred as the stained glass that fell was smashed and scattered everywhere. I am grateful to the Buildings Committee, Mr David Rose and Mrs Freddie Stephens, who worked hard with our architect, Mr Dave Chouman, to address the damage and to ensure it was made safe when the weather permitted. I am also indebted to those who helped clean up the mess on the day. At the time of writing, we also have scaffolding inside the church to enable the full removal and eventual replacement of the damaged window.
As part of our repair and refurbishment project, we now have new lighting in the choir vestry and we await authorisation of our Canon 35 Application to replace the carpet with engineered wood. We will also see new linoleum in the kitchen area.
We were successful in an application to the Provincial Recovery and Renewal fund in securing a grant to assist with our West End Garden project, which will totally change the outlook of this part of our church grounds. Again, this will require Canon 35 approval.
All of this work is expensive, and we should be grateful for several streams of funding from Viridor Credits, The Anderson Trust and the Provincial and Diocesan Building Funds. I am also indebted to you, the congregation of St Mary’s for your patience and generosity during all of this upheaval.
Our Assistant Priest, Fr Roger Dyer and I have developed an excellent working relationship and I am delighted that Fr Roger, after a long time away from Church Ministry, has become part of the important pastoral fabric at St Mary’s. Those of you who participated in the Lent Course ‘Encountering Jesus’, should know that this was all Fr Roger’s idea, and we were both delighted with the numbers that attended and the enthusiastic response to the task over the five weeks of Lent.
We should, of course, not forget Fr Jason, who has been providing assistance to St Clement’s for some time now. We are grateful that the congregation are receiving Fr Jason’s most excellent ministry and he is always in our prayers.
The last two months have seen some change in Vestry personnel, with Mr David Rose stepping back from his long time role as the Rector’s Warden and Dr Elizabeth Smyth also stepping back as Vestry Secretary. Mrs Freddie Stephens has also decided to end her vestry membership, although both she and David remain members of our buildings committee. I am eternally grateful to David, Elizabeth and Freddie, all of whom were, and continue to be, a great source of wise counsel to me in my role as Rector.
We have welcomed Mr Iain Stewart on to the Vestry and also as our new People’s Warden, and I am grateful for his enthusiasm in this role and other duties he takes on.
Sadly, the conflict in Ukraine continues to dominate our thoughts and prayers as we witness the devastation, death and destruction in that troubled part of the world. I have encouraged everyone to consider contributing in any way they can, to one of the many charitable organisations available, who are operating on a national basis to address the need of so many people.
We had our Diocesan Synod recently where I was supported in my nomination to become Diocesan Synod Clerk. This is an important role in the Diocese which will see me taking on more responsibility and working in tandem with the Diocesan Office/Bishop Anne on many issues that affect how our diocese operates within the SEC.
As usual, our Easter Egg Appeal has been a great success, and this year we will divide the donated eggs between the Aberdeen Cyrenians and HomeStart, two deserving charities based in Aberdeen who I know will be able to ensure they will be distributed to those who would, in some small way, benefit accordingly. I am very grateful to all who contributed this year.
There are still many of our congregation who are not yet ready to return to church worship on a Sunday. I fully understand this and rest assured, you are always in our prayers as everyone tries to move forward now that most of the Covid restrictions concerning places of worship have been lifted. It is of course a personal choice and it is only right that no-one should feel under any pressure to return if they are not in the right frame of mind to do so. So, please know that we are thinking about you, and when the time comes, it will be a joy to have you back.
Future events, particularly those of a fundraising nature, can be found on our website at https://stmaryscardenplace.org.uk/social-fundraising-calendar/ It is the Vestry’s intention that the current diary is dynamic and that other gatherings at the church will be added throughout the year. I am thankful to Mr David Rose, our Webmaster, who ensures that our website is quality controlled. I am also grateful to David for his guidance and advice regarding content and update.
The beginning of a new liturgical year can sometimes feel at odds as we approach the end of our calendar year, and that is why we need to immerse ourselves during Advent. It is important that we know how to separate both the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one, particularly in our religious lives. Being a Christian can be confusing, can’t it? No sooner are we celebrating the birth of Christ, when, a few months later, we enter Lent and then Holy Week and Easter, all of which are filled with beginnings and ends and beginnings again. Keep your eyes on the ball, it moves quickly and deliberately and it is meant to make us focus. You will hear Preachers (myself included), who will wax lyrical about us being Christmas, Lent or Easter people. We are, of course, all of these things and more, but most of all we are God’s people, and in the end, what else would we want to be?
The following services, which involve Fr Roger, our Organist Matthew, and me, are planned in the coming months: Sunday 5th June – Evensong for the Queen’s Jubilee at Haddo House. Sunday 24th July – Lambeth Evensong. Saturday 24 September – Ordination. These are significant services which reflect St Mary’s continuing status as Pro-Cathedral, and more details of times, etc., will be forthcoming in the weeks to follow.
I will conclude with a wee bit of self-indulgence. Several weeks ago I preached a sermon that was completely off the cuff. I referred to it as my ‘One Man’ sermon and it was never my intention to preach in that particular method, or the subject matter on that day. However, what I now know is that the Holy Spirit was in total control and the result was that it produced a sermon, based on the current conflict in Ukraine. In retrospect, I wish I had been able to record it, but when things are taken out of your control then we have to ‘ride the wave’ so to speak. I was stunned to receive such positive feedback and some members of our congregation still refer to it as the ‘One Man’ sermon. I suppose the point I am trying to make is that every now and again, we are all capable of the unexpected and when this happens, we surprise ourselves.
May God bless each and every one of you this Easter and may you be able to spend time with loved ones as we celebrate this momentous time in our Christian Calendar.