As I write this, we have rain and an overcast sky. We must not grumble though, after all, we did have a few days of really nice sunny and hot weather not very long ago.
Since our last Magazine, I have been very busy. The status of our Covid awareness regulations seems to change on a 24 hour basis. The Province, in conjunction with the Scottish Parliament, has worked extremely hard to keep all of us updated with regards to our shared worship. Of course, it always gives me great pleasure to pre-record a service each week to provide access to our worship for those who do not yet feel 100% confident to join us again in a more physically communal sense. As we move forward with the ever-fluid situation, we watch with great hope and much caution, for the next changes to be announced.
We have recently started singing again in church and this is such a welcome and joyous return to near-normal status. During the preceding months, our very own Louisa Donaldson has stepped up to the plate as our Cantor for numerous services and I am sure I speak for us all when I say that she has done, and continues to do, a magnificent job, adding great depth and feeling to our worship. I think it is incredibly brave for one person to be relied upon so much, and in Louisa we have experienced such humble appliance to her task. I would also like to thank Matthew McVey our Organist, who has been extremely diligent, providing music for our live and pre-recorded services, plus directing a very recent choral accompaniment at one of our Sunday services. We have all, it seems, learned to adapt and improvise. Hopefully, it will not be too long before we have all of the remaining pews back inside the main ‘body of the kirk’, thereby allowing us to tidy up and begin to use the choir vestry once more.
St Mary’s Vestry Committee has also been extremely busy of late. We have been successful in an application to the Provincial Buildings Committee for funding to assist with the ongoing maintenance of our Church buildings and I am deeply grateful to all those who worked hard to make it happen. We are also working through other funding streams to assist with work and with other ventures, one of which is the Recovery and Renewal Fund, set up by the Province to assist in our mission to the community, and to enable us as a church to reach out in more diverse and adaptable ways. As you will know, we are hoping to re-develop some of the parking space at the west end of the church with a therapeutic/peace garden, and it is hoped that should we be successful with our application to the Recovery and Renewal Fund, this would go some way to offsetting the cost of the work carried out.
Many of you will remember the late Canon Jim Alexander, who passed away recently after a long battle with dementia. Canon Jim was a stalwart of St Mary’s for just under 20 years and a great servant to the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney for many more. It was the desire of Canon Jim’s family that his funeral service be carried out at St Mary’s, and I was deeply honoured to be able to officiate. We also lost another Priest of great renown, the late Canon Ken Gordon. Canon Ken passed away peacefully at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary after a brave battle with cancer. Again, Ken was another long-time servant of this diocese, having been Rector at St Devenick’s for 30 years combined with service in other churches well past his retirement. I was very humbled to be able to provide the final sacrament to Canon Ken two days before he passed away. May they both rest in God’s peace.
General Synod was again, an online affair, taking place over 2 days in early June. I have to say that it was, in my opinion, a very successful gathering from across the Province, and much was discussed during that time. None more so than the St Andrew’s Declaration, which outlines much closer collaboration in the ‘Common Calling’ with our brothers and sisters from the Church of Scotland. The declaration was approved by a majority vote which indicated that there was work to do.
There was also much discussion about environmental issues by which we as a Church should continue to address and lead by example. I am acutely aware of the need to reduce our carbon footprint as much as we possibly can, and I look to everyone to be of the same mind. You will have noted recently that I no longer print orders of service. This is not a new concept for me, but rather a return to a previous practice. Of course, I accept that there will be special occasions when a printed order of service is required, however, when that is not the case, we will use the resources already to hand in the way of pre-printed service books etc. By doing this we are making an effort to contribute to the Scottish Episcopal Church’s aim that we can be as environmentally aware as possible in all that we do. I am of course always open to suggestion about other areas we can improve upon.
I very recently completed my training to become a member of the Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) panel system. This will not affect my ministry, but enhance it, as it gives me an opportunity to work closely with a team of other dedicated volunteers who have great concern for children and young people in this country. It goes without saying that my priorities will always be as Rector to St Mary’s, however, this enables me to provide outreach in a unique fashion to our community.
I am also now a member of the ‘Global Partnerships Committee’, which is a committee responsible for supporting church projects and people across the world. It enables the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC), to reach out in prayer and commit to the needs of the wider church community. The Global Partnership Committee is part of the Mission board of the SEC and will meet several times a year to discuss and action if necessary, applications received.
I was delighted that our Photograph Competition was such a resounding success. As many of you will know, I have recently just launched the next challenge, which is a ‘Short Poem’ competition. I sincerely hope that this also meets with the same enthusiasm as the previous one.
It continues to be a joy to minister to both St Mary’s and St Andrew’s congregations, and now that restrictions are easing somewhat, I am hopeful of making home visits once more. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t just turn up on your doorstep without prior warning or approval. I have really missed this essential part of my pastoral ministry, and it is really important to me to get back into the groove as far as this is concerned. By the time this is published I hope to have begun visiting again, and where necessary, providing the Holy Sacrament of Communion when requested.
Sunday the 15th of August will be our Patronal Festival and I am hoping to ensure it is one to remember. The easing of restrictions should allow us to accommodate a larger choir, more musical choices and increased involvement from all attending. We are also using the occasion as a ‘Gift Day’ to St Mary’s as part of our continued fund-raising requirements. Please give this some thought, whether you are able to attend or not.
I would like to conclude by thanking everyone who has volunteered their help over the past several months since our last publication. No matter what type of ministry is undertaken to ensure we are an open, friendly and welcoming church, each is as important as the other which is why I am so grateful for your support in my own ministry as your Rector. To my Vestry Officers, Sacristan, Flower arrangers, church cleaning team, Organist, Rota providers, Readers, Intercessors; to each and everyone who steps through our doors, no matter how often, thank you and may God’s blessing be with you always.
Reverend Canon Terry Taggart
St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral