Editorial bias here makes me include a photograph from this year’s General Synod Provincial Youth presentation! We were well represented at the event, with Rev. Roger Dyer, Rev. Dr. Jenny Holden, Gillian Rose, and Elizabeth Mills all in attendance in various capacities.
As I begin to write this, the sun is shining outside and it is warm. Someone mentioned to me that he hoped that it would stay like this until October. There’s nothing like being an optimist about the weather, especially in Aberdeen!
Well, that was General Synod done for another year. Due to personal reasons, I did not attend Edinburgh, however, I was able to participate online via zoom. We discussed many things within our table-top exercises, one of which concentrated on how we coped during the height of the Covid pandemic. We all agreed that it is important to be as adaptable to change as possible when faced with circumstances that challenged us all. There was also a feeling of so many lessons being learned together with an acceptance that there are just some things that cannot be overcome.
Sam and I had a lovely holiday in Aruba, where the weather was equally as good. We have only been back a couple of weeks, but it feels like we have never been away at all. We were extremely grateful to all at St Mary’s who contributed towards the very generous gift prior to our departure. It was a very humbling experience and the generosity of people never ceases to amaze me.
I understand that Fr Roger did a sterling job whilst I was away and this was a great comfort to me, although I had no doubts whatsoever that this would be the case. Fr Roger and I have slightly different styles when it comes to worship and this is such a blessing, as it provides great variation and attention to detail. Fr Roger has also been very busy in other areas of our outreach. There was a very successful talk , organised by Fr Roger, given by Dr Brian Brock on the subject of how we as Christians view the conflict in Ukraine. A further talk is being planned where another guest speaker will be coming to St Mary’s.
Matthew McVey, our Director of Music, has been extremely busy during the last quarter. Not only has he completed his third year of Studies at Aberdeen University, but it appears he is in big demand from other places of worship and musical events. With this in mind, it was a great joy to be at Haddo House Chapel, where, at the invite of Lady Aberdeen, an Evensong service was held. Bishop Anne officiated and musical arrangement was done by Matthew. The service was to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Anniversary. It was a wonderful occasion and this was appreciated by all who attended.
You will no doubt notice that the external scaffolding is slowly moving around the church. It is good that this important maintenance is being carried out, but at the same time, it is also a great relief to see the work nearing its completion. I am grateful to our Building Committee of Mr David Rose and Mrs Freddie Stephens, both of whom have worked very closely with our architect Mr Dave Chouman, to ensure that the work is being carried out to a high standard. We still wait authorisation via the Canon 35 application before work can commence with our West-End Peace Garden project, hopefully that will be forthcoming soon. Speaking of change, it was nice to see the Memorial Chapel area being put back into use after the internal scaffolding removal. My thanks to all who helped with this and the subsequent tidy-up.
St Mary’s will host a ‘Lambeth Evensong’ on Sunday the 24th of July, where we will see attendance from five American Bishops as well as the Roman Catholic Bishop of Aberdeen, The Primus and Bishop Anne. This will be a significant occasion in the Diocese and a lot of hard work has gone into ensuring we can provide everything that is good about St Mary’s.
St Mary’s Vestry continue to work hard in ensuring the business end of our church is maintained. Whilst we are running two Ordinary Vestry members short, those currently in situ are extremely supportive and pro-active in all that we do, and this makes my role as Rector all the easier. I do, however, continue to appeal to those who may want to consider a role as a Vestry member.
After a year as a Panel Member with Children’s Hearing Scotland, I have decided that I will need to step down from the role. Normally after a year, Panel Members are asked to be trained as Chairing Panel Members, which, as the title outlines, requires more responsibility and time, as well as being a pivotal member of the decision-making process. The decision was not easy, as I have enjoyed the role during the past twelve months or so, however, as I emphasised when I commenced training, should I feel that it could possibly encroach on my Ministry here at St Mary’s, then I would seriously need to consider whether I could continue. My priorities are first and foremost, being your Rector and Pastoral resource, and that in itself requires my full attention. In retrospect, should any of you feel that being a Panel Member for the Children’s Hearings Scotland organisation, I would urge you to research and speak to one of the many people involved. It is a very rewarding responsibility and one that I am glad I had the opportunity to embark upon. https://www.chscotland.gov.uk
Fr Roger and I have had a discussion about amending / changing the current Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer booklets we currently have in use. It is important that our worship is varied and also thought-provoking. We will not dispense with the materials we have at the moment but will hope to alternate them with some newer resources.
Finally, I would like to express my thanks to everyone connected with St Mary’s. Without the unstinting support from everyone in our congregation, much of the work we do would prove to be extremely difficult to complete. We are continuing to see growth and the return of some of you who have found it difficult to return to regular services after the pandemic, and Fr Roger and I continue to offer support to all concerned.
For those who don’t know me, my name is Godwin Chimara, a second year Ordinand from this our beloved Diocese of Aberdeen & Orkney and training at the Scottish Episcopal Institute (SEI) toward a full-time priestly ministry within the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) and the worldwide Anglican Communion.
As I am writing this, I have just returned from the last residential weekend of this 2021/22 academic year. The SEI is a dispersed community who gather only six times in an academic year (orientation week and five residential weekends) to learn, worship and fellowship together.
Next (before the end of May) is my appraisal conference with a staff of SEI and my diocesan Advisor, Rev’d Dr Ruth Green, to review my ongoing formation and training particularly looking at the past year, and at the end make recommendation to Bishop Anne (my sending Bishop) either for me to proceed to the next and final year of training or not. At some point in the Summer, I will then meet with Bishop Anne to discuss the recommendation from the appraisal conference, to which she will either accept or reject the recommendation. So, now, I don’t know what the future holds. The waiting game has just begun just as we are waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
My training for the past two years has been both challenging and enriching. Challenging in the sense that I am juggling between full time work in the Oil and Gas industry, family responsibilities (father of three children including one with special needs), and training. In this past year, my training included a seven-month placement at St John’s Crown Terrace Aberdeen under the supervision of Rev’d Dr Jenny Holden. My training has been enriching as it has been formational in preparing me for the discerned ministry that I am being called to. More so, it has enabled me to continue to pray in grace, grow in grace, and give in grace as a disciple of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Those among us from St Andrew’s will be familiar with this mantra of grace which was our last congregational theme before we teamed up at St Mary’s. And I have continued with it as my personal focus in this period of discernment and formation.
My placement at St John’s has been a blessing. I must admit that before this placement, I have only been to that church once, which was in September 2020 (under Covid restrictions) when I represented SEI at the priestly ordination of Rev’d Dr Jenny Holden as SEI staff were not able to attend. Thus, this placement provided me with the opportunity to get to know the congregation and develop new relationships in addition to offering myself to be part of the work of God in this growing congregation. My last day of placement (Sunday 24th April 2022) was an emotional one across board which attests to the bond of friendship established.
In the last year, following election by my fellow students, I represented the student body at the Institute Council which is the SEC’s governing body. At the just concluded residential weekend, I was elected by my fellow students to lead the student body in the next academic year otherwise known as Chair of the Student Chapter, and that is assuming that I am recommended and approved to continue my training in the next academic year which starts end of August 2022.
On a final note, the all-round support (and prayers) I have received and continue to receive in this journey of continued discernment and training has been unbelievable. My family and I are deeply grateful for this. So, keep praying for us.
This photo taken on my last day of placement captured when I was presented with a lighted candle as a remembrance of the ministry we shared together. I was charged to light it in my next place of ministry, and in so doing, it should remind me that in the light of Christ, we are all one.
This was my first time at General Synod. It was a delight to attend as a Visitor. I experienced it as a kaleidoscope of stimulating encounters that encouraged me greatly as we work together to find God’s way forward for us as Episcopalians in Scotland.
Many conversations, both in formal sessions and informally in coffee queues or over meals, were about how we had come through Covid – the hard work; the unexpected joys; the continuing challenge of finding our new shape that would incorporate the things we had learnt about worship, pastoral care and mission during those hard years.
A common thread through all these conversations was everyone’s openness to talk about God. Members of Synod talked about what they had learnt about God through the Covid experience – the steadfast presence of God, the vital place of faith through these years and the cherishing of the community that belonging to Church had provided.
I found that those outside of General Synod (passersby in the street, staff in shops, transport and restaurants) were also open to have conversation about spiritual things. Was this just the high number of clerical collars walking about Edinburgh New Town or was it the openness to the questions of life that many Synod delegates said they were experiencing it their home communities?
A waiter paused to talk to me. ‘Are you a priest?’ (Dog collar. Big clue!) ‘Yes’. ‘Do you believe in God?’ ‘Yes. And how about you? Is it something that’s part of your life?’ The conversation lasted about ten minutes. We agreed that owning more and more things did not assuage spiritual hunger or answer the big questions of life – only relationship with God could do this. He prayed daily and read the scriptures although he didn’t go to church. He wanted to know how I thought you could be fit for heaven. I tried to explain grace! It was a wonderful conversation. Fadel was a young British Muslim. We had much in common.
Alison, Amy and Liz with their baking certificates after our Bake Off – it raised £51! Thank you to all who organised, baked, bought and ate, and to Iain for the photograph.