Well, when I first sat down to write this, it was just after 4.30 am and it was dark, cold and wet outside. I tend to get plenty of stuff done in the early hours as there are no distractions to divert my attention. Of course, it’s not always like that. Normally, with the greatest intentions do I set my laptop up with a plan to complete a particular piece of work. What usually happens is that half-way through a document, I think of something else I need to do and so I jump from what I was doing to another task, and so on … you get the picture. In the end I have about 5 or 6 things on the go all at the same, time which eventually leads to mistakes and confusion!
Our life can be like that, confusing and disorganised, which can cause us to overlook things and be prone to error. Those errors manifest themselves in so many ways. Short temper, forgetfulness, inappropriate language/behaviour, all of these reactions and more, must have some sort of original source which makes them happen. These are to me signals that I need to stop, re-boot and listen to my body telling me to slow down.
It has been a very busy year since our last Christmas Magazine. Whilst Covid had everyone in its stranglehold and attendance at Church was somewhat restricted, we all had to learn to adapt and improvise. Speaking for myself, this entailed the continuance of online broadcasts of recorded Said Eucharists. Many a Zoom meeting has been attended and we have all become experts in two-dimensional conversations. But that did not condense in any way the importance of the tasks at hand – if anything it intensified them. The need to get things done in good manageable time slots was really pivotal, and I know that this applied to everyone else who was attempting to juggle very busy lifestyles.
During the past year I have kept busy with numerous things, some of which have tenuous connections only with my work as a Priest. I continue my studies as a part-time student of History at Aberdeen University, I also continue in my position as a Panel Member of Children’s Hearings Scotland. Both of these roles, I believe, keep me appraised of not only local and national topics, past and present; but they also allow me to achieve some sort of ministerial outreach to a wider community. My Chaplaincy work at Aberdeen Hospitals, particularly the ARI, has been a real challenge this year due to the strict Covid regulations imposed. Because I am not an actual employee of the NHS Chaplaincy Team, it can sometimes be awkward trying to convince hospital staff of the importance of the work I am required to perform with the sick and dying who desire the presence of an Anglican Priest at their bedside.
My membership of the Aberdeen Churches Together (ACT) group has also been fairly active throughout the year, and this allows me to keep in touch with ecumenical issues throughout the City Centre Churches and across the whole religious spectrum. I was recently part of the ecumenical team that took part in the opening of the Nativity Scene at the Kirk of St Nicholas.
I recently became a member of the Global Partnership Committee (GPC), which is a Provincial role within the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC). The GPC is responsible for supporting church projects and people all over the world. It enables the SEC to reach out in prayer and commit to the needs of the wider church community. Each member of the committee has a particular portfolio responsibility: mine is Asia. The GPC is part of the Mission Board of the SEC.
A few days have passed since I began writing this and we are in full Advent swing at St Mary’s. I am grateful for all of the help received to make our church look so festive. It is true that the past twelve months have been challenging in so many different ways, but as always, everyone has stepped up to the plate to get on with the job.
At the beginning of Advent we have seen St Andrew’s Church on King Street partially re-open after a lengthy hiatus. This has seen most of the St Andrew’s Congregation who had been attending St Mary’s, return to their ‘spiritual alma mater’. I wish them well as they re-engage with Fr Isaac and future services, and as we move towards Christmas, I hope that they will all be able to celebrate the coming and arrival of, the Christ-Child in our midst. You will remain forever in our prayers.
There has of course been some very deep sadness in our Diocese recently. Bishop Anne and her husband, Fr Roger, lost their daughter Millie at the young age of 30 years. The funeral service took place at St Mary’s and I was humbled to be asked to officiate for this very sombre occasion, which was attended by most of the College of Bishops and many others who had travelled from far afield. Those people who helped out on the day to make sure the service and refreshments afterwards went without a hitch have my eternal gratitude.
The very nature of Ordained Ministry means that no two days are the same, and indeed, there is a regular amount of priority juggling to be done at very short notice sometimes. I am not the best at time management but I am a quick learner. However, like many my position, it can sometimes be very difficult to say no. Everyone’s need is important to me, and I always try to attend to that if physically able, even if it means just a telephone call once in a while. This brings me to St Mary’s Vestry, who are always concerned that I am not taking the requisite time away from my work environment to re-charge. It’s true that in the past 2 years, I have totally failed to take anywhere near my allotted time off. This is due to a number of reasons. The obvious one of course is the Covid Pandemic which has affected everyone. There are other more personal reasons that have prevented me taking a proper break and those who know are aware of that. Sam and I will celebrate our Silver Wedding Anniversary next May and I am ever hopeful that we can have a holiday abroad to celebrate it. Everything of course, relies upon how the current travel restrictions pan out. I am planning to take a break early in the new year for a few days, which will hopefully include a visit to family in Glasgow and England.
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?
I sincerely hope and pray that all of you are able to celebrate Christmas in some way, be that with lots of friends and family or on your own. Just know that however you choose to do it, you do it with sincerity and genuine love of God.
So, from Sam and me, we wish all of you a peaceful and Holy Christmas and we hope that as we approach the manger, we are as amazed as those kings and Shepherds were on that night in Bethlehem.