Of Church and State – from flags to drains

Yesterday evening Rev Canon Laurence Gunner regaled an enthusiastic audience with a talk about St George’s Chapel Windsor Castle.  This was no dry historical account (though there was plenty of history), no this was more of a ‘behind the scenes documentary’.  You see, Laurence was the Canon Steward at St George’s for about 10 years, a post that meant that he was responsible for every thing from the flag flying on top of the castle, to the tarmac and the drains.  In such a role, any mistake that you make is very public and probably long-lasting and you risk upsetting some very important people (and others who only think that they are important).

Laurence’s talk was well illustrated with his own photographs and also with anecdotes and humorous asides and he generated quite a buzz in the room – each time he suggested that we might have had enough, we just begged for more.  After the Tales, there was as there always is at such events,  Tea and Treats.

Thanks Laurence and the Easter Ross Inter-Church Group (ERICG)and the people of St Ninian’s Invergordon.

The next ERICGmeeting is on Wednesday 14th Novemberat Logie Easter Church of Scotlandat7:30pm, when Drew Anderson of the Sailors’ Societywill be the speaker.

Our New Priest

This afternoon in St Anne’s Church in Strathpeffer, Revd Julia Boothby was presented to Bishop Mark to be licensed as Priest-in-Charge of Invergordon, Dingwall and Strathpeffer – Julia has now arrived to minister amongst us.

A large number of members of the congregations, Julia’s family, some people from her previous parish (North Mymms Park near Hatfield in Hertfordshire) and clergy and laity from around our Diocese packed into St Anne’s.

It was a lovely service and splendid fellowship (and food) was shared in the Strathpeffer Community Centre afterwards.

Welcome Julia (and David) it’s lovely to have you amongst us and to have another priest in the northern part of the Diocese.

Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed – Alleluia!!

Just three days ago, the situation seemed hopeless, all that signified normality was suddenly turned upside down. The one on whom we relied had been take away and the future seemed pretty bleak. And then suddenly against all expectation, what might have seemed impossible has happened. The seemingly hopeless situation has been redeemed in a way that defies comprehension, that casts the world and life and death in a new light.

Of course I might be speaking from the perspective of the disciples of Jesus; as they recall what happened from Judas’s kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane on a Thursday night a couple of millennia ago, until the women arrived at Jesus’ tomb early on Easter morning and found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Then one by one the followers of Jesus came face to face with the reality of the power of God and of the Glorious Resurrection of His Son.

On the other hand, I might be speaking of things that have happened in my life in these last days or maybe things that have happened in yours. What the rocky journey of the last wee while has underlined for me again and again, is if I am prepared to trust in God and stop thinking that I should or could control my life or resolve every difficulty on my own, then against all expectation, what might have seemed impossible can happen. Seemingly hopeless situations have been redeemed in ways that defies comprehension, that cast the world and life and death in a new light. Of course that is not to say that what has happened is what I might have asked for or imagined, but then as Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

A joyous and peaceful Easter to you all and may you trust in God to make the unimagined a reality in your lives.

Blessings
James

Dedication of the Crask Church: an invitation

You are invited to the service being held for the Dedication and Commissioning of the Ministry of The Crask Church at The Crask Inn, Lairg IV27 4AB.

The service will be on 21st April 2018 at Noon and will be followed by refreshment and fellowship.

If you wish to be part of the gathering could you reply directly to Douglas and Denise by the beginning of April, so they can plan the catering.

Phone: 01549 411241 or Email: thecraskinn@gmail.com

Judge Softly

On my way to and from Lairg early on Sunday morning, there were two items on the radio that particularly caught my attention and as the day went by I started to see connections between them.

The first was in the Sunday Service on Radio Scotland, when the preacher said “Jesus leaves His Father in Heaven to come to a world where He’s not welcome, where He’s not received. He experiences alienation and rejection. His earthly family misunderstand and reject Him. His enemies pursue Him. Jesus has no home, no pillow of His own to rest His head on. And in the end He’s dragged through a rigged trial, condemned to death even though He’s innocent and then crucified.

The second was in the review of the papers, when the news that Brendan Cox, husband of murdered MP Jo Cox, had stepped down from the two charities that were set up in her name as a result of a number of earlier allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women. In his statement, Mr Cox said: “I do acknowledge and understand that during my time at Save the Children I made mistakes and behaved in a way that caused some women hurt and offence, this was never malicious, but it was certainly inappropriate. In the past I have focused on disputing what I felt was untrue in the allegations, but I realise now that it’s more important to take full responsibility for what I have done.” He also said he was committed to holding himself to “much higher standards of personal conduct” in the future.

On the face of it they don’t appear to have much in common, so where is the connection? For me it’s in the two sections in bold type. As I listened to the first piece, I became increasingly uneasy, because I felt that that what was being said was a gross simplification, it was casting the whole thing in terms of goodies and baddies in much the way that the old Westerns did (except in this case the goodies didn’t wear white hats and the baddies black!) From the perspective of Pilate, he had a responsibility to keep peace in his corner of the Roman Empire and woe-betide him if riots had broken out on his watch. Caiaphas, for all his faults, was committed to preserving the Jewish way of life, not rubbing the occupying force up the wrong way and having Jewish freedoms curtailed. Yes both played fast and loose with the facts to preserve what they believed in and, broadly speaking, they were dealing with a dissident who was bent on upsetting the status quo. They were however far less brazen about it than the leader of a country three and a half thousand miles to our west today. The point is that there are different points of view and the ‘Kingdom of Pilate’ and the ‘Kingdom of Caiaphas’ are radically different than the ‘Kingdom of God’. I don’t believe either man to be wholly bad without any redeeming features; but they did understood the situation very differently to the message of Good News that Jesus was preaching.

Now to Mr Cox. In any interaction between two people, there are (at least) two understandings of what has happened. In the past, he has concentrated on the aspects of the testimony of his accusers that he believed to be wrong, in order to maintain his innocence. So what has changed? Mr Cox in reflecting perhaps on the legacy of his late wife, has switch his focus from his feelings to those of his accusers. He may well not understand why they are so upset and hurt by his past behaviour towards them, but he now accepts the plain fact that they are hurt and upset by what he did. He has now realised that his understanding is different to theirs and is prepared to acknowledge that publically. What he has done might: help to bring some healing to those that he has hurt, allow the charities set up in his late wife’s name to move forward without a shadow hanging over them and help him to become the better person he would like to be. What Mr Cox has done is what the Prayer Book means when it says “Remission of all your sins, true repentance, amendment of life”.

It is just so easy to see things from one point of view and as black and white. This Lent as we reflect on how we live our lives we might do worse that consider this short extract from a poem written in 1895 by Mary T. Lathrap called Judge Softly (often mistakenly attributed to to various indian tribes):

Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.
I believe you’d be surprised to see
That you’ve been blind and narrow minded, even unkind.

Blessings
James