Greyfriars and St. Mary’s is a linked charge of the Scottish Episcopal Church in the diocese of Glasgow and Galloway. The church in Kirkcudbright dates back to Medieval times, and in Gatehouse of Fleet to 1840. We hope you will find in these pages welcome, inspiration and information.
Most Christmas cards save time and effort by carrying a greeting that wishes us a “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”. They follow so close to each other it makes practical sense, yet Epiphany is the Church season that comes directly after Christmas. Indeed it is the continuation of the bible narrative.
Two women were waiting for a bus outside a church. A Carol service was being advertised, so one woman moaned to the other "Even the church is cashing in on Christmas!" It is so easy to get lost in the sheer busy-ness of the festive season that we lose the true meaning of the miracle of God coming into the world. And the very means of His arrival is part of the wonder of the Christmas story. The baby we now know as Jesus was born to a very poor, probably illiterate teenage girl, who herself was born into the shepherding community which was at the edge of society within a group of people despised by their Roman Empire rulers; the persecuted Jews. From the beginning God chose to deliberately associate with the hardest-hit in society, the poor, the lonely, the fearful, the homeless, and the marginalised. We could add this year those not only suffering from the pandemic, but from the stringent restrictions in response to it.
Enter the Wise Men. This marks the beginning of Epiphany. Indeed in the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition more is often made of this than Christmas. The Wise Men, or Kings, brought precious and costly gifts, and had maybe travelled for years, led by a star. Another inexplicable miracle. They represented acknowledgment by the then known world that something very special had happened that first Christmas. Also it signified Jesus could bless not just His own community but the whole world. We do not know the number of them but the assumption is three because three gifts were presented; gold, frankincense and myrrh. Perhaps the fourth brought the equivalent of Quality Street and does not get a mention! The word Epiphany has come into our English language because of this great event of Christ coming into the world AND into our everyday experiences. It means literally a moment of sudden and great revelation or realisation. There is nothing to add to this as a New Year hope. We SO need this.
BUSINESS AS USUSAL. Despite new govt. restrictions from 26th December I will continue to be available for urgent pastoral visits, and of course our churches remain open for worship at the usual times.
Pastoral Letter 25, Epiphany+ 2, 17th January 2021
COLLECT: Almighty God, in Christ You make all things new; transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of Your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known Your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ Your Son our Lord. Amen
READINGS: 1 Samuel 3:1-10, Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-17, Revelation5:1-10, St. John 1: 43-51
WE PRAY FOR: The many who have died from or suffer from, covid19, remembering all medical staff & care workers, and those working for immunisation. We pray for our government, businesses, schools, farming and fishing communities. We pray for our diocese, and bishop Kevin, remembering our sister churches in Challoch, Stranraer, and Portpatrick. We pray for peace in the USA, and the victims of the Indonesian air crash.
THOUGHT for the WEEK: This week’s theme is the calling of the disciples. Our Lord did not promise them an easy vocation. When Ernest Shackleton was putting together a team to explore the Antarctic, he starkly warned potential crew that they could die if they followed him. Many more responded than he took on, believing as he did that moral character was worthier than technical ability. Many of you reading this will be feeling deep uncertainties, isolation, and maybe even fear. Glibly quoting bible verses does not actually help, but faith helps know we are not alone, and that God IS THERE even if we do not always see or feel Him. Shackleton encouraged his men in the most dire of circumstances by believing that “ Optimism is true moral courage”, and that “ difficulties are only things to be overcome”. One bible verse worth quoting is from today’s Psalm “ You trace my journeys and my resting-places and are acquainted with all my ways”. Stephen Hazlett
QUOTE of the WEEK: You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore---Christopher Columbus.
NEWS: Although our churches are temporarily closed for public worship, pastoral care continues as a matter of priority. Please advise me directly of any prayer requests, which may of course be confidential. I also say Morning Prayer IN our churches every Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Online worship details: www.scotland.anglican.orgSDH
Many Scottish Episcopal Church congregations are providing weekly online worship. The list is arranged diocese-by-diocese in alphabetical order, and provides the name of each church, a link to the broadcast platform, and the church’s website address. The collated information is not exhaustive and is subject to variation in what is a fluid situation.
The Primus, Bishop Mark Strange, offers the following message to Scottish Episcopal Church members following the announcement that new restrictions are being introduced to combat the spread of a new variation of Covid-19:
As many of you will know already, the Scottish Government’s regulations on the Covid-19 Pandemic have been altered [Saturday 19 December 2020]. The changes have a dramatic effect on what people can and cannot do over Christmas and in the weeks following.
The reason for these changes is the scientific advice given to the Government on the risks caused by a variation of the virus, the increased speed of infection seen and the numbers of people who were likely to meet together at Christmas.
People constantly attempt to make the Christian faith much more complicated than it actually is. The whole of Christian preaching and teaching can be summarised in one short word – LOVE. And the paradox is you can’t write about love, you can’t read about love, you can’t preach about love, you can only ever experience love. And that is the abiding fascination of the Christmas story because we first experience love in the love of family and of friends, the warmth the affection, the security of being held: there is love. Love that is of God, love that is real and experienced and is secure and in which we are understood, cherished, wanted.
Church services are again temporarily suspended due to the latest government restrictions. However pastoral care continues, and the Rector will say the office of Morning Prayer alone in each church at the normal time of worship services. Please send him any prayer requests. See also weekly Pastoral Letter.