Letter from the Manse

                                                                                      Dunnottar Manse

                                                                                      April 2018

Dear friends

This is such a difficult letter to write. I knew it would have to be written at some point but not quite so soon.

In one way it seems only the day before yesterday when I preached as sole nominee for the deferred linkage in 2007. Yet it has been over ten years since I was first able to call Stonehaven home. That time however is almost over. I demit office on Monday 7th May 2018 and will cease to be Minister of the charge of Stonehaven Dunnottar linked with Stonehaven South at that point. 

You will however still see me around the town as I take some time to vacate the Manse and move to a new home which will probably be in Berwick upon Tweed. Meantime I may be helping at the occasional service but Presbytery will have appointed an Interim Moderator to look after you all until you call your new minister who will lead you on the next stage of your journey.

Please accept my genuine thanks for allowing me to be your Minister these past years and for welcoming me into your homes and into your lives. Thank you also for opening your hearts to Sandy and our continually expanding family. Our children and grandchildren have always enjoyed their visits to Stoney and joining in our worship services especially at Christmas and Easter. Such special times with such precious memories.

It has been a great honour to work with you and for you; to walk with you in the shadows and to sing and laugh with you in the light. We have shared so much. I hope that you have taken something positive from my preaching, teaching and serving amongst you over the years. I certainly have learned a great deal from being here with you. I have enjoyed being part of a community which maybe doesn’t always get things right [we are only human after all] but still tries to be caring, nurturing and supportive as we proclaim the love and mercy of God in Christ in our words, in our actions, in who we are.

There have been mistakes made but there have also been lessons learned. There have been grand plans that haven’t come to fruition – yet. But we have not given up striving to be the people God has called us to be.

Throughout my ministry, in its many forms, I have used several Biblical texts over and over again on Sundays, in care homes, for weddings and for funerals. One of the most familiar is from Paul’s first letter to the people of Corinth which was a vibrant, multi-cultural, multi-faith city.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. [1 Cor 13:13]

Whether we remain in a place or move away we all need faith, hope and most of all love.

We need faith that God knows what he is doing when he calls us to stay or to go.

We need hope that in God’s time all will be well.

And most of all we need love: the love of God; love for God; love for one another and love for ourselves. With love the mistakes of the past are forgiven. With love those who are with us in the present are cared for and cherished. With love we commit ourselves to building up the communities where God has planted us to be places of welcome and of affirmation where future generations can thrive and flourish. 

I may no longer be your Minister but as your good friend and eternal sister in Christ I pray for God’s blessing upon you and all whom you love this day and always.

Grace and peace




From heaven you came helpless babe

Entered our world your glory veiled

Not to be served but to serve

And give your live that we might live


                                      From CH4 374 v1 “The Servant King” by Graham Kendrick

One of the most challenging images I have ever seen on a Christmas card was one of a young baby lying in a manger with the blood red marks of thorns circled around his head.  A harsh reminder of why Jesus was born: to live among us but also to die for us.  At that festive season, we can be too focused on the miracle of the circumstances of this special birth to give much thought to the reality of what lay before that unique child. But Christmas and Easter are irrevocably linked.

It is perhaps our human nature, to turn away from reality: from the misery endured, the pain inflicted and the blood shed especially that of the innocent. We turn the pages of our newspapers. We change the channels of our TVs. We tear up unopened the charity appeal letters that come through our letter boxes.  Often we do this for sound reasons but at other  times we turn away in guilt or shame; in denial or in fear.  We can turn away in helplessness and hopelessness.  What can we possibly do to change things for the better?

Even now, in this season of Lent, as we continue our faith journey to Jerusalem, to Calvary and the Cross, there is a tendency for us to turn away from what we do not want to hear, to see, to think and to feel. We do not want to accept the brutal reality of the physical, emotional and spiritual sufferings of Jesus during that genuinely hellish time. We do not want to think that we are in anyway involved or in any way to blame. We do not want to ask or answer the question “Why did Jesus have to die?” The temptation is to rush quickly past the cross of sacrifice and get to the empty tomb of resurrection. We long to sing our “Alleluias” at the Harbour and to celebrate with family and friends that “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.”

To follow Jesus however is to take up and carry our cross. This is not an easy path.  It means that we should reflect honestly, deeply and even painfully on our own lives and determine, through God’s grace and power, that there can be positive change towards a newly re-energised and re-focused life.

But perhaps more importantly it means that we resolve, again through God’s grace and our service, to be part of life-affirming and life-changing results in the lives of other people. The cross of Christ is not about self-interest but about concern for others. It is not about what we want for ourselves but what we can do to bring about what others need: what they need to live and to grow and to experience life in all its fullness. The cross of Christ is not only the reality of suffering to its most brutal and painful depths but also the reality of profound and loving service and sacrifice.  Christ did what he did in love; in love for us, for all humanity, for all of creation.   We are called to do the same. We are called not to turn away but to turn towards, even the harshest of realities, because of our love for others.  

Thankfully the Good News of the Gospel is that the cross of Christ  is not the end of the story. The earthly life of the babe of Bethlehem began in a dirty and smelly animal shelter. His adult ministry as Jesus of Nazareth was challenging. His suffering and death as the sacrificial Lamb of God was brutal beyond our imagining. Yet the miracle of Easter, the empty tomb and his resurrection as the Risen Christ has shed and continues to shed an incredible light on past, present and future.   

Your hands though bloodied on the cross

Survive to hold and heal and warn

To carry all through death to life

And cradle children yet unborn.


From “We cannot measure how you heal” CH4 718 v1 by John L. Bell and Graham Maule

I pray that as we continue to journey through Lent; as we endure the pain and the passion of Holy Week and as we celebrate the joy of Easter that each one of us may come to know, to experience, to appreciate and give thanks for the true reality of Jesus Christ in our own lives but also in the lives of others.

Grace and peace to you and yours



New beginnings … new hopes… new life 

What is your passion? What is your weakness? What is it that you think you cannot live without?

-          chocolate, cheese, chips or cauliflower   

-          sport, soaps or Shakespeare 

-          holidays or home

-          faithful companions: canine, feline, equine or others

-          parents, siblings, spouses, children, grandchildren, dearest friends.

What or who really matters? How long is your list? 

In our personal lives, it often takes a crisis, such as an accident or a loss, to make us take stock of what is and is not important:  to determine what is necessary; what is vital; what is truly life giving and life affirming for us.

Within the Church such periods of reflection are built in to the Christian calendar i.e. Advent and especially Lent.  The forty days of Lent is a lengthy time for such deep inward reflection. A time to discern firstly what really matters  to us and then to refocus our time, our energy and our resources around that. Forty days: long enough to be challenging and purposeful but not too much beyond the capabilities of most people.  I hope and pray that many of us will use this God given time fruitfully: to break the ties to anything that harms us or distracts us from what is central to our faith and our calling as children of God.

Forty days, however, has not been sufficient for the period of deep reflection, of discussion and of prayer that we, within the charge of Stonehaven Dunnottar linked with Stonehaven South, are currently going through. So far together we have formulated our joint forward plans. We have consulted with the visiting team from Presbytery under the Local Church Review process. At this time, we are considering, with another Presbytery team plus our sisters and brothers of Fetteresso, firstly, our combined mission as part of the Church in the Stonehaven area and then, secondly, how we should resource our worship, work and witness with a particular focus on human resources i.e. people power.   

All these meetings, consultations and reports have taken many hours over many months and we have another key meeting with all three Stonehaven Sessions on Tuesday 21st March. It may seem to some that we have been talking and talking and talking without getting anywhere. Please, however, be assured that significant progress has been made.  We ask for your continued support and prayers

Our fundamental aim throughout is to discern what God is calling us to do and to be in this community. What, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is the vision that God presents before us?  What … who… matters most to God and therefore to us as his eyes, his hands, his feet, his voice here in this community of Stonehaven? What might be holding us back? How might we do things better?  

It will be wonderful to share openly with you all that the Sessions have been discussing and to hear your thoughts, your concerns and your hopes.  Several congregational meetings, therefore, will follow over the next month or so.  The “after Sunday service” meetings with the presentation of 2016 accounts will take place as usual but there will be extra gatherings to discuss and decide the way forward together as the Church of Scotland presence in Stonehaven. Please keep your eyes and ears open for dates and times.

Throughout all this it may be helpful to remember that the challenges of Lent, even the horrors of   Holy Week, are always followed by the glorious joy of Easter: a time of new beginning, of new hope, of new life. In the Easter story, we see that every encounter with the Risen Christ brings positive change and transformation. I pray that for us and for all the congregations and faith communities in Stonehaven, in Kincardine and Deeside Presbytery and beyond, that this Easter will be a time for looking forward with a renewed, re-engergised and refocused God-given mission. 

Grace and peace.





As this is my first pastoral letter for this year please accept my prayerful wishes for a happy and healthy 2017 for you and yours. 

I know that many of you will have good times to look forward to: special birthdays and anniversaries; fabulous holidays; maybe a wedding or an expected new addition to your family. I hope that all goes well.

Sadly however I am aware that too many others will expect 2017 to be filled with tough times:  failing health, increasing debt, insecure employment, rising tensions in relationships. I pray that you will find the necessary comfort and strength to endure and that we, your sisters and brothers in the church family, will be a help and support to you.

For all of us however there is always an element of the unknown as we look to the months that lie ahead. However much we might want to control every aspect of our lives most of us recognise that we cannot and therefore we should “expect the unexpected”.  This unexpected may take the form a surprise or a shock i.e. something to delight and bring us joy or something which threatens, challenges or frightens us.  Either can disrupt or disturb us.  Either can cause us to think again or to change course.

So, as a congregation looking ahead to 2017 and beyond, how do we prepare for the unexpected? We can prepare by not being too fixed and rigid in our thinking and planning but by being more open and flexible.  It does not mean that we do not make decisions, that we do not formulate plans, that we do not take action but it means that we also allow for possible changes, for surprises and even for shocks. We should allow God, through the living and loving Holy Spirit, to counsel, to challenge, to change our plans and ourselves in his time.  We should allow God to speak to us and to show us the way ahead through the Word, through prayer and through other people as we spend time together and as we care for one another in good times and in bad. If we do this then we will be ready for anything this year might bring.   

I do not know what lies ahead, the way I cannot see;
yet one stands near to be my guide; he’ll show the way to me.
I know who holds the future, and he’ll guide me with his hand.   CMP 269

Grace and peace.


SPOTLIGHT 2016 NOVEMBER: Letter from the Manse: ”Music and Memory”

I was informed by a member of the congregation, after a recent communion sermon, that she could not hear the word ‘memories’ without bursting mentally into song. She had in mind one of the most famous songs from the Lloyd-Webber musical “Cats”. Other listeners may hear instead the voice of Dean Martin as he sings “Memories are made of this”. An internet search has revealed other songs of a similar title that may be more meaningful to younger folk.  

Music, in its multitude of forms, is such a wonderful gift. It resonates with how we are thinking and feeling at the current time allowing us to express our present sorrow or joy, hopes or longings. It also transports us back to special times, special places, special people.   

In November, the month of remembrance, music is used to express our pain and grief for the losses in military conflicts past and present: from Elgar’s “Nimrod” Variation to the “Flowers of the Forest” by a lone piper and of course the “The Last Post” on the bugle.  Such music speaks more than words can say.

Music plays a key role in the life and worship of the Church and we are indebted to those who share their musical gifts for the blessing of all.  We are always interested in singing old worship favourites or learning new pieces so please keep your suggestions coming.

There is however something else I would urge you to consider. At the Guild Gathering in Dundee in September the key note speaker of the afternoon was Sally Magnusson of TV fame. Sally spoke very movingly of her late mother who suffered from dementia. She talked of the re-connections made in her mother’s own mind and in her relationships with her loved ones through music. Not just any music but music that was personal to her; music from her own life; music that brought back positive memories; music that she loved. Not only did this bring comfort, peace and joy to Sally’s mother and her family but it has also led to the foundation of the charity “Playlist for life” which aims to bring such personally- directed musical memories into the lives of the many residents in our care homes especially those suffering dementia. Our retiring collections from our October communion services supported this very worthwhile cause.    

Maybe now is the time to put together such a playlist for yourself or a loved one. The key is that the music should be personal. Any kind of music is suitable: hymns, orchestral pieces, dance tunes, lullabies, silly made-up songs sung in the car or in the bath tub. There are leaflets in the churches and in the halls to help you with this. Or please visit playlistforlife.org.uk. Or of course contact me if I can be of any help. May God bless you as you strive to be a blessing to others.

Grace and peace to you all.



It is that time of year again. We are, meteorologically at least, into Autumn, my favourite season, and from my window I can see the apples of the manse trees glowing rosy-red in the autumn sunshine. These fruits are gifts of both the earth and of human effort. Gifts for us all to enjoy and to share.

​Also, within my writing room, I see a vase of beautiful, gold, red and russet flowers. These too are a gift of nature but also a symbol of human support, encouragement and care. Both images are entirely suitable for this autumnal reflection as together, with love and thanksgiving, we celebrate “all good gifts around us”. 

Too often it seems that humanity, especially in the more ‘developed’ communities, have cut themselves free from the ties of nature. In centuries past, our lives were seemingly dictated to by the changing seasons with their expected blessings and challenges plus the unpredictability of “Mother Nature” to shock and surprise us. More recently we have moved to the other extreme and any sense of connectedness with the natural world and of dependence on anything or anyone beyond our human selves is in danger of being lost. 

This season Harvest Thanksgiving however reminds us of many things.

We are reminded that our world, and all that it is in it, is part of God’s creation: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.”

We are reminded that, as both people of the earth and as stewards of God, we all have specific responsibilities to connect with, to cultivate and to care for the world around us.

We are reminded that in the gifts of the harvest - gifts of field and of orchard, gifts of sea and of soil, gifts of market and of mine- we are all blessed, in various degrees of course, through the grace of God, through the wonder of nature and through the efforts of humankind.  

We are reminded that all these gifts are not only to be enjoyed by ourselves and by our friends and families but to be shared with others especially those in need.  

All this inter-connectedness will be echoed both in our Harvest Thanksgiving services at our three joint worship locations but also as we celebrate together, later this month, the Sacrament of Holy Communion in all three buildings. At each of these acts of worship we will take the bread and the wine, the fruit of the earth and the product of human labour, and ask for God’s blessing upon them so they may become for us the bread of life and the fruit of the true vine.  We will accept God’s gifts of blessing for ourselves, for those in our fellowship and family of faith and then go out to share with all whose lives we touch. 

May you and yours enjoy all the harvests of blessing this Harvest season and always.



As I write this letter, the very sensitive issue of what women can or cannot wear on the public beaches of France has hit the headlines. I pray that by the time you read this a reasoned and reasonable agreement, which respects both the rights of the individual and also the responsibilities of the State, will have been reached. As far as I understand it, one side of the debate is grounded in the desire to keep the State and all religion totally separate. This is not a position we in the United Kingdom currently hold - officially at least. Nevertheless, it should be acknowledged that religious belief is increasingly understood as a personal and private matter to be excluded from our national and corporate life. I believe that this change has not come about because of the number of our citizens following a diverse range of faiths but through the ever increasing number of those who profess no religious faith at all.   

This increasing division between church and state reflects a growing tendency, even among people of faith, to relegate and to confine God to certain defined areas of our  lives. Why is this? With advances in human knowledge and understanding of the world around us, from the tiniest atomic particles to the vastness of our universe and beyond; with developments in technology, in food production, in medicine and the like; our lives are no longer tied in the same way to the times, the seasons and the inconsistencies of the natural world. Few of us go to bed and then awake again with the setting and rising of the sun.  The majority maintain comfortable levels of warmth within our homes and work places regardless of the temperatures outside. Although the fortunes of some individuals and families are still closely tied to the annual yields of fields and orchards, greenhouses and polyurethane tunnels, no community, in this country at least, faces months of starvation if the harvest is poor. When earthquakes happen, when volcanoes erupt, when rivers flood and rains cease to fall we do not look to an angry deity venting its wrath. Indeed, we are understanding more and more how our own actions, life styles, use and abuse of resources, impact on weather systems and such.


For some people this has led to the conclusion that with our increased knowledge and capabilities humanity has outgrown the need of God; that God does not have a place in our collective political and economic thinking and decision making; that God is simply a personal comfort blanket for certain individuals going through dark and difficult times.    

I would however argue that our need for God is all the greater because of all our human advancements and developments. It is a cliché but still true that the more we know the more we realise how much more we have yet to learn.  We do not have all the answers either as individuals or as collective humanity. As our understanding and abilities expand we should also increasingly recognise our great responsibilities for ourselves, for others and for the universe we inhabit. This, I believe, is where we have the greatest need for God because this is where we most spectacularly fall short. We need God, through the example of Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit, to help us recognize our failings in how we care for one another and the world. We need God so we may acknowledge our mistakes, find peace within ourselves and reconciliation with others and then together to have the strength, courage, hope and faith to begin again as we endeavour to make this world a fairer, healthier and more peaceful place for today and for the generations yet to come.  

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided;
great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

I pray that each one of you will find all you need through the grace and mercy of God and that together we may strive to share God’s love throughout this community and beyond. Amen



DUNNOTTAR SPOTLIGHT: SEPTEMBER 2016                                          LETTER FROM THE MANSE

Whether you enjoyed a ‘stay at home’ or an ‘away’ summer what an incredibly turbulent time we have all experienced in recent months.

The EU referendum result in June was a happy surprise to some and a terrible shock to others. Just like a stone dropped into a pond the political reverberations have been profound and they continue still. We have a new UK Prime Minister with a very different ministerial cabinet and policy agenda.  Furthermore we are still waiting to see what will happen on the other side of the house in the Westminster parliament. And as far as Europe and the European Union are concerned there are so many decisions yet to be made. Political upheaval often leads to economic instability and this heightens concern and anxiety in everyone whether a chief executive of a big business or a family provider just trying to get through the week.

Consequently within our United Kingdom there is both hope and positivism but also uncertainty, anxiety even fear. There are so many unanswered questions: Where are we going? How are we going to get there? And most importantly who has the qualities, the drive, the vision, the heart to lead us?

We in our local Stonehaven Church of Scotland congregations are also facing an extensive period of fluidity and flexibility which is seen positively by some but also negatively by others. What is our future? Where will we worship?  What are our plans for our work and witness in the community and beyond? What do we need to make this happen?  Hopefully our continued discussions will provide some definite and detailed plans soon: plans we can all adopt as our own and follow through. 

However the one question we do not need to ask is: who is our leader? Our answer must always be Jesus Christ the head of the Church. Scripture, through his words, his actions, the example of his life, all reveal his purpose, his vision and his mission from God the Father.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Gospel of Luke 4:18-19 NRSV

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Gospel of John 3:17 NRSV

Jesus lived his earthly life in obedience to God the Father, trusting in his purposes, doing what he was sent to do for the benefit of others in spite of the challenges and the personal cost. We too are called to do likewise: following both the example and the commands of Jesus Christ in love and in trust. Whatever else is going on in our congregations, in our country and in the wider international community we know that we are forever held in the love of God Father, Son and Spirit and we need not be afraid.

                      Wherever he may guide me no want shall turn me back

my Shepherd is beside me and nothing can I lack

His wisdom ever waketh His sight is never dim

He knows the way he taketh and I will walk with him.

[In heavenly love abiding CH4 551 v2]

Grace and peace to you and yours, Rosslyn


From Sunday the 12th of June, it is my intention to take two weeks of ‘study leave’. This is not a holiday but the opportunity to take some time away from my regular pastoral, preaching and administrative duties to read, to reflect, to pray over and to write about some of the theological issues that have arisen during my time as a minister. Keeping up with debates, discussions and current thinking and practices is as essential in ministry as in other vocations.

My plan is to first spend a while thinking about funeral services and bereavement care. This line of thought obviously results from the high work load here in Stonehaven and elsewhere in Presbytery.  Who is to provide the necessary level of service and care? It is also a consequence of the rising number of people in the parish who have no live church connection.  How are we, at that most difficult of times, to offer care this is true to our Christian faith but also relevant to all the individuals and families we are called to serve in this diverse community?

I will also be taking some to consider that basic question of what it means to be the Church with a particular focus for us here in Stonehaven. Buildings and other sacred places can have their part to play in Church life but what matters most is our relationships. Our relationships with God, with one another within our faith community and with those beyond it.  As an aid to my reflection I intend to read ‘The Invisible Church’ by Steve Aisthorpe. One of the central themes of the book, I am told, is the focus on those who no longer belong to or have never ever ‘joined’ the Church as an institution but are still Christians with a living faith. At this time when quarrels and divisions within the Church make it less than attractive to those outside it and even less a faithful witness to the love of God in Christ I hope to find some insights as to how we as a linked charge may move forward.

I only have two weeks so please don’t expect all the answers by the time I return to my ‘normal’ duties.

Meantime I hope that we will all be preparing ourselves to discuss our way forward with the Presbytery Local Review team when they come to visit us on Sunday 26th June.  The team of three will worship with us in the morning at St Bridget’s. A time of fellowship over a soup and sandwich lunch will follow.  The visiting team will then lead two meetings in the afternoon: one with the congregation [which I will not attend] and finally one with me. Presbytery, of which we are a part, wishes to offer its support, its encouragement and its guidance to our worship, work and witness here. Our visitors will ask questions but we will be expected to provide the answers as to where we think we are going and how we are going to get there. This is an opportunity for all of us not to focus on what has been but to look forward with in faith, in hope and in love.        

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  [Ephesians 3:20-21]

Grace and peace to you this Summertime and always.



PS Please visit our church website to view the latest “The Plan for the Future”.


Paper copies of the plan are available upon request from your elder or the Minister.






On May 21st it will be my privilege once again to be in Edinburgh as a commissioner at the General Assembly. In the days that follow I will be given the opportunity to be an active participant in the discussions, the debates and the decision making processes of the Church of Scotland.  This is both my right and my responsibility as a serving parish minister.

It is the right and the responsibility of every minister, every elder, every member, of all who are connected however ‘lightly’ with the Church to look beyond ourselves, our immediate situation, our own wants and needs to those of others. These ‘others’ may be known members of our own families of blood and of faith. They may be fellow residents in our town. They may be the unknown multitudes in our cities, in our country and beyond our shores.   

With these thoughts in mind I share with you the news that in addition to being Minister of Stonehaven Dunnottar linked with South with an already heavy work load I am now also the Interim Moderator at Mearns Coastal [formerly Johnshaven and St Cyrus].  The current minister of that charge Rev Colin Dempster has been involved in a very serious road traffic incident but thankfully, according to my latest information, is now making a slow but steady recovery. Please let us hold him, his wife Pat, their family and the congregation of Mearns Coastal in our prayers.

Until the way forward for Mearns Coastal is more clear I am entrusted with the care of the people of that parish as well as those Stonehaven Dunnottar linked with South. Each parish, each congregation, each family and every individual person will be celebrating their own joys and facing their own challenges in the many months ahead. If asked I will endeavour to be with all those in time of trial and of celebration. It however needs to be said that with another Kirk Session to lead and another ‘flock’ to tend I will be severely ‘stretched’. I ask for your help and your understanding, for your patience and your prayers.

Meantime let us all continue to carefully and prayerfully consider our own future here in the Stonehaven area. At the time of writing the Dunnottar and South kirk Sessions have been formulating a joint plan of focus and action for the next couple of years.  During these coming weeks it is our intention that this plan will be shared with all who are involved in the life and work of our linked congregations. Together we can achieve so much more than we ever thought possible.

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, forever and ever. Amen.”  Ephesians 3:20-21

Grace and peace to you and yours      






“Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed. Hallelujah!“

Familiar words of greeting as we gather together to celebrate the good news that our Lord Jesus Christ who had been crucified on Good Friday was alive on that first Easter morning.  A miracle!  Yet not the first miracle in the Bible of someone being raised from the dead.  Jesus himself, a short while previously, had drawn the deceased brother of Martha and Mary out from his tomb with the words,

                                                     “Lazarus come forth!”  [John  11:43]

There is however a profound difference between the two miracles. In the first Lazarus was restored to life. In the second Jesus was transformed. The message of Easter is not about going back to what has been but about moving forward towards a wonderful and miraculous future.  Lazarus was certainly restored to his loving family but also to face again the reality of earthly life with its weaknesses and death. The Risen Jesus Christ was beyond all that. He had conquered death and opened up the way to eternal life.  Through him we are blessed with the sure and certain hope which sustains us in the troubles of this world.  

In times of challenge and change, when the world is shifting all around us, we have a very human tendency to look back to more familiar and more certain times. One of the problems with this is that we often look back through ‘rose coloured spectacles’.  We remember the ‘good old days’ when food seemed tastier, when the summer days were longer, when people were more considerate and there was genuine community. There are elements of truth in our memories but in our search for comfort and reassurance we often tend to forget the harsh realities of the past.

As a church we can be just as guilty of overly nostalgic thinking. We remember joyful times when Sunday School children filled buses on picnics, when there was standing room only at communion services, when praise bands led crowds in the rousing singing of well-loved hymns in our parks and on our beaches. We can easily forget that Sunday worship for many was simply an established tradition rather than an act of genuine faith. We try not to see the hypocrisy of those who showed off their Sunday best to the community but were very different behind closed doors. We avoid remembering the often cruel treatment of those who ‘broke the rules’ and the exclusion even persecution of those who were different. The Church has never been perfect.  

Looking back to the history of the church and of our own faith has its proper place. It can remind us of our roots: the lives and the experiences of the past on which we can build today. We should however not try to recreate the past.  There is no going back only moving forward.   Neither the Church nor the people in it will ever be perfect this side of heaven but even in our human frailty we are called to let the Holy Spirit work in us and through us as Almighty God brings all of creation into that glorious future revealed by our Lord, the Risen Christ

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
'Til in heaven we take our place,
'Til we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

“Love divine all loves excelling” by Charles Wesley.

May the blessings of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon you and all whom you love this Easter and always.  Amen





“How are we waiting?”

Wait - before any criticizes me on my grammar please be reassured that I mean ‘how’ and not ‘why’.

In the Church we already know why we are waiting. We are waiting to celebrate the birth of Jesus: the Messiah, the Christ, the Word made flesh, the light of the world. We are waiting to rejoice that God came to be with us in and through the person of Jesus Christ.

We are however also waiting for that glorious time when Christ shall come again: that time at the end of all time when God’s mission to the world in Christ will be complete.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death,

nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have

passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new”.

[Revelation 21:4-5]


Knowing why we wait and what we are waiting for should be reflected in how we, as people of God, are waiting, personally and collectively, during this season of Advent.

Yes it is fitting that Advent is a time of serious preparation, of putting things straight, of getting ourselves ready to welcome again our Lord of light and King of love into our homes and into our hearts. It should not however be a time of gloom and doom.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who

believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not

send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world

might be saved through him. [John 3:16-17]  


Knowing how much we are loved by God and knowing the lengths God was prepared to go to put all things right between himself and his creation by God in Christ taking on our humanity, by living among us and by dying and rising again for us. Knowing all this we can wait for Christ’s coming again not only in hope but with great excitement. When we wake on that eternal morning there will be no dashed hopes or disappointed dreams. There will only be love, joy and peace. That is truly worth waiting for.         

Grace and peace to you and yours throughout this Advent and into the coming Christmastide.







LETTER FROM THE MANSE: “HEROES AND HEROINES” in Dunnottar Spotlight November 2015

In November we enter into that special time of national and international Remembrance of those who gave so much … and others who bravely and painfully continue to do so … for their fellow human beings. However our focus this month is not only on those who pay this cruel and costly price in human military conflicts. In the Church calendar November heralds “All Saints and All Souls” as we take time to remember all those who have made a profound impact on our lives … including our lives of faith … at both a communal and a personal level.


As this month opens we especially remember and give thanks for those famous figures who through their lives and often also through their deaths have changed the course of the history of the church and its people:

  • for that vast array of biblical heroes and heroines … the named and unnamed …who in the face of great danger and persecution have proclaimed God’s message of justice, mercy, reconciliation and love;

  • for those ancient saints including Columba, Mungo, Ninian, Margaret, Ternan and Bridget who had such an impact on communities and nations such as our own;

  • for those of more recent times who call us all to account …but especially those in positions of power, authority and influence … in how we care for the disadvantaged and the despairing;

  • for those theologians and academics whose tracts and scholarly works have shaped the minds and inspired the ideas of generations;

  • for those whose prose and poetry and those whose music and art, have brought comfort and peace to our souls; have lifted our hearts in joy and have let our spirits soar in wonder and praise.


We already have so many lives to recall and to celebrate but this is also a time to remember ALL the dearly departed: not just the big names but also the vast multitude whose impact in their earthly lives has perhaps been far less widespread but still worthy of remembering. This is a time to give thanks to God for all the seemingly ordinary yet still wonderfully extra-ordinary people who have been part of our lives but have now passed on. These folk may be deeply loved family and friends or fleeting acquaintances. They may be parents or grandparents, siblings or spouses, playmates or pastors, work colleagues or life-long companions. But what they have in common is that they have all made a difference. They have made a difference to who we are; how we see the world around us; how we treat the people in it; and how we continue to live out our earthly lives. 

May they all rest in peace.




                                            Oh the life of the world is a joy and a treasure,

                       unfolding in beauty the green growing tree,

                       the changing of seasons in mountain and valley,

                       the stars and the bright restless sea.


In recent times the period from the beginning of September and into October has, within the wider church, been designated “Creation-time”:

  • a time to reflect on God as Creator and ourselves and all of humanity as part of God’s good creation;

  • a time to consider our responsibilities towards all who share this earth with us now and the generations yet unborn;

  • a time to give heartfelt thanks for our many blessings.


Giving thanks to God, our Maker, can take many forms.

Most obviously in our prayers and our praise we acknowledge that God is the source of all goodness and that the blessings we enjoy are through God’s loving grace and generosity.  

We also offer our thanks through the sharing of our blessings with others. Our various gifts for the Harvest Table at our services in Dunnottar, St Bridget’s and the South are each year distributed to those in local care homes, the homeless in Aberdeen  and those struggling with poverty overseas.

Our thanksgiving continues throughout October and into November:

  • the Blythewood Shoebox Appeal for 2015 is launched on 11th October;

  • the retiring collections at our three Communion services on 25th October will be sent to Suresh and the team at India Village Ministries;

  • our Giving Tree toy collection for needy children in Aberdeen city and the shire will begin on 22nd November.

At the time of writing it is not obvious how we can best offer practical help to all those caught up in the current refugee crisis but with our continued prayers I am sure that it will be made clear how we can and should respond to that great need with  the gifts of care, compassion and hospitality. 

Yet another way we convey our thanks for the precious gift of our world is the commitment to take care not only of all living beings who share this earth but also the very planet itself :

  • conserving energy in our homes and in our church buildings;

  • reducing waste by reusing and recycling whenever possible;

  • shopping local thereby supporting local producers and reducing transportation costs;

  • reflecting on how the way we are living now adversely affects the climate now and in the years to come.

As a congregation we are already committed to this. To find out what others are doing coming along to the Eco-network evening the South Church is hosting in the evening of Wednesday 7th October.  

However we give thanks to God for this world and all its good gifts let us do so with open, loving and grateful hearts.

                                           So give thanks for the life and give love to the Maker

                                           and rejoice in the gift of the bright Risen Son

                                           and walk in the peace and the power of the Spirit

                                           till the days of our living are done.            

                                                                                               CH4 141 Kathryn Galloway


Grace and peace to you and yours





During our July services we reflected on what it means to be the Church: the body of Christ here on earth but also, through the miraculous mystery of faith and of love, united with those in heaven.    

We learned that, following the teaching and the example of Jesus Christ himself, the Church is called to be:

  • concerned, caring and compassionate for all people in our community and beyond;

  • bold and bright in the power of God’s might as Creator and merciful as Saviour;

  • always thankful for God’s gifts today and ever hopeful for the divine promises yet to come to full and final fruition;

  • a sharing community: giving of our resources, our time, of ourselves for the good of others not ourselves. 

Our calling is not dependent on the time or the season nor the state of the nation or individual lives. Our calling is constant: day and night; summer and winter; holiday-time or not.  It is the calling of all who love and care for others. It cannot be scheduled, timetabled, allotted within set parameters. Loving care responds whenever and wherever needs arise.

It seems fitting therefore as some of us come back from holidays relaxed, refreshed and re-energised ready to resume our work in the many organisations within the church and the community; it is fitting that we think of,  that we thank and that we offer our prayers for all those for whom these past months have not been time off, time out, or time away but time spent continuing to care for the sick and the dying, the disadvantaged and the desperate, the bereaved and the broken.  

First of all let us think of, thank and pray for all the paid staff in residential care homes; in clinics, surgeries, hospitals and hospices and in counselling centres and the offices of funeral directors.

Secondly let us do likewise for all those volunteers who freely give of their skills, their time and their energy to run charity shops and drop-in cafes, to feed the elderly and housebound, to befriend the lonely, to visit homes and hospitals bringing comfort, companionship and cheer.

Finally let us lift up for God’s blessing those unpaid, often unappreciated, even forgotten, folk in our community who look after friends, family and loved ones within their own homes often at great personal physical and emotional cost. This faithful service is truly full time: each and every day of the week, each and every week of the year; year after year.  Support is scarce. Respite is rare. Holidays almost unheard of.  

There are many Sundays when our prayers for others end with the petition that through the power and the guidance of the Holy Spirit we can all be part of God’s answer for the world. With this in mind I would ask that each person reading this letter would consider some way however small in which they might be included in that answer. The focus of my request is on the third group of care-givers. If you are able make it possible for a 24:7 carer to have an occasional afternoon off, an evening out or even just a couple of hours to do something or nothing for themselves please do so.

Grace and peace to you and yours.






So what did you do?

In the previous edition of Southscene a deeply reflective and thought provoking article was accompanied by a stamped envelope for all readers to use as desired.

So what did you do with it? 

I hope that some of you used that opportunity to begin to build a bridge over the waters of a stormy relationships or to reach out to another in need or simply to lift up someone and make their day. Or maybe you used it for some other random purpose: ‘no point in wasting a stamp’? Maybe it is still lying in a drawer unused? Or was it thrown straight into the recycling bin without any thought?

Whatever your particular response I want to say that I believe that this was a very good idea but the reality is that although it may take only one person, or a very small group, to come up with a good idea  it then takes a larger team to make an idea actually happen. Furthermore it takes even more folk to make it truly effective and a real success.

However many visionary ideas any leadership come up with; however well thought out the strategy; however thorough the preparation; good plans need to be accepted, implemented and followed through by others. Any community project if it is to succeed needs to be accepted, approved and actualised by the majority if not all, of the community. This is true within the Church. If good things are to happen; if a good idea is to take root and bear fruit then everyone must be involved to carry it forward successfully.


With this in mind I would like to share with you the positive message that during these past months the trustees the elders and former board members have been considering how we might make best use the proceeds of the sale of the South manse as we continue to love and serve God and to love and serve this community.

One of the limitations of this sizable financial asset is that it may only be used for fabric expenditure i.e. for use on our buildings and their material contents. Nevertheless plenty of good ideas have come up and it is our intention over these summer months to draw up some plans and costings, under the broad umbrella term of ‘the project’, for presentation to the wider congregation for question and comment. The underlying theme of our plans is not only to make our church more physically accessible and spiritually welcoming for worship services but also to open up its use for wider community service throughout the week. 

But however many plans the Session make, ‘the project’ will not effectively come to anything without the wider congregation playing their full part: not only in a supportive role from the side-lines cheering on the faithful few but by being themselves actively committed to and involved in the whole process from planning through preparation to implementation and into a period of continuous review and improvement. 

I pray that all church members will want to be involved in some way to make it possible for ‘the project’ to become a living, growing, fruitful reality.  I pray that everyone will be part of this scheme and all our future efforts to  ensure that our church is truly a community  of welcome and of worship at all times ; a community of comfort and of care in hard times and a community of fellowship, friendship and family in times of joy and celebration.   


But before we do so there is something that we as a congregation must first address. The reality of our current situation is that due to the sale of the South manse there is a very healthy sum for fabric projects but overall we as a congregation are in a potentially precarious financial state. So much of our general expenditure arises whatever the size of our weekly congregation e.g. heating a church for 10 costs the same as heating a church for 100. Similarly with the likes of lighting, insurance, organ, publicity, cleaning and ministerial costs. Sadly there is an increasing differential in the offerings gathered in and the costs that need to be met. The current level of our funds and the recent pattern of giving by the members means that we are running in the red i.e. spending more month by month than we are taking in. You will appreciate that we cannot continue in this way for long and must take steps now to put our financial house in order before embarking on any new project.  

I know these are difficult times for us all but if you are able to catch up with any payments you may have missed or even to increase your giving please consider doing so. Increased giving can begin at any time. We do not need to wait for Giving Day. Increased giving can take any form including cash and cheques but what is also useful is a commitment to regular monthly or quarterly payments through a bank or our Free Will Offering envelopes.  These would help us to prepare a proper budget for the year ahead. If we know what is coming in and when it is coming in we can make better plans. 

Please contact myself by phone, by letter or in person if you wish to alter your payments. Personal financial information will of course remain strictly confidential.

A reminder too that if you have not recently signed a new gift aid form [i.e. from October 2014] please do so and return it to me.

Finally, feel free to come up with any new ideas for fund raising. They would be most welcome. Our successful sales and coffee mornings will continue but maybe you can come up with something different in addition? If you do come up with an idea let us know and together we can make it happen.

Together we in the South Church have been given a great opportunity to do something substantial in this community in Christ’s name, in Christ’s power and for Christ’s glory.  I pray that in response we will all do what we can in his service.

Grace and peace to you and yours this summer and always.


Printer Printable Version