Three months ago, the vestries of St James the Less Penicuik and St Mungo’s West Linton agreed to trial new times for their services, due to a change in the clergy resources available week by week. Change is always difficult but both congregations have, on the whole, been gracious during this trial period. Before the end of the month the two vestries will be meeting again to make a final decision on this matter. For this reason you will find vestry members here at St JtL saying: “Has anyone asked you…”, we hope you won’t feel pestered but we do want to make sure everyone has had the chance to be heard.
At vestry on Wednesday some known views were brought to the St JtL table, often including questions that need answering or with suggestions from the congregation. This post is designed to answer a few of those questions for those curious enough to read it and to provide a resource for vestry members.
· The three month experimental period finishes at the end of March, will services now return to 10.30am?
No. Unfortunately, there is no way we can hold our services at this time with only one member of clergy available across two churches most weeks. The joint vestries will be meeting again before the end of the month. It is likely that we will need a further 3 month experimental period but with the service times reversed.
(9.30am at St JtL and 11.30am at St M)
· Can’t we use our Lay Worship Leaders to have services from Reserved Sacrament at the time we choose?
No. The reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly, services from reserved sacrament are to be used in extremis. We are not allowed to plan to use this service on a regular basis, especially when it is possible for a member of clergy to celebrate communion with a congregation on the same day. Secondly, Lay Worship Leaders are not Eucharistic ministers. They have been trained and authorised to lead Services of the Word (such as Morning Prayer), or less formal acts of Worship. They offer a valuable ministry and greatly enrich our worship but are not inter-changeable with clergy.
· Then let’s have Morning Prayer twice a month and communion twice a month with St Mungo’s doing the same. We can then have the time we want.
Firstly, this would require the consent of both congregations, which I am not at all sure it would get. More importantly however, Canon 22 of the Scottish Episcopal Church section 6 states:
In every congregation the Holy Communion shall be celebrated, when in the opinion of the Bishop it is reasonably practicable, at least on every Lord’s Day, on the Great Festivals, and on Ash Wednesday, and appropriate provision shall be made for public
worship on Good Friday.
This means that there must be a service of Holy Communion as well as one of Morning Prayer on those Sundays when Morning Prayer is offered. Attendance at this service has been low to non-existent so far.
· We used to have services where St JtL started earlier with the priest arriving later in time to preach and celebrate communion, let’s do that.
This, far from perfect, solution allowed worship to be conducted at reasonable times during the interregnum, but is not a sustainable pattern of worship long term. Rushing from one church to the other has pastoral implications for the first church to meet, as the priest is not free to speak to the congregation after the service. The priest is also constantly hopping into a service already on the go, unable to prepare properly, not having gathered with this congregation. Whilst we are looking at ways to cut down the time between services, this would be a last resort.
· 11.30am cuts into the middle of the day, meaning that we can do nothing on a Sunday but come to church.
This is clearly inconvenient. One way round this would be for one congregation to look at meeting in the afternoon/evening. This way one congregation could come to church and then go out, whilst the other could go out, then come to church. An afternoon service might be 4pm in Winter and 6.30 or 7 in Summer to allow for the longer days.
Change is always difficult. Clearly we are all having to make compromises. We believe in God who loves us and gives us life. Our being cries out to worship in response. It is through this worship that we learn our identity in Christ and within the story of God’s relationship with humanity. Surely that we are free to meet in safety, within a beautiful building, blessed with musicians, singers, readers, florists, cleaners, intercessors and a priest is something to rejoice in and give thanks for. Please keep praying that we are able to find an acceptable solution.