Rector’s Letter for April 2021

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

I am writing this as we are about to embark on the Triduum, the three-day observance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, that moves us from despair to joy.  We have just experienced a lockdown Lent, and for many people the easing of restrictions will be a time of concern and cautious re-entry into the world.  Not a three-day transition to joy I am afraid.

The church community mirrors this in many respects.  Restrictions on holding services in church were lifted by the Scottish Government on 26th March.  After consultation with some of the members of the congregation of St Mungo’s, their Vestry decided to open for services in church with effect from Palm Sunday.  A consultation with members of the congregation of St James the Less informed their Vestry’s decision to hold off opening for now, and to keeping the situation under regular review.

In time, some people will feel more confident coming into church after they had had their second vaccine.  However, at present, some people find a service in church, where we are currently not allowed to sing, less fulfilling than participating in service online where one can sing with gusto in their own home.

I will review the situation in conjunction with the vestries each time we meet, and in the light of changes in the Scottish Government restrictions.  I will write and let you know should any changes to our services be made.  If you wish to let me know your views on service provision, please do get in contact with me.

Sunday Services – in church and online

For now, Sunday morning Holy Communion services will be held in St Mungo’s and accessible via Zoom online.  Hopefully, the sound problems some, but not all, people experienced on Palm Sunday will not recur.

Sunday evening services will continue to be held online only.  They have short readings and four hymns sung by choirs or congregations, so that we can join in singing alongside others.  We use a number of different liturgies.  Please do consider joining us.

Midweek Communion services

Starting with effect from Wednesday 14th April there will be a weekly 12.30 pm Said Holy Communion service in St James, for those who wish to receive communion.  If you wish to attend this, please email or phone me so I can create a register and ensure we do not exceed the restricted capacity of the church.

Starting with effect from Thursday 15th April there will be a twice-monthly Said Holy Communion service at St Mungo’s at 12.30 pm.  It will be held on the first and third Thursdays of each month.  If you wish to attend this, please email or phone me so I can create a register and ensure we do not exceed the restricted capacity of the church.

Lent Activities

Our Lent activities this year included a study of five psalms (88 , 121, 27, & 22), Bible study of the Epistle of James, structured carbon conversations and five sessions based on Sister Wendy Beckett’s book, ‘The Art of Lent’. If you would like to suggest ideas for next year’s Lent activities, do let me know. Nothing like planning ahead!

Good Friday

At noon we shall have a reflection, using contributions from the congregation.  At 1pm we shall hold a time of reflection and prayer, using images of the stations of the cross by Sieger Koder.  At 2pm we shall conclude the three hours with a service of Holy Communion.

The Labyrinth at St James

The labyrinth has been advertised as part of the Penicuik Churches Together Holy Week activities.  It has proven popular each day, even on a cold and wet Wednesday afternoon!  There is a leaflet to give some ideas how to use the labyrinth, in a weather-proof holder.  I invite you to come and walk the labyrinth yourself sometime, and please do mention it to others.

Social Connections – Tea and Cake on Zoom and by phone

Since mid-October on a Thursday afternoon at 3.30pm a group of folk have been enjoying a social time together, online and by phoning in.  I’m sorry we can’t provide you with the tea and cake, but you can always make yourself a cup of tea and get a slice of cake and draw up a chair for a chat.

To phone in, the phone number to call is 0208 080 6592, and then follow the instructions to enter the meeting ID 628 956 1588 followed by # and then when prompted enter the passcode 040775 followed by #.  The Zoom meeting ID and other details are given at the end of this letter.

We shall review this in the next few weeks to decide whether it should continue over the Spring and Summer months.

Eco-congregation Membership

Arising from our Creation-tide services, both Vestries agreed to signing up to become a member of the Eco-congregation movement in Scotland.  This enables us to connect with like-minded churches, access interesting resources and networks, and apply for awards for activities that enable the church and all its members to take steps towards a carbon-neutral future.

I am glad to report that Susie Compton and Ben Haynes have volunteered to take on the role of eco-congregation ‘lead’ for St Mungo’s . They will look into the award scheme, to assess what the church and congregation could engage in to achieve an award and help me enlist people to live a greener lifestyle, and make permanent changes for the better, including leading services during Creationtide and for other specific services. They are likely to also work with St James’ eco-congregation lead to help support and lead projects. Alan Murray has taken on this role for St James the Less.

St James’ Church Heating System Project

Our small project team is steadily working to investigate the best option for replacing the ancient gas boiler at St James.  We shall circulate options as part of our consultation with the congregation in due course.  There is no fixed date for that at the moment though.  I raised the issue of achieving carbon-neutral by 2030 at the Diocesan Synod in March.  The Diocesan Standing Committee is going to discuss this at their next meeting.  I have a funny feeling they will set up a Diocesan working group or committee to bring together knowledge and skills from across the diocese.  There are at least three other churches interested in working with us to identify the best carbon-neutral solution.

Sustainable West Linton and District

The Vestry of St Mungo’s agreed to purchase four apple trees and a plum tree to plant in the church grounds.  The trees were delivered and planted on 27th March – although the plum tree wasn’t delivered, so there is still one to be planted.

The Sustainable West Linton and District meets on the last Thursday of each month at 8 pm.  Details are on their Facebook page.

Faith Development

We hold our weekly Bible study at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon.  On 6th April we shall start our study of the Old Testament Book of Zechariah, and from June we plan to study Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and then the Book of Nehemiah.  That should see us into October 2021!

Why don’t you join us to explore the texts, understand their context, and just as importantly, explore how they speak to us and how they inform us today?

The ‘Monday Study Night’ sessions are normally split between two main themes. Our normal pattern is given below.

  • On the first and third Mondays I am leading a discussion group looking at The Beatitudes, over six sessions.  In May we shall then move on to looking at The Creeds.
  • On the second and fourth Mondays Joy Middleton leads a discussion on a booklet or course. The group is currently discussing the York Course, ‘Daring to See God Now’.  Contact Joy for further details.

When we have a fifth Monday I lead a discussion at 7.30pm about a book as a way of introducing people to different authors which may pique an interest to read more of their work (or not!).  The first 5th Monday in 2021 was in March, but as it was in Holy Week we did not review a book on that day.

The next 5th Monday is on 31st May 2021.  The book to be discussed is ‘Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense’ by W.H. Vanstone.  It was first published in 1977, and the latest edition was published in 2007.  It is still seen as a ‘classic’.  I have one spare copy of the book. Contact me if you want it.

The other books for 2021 are listed below. That should leave plenty of time to get the books or borrow them from someone or from the library.

  • Monday 30th August: ‘Love Wins’ by Rob Bell
  • Monday 29th November: ‘Cranky, Beautiful Faith’, by Nadia Bolz-Weber
  • Monday 30th January 2022: ‘The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions’ by Marcus Borg and NT Wright.
Mid-week Services on Zoom

Our services on a Wednesday evening at 7.30pm follow the regular pattern of services set out below. They are all on Zoom.

  • 1st Wed of the month:  Healing service (if you wish someone or a situation to be prayed for send an email to me or Marion Mather)
  • 2nd Wed of the month:  Christian Meditation (a time to settle, a short line of scripture, 15 minutes of silence, and a closing prayer).
  • 3rd Wed of the month:  Iona Abbey evening service liturgy
  • 4th Wed of the month:  Service in the style of Taizé

If you would be interested in helping with these services, please let me know.

At 9pm every Wednesday evening we hold the service of Compline.  Please do join us for this short service of calm and settling prayers before sleep.

Primary School Assemblies

As visitors are not allowed into schools at the moment, I have provided some short videos that the schools can use.  I have now done videos for Cornbank St James in Penicuik and West Linton Primary School.  Today I ‘attended’ online, the assembly at West Linton Primary School.

Continuing our Mission: Inviting Someone to ‘Come to Zoom Church’

As mentioned before, I would like to encourage you to invite a neighbour or someone from within our communities to join us for a service or one of our group sessions.  It could not be easier to invite someone you know locally to join us at a one of our Zoom-based services.  You can send them an email if you want, or pass them the Zoom meeting information.  If you invite them to attend an online Sunday service, then do please give them a copy of the liturgy.  Let me know their name, so we know to admit them to the service from the virtual waiting room.

In these times, when people may well be considering their life’s purpose and meaning, an invitation to attend a church service or to join a group may be well received.

Continuing our Mission: Leading Your Church Into Growth Prayer

Each weekday morning we pray for growth in our church.  If you are not able to join us online for Morning Prayer at 9am, can I encourage you to pray this once a day. The prayer is given below.

God of Mission, who alone brings growth to your Church,
send your Holy Spirit to give:
vision to our planning, wisdom to our actions, and power to our witness. Help our church to grow:
in numbers, in spiritual commitment to you, and in service to our local community,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Maintaining Contact – Email, Social media, YouTube, Zoom, In Touch.

If you have not received an email from me and you have an email address, please can you send an email to me, so I can add it to our contact records. In that way you will get more frequent communications and reduce our postage costs.


At present all of our Sunday services and Wednesday evening service are available on Zoom.  All of our faith development activities are held on Zoom.  It is easy to set up on computer, tablet or smart phone.  Even if you don’t have a smart phone, you can phone in and listen to a service.  Details of the Zoom- based services and activities are towards the end of this letter.  Zoom enables the active participation by members of the congregation, and it is great to be able to see each other’s faces.

Facebook and Website

Information is put on our Facebook pages and is a place to share information too.  The St James website now holds the sermon texts and audio recordings of the bible readings and the sermon from each of the recent Sunday services.

We now have our very own YouTube channel. If you search for ‘St James and St Mungo’ you will find a number of videos.  It includes the playlists for our St James and St Mungo’s services, so you can go back and listen to the hymns at a later date. Please do visit it and subscribe to it. With 100 subscriptions we get a formal channel name rather than an anonymous url link below.(

In Touch Magazine for St James the Less and St Mungo’s

The next issue is due out in May. I would like to encourage you to submit something for inclusion in the magazine; a poem, a review of a book or a film, an article on a subject of interest? If you wish to submit an article please send them to by 2nd May.

Christian Aid Week

This annual fundraising week starts on Monday 10th June and goes through to Sunday 16th June.  There will be no door to door envelope collections this year.  We may have envelopes for people to use and there will be an online justgiving page.  Further details will follow in due course.

Online Book of Remembrance – David Bachop

The Salvation Army has set up an on-line book of remembrance.  It has been suggested that this might be a very appropriate place to record individuals’ memories of David Bachop.  David was a generous supporter of the Salvation Army’s work.  The Salvation Army decided to create an online book since they wanted to offer their supporters a place to remember and celebrate those they have loved and lost and where they can share treasured memories. The book can be found here:

Financial giving to St James the Less or to St Mungo’s

Church finances are feeling the effects of the lockdown, as the amounts normally collected in the offertory plate are obviously not currently being collected.  If you are able, can I ask you to prayerfully consider setting up a recurring monthly payment to the church via on-line banking, to contribute financially on a regular basis.  Details of the bank accounts are given below for each of the churches.

St James the Less:

Monthly donation by bank transfer (include your name in the reference line when setting this up – only the Treasurer knows the name of the donor).

Bank details are: St James Episcopal Church Penicuik, acct no 17117264, sort code 80-22-60.

St Mungo:

Monthly donation by bank transfer (include your name in the reference line when setting this up – only the Treasurer knows the name of the donor).

Bank details are: St Mungo’s Vestry, acct no 00817851, sort code 80-09-39.

Praying the Daily Offices

In the Daily Offices prayer booklet circulated in July there are specific prayers for each day of the month. I recommend these to you, as an aid to your prayer life. If you can’t lay your hands on your prayer diary let me know and I will email out or post another one to you.

Regular Services

Morning and Evening Prayer and the Wednesday evening services continue to be led from my study.  Sharing the Daily Offices each weekday with others is a wonderful way of connecting, praying and praising together with a natural rhythm of the week.  Please do consider joining us at 9 am and/or 5.30pm for about half an hour.

Ecumenical Relations and Community Involvement Work

The Penicuik Ministers continue to meet on Zoom for coffee and chat and supportive prayers on a roughly monthly basis.

Another joint service between St Mungo’s and St Andrew’s West Linton is being planned for later in the Spring.  Revd Nancy Norman who is covering at St Andrew’s during their vacancy and I are meeting after Easter to start planning.

The EH26 Resilience Group continues to meet regularly on line.  It remains a good way to connect in with the needs of our community and support how those needs are met.  I am also still attending the Midlothian Health and Social Care Partnership  ‘Care for People Planning Group’  Zoom meetings. They have been a useful forum to know what is going on and how to access resources, and the longer-term strategic planning for the community around Penicuik.

In Other News…

I have continued to buy books at a faster rate than can read them.  One book that caught my eye and I bought was a book of poems responding to each psalm, by Malcolm Guite, called ‘David’s Crown: Sounding the Psalms’.  Next week (the week following Easter Sunday) I shall be taking the week off.  I hope to find time to start reading Tom Holland’s book, ‘Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind’.  A book exploring Christianity’s enduring impact.  Not exactly a page-turning novel, but many people have said how good it is.  Another book that caught my eye was ‘See no stranger: a memoir and manifesto of revolutionary love’ by Valarie Kaur.  I am not sure when I shall get round to reading it though.

The Rectory garden had a marvellous display of snowdrops, which are just finishing.  I am starting to set up my raised vegetable beds using the ‘no-dig method’ which is supposed to reduce the amount of weeding needed.  Time will tell… I have planted two more fruit trees, a second Egremont Russet apple tree (I love the rough crisp skins on the apples) and a second Scottish pear variety called Jargonelle.

This completes the round up for now. Do get in contact if you have any comments.


Nick Bowry