Rector’s letter for June 2024

The Rectory
23 Broomhill Road
EH26 9EE
01968 678254
07950 607574

30th May 2024, the Feast of Corpus Christi

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Rector’s letter for June 2024

Personal Notes

Well, I survived thirteen days of walking on el camino del Norte through the beautiful and dramatic Basque countryside and on into the gentler undulating province of Cantabria. Before heading off I knew I had not really managed to get as fit as I should have done, especially considering the amount of ascent and descent to be walked in the first week, as well as the distances to be walked each day. It always seems to be on day four of a walk that my legs start to really ask if I am doing yet another day of walking. After that I think the leg muscles improve and a level of walking fitness is achieved.

It was lovely to be so physically tired at the end of each day that despite some of the noises you get in a larger hostel dorm, I fell asleep very easily and often achieved more than eight hours of sleep! It was good to meet and chat with other pilgrims (peregrinos) from many different countries, to share simple meals and disburse blister plasters to a few folk who did not come equipped with everything. Two young Ukrainian women were walking together, and their stories of life in Kyiv were sobering.

On day five, we walked a long inland stage of 25.8km through some beautiful countryside, which involved 1017m of ascent (and descent), to arrive in Guernica (spelt ‘Gernika’ in Basque). Guernica is probably best known to us through the painting by Pablo Picasso; his response to the bombing of the unsuspecting Basque town by the German Luftwaffe on 26th April 1937, in the Spanish Civil War. 85% of the houses were demolished by the bombing and more than 2000 inhabitants of the town were killed.

George Steer, a British War Correspondent was the first reporter to write about the attack and his report appeared in The Times on 28th April. It was his article that inspired Picasso to paint ‘Guernica’.

The photographic display of the town in ruins after the air raid was jarring after walking through such a beautiful pastoral landscape that seemed so peaceful. Combined with my conversation with the Ukrainians and also the news reports coming from the Gaza Strip about further raids and bombings and the killing of so many innocent people, it reminded me that the shock of that first intense air raid at Guernica was just the start of a more industrialised aerial warfare and killing of civilians.

As I sat and reflected on these things, the words of ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone’ came to mind, ‘when will they ever learn…’ and also John Bell and Graeme Maule’s song, ‘If the War Goes On’, with that haunting first verse, ‘If the war goes on/and the children die of hunger/and the old men weep/for the young men are no more/and the women learn/how to dance without a partner/who will keep the score?

My thoughts and reflections of that day and my prayers as I walked on over the next eight days were to resolve to: (i) continue to reach out in love and friendship to people of all nations – the camino is a good place to act this out and also to realise that no matter where we come from, or what language we speak, we have a common humanity and share much the same cares and needs, and we are all made in the image of God. [The community at Taizé was set up as a response to the Second World War, creating a community of hope and reconciliation, bringing together young people from across Europe.] (ii) despite how uncomfortable it is, to watch the news, listen to reports on the radio and read newspaper articles about current affairs and especially the conflicts in our world, to be informed to be able to offer an informed view and speak out for peace, justice and truth. (iii) to continue to pray for peace in the hearts of all and consider what public expressions for the ending of killing, unjust wars, and urgent calls for peace, may be appropriate. Maybe recommencing a public peace vigil each week or month, as we had started in March 2022 in response to the invasion of Ukraine, but this time for Ukraine and also the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and in particular Gaza? I was reminded of the saying ascribed to more than one theologian that, ‘to remain silent in the face of injustice and oppression is to take the side of the oppressor’.

The Channel Four documentary ‘Dispatches’ first shown on Monday 27th May, called ‘Kill Zone Inside Gaza’, was certainly not easy to watch, and it graphically portrayed what many British surgeons have reported when they have returned from Gaza. However, I believe that to look away is not a Christian response and that we do need to be informed and be ready to challenge injustice. I know some people find this aspect of our faith challenging and difficult, and maybe some are called to different aspects, but my calling is to engage in our faith in the lived experiences of people in our world.

A few of the young people (in their twenties and early thirties) I spoke to whilst walking who came from a Christian family background were happy to discuss why they did not go to church. Some said the modern world is much more individualistic and people shun organised religion but find their own ways of accessing what we call God and find their own ways to promote peace, love, and understanding in the world. Many saw Jesus as a great teacher and from whom they gained inspiration and guidance. Significantly, many mentioned that they felt church denominations were compromised and did not really offer anything that matched Jesus’ radical message; teaching and preaching was too comfortable and did not reflect or challenge people enough to live a life closer to what they felt Jesus asked of people. These young people had grown up in church, came from families who had a long history of religious observance, and could speak with knowledge of scripture – in fact it surprised me how many did know a lot and were able to express their views grounded in scripture very well. It left me with food for thought, whilst accepting it was an atypical sample of young people, but from a group who were being totally honest.

As you may have read in my ‘In Touch’ article, I am starting to gather information together to write a paper on ‘Assisted Dying’ for a series of theological conversations at St George’s House in Windsor Castle in July. This is a complex issue, and one that individuals feel very strongly about. There is a Private Members’ Bill in the Scottish Parliament (, and I have downloaded it and am starting to read it and explore the wider issues. I also have a film about the deeds of Jack Kevorkian, who about 20 years ago helped about 130 people end their lives in the USA. It is on the ‘reading list’ for the St George’s House conversations, so I thought it would be worth obtaining and watching.

I am proposing holding an open meeting where members of both congregations can meet and respectfully listen to the experiences and views of others, so as to better understand the many facets of this issue. The aim is to gain a deeper understanding of the issues and to reflect on our own perspectives. We will each come to this formed by our own life experiences, church traditions and our understandings of scripture. Listening to the views of others, and finding ways to respect other views, even if we don’t agree with them is an important aspect of being a Christian community. It may help individuals shape their own views and possibly contribute to the public consultations that may well be opened by the Scottish Parliament in the coming months. I think the first step is to show the film about Jack Kevorkian starring Al Pacino, which certainly brings into sharp relief the main ethical and theological issues. I will add some dates into the monthly listing to show this film a few times.

News and new things happening

Whipman and Lass – Ride-out Refreshments on Saturday 1st June

At 10 o’clock we shall have refreshments ready for anyone willing to watch the ride out go up Chapel Brae. Please do join us, and if you have any home baking you can bring along, that would be even better.

Whipman and Lass – Sunday 2nd June service

In a break from tradition, rather than holding a service on the afternoon at the end of the week of the West Linton Whipman and Lass, instead, on the opening weekend we shall be holding a joint service with St Andrew’s in the marquee. The service will start at 11:00.

Music Sunday at St James – Sunday 9th June

The service will be a celebration of music at St James. It will include a new composition by Alan Murray. We invite you to stay afterwards and enjoy a bring and share lunch, so please prepare some food to share with others. Hopefully it will be a dry and warm day, and the lunch can be in the church garden. We won’t be having a fellowship lunch on 2nd June.

Strawberry Tea – 2pm on Saturday 15th June

St James the Less is holding a fundraising Strawberry Tea, in Trinity Community Church’s Hall. Tickets are £5 and are to be bought in advance from Marion Mather. You are asked to take your seats by 2pm for the tea, followed by entertainment at 3pm. The programme will finish at 4pm.

St Mungo’s Congregational Forum –revised date of meeting to 31st August

After our two congregational conversations facilitated by Place for Hope, we agreed to hold three meetings a year where we can get together as a congregation to continue to listen to each other and share our faith journeys. The first of these sessions will now be held on Saturday 31st August, as the original date was not convenient for quite a few people. We will meet at 10.00 and finish with lunch at 1 pm. You do not need to have attended the two congregational conversations held already to join us.

Faith Development and Bible Study Groups – Autumn 2024 programme

These groups were well attended during lockdown and in the year following, but numbers attending have slowly dropped away since then. No doubt some of this is down to people being busy with other commitments they had before lockdown. We have completed numerous short courses and discussed some books in the Faith Development sessions. In the Bible Study we have used videos and commentaries to aid our understanding of Books of the Bible.

I feel it is important to offer both Faith Development and Bible Studies. I would be interested in knowing what material or styles of presentation and discussion would interest you. I mentioned the ‘Immerse’ Bible Study in my In Touch article, as one option. For those that don’t want to read, the Immerse Bible study has an audio Bible you can listen to. You can try out the audio version at

Would that be of interest? If not, what would encourage you to prioritise some time for these activities? And what time or days would suit you best?

In Other News…

The wet weather of this spring has left my robot lawnmower rather redundant. It delays cutting the grass until three hours after the last rain. There haven’t been many spells recently where three hours has passed by before the next shower arrives.

Whilst on holiday I was reading Stephen Verney’s book, ‘Water into Wine’, a commentary on John’s gospel. I will admit although not a long book, I didn’t finish it – I kept falling asleep. It had nothing to do with the interesting content, more to do with my level of fitness and tiredness. This book had been highly recommended to me. I will find time to read it over the summer, whilst on my travels to Germany (ferry and train) to an Iona Community meeting in Erfurt. Is there a book you have read recently you would wish to recommend? Why not write a review of it for In Touch?

‘I live under your sky too’ was the title of a moving exhibition in an art gallery in Santander that I visited on the last day of my holiday. It had small pictures, quotes and poems about people who were political prisoners, were the ‘disappeared’, or had been assassinated for their public opposition of authoritarian regimes. The art was minimalist but impactful. One of the simple pieces was a frame with LED lights on it that spelt out in Spanish, Arabic and English the title of the exhibition. In turn the sentence was illuminated in each language before all three languages were illuminated together. Such a simple piece of art but one that gave time for reflection about what lay behind those words. I wonder what piece of art has moved you recently?

Nick Bowry

Regular Activities

Ministry in Care and Nursing Homes

Cowan Court, Penicuik: We have been part of a rota with the other Penicuik churches, visiting Cowan Court on a Sunday afternoon for the last year. We visit Cowan Court about once every 5 or 6 weeks. Our next visit is on 23rd June.

Aaron House, Penicuik: We are part of a rota with the other Penicuik churches, visiting Aaron House on a Wednesday afternoon at 2pm. As with Cowan Court we will visit once every 5 or 6 weeks. Our next visit is on 3rd July.

Whim Hall, Lamancha: We visit Whim Hall Care Centre on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month. Our next visit is on 13th June.

If you are interested in supporting this rewarding ministry by being part of the visiting teams then please let me know. Normally three of us attend each time, so we can support and guide people through the service and have a chat afterwards with whoever attends. We use a simplified form of the Liturgy for Reserved Sacrament and sing a few well-known hymns. Your prayers are welcome for this increased activity in and for members of our local communities.

Faith Development for all

We hold our weekly Bible study at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon, online, for up to an hour and a half.
We come together with the common aim of exploring the texts, understanding their context, and just as importantly, exploring how it speaks to us and how it informs us today. We enjoy exploring our different understandings and learning from each other. Please do join us, we are always happy to include more people.

We alternate each week between a study of the previous Sunday’s sermon and lectionary readings and in the other week using Lectio Divina to explore scripture from the previous Sunday.

Monday Study Night

If you have a subject you would wish us to explore when we resume in mid-August after our break for the summer, please let me know.

Faith Development ‘Faith Books’

When we have a fifth Monday in the month, we hold a discussion at 7.30 pm 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!). In looking for new or used books, I have often used I am sure there are other search sites that will help people find the books on our reading list.

The books we shall be discussing are:

29th July: ‘Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World’, by Henri Nouwen (published by Crossroad Pub Co., ISBN978-0-8245-1986-5)

30th Sept: ‘Grounded: Finding God in the World, a Spiritual Revolution’, by Diana Butler Bass (published by Harper One, ISBN 978-0-06-232856-4)

Morning and Evening Prayer

We meet online Monday to Friday at 9.00 am and at 5.30 pm. It is a good way to start and end our day, coming together for worship, with daily readings including the psalms; a good rhythm for worship in the Anglican tradition of saying the Daily Offices. Please do consider joining us.

If you wish to access the Daily Office liturgy with the daily scripture readings, go to the Provincial Website, and place your cursor on the ‘Spirituality’ heading. A submenu appears and you can select the appropriate Daily Office from the right-hand side of the page.

I circulated the Daily Intercessions booklet we use by email on 26th February. If you would like a paper copy, please let me know.

Mid-week evening services on Zoom

On the first Wednesday of each month, at 7.30 pm, we hold a service of Prayers for healing online. If you wish someone or a situation to be prayed for, send an email to me or Marion Mather.

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.

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 9 am, 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.

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

In Touch is circulated to all on email and is issued in paper format to those who do not have email. The cost of a paper copy is £2 for an A4 version, and about £1.50 for an A5 version. We print a very limited number of paper copies to keep out costs down, and to reduce our consumption of paper. If you receive an email version but would also like a paper copy, please let Sue Owen know and we invite you to make a suitable donation (preferably by bank transfer rather than in cash) to cover the cost. The deadline for content to be submitted for the next issue is 4th August 2024. 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

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

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. If you wish to make a donation by cheque, please make out the cheque to ‘St James Episcopal Church Penicuik’.

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.

Ecumenical Relations and Community Involvement Work

The Penicuik Ministers continue to meet every month in the Storehouse for a chat. Once a month the Penicuik Churches Together (PCT) has a joint Sunday evening service. The schedule detailing where the services are each month is on the PCT website. I continue to meet with Revd Dr Tony Foley to discuss joint services and matters of mutual interest.

Diocesan and Provincial Activities

The Provincial Inter-Faith Relations Committee met on 30th April. I attended via Zoom on this occasion.

The Ministry Team

We continue to meet monthly to plan for the coming months; planning services and faith development activities as well as exploring other aspects of what is offered to the congregations and to our local communities.

Zoom Links for Services

We have a regular pattern of services. Details of these are set out below. You can access them using the Zoom links.

Morning Prayer at 9 am, and Evening Prayer at 5.30 pm, Monday to Friday. (Zoom only)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 628 956 1588 Password: 040775

St Mungo, Holy Communion at 10.30 am on Sunday.
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 934 1719 0423 Passcode: 062021

St James the Less, Holy Communion at 10.30 am on Sunday.
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 920 0219 7798 Passcode: 040775

1st Wednesday Evening Service at 7.30 pm (not July or August) (Zoom only)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 963 0384 1875 Password: 040775

Wednesday Evening Compline at 9 pm (all year) (Zoom only)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 953 4545 7224 Password: 040775

Zoom Links for Activities

‘Monday Evening Studies’ at 7.30 pm (Zoom only)
Meeting ID: 976 7040 6222 Passcode: 202101
Use this link for Monday Evening Studies and the ‘Faith Book’ discussions.

Weekly Bible Study: Tuesdays at 2pm (Zoom only)
Meeting ID: 925 1096 2481 Passcode: 040775