Rector’s letter for March 2023

1st March 2023

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

St David’s Day! No sign of daffodils in bloom here yet…

Diocesan Synod
This time of year is when each diocese holds its Synod meeting to discuss diocesan business and consider various governance issues which will be deliberated at the General Synod in June. The Diocese of Edinburgh synod meeting was held last Saturday (25th February) in Edinburgh. The Lay Representative of each charge and most ordained clergy can vote. Apart from the usual business of receiving and accepting formal reports of the accounts and the work of various committees, it is a time to discuss a range of matters of current interest and allow members to express their views.

This synod included a presentation on the draft Provincial Net Zero Action plan (2023-2030), by Robert Woodford, on behalf of the Provincial Environment Group. If you wish to read the draft, you can access it from

The document is 60 pages long but isn’t hard to read. Even reading the first 20 pages will give you a good insight. I commend it to you.

A 90 minute webinar about the draft plan will be held on 9th March at 11:30, the link to it is on the same webpage given above. You can also watch it on YouTube at a time convenient to you. Again, the link is on the same webpage.

At Synod, the convenor of the Diocesan Mission and Ministry Committee (DMMC) presented a short piece about the Five Marks of Mission: They are:

  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To transform unjust structures of society, challenging violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

The DMMC has decided that to help make the Five Marks of Mission more memorable, they will be summarised as:
Tell the gospel.
Teach the faith.
Tend the people.
Transform our society.
Treasure God’s creation.

I am all in favour of simplifying things, and the five T’s will be easier to remember than the previous Diocesan SEEDS acronym.

The Bishop’s charge to synod was about optimism and hope. The words that I wrote down were, ‘The hope that is ours in Christ… optimism goes up and down, but hope is constant… we are not perfect but through God’s grace we are a work in progress..’

The Bishop’s Lent Appeal is for financial support for a water filtration plant at the St Nicholas Seminary in Cape Coast, Ghana. Cape Coast is a partner diocese to Edinburgh. I hope that both congregations will wish to support this, in all likelihood including collections at the fellowship brunches/lunches in late March and early April. Individuals can donate directly via and this will ensure any gift aid can be added to your donation, giving a valuable 25% increase in its value.

There was a successful pancake party at St Mungo’s on Shrove Tuesday. On Wednesday, we started our forty days of Lent, and at the services at St James the Less and at St Mungo’s twenty-four people received the Imposition of Ashes. As we enter Lent, we don’t sing the Gloria or sing any hymns with Alleluia in them. It makes the words and songs of praise and celebration at Easter all the more joyous to have ‘fasted’ from them. Flowers no longer adorn our altars. As Lent goes in and we reach Passion Sunday, things strip back some more until on Maundy Thursday at the end of the service the church is stripped bare. Lent is a penitential season of reflection and of preparing to journey to the Cross with Jesus.

Monday 2pm Study in Lent: ‘Faith is a Verb’.
This diocesan course provides a range of resources to help us explore what it means to be, and grow as, people of faith. It hinges on the understanding that faith in Christ “is not primarily a matter of doctrinal or intellectual belief, but a way of life, a following, an allegiance” (attributed to Antarctica explorer Edward Wilson).
We have held the first session, but you can still join us for any or all of the remaining ones. Each week we will concentrate on a verb (Belonging, Learning, Listening, Giving, Hoping) and reflect on Scripture and art, on how these verbs are important in our faith journey. Each week will also provide a challenge, or reflection point for the rest of the week. This is a five-week course. There is an optional sixth session called ‘Dying’, which will be part of our Holy Week activities, as part of the Three Hours on Good Friday. If you wish to join us, let me know.

Date Subject Location
27th Feb Belonging Joy Middleton’s house
6th March Learning Chris Shaw’s house
13th March Listening Joy Middleton’s house
20th March Giving St James’ Church hall
27th March Hope Chris Shaw’s house
27th March Hope Evening repeat at 7.30 pm
7th April Death St James’ Church hall

World Day of Prayer 2023 – Friday 3rd March
The first Friday in March each year is designated as the Ecumenical World Day of Prayer. This year there will be a service at St Andrew’s in West Linton at 2.30 pm and in Penicuik North Kirk at 7.30 pm. I hope members of our congregations will wish to attend these services.

Mothers’ Union Diocesan President and Lady Day Service
It is wonderful that Catherine Pow has agreed to take on the role of Diocesan President of the Mothers’ Union. We pray she finds the role rewarding and can help the Mothers’ Union continue to have a positive impact in our diocese.
The Lady Service will be held on Monday 27th March at 2pm, at St James the Less. Bishop John will celebrate Holy Communion, I will be preaching and the Mothers’ Union Chaplain, Revd Jane Green will also be attending. Please do join us at this service, and for refreshments afterwards.

Our Priestly Team: Peter and Neville
Peter has achieved a remarkably speedy recovery from his hip replacement operation and is back in ‘harness’ once more.
Neville hopes to commence a course of chemotherapy in the coming days. Tilly, Neville’s wife, remains in hospital after experiencing increased discomfort and pain. Please continue to hold Neville and Tilly in your prayers.

Music Lovers: The Old Grey Thistle Test on 22nd April at 7 pm
Alan Murray led us in our inaugural session on Saturday 18th February. Alan about the history of folk music, its link to classical and church music, and where it’s got to now. There were lots of examples to listen to as he played some of his favourite folk songs.
I foolishly volunteered to lead an evening, on Saturday 22nd April. It has the working title ‘Inheritance Tracks’, and it will be a trip down memory lane to the music my parents listened to and that had an influence on my musical tastes. Be prepared for some Ella Fitzgerald, Glen Miller, Count Basie, Ink spots, etc.
If you fancy sharing your passion for Gregorian chant, Wagnerian Opera, Peruvian pan pipes, Lieder song cycles, flamenco, blues, or whatever, please let me know and we can find a suitable date to explore your musical interests.

A Piskie and a Presbyterian Go On Pilgrimage. Saturday 18th March at 7 pm
You are invited to a talk by Nick and Revd John Urquhart (Penicuik Trinity Community Church) about their experiences as pilgrims walking el Camino de Santiago. John walked his first camino in May 2022 as part of a group of twelve walking el Camino Ingles. Nick walked his first camino in 2007 and led the May 2022 pilgrimage, his sixth one. So, expect to hear different perceptions, experiences, and reflections. Some of the other peregrinos from our 2022 Camino will be joining us, I hope.
It goes without saying that there will be some pictures to illustrate the talk, and a chance to look at maps, guide books, and the contents of a rucksack to sustain a pilgrim.
There will be suitable refreshments with a Spanish influence. There will be no charge for tickets. This will be a fundraiser for Food Fact Friends, so please be generous with your donations. Tickets to help catering numbers are available from Marion Mather or by emailing Nick.

Contemplative Prayer at St Mungo’s: Wednesday Lunchtime
The Contemplative Prayer sessions held at St Mungo’s are on Wednesday lunchtimes at 12.30 pm. Many thanks to Ben Haynes for organising and leading these sessions. They are a time to be still and come into the presence of God, using some different styles, such as centring prayer, Christian meditation following the World Community of Christian Meditation model of John Main, and Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. It would be lovely to see you, so you can experience the richness of this form of Christian prayer too.

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 26th March.
Aaron House, Penicuik: We are part of a new 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 29th March.
Whim Hall, Lamancha: We started visiting Whim Hall in September and our pattern of visits is on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month. Our next visit is on 9th March.

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 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.