Rector’s Letter for May 2021

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The liturgical season of Easter is a season of fifty days. These fifty days, from the wondrous events of the resurrection on Easter Day through to the day of Pentecost, are meant to be days of unremitting joy. Maintaining fifty days of joy is hard at any time but this year it has proven quite hard to keep that sense of joy coursing through my body, heart and soul. We are still experiencing the necessary restrictions ourselves and we read and see heart-breaking news stories about how the COVID virus is impacting in countries with minimal health infrastructure and where people live much closer together and in multi-generational families.
My real sense of joy was to be able to celebrate the Eucharist at St Mungo’s on Palm Sunday this year; the first Sunday this year we have been in church. I was quite choked with emotion as the congregation responded to ‘The Lord be with you’ with a strong and heartfelt ‘and also with you’ as we commenced the Liturgy of the Sacrament. Holding services on Zoom is a lot better than not having a service at all, but coming together as a community of faith to share in worship and to receive the sacrament is at the root of our experience as a community of faith.
The good news is that we are progressing with opening up both churches for more services. The Vestry of St James have agreed to reopen the church for Sunday Holy Communion services with effect from Sunday 16th May. Priority will be given to members of the congregation who do not have access to watch the service online. If you do not have email, please phone me if you wish to attend a service.
The Sunday services in church will continue to be accessible via Zoom, for those who are unable to attend church for whatever reason.
We are still not allowed to sing in church, so I hope the Sunday evening service, which normally has four hymns in it, accessible via Zoom, is at least one place where you can sing away to well-known hymns. I long for the day when we will be able to sing together in church.

Midweek Communion services

Midweek said Holy Communion services have recommenced at both St James and St Mungo’s. There is a service each Wednesday at 12.30 at St James, and on the first and third Thursdays each month at 12.30 at St Mungo’s. Prior registration is preferable, but not essential as we are unlikely to reach the capacity of 26 people in either church for a midweek lunchtime service.

The Labyrinth at St James

The labyrinth has been very popular with many people coming in to the church grounds and spending time walking it. The good signage and explanatory leaflets have helped people use the labyrinth. Over 60 leaflets were taken by people using the labyrinth which is an indication of its popularity. The Brownies and Rainbows used the labyrinth last week in the glorious early evening sunshine.

Social Connections – Tea and Cake on Zoom and by phone

Since mid-October on a Thursday afternoon at 3.30 pm a group of folk have been enjoying a social time together, online and by phoning in. This was introduced an afternoon chat during the days when daylight hours and the weather could make a day indoors drag. The last session will be this Thursday 29th April. We may start it up again in the autumn.

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.
Susie Compton and Ben Haynes have volunteered to take on the role of eco-congregation ‘lead’ for St Mungo’s, and they are working together to bring forward ideas and proposals for the Vestry to consider. They are looking 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

The small project team has been working to investigate the best option for replacing the ancient gas boiler at St James. Because of the work at Diocesan level to help churches make the right choices to achieve carbon neutral heating systems the pace of our work has slowed a bit, and we may nurse our gas boiler through one more winter before making a decision. Six other churches have contact me to express their interest in working with us to identify the best carbon-neutral solutions, and possibly achieve some cost savings by procuring new systems together.

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 apple trees were delivered and planted on 27th March, the plum tree (a variety called ‘Gordon Castle’) was planted after the service on Sunday 25th April.
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. We are currently reading and studying the Old Testament Book of Zechariah, and from 8th 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! After that we may study the first three chapters of the Book of the Revelation to John. This initial part of the book focusses on the messages to the seven churches in Asia Minor (modern day western Turkey). Ruth Aird, who lives in Penicuik, has written a book on these three chapters, so we may use that as a study aid.
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 have been led by me (1st & 3rd Mondays) and Joy (2nd and 4th Mondays) over the last year. We shall be changing the pattern with effect from 17th May. Joy and I will lead on a topic and then at its conclusion, the other one of us will lead on a topic. Most of these will run for between six and nine weeks.
With effect from 17th May I shall be leading a six-week module looking at The Creeds. After that module we will take a summer break and return in mid-August.
When we have a fifth Monday I lead 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!).
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, the latest edition was published in 2007. It is still seen as a ‘classic’. I have am willing to lend out my copy of this book if you wish to read 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.

Death. A Taboo Subject?

Way back in November 2019, a survey in Midlothian showed that many people wanted to be able to talk about death. Many people were concerned that they did not know anything about how to make a will, what a Power of Attorney was, how to talk to an undertaker and what the likely costs of a funeral would be, and many had not written out or considered what they would wish for their own funeral. There was also a concern expressed that understanding more about death and the process of dying was hard to obtain because very few people wanted to talk about it. I had started working with the Midlothian Health and Social Care Partnership to bring together a range of people to help answer some of these questions, with the intention of running a day workshop in May or June 2020. Well, of course, that didn’t happen. The COVID pandemic shut down the possibility of running an event.
I have been thinking about this issue ever since I started the planning. I have been thinking about running a six session course for our congregations and for anyone else you would like to invite, to look at death and start to be more comfortable talking about it. There seems to never be a ‘good time’ to talk about death. For instance, is it right to come together and talk about death after over 120,000 people in the UK have died in the last 15 months from COVID?
The Diocese of Oxford have prepared a six-session course called ‘Well Prepared’, covering (i) making a will and power of attorney document; (ii) exploring the story of our life; (iii) planning my funeral; (iv) the last days; (v) departing in peace; and (vi) what comes next?
As part of my training for ordination I wrote an essay whose title was, ‘“Dying is an art best learned in good health”. What is a good death, and does Christian doctrine help us to be fully human in life and death?’ Some of the work I did for that may also add in an extra session or two.
The course is not aimed at supporting anyone who is grieving. Of course, talking about death may lead to thoughts of those who we love and see no longer, and we shall all be sensitive to each other’s experiences of bereavement and loss. The course is primarily to help us have conversations about death and to plan for our own death. It was clearly a matter-of-fact thing that the Duke of Edinburgh had done, as all royals are required to do, to think through a funeral and what should happen at it.
So, some questions for you…
Would you like to join a group to do this course, during this year?
Would you be happy doing this on Zoom, with small breakout groups, and time for follow-up one to one pastoral conversations if desired?
Would you prefer to meet physically together in small groups, when we are allowed to do so?

I am interested in your thoughts and comments. Do email me or speak to me about this, so I can decide whether to organise a course for this year.

Mid-week Services on Zoom

Our services on a Wednesday evening at 7.30 pm 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

I have continued to ‘remotely’ connect with schools, providing some short videos that the schools can use. I have now done videos for Cornbank St James in Penicuik, West Linton Primary School and Newlands 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 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
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 services 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 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 will have envelopes for people to use and there will be an online justgiving page. Further details will follow in due course.

Refugee Sunday

20th June has been designated Refugee Sunday. At our services on that day we shall explore some of the issues presenting today in the UK and across the world.

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 2020 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 5.30 pm 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 13th May. Revd Nancy Norman who is covering at St Andrew’s during their vacancy and I are planning the service, focussing on St Mungo, St Columba and St Andrew.

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 had hoped to make inroads to Tom Holland’s book, ‘Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind’ in the week after Easter, but I didn’t get many pages read. I have managed to find time since to make a start, but I think it will take a few months to read this one – it is over 500 pages long and the type is quite small! I have just seen that Cynthia Bourgeault has published a new book on the Trinity, and so that is now winging its way to me from I do try and avoid Amazon due to their tax avoidance – other websites and shops sell books online, and I also buy straight from the publishers (such as SPCK). I may try and read it before we get to Trinity Sunday (30th May), to inform (or not) my sermon for that day. I read one of her books, ‘The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – a new Perspective on Christ and His Message’ about eight years ago and liked it.

The Rectory garden’s marvellous display of snowdrops has ended and the daffodils are almost finished too. In the glorious sunshine last Saturday I extended my soft fruit bed to plant some more blackcurrant bushes, thanks to Ian Fuge doing some clearing out of his soft fruit. I do need to construct a net cage over the soft-fruit bed otherwise the local pigeon and squirrel population will be the beneficiaries of all my hard work. Given how dry it has been, I was having to contemplate watering my six fruit trees but luckily the rain has arrived just in time. Jep, as usual, oversaw my gardening efforts, and seemed content with all the work I did. Now to start sowing seeds indoors.
This completes the round up for now. Do get in contact if you have any comments.

Nick Bowry

Zoom-based Services

We have settled into a regular pattern of services. Details of these are set out below. You can access them by computer, table or smart phone, as well as by phoning in from your house phone to the numbers given below.

Morning Prayer at 9 am, and Evening Prayer at 5.30 pm, Monday to Friday.
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 628 956 1588
Password: 040775
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St Mungo, Holy Communion at 10.30 am on Sunday.
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St James the Less, Holy Communion at 10.30 am on Sunday.
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Meeting ID: 920 0219 7798 Password: 040775
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Sunday Evening Services at 6.30 pm
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Wednesday Evening Services at 7.30 pm
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Wednesday Evening Compline at 9 pm
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Zoom-based Groups

Church life continues in a variety of forms online. Several groups and sessions have been set up. Details of the existing groups and sessions being run are given below.

‘Monday Evening Studies’

This is a series of studies and discussions, open to all who wish to join us, including anyone you wish to invite – they don’t have to be a member of St James the Less or St Mungo’s.
All of these sessions will use the following link.
Topic: Monday Evening Studies
Meeting ID: 976 7040 6222 Passcode: 202101
One tap mobile
+442039017895,,97670406222#,,,,,,0#,,202101# United Kingdom
+442080806591,,97670406222#,,,,,,0#,,202101# United Kingdom

With effect from 17th May we shall be changing the pattern of our sessions. Rather than Joy and myself leading sessions week about we shall move to alternating leading on a particular topic for consecutive weeks.

‘Our Christian Journey’ at 7.30 pm
We have one session left of the six-session course exploring the Beatitudes.

On Monday 17th May we shall commence a six-session course exploring the Creeds.
These sessions are suitable for people at any stage of their faith journey; from those enquiring to those with many years in the faith.

5th Monday Evenings at 7.30 pm
‘Faith Books’
When we have a fifth Monday there will be a discussion about a book of Nick’s choice, in a series called ‘Faith Books’. Nick has intentionally chosen authors whose style of writing is quite different from each other. Some books are classics, some a more modern authors.
The list for 2021 is:
Monday 31st May: ‘Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense’ by W.H. Vanstone
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.

If people wish to read these books but don’t wish to buy them, I am happy to lend them out. Get in contact with me if you wish to borrow a book.
These sessions are suitable for people at any stage of their faith journey; from those enquiring to those with many years in the faith.

Weekly Bible Study

Tuesdays at 2pm
This is a chance to discover and explore the Bible through reflection and discussion. Join us whenever you can. We are currently studying the Book of Zechariah, and are due to start studying 1 Corinthians in June. 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.
Meeting ID: 925 1096 2481
Password: 040775

St Mungo’s House Group

Thursdays at 7.30 pm
Contact Markie Woodifield for further information.
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Meeting ID: 853 9671 0553 Passcode: 493913

Monthly Book Group

The fourth Monday of each month at 2 pm
Contact Angela Sibley for further information.
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Meeting ID: 669 139 189
Passcode: 040775