Rectors Letter for November

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I write this at 3.30 on a late October afternoon. The clocks have changed and the sun is already lowering in the south-western sky. The stonework on St James glows a yellow-golden colour with the shadows of the bare branches of trees are picked out on the stonework. The joyous riot of colours of the leaves has been stripped from the trees, especially after strong winds last night. The trees have taken back nutrients from the leaves and have stored it safely away for the coming winter. They know how to deal with the winter and how to prepare to spring back to life with energy next Spring.

These signs of the changing seasons are a sure and constant reminder that time waits for no one. The days slowly march past. However, the change back to GMT from British Summer Time will make the evenings feel a lot longer, and this year, like no other year in living memory, such feelings may be exacerbated the restrictions to our movements and our ability to socialise.

We must face up to the reality of the current situation and what it means for us as congregations.  Advent and Christmas will feel quite different. People have been joking that the only way to enjoy a sociable Christmas with more than 5 other people is to hold a funeral for the turkey on 25th December as you can have 20 people attend a funeral! We are called to be people of hope, people of resurrection; we know that this time of isolation, of shielding, of being cautious and of maintaining physical distancing will come to an end. There will be an effective vaccine available in time. Until then we must make the best of the situation we find ourselves in, learn from our experiences and plan for the future.

In this letter I offer a few ways in which we can help each other over the next six months; this is the sort of timescale I think we will continue in our current state of cautious and limited meeting together for worship.

Services in Church

Both St James the Less and St Mungo’s are now open on a Sunday for services of Holy Communion. It is interesting to note that we have lost something in returning to church – listening to choirs sing hymns. During the lockdown when our services were only online, we listened to choirs singing hymns, and with muted microphones, we could sing along with the choir. It was not the same as singing alongside someone in a pew, a comfy church chair or in the choir stalls, but it was better than not singing at all.

To try and compensate for that a bit, from Sunday 8th November I will be leading a Sunday evening service at 6.30 pm where we will have short readings, enveloped with hymns (and carols when we get closer to Christmas) sung by choirs, so that we can join in singing alongside others.

Advent and Christmas

Advent starts on 29th November this year. There will be an evening service on the four Sundays of Advent at 6.30 pm. In the week leading up to Christmas we shall also have an evening service on the Monday and Tuesday evening, so you can hear and sing along with Christmas carols. It won’t fully compensate for singing carols together in church and other community settings, but I hope it will help give us a sense of journeying together towards Christmas Day.

Knitted Christmas Angels

Some of you have volunteered to knit angels this year.  The aim is to yarn bomb both Penicuik shopping precinct (on 11th December) and around the green in West Linton. We have got volunteers joining in the knitting from other churches. Please get in contact if you want the knitting pattern.

Social Connections – Tea and Cake on Zoom and by phone

On Thursday 8th October at 3.30 pm we started a social time together, online and by phoning in. We have had some interesting discussions on a range of subjects. Yesterday we talked about our favourite places and we learnt some geography and a lot about each other’s life stories. I hope we can encourage those who do not have a computer to phone in and enjoy a conversation with a group of other people. 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.

Please contact me for the Zoom meeting ID and other details.

 Both churches are open

Although both churches are now open you should not feel pressurised to attend a service. Each of us will have our own assessment of risk to make, and will know ourselves well enough to decide if attendance will make use feel anxious or will hopefully be a good experience.

Both churches now have working broadband connections and are able to live stream their services using Zoom. As both churches have limited capacity to ensure physical distancing, and to enable those who do not wish to attend the church, members of the congregations will be able to participate in the services online, as they have been doing since March. We have learnt a lot from live streaming the services at St Mungo’s, and hope accessing the services via Zoom will continue to be a good experience.

Pre-registration to attend each service is required, and all registered attendees are allocated seating. Coming into the church people are legally required to wear a face mask and to use hand sanitiser. No singing is currently allowed during the service. At communion, individuals are invited up, household by household, use hand sanitiser before receiving bread, and are asked to use hand sanitised afterwards as well. Wine is not available during communion.

The Scottish Episcopal Church has produced a video describing the precautions and procedures to be followed in the services. You can find the video here.

 Christ Shaw’s Licencing as Lay Reader, 28th October

Chris Shaw, a member of the congregation at St Mungo’s was licenced as a Lay Reader to serve at St James the Less and St Mungo’s, and of course in the wider diocese on Wednesday 28th October at 7.30 pm at St Mungo’s. Bishop John connected in via Zoom as did Janet McKinnell (Warden of Lay Readers.

Worship Rota

As we are now commencing services in both churches each Sunday, the re-establishment of a rota is taking place for leading services. Revd Neville Suttle will be returning; he has been very busy finishing writing and editing a book during lockdown. Joy Middleton and Chris Shaw, as Lay Readers will also be contributing to services and preaching.

Penicuik Churches Together (PCT)

Recent discussions have been looking at the rest of the year and what may be able to be provided ecumenically. Sadly, much of the usual activities leading up to Christmas are unlikely to go ahead, but there may be recorded or live events shared online.

 Sustainable West Linton and District

An order for trees for the Community Orchard has been made, and planting by West Linton Primary School children is planned for early December. The Vestry of St Mungo’s agreed to sponsor the purchase of an apple tree. The group is also involved in a project to encourage residents in West Linton to install air-source heat pumps – replacing oil-fired central heating.  Look for more information and minutes of the meetings on their Facebook page. Anyone can attend the meetings. The next meeting is at 8 pm on Thursday 5th November. The Zoom Meeting link is available on request.

Faith Development

The weekly Bible study at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon has started discussing the gospel of Mark. Mark’s gospel will be our main lectionary readings in 2021.  In Advent we will look at the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke.

The ‘Monday Night at St James’ sessions (7pm each Monday evening) are split between two main themes.

  • On the first and third Mondays I am leading a discussion group looking at The Commandments, over six sessions. In the New Year we shall look at the Beatitudes.
  • On the second and fourth Mondays Joy Middleton leads a discussion on a booklet or course. The group has just started a new study guide, using the York Course, ‘Daring to See God Now’. Contact Joy for further details.

When we have a fifth Monday I lead a discussion 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!). Our next book will be ‘Reconciliation’ by Muthuraj Swamy, to be discussed on 30th November at 7.30 pm. A list for 2021 has been produced. That should leave plenty of time to get the books or borrow them from someone or from the library.

  • 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.

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)
  • 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.

We shall review them in the New Year.  Constructive feedback is always welcomed.

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.

Forest Church

A fairly recent concept is to take a group of people on a walk into the countryside – it doesn’t have to be a forest and it doesn’t have to be too far off the beaten track – and explore God’s creation and experience the ever-changing world. It suits those who are regular church goers, but may also be of interest to people who have little connection with the Christian faith but get a sense of awe and wonder by being outside, in nature.

When conditions permit we will organise another Forest Church event. We may be able to hold an ‘Advent Trail’ in December. Watch out for information next month.

 Primary School Assemblies

As we are not allowed into schools at the moment, I have suggested that I provide some short videos that the schools can use.

I filmed four short pieces for the Harvest Festival ‘assembly’ for Cornbank St James, and it couldn’t have been too bad because they have asked for some videos for Remembrance Day. Either that or they are really desperate!

West Linton Primary School has also given me a schedule and I shall be preparing two different ‘assembly’ videos for them.

Continuing our Mission: Inviting Someone to Come to 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 a 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 of lockdown, 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: Walking a Labyrinth

The labyrinth in the St James the Less church garden, on the south side of the church has been quite well used during lockdown. Please do consider using it, even during autumn and winter, and do let others know that it is there for people to enjoy. You can’t get physically lost in a labyrinth; there is one way in and out. You can walk slowly, reflectively towards the centre and stay there a while in prayerful peace.

St Mungo’s has a wonderful cloth labyrinth, and we shall arrange a time for St Mungo’s to be open for people to use it sometime soon – with suitable physical distancing, of course.

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 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 we are holding a range of services using 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 and login details are available from me on request. 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 new and improved (I hope) St James website was launched today. The St James website now holds the sermon texts and will hold some 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 the Less & St Mungo’, you will find a number of videos.

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

The new quarterly magazine for both St James the Less and St Mungo’s has been launched. 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 8th November.

 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 on request.

  • 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). Please contact me for the bank details.
  • 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). Please contact me for the bank details.

Prayer Points

In the Daily Offices prayer booklet circulated in July with my letter 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 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 with up to a dozen people 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 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.

As mentioned above Sustainable West Linton and District is meeting monthly on line.

I am still attending the Zoom meetings of the Penicuik Resilience Group, now called the EH26 Resilience Group; individuals who are volunteering or work for the council, or in the third sector. It is 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…

By the Rector

Rectory and Garden:

The Rectory garden is covered in leaves so I guess I know what tomorrow’s job will be. With some of the apples from my garden I made eight jars of apple chutney. I am looking forward to trying it soon.

I have ordered four more fruit trees for the Rectory garden. They are all on mid-growth rooting stock. The trees are:

  • Apple – White Melrose, Egremont Russet and Lass O’ Gowrie.
  • Pear – Jargonelle.

I have very happy memories of eating Russets in my dad’s back garden as a child; such crisp apples with a lovely skin.

This completes the round up for now. Do get in contact if you have any comments and remember to consider offering articles etc. for the In Touch magazine.


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.  For details, on how to access any of these meetings, please contact me.

Morning Prayer at 9 am, and Evening Prayer at 5.30 pm, Monday to Friday.

St Mungo, Holy Communion at 10.30 am on Sunday.

 St James the Less, Holy Communion at 10.30 am on Sunday.

Sunday Evening Services at 6.30 pm and 21st & 22nd December at 7.30 pm

Wednesday Evening Services at 7.30 pm

Wednesday Evening Compline at 9 pm

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.  If you wish zoom login details for any of them, please contact me.

‘Monday Evenings at St James’

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.

 1st and 3rd Monday Evenings of each month at 7 pm – ‘Our Christian Journey’:  We are on session four of six on Monday 2nd November, discussing ‘The Commandments’. These sessions are suitable for people at any stage of their faith journey; from those enquiring to those with many years in the faith.

 2nd and 4th Monday Evenings at 7 pm – A study group, led by Joy Middleton, following a study course ‘Daring to See God now.’ 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 of the gospel of Mark and will then look at the birth narrative sin Matthew and Luke.

Thursday Afternoon Tea and Cakes

Thursdays at 3.30 pm – Join us on Zoom for a chance for a relaxed blether. You have to provide your own tea and cakes though.

 St Mungo’s House Group

Thursdays at 7.30 pm – Contact Markie Woodifield for further information.

Four Books for 2020

Monday 30th November at 7 pm: ‘Reconciliation’ by Muthuraj Swamy – Once every three months or so there will be a discussion about a book of Nick’s choice. Nick has intentionally chosen four authors whose style of writing is quite different from each other.

 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.