Rector’s letter for October 2021

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Rector’s letter for October

22nd September was the occasion of the Autumn Equinox, and in the last day the weather has certainly become more autumnal after an unseasonably warm weekend. September and the onset of autumn is a time when activities and groups would traditionally start up after a few months off during the summer. Our churches are not different in this respect. Some of our evening services restarted and our Monday night Faith Development Series started again at the beginning of September.

September also sees me looking at the calendar through to the calendar year end, and planning services and activities for the season of Advent and Christmas. I only wish I planned present buying, card writing and posting so far ahead too.

The Scottish Episcopal Church also holds services of ordination to the Diaconate and to the Order of Priests at this time of year, appropriately called Michaelmass, as 29th September is when we remember St Michael and All Angels. Please hold all those being ordained in your prayers.

2nd October is the anniversary of my ordination, in St Devenick’s, Bieldside in Aberdeen in 2016. It was a lovely warm autumnal day, and it was a chance to see many friends who gathered together to support me.  I had only recently returned from walking el camino del Norte and then on to Finisterre and Muxia, so I had a healthy tan in the photos.

It seems to me that we are getting used to – even if not liking it very much – singing with a mask on in church. It is certainly better than not singing at all.  We have also been able to sit within 1 m of another person if we wish. However, if anyone wishes to attend a service but wants to be seated at 1m distance from others, we are able to arrange the seating to enable that, for now. So, if you would like to attend church but are wary of sitting close to others, be assured we can find you a seat with 1m distancing most of the time. Just let me know so we can plan the seating accordingly.

I have had good feedback from those who have attended the Sunday and weekday Holy Communion services. They have been comfortable with the arrangements, with good hygiene practices in place.

The weekday lunchtime Holy Communion services may be a useful route back in to in-person attendance for some, as the numbers attending are less than on a Sunday.

We shall, of course, continue to provide live access to the Sunday services using Zoom.

Our 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 without needing to wear a mask.

November sees the Diocesan Clergy Conference, to be held in Pitlochry from 8th to 11th. I shall attend the first two days, but then come back as my daughter arrives from Canada then and is getting married on 18th. I shall take a few days off around the wedding day.  Unlike many other couples during the last 20 COVID affected months, this is only the second date in the diary for their wedding.

Jep – My Faithful Companion

I am sorry to report that early in September Jep’s health rapidly deteriorated and on 8th September she was put to sleep. After a long working life as a sheep dog in the glens west of Balquidder she was a marvellous and steady companion to me for over three and a half years. She adapted so well from living in a kennel on a farm to living in a house on a large housing scheme in Aberdeen, and to coping with a different sort of flock. Thank you all for accepting her as part of the ministry team. I miss her, and am having to intentionally go for a walk each day as she is no longer sitting behind me in the study muttering under her breath when it was time for a walk. Mind you, some days I can still hear her muttering…

Diocesan Communications

I am not sure how many people are directly emailed a link to ‘The Communicant’, the Diocesan magazine, published fortnightly on line. There isn’t a print version. The latest issued was on 22nd September.  It has information about activities across the Diocese. If you wish to read The Communicant, you can access it from the following webpage:


Clergy, Lay Readers, and Laity

It is wonderful to be working with Neville and Peter (clergy) and Joy and Chris (Lay Readers) and to be able to plan for services and other activities. We meet monthly to co-ordinate our diaries and plan for a few months ahead. This does not exclude the gifts of other members of the congregations, and we are mindful of the knowledge, skills and experience, of others that is offered up for the service of our churches and our wider communities.


Season of Creation

The SEC developed a new Holy Communion liturgy for the season of Creationtide. We are now approaching the last Sunday in this short season, when we will celebrate Harvest Festival. Many of us will have experienced the liturgy over the five Sundays, and a smaller number will have experienced the Morning and Evening Prayer variations for the season.

The liturgy is called ‘experimental’, which means it has been authorised for use by the College of Bishops for a limited period of three years. If you have any feedback you wish to provide about the liturgy, we don’t need to wait until the three years are up to provide it to the Provincial Liturgy Committee. Please send any feedback to me and I can collate and submit it.


St Francis’ Day and Pet Blessing

St Francis’ Day is 4th October, and close to that date it is normal to offer a short service or some prayers to acknowledge the role of God’s animals in our lives, to give thanks for all that they bring, and to bless them. I am offering a ‘pet blessing’ in West Linton on Saturday 2nd October at 2.30 pm on the Lower Green and at St James the Less in Penicuik on Sunday 3rd October at 2.30 pm. Please free to bring your pet along and encourage your neighbours too.


Thursday Afternoon Tea and Cakes

Last October, as the daylight faded, I instigated a social time on Zoom at 3.30pm each Thursday. Individuals provided their own tea and cakes, and we got together for a sociable chat. We continued this through to April this year. I was wondering if there was a demand for this to start again as the clocks go back. Please let me know what you think.


All Soul’s Day

At the Sunday service closest to All Souls’ Day (2nd Nov) it is traditional that at our 10.30 service we read out a list of names that members of the congregation wish to be remembered.

This year, on Sunday 31st October at 7 pm I intend holding a short reflective service at St James the Less, where individuals can come and light candles and prayers can be offered. I will invite the families of those who have been bereaved in the last year where a member of the clergy was invited to officiate at the funeral.

If you wish to have someone mentioned in our prayers for All Soul’s, please let me have the details.


Faith Development

We hold our weekly Bible study at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon. We have just finished reading and studying The Book of Nehemiah. It is an interesting read, and I would encourage others to read both the Book of Nehemiah and the Book of Ezra to understand the challenges faced by those who returned from exile in Babylon and ‘re-launched’ the Jewish faith and Jewish identity to the people in Jerusalem which shaped the nature of Judaism that Jesus would have experienced.

On the 5th October we start a 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 the letters to the seven churches. She will join us on 12th October to lead us in a discussion and we shall use her book as a study aid. The book is called ‘Seven Letters from Patmos’, ISBN978-1-83811-810-5 and can be bought from GLOBooks at

This study will take us through to Christmas. 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?



Monday Study Night: ‘Well Prepared’ and Comparative Religions

Our ‘Monday Study Night’ sessions recommenced on 6th September, at 7.30 pm. I have been leading a six-session course called, ‘Well Prepared’, using a structure developed by the Diocese of Oxford. The fifth session will be on 4th October. We shall discuss what ‘Departing in Peace’ means for us, and think about spiritual care, what music we may wish ‘to go out to’ and any items on our bucket list we wish to complete before those last days. Our final session on 11th October is called ‘What comes next?’ and will be an open conversation and reflections on the Bible passages that inform our understandings.

Faith Development ‘Faith Books’

When we have a fifth Monday in the month 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 29th November 2021. The book to be discussed is ‘Cranky, Beautiful Faith’, by Nadia Bolz-Weber.  The books for 2022 are listed below. That should leave plenty of time to get the books or borrow them from someone (including me) or from the library.

Monday 31st January 2022: ‘The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions’, by Marcus Borg and NT Wright.

Monday 30th May 2022: ‘Generous Justice, How God’s Grace Makes Us Just’, by Timothy Keller.

Monday 29th August 2022: ‘In The Shelter: Finding a Home in the World’, by Patrick O’ Tuama

Monday 31st October 2022: ‘Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi’, by Ami-Jill Levine.

Cursillo Weekend

The Spanish word ‘cursillo’ (the double L is pronounced like a Y), means short or small course. The Anglican Cursillo movement in Scotland is run by the Scottish Episcopal Church, and normally runs a Cursillo weekend once a year. Priests are encouraged to sponsor members of their congregations to attend, who may gain from a weekend of short talks and several church services that aim (in my own words) to be a bit of a refresher, a faith boost, and to experience and know God’s love for each of us. After a weekend, attendees (called ‘cursillistas’) are invited to attend local regular meetings to share a time of prayer, study and action, based on Hebrews 10:24 ‘Let us think of one another and how we can encourage each other to love and do good deeds’. These meetings use the Spanish word ‘Ultreya’, which is a form of encouragement, along the lines of ‘keep going’.  These Spanish words that are used reflect the origins of the short course in Spain after the Civil War.

I helped on the recent Cursillo weekend (held 10th to 12th September), and several other people from St James the Less were also on the team. If you are interested in finding our more, please let me know. There is no cost to participants attending the weekend. People can experience a local Ultreya meeting before going to a Cursillo if they wish. The next Cursillo is likely to be in September 2022, at Kinnoull Monastery in Perth, a stunning setting.

Diocesan Pilgrimages

This year was meant to be a year of pilgrimage. I am going to lead a pilgrimage along El Camino Ingles, from the town of Ferrol to Santiago de Compostela, a distance of c.117km (c. 73 miles) over 6 days of walking, commencing in the week of 16th May 2022. The plan is to use a mixture of hostels (refugios or albergues) and hotels, and for people to walk with their rucksack. I plan to take about a dozen people. If more are interested, I may offer a second week, walking from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre and Muxia (c. 118km in 5 or 6 days) as an alternative.  If you are interested please mail me before the end of September. I shall hold a briefing session on 10th and 17th October at 7.30 pm for anyone who expresses an interest.

The Diocese is offering a range of different pilgrimages, some short day walks close to home, others can be done from your armchair. There will also be a Diocesan conference early in 2022 on the subject of pilgrimage. Look out for details. The details of the other pilgrimage activities are given in the Diocesan online magazine, ‘The Communicant’ dated 25th August.

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. This service continues throughout August.

Eco-Congregation and Sustainable West Linton and District

If you have a good crop of apples and want to offload some of them then the Carbon Challenge Project in Penicuik would love to take some off you for their apple press, to make some apple juice. If you are unable to harvest the apples, there are some volunteers in West Linton who will harvest them for you and make something out of them – probably apple juice, especially if some of the apples are windfalls. If you wish to volunteer to collect apples from other people’s gardens (with the owner’s express permission, of course), please let me know.

Afghan Refugees

The Midlothian Care for People meetings I attend is where discussions about supporting Afghan families being settled in the EH26 area take place. Once more information is known, it will be possible to make specific appeals for items that are needed. What we do know is that Afghan families have completed their period of quarantine and have been dispersed to several hotels across Scotland. They are awaiting placement by the UK Home Office in liaison with each local authority, based on available housing stock and the size of the families. I have emailed the Scottish Borders Council to find out what stage they are at and await a response.


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, or to join us in person in church. 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

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 morning services and Wednesday evening services are available on Zoom. All of our faith development activities are held on Zoom.

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 latest issue of In Touch has just been issued. The deadline for content to be submitted for the next issue is 7th November. 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

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 on line using Zoom. 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. It is also one of the few times we can hear the psalms being read in more than just a few verses at a time. Please do consider joining us at 9 am and or 5.30 pm for about half an hour, whenever you are able.

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. Destiny Church in Penicuik closed down during lockdown and it has now emerged as ‘City on a Hill’.

The Reverend Dr Tony Foley is the new Church of Scotland minister at St Andrew’s West Linton, in a reconfigured grouping of churches called ‘West Tweeddale’. His service of induction will be on 25th October, at St Andrew’s church. I look forward to welcoming Tony and working with him.

Once a month the Penicuik Churches Together (PCT) has a joint Sunday evening service. On that Sunday our usual schedule will be adapted so that members can attend the PCT service. St James the Less is hosting the service on 28th November (Advent Sunday)!

The EH26 Resilience Group continues to meet regularly online. 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 am still (four months and counting) working my way through Tom Holland’s book, ‘Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind’. I managed to read 100 pages on my day off a few weeks ago, but there are still quite a few hundred to go! Honest, I am enjoying it…

I spent some time in the Rectory garden last week and have harvested the last of my mange tout and broad beans and tidied up some of the veg beds. I just have the rhubarb to harvest now.  The fruit trees I planted earlier this year have been thankful for the recent rain, but the quantity of apples on my trees isn’t going to make me even one jar of apple chutney this year. Last year I made half a dozen jars.

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

One tap mobile

+442034815240,,6289561588#,,#,040775# United Kingdom

+442080806591,,6289561588#,,#,040775# United Kingdom

St Mungo, Holy Communion at 10.30 am on Sunday.

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Meeting ID: 934 1719 0423

Passcode: 062021

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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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Meeting ID: 980 4807 2946        Passcode: 201101

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Wednesday Evening Services at 7.30 pm

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Meeting ID: 963 0384 1875 Password: 040775

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Wednesday Evening Compline at 9 pm

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Meeting ID: 953 4545 7224 Password: 040775

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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

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 next 5th Monday is on 29th November, when we shall discuss ‘Cranky, Beautiful Faith’, by Nadia Bolz-Weber

The list for 2022 is:

Monday 30th January 2022: ‘The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions’ by Marcus Borg and NT Wright.

Monday 30th May 2022: ‘Generous Justice, How God’s Grace Makes Us Just’, by Timothy Keller.

Monday 29th August 2022: ‘In The Shelter: Finding a Home in the World’, by Patrick O’ Tuama

Monday 31st October 2022: ‘Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi’, by Ami-Jill Levine.

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 shall start studying the Book of The Revelation to John (first three chapters) on 5th October. 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.

Join Zoom Meeting

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