Rector’s letter for October 2023

St James the Less Penicuik and St Mungo West Linton

Scottish Episcopal Churches

 27th September 2023

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Rector’s letter for October


Personal Notes

I travelled to Corrymeela, near Ballycastle in County Antrim, this last weekend to attend a meeting of the trustees of the Iona Community. The Antrim coastline is beautiful, and even with wet and windy weather, as well as the moments of calm and sunshine, it was lovely to spend some time away and get to walk along the beach for a while. I hadn’t been across the Irish Sea since 2005, far too long a gap.

The chapel at Corrymeela is called the ‘Croi’, which is Gaelic for heart (and pronounced ‘cree’). The chapel is a circular design inspired by the shape of a human cochlea. We sat in the round within the Croi, which had amazing acoustics, and to me, had a sense of being held in a chamber of a heart. During the services at Corrymeela they say a prayer for courage (see below). For a centre of peace, justice and reconciliation, and especially during the troubles in Northern Ireland, as well as the work they continue to do with communities today, the prayer took on special meaning for those of us visiting for but a short while. I could see how this prayer may help us all in our everyday lives, our experiences and decisions.

Prayer for courage

Courage comes from the heart and we are always welcomed by God, the Croi of all being. We bear witness to our faith, knowing that we are called to live lives of courage, love and reconciliation in the ordinary and extraordinary moments of each day. We bear witness, too, to our failures and our complicity in the fractures of our world. May we be courageous today. May we learn today. May we love today. Amen

The fourth anniversary of my institution as Rector is swiftly approaching. The four years have, to my mind, gone so quickly, and of course, included the COVID lockdowns and the spells of restricted attendance and activities in church. I am sure my remaining three and a half years until I retire will go even faster. Without the lockdowns we would not have started online services, and the Daily Offices (Morning and Evening Prayer) may well have remained a fairly solitary affair of me and an occasional few other people huddling together in a cold church at the beginning and end of each day. Instead, we have a fairly regular group of folk who join online each weekday morning and evening to worship and pray together, from the comfort of our own homes. It has been a wonderful experience and a lovely ministry to share with others.

News and new things happening

 St James the Less Gift Day – Net Zero

On Sunday 1st October, as well as it being the Harvest Festival and the fellowship lunch, it will be an opportunity for members of the congregation to pledge funds to support the costs of: (i) installing a new heating system and associated equipment in the church; (ii) installing insulation on the floor of the tower, (iii) installing insulation into the hall roof space, and (iv) installing insulation in the external walls of the Rectory.

The existing church gas boiler is on borrowed time, and Vestry have agreed to replace it with a ‘far infra-red heating system’. Further information will be provided as Vestry take this project forward. Formal consultation with the congregation on the proposed solution will be undertaken, as required by Canon 35. At this stage, Vestry is clear that the projected costs for the church heating systems and insulation will likely exceed £50,000, even with grant support. The costs of insulating the Rectory are likely to be in the region of £30,000, but with grant support of £12,000 likely, the church’s contribution is likely to be in the region of £18,000. This gives us a current target of £68,000 for our net zero fundraising! We plan to run a subsequent Gift Day in 2024.


Consultation exercise on permitting same-sex marriages to take place at St James the Less.

Following on from the consultation exercise the results were as follows:

  • The cumulative total of ‘positive votes’ was 38 (77.9%).
  • The cumulative total of ‘negative votes’ was 9 (18.2%).
  • 2 votes were in the undecided category. (4%)

The Vestry met on 25th September and discussed the results of the consultation exercise and agreed to allow same-sex weddings to take place at St James the Less. Vestry was sensitive to those who will find this decision difficult. I informed the Vestry that I would be more than willing to meet with anyone who wishes to discuss this decision. Please contact me if you wish to meet with me.


St James’ Fundraising Brunch Sat 23rd September

Many thanks for all who attended the brunch. £651.90 has been raised to date.

St Mungo’s Congregational Away Day 4th November at Whitmuir

There will be an externally facilitated session for members of the congregation of St Mungo’s, being held at Whitmuir, on 4th November, starting at 9.30 am with scones, tea, and coffee.  We aim to finish at 1 pm followed by lunch together. Please let me know if you wish to attend, so we can order the appropriate number of scones and lunches.

University of Edinburgh New College Festival of Books and Belief – 2-4th November

There is an interesting line up of authors for this year’s festival of Books and Belief, including Tom Holland, Alister McGrath, Ayesha Chaudhry, Kathy Galloway, Eve Poole and Allegra Goodman. Details and bookings will be available from

All Souls Day

This year All Souls Day falls on a Thursday, so we will hold our service for All Souls Day on Sunday 5th November. Please let me know of the names of loved ones you wish to have remembered by name during the service that Sunday.

Remembrance Sunday

We shall hold our services on Sunday 12th November. The service for the congregation of St Mungo’s will be a joint service with St Andrew’s, at St Andrew’s Church, commencing at 10.45 am. The service at St James will be at the usual time of 10.30 am.

 St James’ Christmas Themed Coffee Morning, Saturday 25th November

There will be a coffee morning between 10 am and noon in Trinity Community Church Hall. This is the day of the Christmas lights switch on in Penicuik, so it will make a good start to the day’s events.

Penicuik Churches Together

The next PCT service is to be held at Trinity Community Church on Monday 9th October, at 7.30 pm.

 Faith Development ‘Faith Books’

On 30th October at 7.30 pm we will discuss ‘God of Surprises’, by Gerard Hughes, SJ. The list of books for the 2024 programme are given in the ‘Regular Activities’ section below.

Revised Common Lectionary Year B – The Gospel of Mark

The new liturgical year begins on Advent Sunday, 3rd December. We enter Year B in the three-year cycle, and this means we shall be focussing on the Gospel of Mark during the year. Mark is the shortest of the gospels and can be read in one sitting in less than two hours. Why don’t you try it. At both St James and at St Mungo’s we shall be holding a reading of the Gospel of Mark, where we invite you to join us and participate in the reading. Dates for these events will be given in the next Rector’s letter.

Recent extensive research which included comparisons of textual variations of the Gospel of Mark written up to 1,000 AD led to 33 word changes to the text of the version the researchers published (in Greek, of course), to reflect the academics assessment of what the most likely wording was in the original text.

Advent Study

On Monday evenings on 27th November, 4th, 11th and 18th December, we shall use the first four chapters of ‘The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’ Birth’ by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, (published by SPCK, ISBN 978-0-281-06004-7) as our resource. The remaining chapters of the book will form our discussion in our ‘Faith Books’ series on 29th January 2024. This advance notice will give you ample time to buy the book and read the first four chapters.

Informed About Dementia Course

On 2nd, 16th, and 30th November at 2pm in the Undercroft at St Mungo’s I shall be offering the above course. It is the first level of the Promoting Excellence Framework for Dementia Care. It covers some useful information about recognising the needs of people living with dementia, how to support people to enjoy as good a quality of life as possible and exploring the issues of rights, safety, risks and safeguarding. These sessions are suitable for anyone who wants to gain a basic understanding of caring for someone with dementia, or with encountering people with dementia in our everyday lives, which many of us do. Please let me know if you wish to come along. Each session will last no longer than an hour.

From the Registers


Charlotte Mcphail & Tecwyn Davies at St James the Less on 9th September

Rachael Murphy & Culum Graham at St James the Less on 16th September

 In Other News…

I attended West Linton Primary School earlier in September and led a short session on hope for the assembly. It was to fit in with their current theme of ‘resilience’ which they are exploring with the pupils. It was inspiring to hear the pupils speak and engage so well. It gave me hope, having seen how well the pupils interacted and how their concerns for each other and for the world are expressed.

The Gospel of Mark does not have the same sort of ending as the other synoptic gospels, and on first glance doesn’t appear to have a great commission as we find in Matthew’s gospel. However, Mark chapter 13 v 10 does give future hope and a commission of proclaiming the good news.

10 And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations.  (NRSVue)

10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. (NIVUK)

At Corrymeela there was tangible sense of the good news being lived out, in showing love and compassion and seeking restorative justice and reconciliation. As I journeyed back and had time to reflect on being with the Corrymeela community, I hoped I could hold on to some of that spirit and desire and that we could all help bring glimpses of God’s kingdom to others through showing love and compassion and seeking restorative justice and reconciliation where it is needed.


Nick Bowry


Regular Activities

Penicuik Churches Together

We continue to support ‘Gather on the Green’ an initiative to have a visible presence in the new housing development above Mauricewood. Gather on the Green usually takes place on the 2nd Sunday of each month from 2pm to 4pm.

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 22nd   October.

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 25th October.

Whim Hall, Lamancha: We visit Whim Hall Care Centre on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month. Our next visit is on 12th October.

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. Our Bible study took a break over the summer. We commenced studying the Book of Daniel on 22nd August through to 10th October.

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.


Monday Study Night

Our current study uses David Runcorn’s book, ‘Spirituality Workbook: A Guide for Explorers, Pilgrims and Seekers’, published by SPCK in 2006. We will be discussing chapter 16 on 2nd October, ‘When the Spirit Comes; The Spirit in Christian Spirituality’. It won’t matter if you haven’t read previous chapters, each chapter is standalone.

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 remaining book for 2023, which we will discuss on 30th October is ‘God of Surprises’, by Gerard Hughes, SJ.

In 2024 we shall be discussing:

29th January: ‘The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’ Birth’ by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, (published by SPCK, ISBN 978-0-281-06004-7)

29th April: ‘An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture’ by Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann and John McKnight, (published by Wiley, ISBN978-1-119-19472-9)

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.

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.

 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 6th November 2023. 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.


Diocesan and Provincial Activities

There haven’t been any meetings in September.

 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

Meeting ID: 925 1096 2481        Passcode: 040775

St Mungo’s House Group: Thursdays at 7.30 pm

Contact Markie Woodifield for further information.

Monthly Book Group: The fourth Monday of each month at 2 pm

Contact Angela Sibley for further information.

Meeting ID: 669 139 189             Passcode: 040775