Rector’s letter for September 2021

1st September 2021

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

August has come and gone, and seemed to fly by so quickly. Admittedly, as I took the last week in July and the first week in August off, I was busy catching up with things for a spell. Also I seemed to fit in some face to face meetings for the first time in many many months.

As usual I took a pile of books away with me to read and managed two and a quarter of them! In the meantime I spotted some other novels I wanted to read, so pile of unread novels continues to grow.

It has good that the restrictions on singing in church have been lifted, and we are getting used to – even if not liking it very much – singing with a mask on. 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 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.

Those who have attended the Sunday and weekday Holy Communion services have been comfortable with the arrangements, with good hygiene practices in place. I am aware that within our congregations each individual will make a personal decision about returning to church services. The weekday lunchtime Holy Communion services are 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.

Welcoming Peter Woodifield

Many of you will already know Peter, as a member of St Mungo’s congregation. Peter has just completed two years of his three year curacy placed in Linlithgow and Bathgate. It was a great pleasure to be able to welcome Peter to our team in August and I look forward to working with him at both St James the Less and at St Mungo’s. Having an additional priest in the team now means that most months we shall be able to hold communion services every Sunday in both churches.

Creation-tide and Eco-congregation Membership

The SEC has developed a new Holy Communion liturgy for the season of Creationtide, which runs for five weeks from the first Sunday in September through to the first Sunday in October. We shall use the liturgy and will end the season with our Harvest Festival services on Sunday 3rd October. I am just about to start printing off the liturgy booklets ready for this coming weekend’s services. I am planning on offering a pet blessing in West Linton on Saturday 2nd October and in Penicuik on Sunday 3rd October, to coincide with Harvest Festival and St Francis Day (St Francis of Assisi is celebrated on 4th October). Further details will follow, so look out for them and be ready to bring your pet along and encourage your neighbours too.

Kingdom Kids Returns

On Sunday 22nd August the congregation at St Mungo’s managed to hold a BBQ outside and it remained dry. The BBQ was to welcome back the younger members of the church, following the end of the school holidays. There was a massive cake which was enjoyed, and not just by the children. We have asked the children what they want to do at Kingdom Kids and will be trying to incorporate their ideas into the programme.

Faith Development

We hold our weekly Bible study at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon. We are currently reading and studying The Book of Nehemiah. It is an interesting read, as it explores the return from exile, the rebuilding of the city walls around Jerusalem, coupled with tales of exploitation of the poorest, neighbouring leaders getting rather upset at the rapid and successful completion of the wall, and the re-launching of the Jewish faith to the people in Jerusalem which shaped the nature of Judaism that Jesus would have experienced. On the 5th October we plan to 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

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?

‘Well Prepared’

Our ‘Monday Study Night’ sessions recommence on 6th September at 7.30 pm. I shall be leading a six-session course called, ‘Well Prepared’, using a structure developed by the Diocese of Oxford. The six sessions are split into:

  1. Be Prepared – looking forward and preparing, including the practicalities of making a will and writing a power of attorney document.
  2. The Story of My Life – we explore the story of our lives, who we have gratitude for, how we wished to be remembered, any gems of wisdom we would wish to pass on, drawing the threads of our life together. Do they help us answer the question, ‘Who am I’?
  3. Planning my Funeral – what hymns, poems and scripture would you like to be read?
  4. The Last Days – advance decisions and living wills, being in control and letting go.
  5. Departing in Peace – Spiritual care, ‘music to go out to’.
  6. What comes next – open conversations and reflections.

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 be prepared for our own death.

These sessions are open to the congregations, but also to anyone else who may be interested in joining us. Do you know someone you might suggest it to?

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!). We have just discussed  ‘Love Wins’ by Rob Bell. It provoked a lot of good discussion, and a desire to read more by Rob Bell. I have several others of his books as well as ‘Love Wins’, if anyone wants to read one of them.

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.

Diocesan Pilgrimages

This year was meant to be a year of pilgrimage. It was my intention to offer a led 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. This will now be offered in 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 a maximum of a dozen people. If more than a dozen are interested, I may offer a second week, walking from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre and Muxia (c. 118km in 5 or 6 days). This pilgrimage will start in the week commencing 16th May 2022. If you are interested please mail me before the end of September. The exact date will depend on the Ryanair flight schedule for 2022.

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 recommence on 6th September. 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.

 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 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 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 – but not in July and August. 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 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 am still (three months and counting) working my way through Tom Holland’s book, ‘Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind’. I didn’t read much of it on holiday; two crime novels were the main reading materials.

The Rectory garden has had some set-backs and some success this years. Like others, the apple harvest this year will be meagre. I suspect the late frosts put paid to much of the fruit. One of my newly planted apple trees (Egremont Russet) has done its best and produced three small apples. A+ for effort I think. Next year I may get a small crop from the other five trees as well. If you do 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 thir apple press, to make some apple juice.

I made ten jars of gooseberry jam in the first week of my holidays and didn’t get my hands too badly scratched in the picking of the gooseberries. My mange tout has not been outstanding but has provided for several meals, and my broad beans are developing nicely. Slugs have eaten much of the spinach; I expect to see some slugs looking like Popeye. I have planted two blueberry bushes and maybe next year I will get a small crop from them.

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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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 are currently studying Nehemiah and will be starting studying the Book of The Revelation to John. 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: 49391?

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