3rd January 2022,
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Rector’s letter for January
I wish you a happy and peaceful New Year; a year which as we cross the threshold we can try to imagine as well as hope what the year ahead may have in store for each one of us.
The emergence and rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has had an impact on our lives. The response from most people, prior to any announcements by the government of changes to rules and guidelines, was for people to reduce their in-person social contacts. An interesting programme on the radio about the behaviour of people as the pandemic has continued indicated that most people were now acting ahead of announcements about changes to rules and guidelines being made by the government. More than one of the specialists being interviewed said that they had not always predicted and modelled this behaviour, and especially when we are nearly two years into this pandemic. The sense of communal benefit, of the greater good being met by early behavioural change, was a pleasant surprise to some who thought our sense of communal wellbeing, looking out for one another, for a sense of ‘society’, had been lost.
From personal experience, I know that people chose to forgo social gatherings, not out of a fear of catching the Omicron variant themselves, but because they may then either pass it on to someone who would need hospital treatment, or because it would stop them from being able to meet up with other members of their family.
Sometimes it feels counter-cultural to talk about the Christian concept of sacrifice, or else for a sacrifice to only be spoken about when it is at the ultimate level, of dying to let someone else live. However, across our whole community, across our nation, people are daily making small but significant sacrificial acts by reducing their social contact with others; acts of love for others with whom we have no personal relationship but who are made in God’s image, and whose life has as much worth as our own. These small every-day acts of sacrificial love and kindness are, according to the late Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, what we are able to do, and which amass to make a big difference in the lives of others.
The coverage of Desmond Tutu’s funeral, and particularly the wonderful sermon cum eulogy by the retired Bishop of Natal, The Rt Revd Michael Nuttall, was a reminder of Tutu’s impact not just on South Africa (particularly at a crucial time in its transition to a democracy accessible by all its citizens), but also on the world stage. I have included the text of Bishop Nuttall’s sermon at the end of my letter, for those who may wish to read it. Desmond Tutu preached some uncompromising sermons in his time; they were uncompromising in terms of love and respect, and of truth and restorative justice, not like a grumpy Old Testament prophet, but as a prophet who danced, smiled, and loved, a prophet who wept as well as laughed. Like other prophets, do we like the idea of this lovely man but don’t want to be confronted and made to feel uncomfortable by some of what he said? Without fear or favour he spoke out against the various conflicts waged over the last thirty years by the western powers and was critical of the Israeli Zionist movement and its oppression of Palestinians, likening the treatment as akin to the era of apartheid in South Africa. He also challenged people who did nothing in the face of oppression, saying to be neutral was to side with the oppressor. He challenged all of us to live an intentional life of faith.
I can certainly recommend books written by Desmond Tutu; they are full of love and compassion, explore truth and justice, and help us see the world through his eyes. The Book of Joy, which he wrote with the Dalai Lama, is a delight. I have a suspicion that Desmond Tutu’s death will give me an impetus to go back and read his books again, to learn from them, and be nourished by them, and no doubt to be confronted and challenged once more. Desmond Tutu was honest about his own failings and weaknesses, struggled to contain them, but ultimately, through his disciplined prayer-life knew that as a whole person he was loved by God, and could act with humility because of God’s graciousness.
We held services in both churches at 11.30pm on Christmas Eve, at 10.30am on Christmas Day and on Boxing Day. The Crib Service at St Mungo’s at 4pm on Christmas Eve was the first service that we limited attendance by using the Eventbrite booking system. In 2019 we crammed over 90 people into St Mungo’s. In 2020 we did not hold the service. This year we decided to go ahead and hold it but to limit numbers attending so we could maintain 1m distancing between families. It was lovely to have young families join in with carols and with an interactive story, led by Revd Tony Foley, the new Church of Scotland minister covering 6 churches including St Andrew’s West Linton.
Learning New Worship Songs at St Mungo’s
In November Chris Shaw led the first of what may hopefully become a regular event. Chris introduced some relatively new worship songs, and those gathered sang them through a couple of times. Watch out for further dates to learn some new songs.
Diocesan Communications re COVID
Revised COVID regulations came into effect from 26th December for churches. The only significant change is that 1m physical distancing between households must be maintained. In addition, anyone speaking or singing unmasked must be 2m distanced from other people. For now, we have, again, suspended tea and coffee after services.
Bishop John at St Mungo’s on Sunday 16th January
As St Kentigern/Mungo’s Day is 13th January, St Mungo’s will hold a special service the following Sunday, 16th January, when Bishop John will preach and preside. The plans for a social gathering in the undercroft afterwards will have to be cancelled I am sorry to say. I will send an email out about this service to ask people to register to attend, so we can ensure we have seats set out to meet the 1m physical distancing requirements.
We hold our weekly Bible study at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon, online. Our Bible Study starts again on 4th January at 2pm, commencing with a study of the Book of Genesis chapters 12-28, which will take us through to 15th February. We shall then start a study of the Book of Hebrews. 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: ‘Expecting Christ’, and ‘The Meaning of Jesus’
Starting on 10th January 2022 at 7 pm and going through to 7th February Joy will lead a four-week programme following the York Course ‘Expecting Jesus’.
Starting on 14th and going through to 28th February 2022, we shall explore in detail three of the chapters of ‘The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions’ by Marcus Borg and Tom Wright, the book that we will have reviewed two weeks earlier.
Faith Development ‘Faith Books’
When we have a fifth Monday in the month I lead a discussion at 7.00 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 January 2022. The book to be discussed is ‘The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions’ by Marcus Borg and Prof N T Wright. The books for the rest of 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 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.
In looking for new or used books, I have often used www.bookfinder.com I am sure there are other search sites that will help people find the above books.
Diocesan Pilgrimage Conference – Saturday 26 February 2022 – a series of talks online during the week beginning 21 February, culminating with an in-person conference at Holy Trinity, Haddington, covering the historical, scriptural and spiritual sides of pilgrimage. I will provide more details when I have them. Details will also be on the Diocesan website.
Diocesan Big Walk – On Saturday 28th May people will walk from various starting points in the Diocese to St Mary’s cathedral. There is a ‘Big Walk’ starting from Roslin – a distance of about 8 miles. It would be good if we had representation from both congregations. Let me know if you are interested in joining the Big Walk.
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.
The Midlothian Care for People meetings I attend is where discussions about supporting Afghan families being settled in the EH26 area take place. The first two families have been resettled into Midlothian, one of them in Penicuik.
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 receive this as a physical letter through the post but 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.
Facebook and Websites
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. The St Mungo website is getting a facelift and we hope to launch it later this month.
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. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuxnmfrlY0Xl2KRduLummsg
In Touch Magazine for St James the Less and St Mungo’s
The deadline for content to be submitted for the next issue is 6th February 2022. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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. A revised version will be emailed out in February.
Morning and Evening Prayer and the Wednesday evening services continue to be online 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.
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 hosted the service on 28th November (Advent Sunday).
The EH26 Resilience Group continues to meet occasionally. 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, and the Afghan Resettlement Programme meetings.
The Ministry Team
This year our team of Chris, Joy, Neville and Peter has worked together with members of both congregations, and with those with the gifts of playing for us and leading our singing, to deliver services every week. I want to place on record my thanks to all of you who support our worship and other activities, whether ‘up front’ or behind the scenes to make sure our churches are clean, safe, and (relatively) warm. The prayers of our intercessors, the flowers, the music, the singing, the readers of scripture, the sacristans, all contribute so much to the life of our churches. Thank you all.
In Other News…
After Boxing Day I took the week off, and managed to read a few books, and get one longer walk done on the one really sunny day we had. Not enough exercise to improve my fitness ahead of the Camino Ingles walk in May, but hopefully as the weather improves and the days lengthen, I will get out for some longer and more frequent walks. I read Adam Nicolson’s book, ‘The Seabird’s Cry: The Lives and Loves of Penguins, Gannets and Other Ocean Voyagers’ and ‘Absolute Friends’ by John le Carre. I also indulged myself, getting the Dunedin Consort’s version of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.
I succumbed and bought ‘Sunrise of Wonder’ by Michael Mayne recently, to add to my ever-growing theology reading pile.
I have the possibility of meeting up with my daughters in Washington DC in March, but it all depends on whether a film festival takes place as planned or not. So, I won’t be booking anything until I know for certain it is going ahead. The last time I was in Washington it was hot and sticky – if I go in March it certainly won’t be. It is nice to make some plans, but with the proviso that everything is provisional and subject to change or cancellation.
I wish you peace and joy, and that you will know the love of Christ this New Year.
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
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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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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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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’ at 7.00 pm
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
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5th Monday Evenings at 7.00 pm
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 30th January 2022, when we shall discuss ‘The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions’ by Marcus Borg and NT Wright.
The list for 2022 is:
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 Genesis chapters 12-28 on 4th January 2022. 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
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.
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Meeting ID: 669 139 189 Passcode: 040775
Funeral of Desmond Mpilo Tutu, text of the sermon by Bishop Nuttall
“What does the Lord require of you but to pursue justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
In Desmond Mpilo Tutu this threefold cord was interwoven in a long, lived authenticity. That is why we loved him and respected him and valued him so deeply. Small in physical stature, he was a giant among us morally and spiritually. His faith was authentic, not counterfeit or half-hearted. He lived it, even at great cost to himself, with an inclusive, all-embracing love. His friend, Nelson Mandela, put it perfectly when he said: “Sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour, Desmond Tutu’s voice will always be the voice of the voiceless.”
I come here today, in my octogenarian years, sensitive to the awesomeness of the occasion, which is likely to catch the tearful and thankful mood of this our nation and of the entire world. I come in response to the expressed wish of my archbishop and friend, for it was he who asked me, some years ago, to do this at his funeral. How could I refuse such a request, such an honour?
First, let me say a few words to the chief mourner among us. My dear Leah, Gogo Emeritus of our church, distinguished member of its Order of Simon of Cyrene, you and I are in a close solidarity in the loss of a much-loved spouse. I therefore know something of what you must now be going through, though each person should be free to grieve in whatever way is most appropriate for them. Many times you wiped away the tears of your husband for, as we all know, he cried very easily and, in the life of our country, both past and present, he had much to cry about, not to mention the wider world which seems in many ways to be tearing itself apart. Today we are here to try, in a small way, to wipe away your tears, though tears are, of course, a very necessary part of our grieving. Allow me to give you, and your family, a comment which was sent to me for my comfort and which I found helpful within the strange twists and turns of my grieving:
“Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.” (Earl Grollman)
Desmond and I became close in an unlikely partnership at a truly critical time in the life of our country from 1989 – 1996, he as Archbishop of Cape Town and I as his deputy when, as Bishop of Natal, I was elected by my brother bishops to be also what is called “Dean of the Province”. I was asked during a pastoral visit we made to Jerusalem what this cumbersome ecclesiastical title meant. My answer, on the spur of the moment, was that it meant “number two to Tutu”. The nickname stuck, but more importantly, at a deeper level our partnership struck a chord perhaps in the hearts and minds of many people: a dynamic black leader and his white deputy in the dying years of apartheid; and hey presto, the heavens did not collapse. We were a foretaste, if you like, of what could be in our wayward, divided nation.
“What does the Lord require of you but to pursue justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” Allow me briefly to unpack each of these qualities in relation to our esteemed Archbishop.
Desmond was not on some crusade of personal aggrandisement or egotism, though he often and disarmingly admitted that he loved to be loved, and what is wrong with that? Do we not all love to be loved? It is a human craving from the moment we are born. But no: Desmond’s response to grave injustice came from the depths of his being and often in response to what he called ‘the divine nudge’. Listen to what his favourite prophet, Jeremiah, wrote: “There is in my heart, as it were, a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9) That is how Desmond Tutu lived and ministered in a situation of systemic and often brutal injustice in his own beloved country. Nor did the fire in his breast die out in his years of retirement and old age, though he was thrilled with the coming of democracy in 1994. “Watch out, watch out, watch out!” he warned sternly when the new government stalled expediently in giving a visa to his friend and fellow Peace Laureate, the Dalai Lama, at the time of the Arch’s 80th birthday celebration. He was not similarly turned down when he went to Dharamsala in India for the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday and, together, they produced a remarkable book called “The Book of Joy”, which is a spiritual classic for our time and, indeed, for all time: a book crafted by deep and humorous conversation between a Buddhist and a Christian, and compiled beautifully by Douglas Abrams who is a Jew. There is a profound pursuit of a just order in this fine product, namely a religious just order amidst so much shameful intolerance in today’s world. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.
This was our ‘Arch’ at his very best. His was not a harsh, ideological quest for justice. Always it was grounded in mercy, in ‘hesed’ (to use the Hebrew word), in an enduring loving-kindness: the gentle touch, the forgiving heart, the warm smile – ah yes, the warm smile. Remember his fine book on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that seminal body which he chaired; it was titled “No Future without Forgiveness”. How could someone who had suffered so much hostility and disdain in his own country settle for such a conviction, such magnanimity? It was because all that he stood for and strove for was undergirded by a spirit of mercy towards everyone. Did you ever receive from him a phone call or a gift of flowers, a card, a handwritten letter or an email? When my wife of 57 years died on All Souls Day, 2016 he was on the phone to me, despite great physical frailty, to comfort me and to offer, as he would say, a little prayer from the heart. Desmond was quite at ease praying on the telephone with others. Actually, he prayed anywhere and everywhere, not only in churches and chapels. He so wanted to be at Dorrie’s funeral and was truly pained that ill-health prevented him. The flowers, of course, arrived.
Walk humbly with your God
Here is the mystery of the interior pilgrimage of the soul. There were three Ps about our Archbishop; he was the prophet, the pastor and the pray-er. What many perhaps did not realise was that the prayer undergirded, guided and prompted all the rest. A daily Eucharist was his custom, regardless of the circumstances; I remember having one with him in Frankfurt airport when we waited for a connecting flight. It is utterly appropriate that his funeral service today is immersed in what we call a Requiem Eucharist, and it would be his wish that all of us be free to receive the sacred body and blood of Christ at it. Desmond was not only immersed in the liturgical prayer of the church; he was also up at four in the morning each day to pray – to meditate, to contemplate and to intercede. In his intercessory work, he would engage in what Leah called a Cook’s Tour around the whole world. In his prayer the world was his parish, and surely that was appropriate for a holder of the Nobel Peace Prize.
So I give you, in memory of this holy and very human man, this humane leader, a threefold cord which we too can try to emulate: pursue justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.
I conclude this intertwined sermon and eulogy with the words of a personal Praise Song, looking back on our Arch’s remarkable life and held in awe by his going from us now:
Desmond Mpilo Tutu
Born and raised where the gentle Batswana live,
Land of the cameeldoring tree and the wide, wide vlakte; his mother a domestic worker, his father a teacher;
Polio survivor, TB survivor, visited unforgettably in hospital by one Trevor Huddleston C R,
Bright child, living in the shadow of the great injustice.
Raised through sickness to a priestly calling,
finding the fire in your breast that prevented silence. Articulate scholar, prophet, pastor, pray-er, preacher of passion with arms stretched out, diminutive person making presidents tremble.
Small person of the past becoming great in the unfolding purposes of God.
Learning the art in mountain kingdom, being greeted ‘Khotso, Ntate’, visiting parishes in Basotho blanket astride a hardy horse.
Learning the harder way in the city of gold,
the bitter irony of red carpets abroad and icy stares back home. Learning to lean on God and the safety valve of an irrepressible, self-deprecating humour.
Voice of the muted multitude, son of the dark mysterious land,
Called at the height of crisis to the Cape of Storms to transform it into the Cape of Good Hope;
Take rest at last, lala kahle, our dear friend the Arch.
You have tended the wounds of noble strife, the wounds of Ubuntu;
enter now into the full embrace of the great and generous God you served.
Bishop Michael Nuttall