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Advisory Group formed to assist College of Bishops

May 22, 2020 

The College of Bishops has previously announced the intention to issue guidance to the Scottish Episcopal Church in connection with the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions.

An Advisory Group has now been established in the province for the purpose of producing guidance for local churches on the implications of the reopening of places of worship. The Group brings together expertise across a range of skills and experience and will be chaired by Robert Gordon, the convener of the Provincial Standing Committee. The other members comprise, Bishop Andrew Swift, the Bishop of Brechin, the Rev Elaine Garman (Rector of St John’s, Forfar and with a background in public health), the Rev Mike Jones (Consultant Advisor, HealthLink 360), and Derek Thomson (Executive Director, St Mungo’s, Balerno). The Group will have its first meeting next week.

The Group will carefully consider all relevant guidance issued by the Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland and, in the light of the phased route map announced by the Scottish Government yesterday, will approach its work on a phase by phase basis in order to follow the Government’s framework for any future easing of restrictions in relation to places of worship. The Group will maintain regular contact and dialogue during the period of its work with the College of Bishops.

The Government route map envisages the possibility of private prayer in churches in Phase 2, “extended groups” meeting in churches in Phase 3 (though the meaning of “extended groups” has not so far been defined) and “mass gatherings” only in Phase 4. It would seem therefore that resumption of full public worship in the form which was “normal” prior to lockdown is not envisaged by the Government until Phase 4 of its route map and is therefore still a long way off.

It is the Group’s intention to ensure that guidance is issued sufficiently early so as to enable churches to prepare adequately to steer a course through the intermediate phases and it is fully aware of the bishops’ statement of 15 May that “there will be no pressure on individual churches to reopen before they feel prepared and safe to do so. We have to protect those who would want to return to worship in our buildings, those who would want to come and join us and especially those who will be asked to manage such a safe return.  The guidance we produce will enable each congregation along with their bishop to look at what is needed to open the church building. The final decision to open or remain closed will be taken by the diocesan bishop.”

Coronavirus update

Bishops plan for eventual easing of lockdown

May 15, 2020 

The message from the Scottish Government remains ‘stay at home’ and our church buildings remain closed to protect the vulnerable, but thinking is underway  to address how the Scottish Episcopal Church will respond to the eventual easing of restrictions on movement.

The First Minister announced last week that lockdown measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Scotland have been extended until a further review on 28 May, and the College of Bishops continues to follow this guidance from the Scottish Government.

The College of Bishops will call on expert advisors to assist with planning, and in due course will issue a set of guidelines to support churches as they prepare for what will and will not be possible as government restrictions are eased.

In a joint statement issued today [15 May], the College of Bishops said:

“The College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church intends to provide a set of principles which the Church can follow when we are considering the way forward in the coming months. 

“The College has tried to consider what can and cannot happen when we eventually come out of lockdown. We recognise this is a piece of work for which we will need to bring together a group with specialist skills to help us. 

“We are preparing these guidelines for the time when it is clear that returning to our church buildings is possible. We will only put these measures into place after listening to the advice of the Scottish Government and after particular aspects of the worship and practices of our Church are taken into accountWe are reminded that as Bishop Kevin said in his service of the Eucharist recently, we closed our churches out of love, not out of fear, and we must open them again with that same love and not because of external pressure.

“We will continue to ensure that all can worship safely, either at home or in their church building. There will be no pressure on individual churches to reopen before they feel prepared and safe to do so. We have to protect those who would want to return to worship in our buildings, those who would want to come and join us and especially those who will be asked to manage such a safe return. 

The guidance we produce will enable each congregation along with their bishop to look at what is needed to open the church building. The final decision to open or remain closed will be taken by the diocesan bishop.

“The College of Bishops continues to meet on a weekly basis to discuss these matters. We also continue to maintain close communication with our ecumenical partners.”

College of Bishops addresses lockdown debate

May 6, 2020 

The College of Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church has issued a statement today (6 May 2020) to address current debate over how the country emerges from coronavirus lockdown once restrictions on movement are gradually eased by government.

Public debate on this matter includes the churches, where buildings have been closed for several weeks to help protect the vulnerable in society from the spread of Covid-19. Recent reports in the UK and abroad have highlighted a variety of possible approaches from different denominations, and the College of Bishops would like to clarify the position of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

On behalf of the College of Bishops, the Most Rev Mark Strange, Primus, said: “The College of Bishops will be meeting next week following what we expect to be new information from the Scottish Government. We will meet to try and ensure that we remain in step with the government’s position, while beginning to prepare for what might change over the coming weeks and months.

“We were interested to hear comments from the First Minister about regional variety in the easing of lock down, this is a matter which we are very aware of and which we too will be exploring.

“We would also like to thank the people of the Scottish Episcopal Church for the loving and generous way they have looked after others who have struggled with the current situation, and for the way in which the Holy Spirit continues to flow through the worship and prayer of our church.”

Until further notice, coronavirus guidance from the College of Bishops remains as previously set out on the Scottish Episcopal Church website at this page: https://www.scotland.anglican.org/coronavirus-updates/

Any significant new updates will be posted on the SEC website and on social media channels.

Coronavirus precautions

How to join our online Sunday worship

March 19, 2020 

As part of the ongoing response to the Coronavirus pandemic the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) will this Sunday (22 March) begin broadcasting video coverage of Eucharistic services via its website, social media channels and YouTube channel. The web page for the broadcast is located at www.scotland.anglican.org/broadcast-sunday-worship

The first service, held in private with no congregation, and led by the Most Rev Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, will be broadcast at 11am on Sunday, to coincide with when many people would normally be worshipping if church services had not been suspended following government guidance.

The website will also contain a downloadable video and audio format of the service. A new service will be broadcast every Sunday on the SEC website, to allow all congregations to worship. We are aware that some congregations will offer their own version of online worship, but others will not have the means or resource to attempt this, hence this province-wide broadcast.

In advance of the broadcast of each provincial service, the Liturgy will be available to download from the SEC website. We are conscious of the need to offer as much assistance as possible to those who have no access to the internet, and we encourage people to distribute the video/audio recordings and the Liturgy widely within their own personal networks. In households with no internet or playback capacity, people who can be helped by others through the provision of printed materials will have the opportunity to read the words of the Liturgy to themselves close to the appointed time, praising God along with others in the Church.

“Prayer is an important part of the tradition and spiritual life of the people of God” said Bishop Mark. “In hard times and good times, quietly being before God with the people we love in our hearts encircles us all in God’s everlasting love and the promise of hope and salvation.”

The service will be available online after its first broadcast, followed by a new one each week, the next at 11am on Sunday 29 March.

Cessation of services

March 18, 2020 

The College of Bishops continues to follow closely the developing situation in relation to coronavirus. The rapidly changing picture brings about changes on an almost daily basis. The College continues to hold in its prayers the clergy and laity of the Scottish Episcopal Church and the people of Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole. 

The College expresses its thanks to everyone in the Scottish Episcopal Church for all that they are doing to adapt to current circumstances and continue in the provision of care and pastoral support. Clergy and lay readers are encouraged to be in touch with their Diocesan Bishop in connection with any matters of difficulty or concern. 

At this time, the College offers further guidance as follows. It should also be emphasised that in a rapidly changing situation, the guidance that follows must be regarded as subject to any public health guidance or direction, which must take precedence.

1. Advice issued last night by the Scottish Government is to the effect that church services should cease. Consequently, the Bishops ask that all gatherings for worship, including small gatherings such as house groups, should be discontinued until further notice. 

2. Church buildings can be kept open as a place for people to come and pray. However, if a church is open for private prayer, notices should be clearly displayed asking that visitors wash their hands on entry to the church.

3. The province is working on plans to make worship available online. The bishops encourage participation in the broader Eucharistic life of the church in this way and emphasise the such online involvement is a form of participation in the Eucharistic community, even though participants cannot physically partake of the bread or wine. 

4. Clergy and lay leaders must feel free to self-isolate themselves when that is appropriate either to safeguard their own health or the health of others. Again, however, any member of clergy or lay leader needing to self-isolate is asked to discuss the matter with the diocesan Bishop. Where a decision to self-isolate is taken, the bishops expect congregations to be understanding and supportive. Self-isolation, except in the case of illness, does not mean that ministry and pastoral care must cease. Contact and communication can still be maintained over the telephone, by email or other electronic means. 

5. The taking of funerals may give rise to specific concerns. It may simply not be possible for family relatives or friends of the deceased’s to be able to attend a funeral service as usual. However, clergy can still take a funeral at the graveside or crematorium, even if those present are limited to clergy and funeral directors. Again, in cases of difficulty, bishops encourage clergy to discuss such matters with them. 

6. In the light of the public health recommendation that non-essential travel should not be undertaken, it is clearly inappropriate to continue with meetings which would draw people from a wider area – _such as regional gatherings. Institutions, licensings etc will need to be dealt with differently from normal, and, again, such matters should be discussed with the diocesan Bishop. 

7. In some cases, where local income is dependent on regular giving through the weekly collection or giving envelopes, it is possible that congregations might encounter difficulties with cash flow. Churches are encouraged to consider alerting congregations to such potential difficulties and encouraging alternative ways of giving, for example by standing order. In cases where it is thought difficulty might arise, treasurers are encouraged to 

contact their diocesan office at an early stage to discuss whether any form of support can be made available. 

8. Consideration should be given to resilience planning in current circumstances. As a bare minimum, churches are asked to ensure that they have clear records for detailing those who hold keys for access to churches and halls and of the names of bank signatories and payroll officers, as well as plans on how to deal with circumstances if such individuals become ill or have to self-isolate. 

The Most Rev Mark Strange 

Primus

Confirmation

On Sunday 16th February we were delighted to welcome our priest and bishop, The Most Reverend Mark Strange, who confirmed Susan McDowall and Alex Bowe in a joyful and well attended service. Rev Roy Vincent assisted and here are a few photos of the service.

L to R, Rev Roy Vincent, Alex Bowe, Most Rev Mark Strange and Susan McDowall

Epiphany

We had a lovely service for Epiphany. Beth Western sang during communion and a wee extract of this can be found here

Remembrance Day 2019

The annual Act of Remembrance took place on Sunday 10th November. Three wreaths were laid – one by George Knight of St Margaret’s, one by the 1st Aberlour Scouts and a third by Hugh Monro DL on behalf of the Lord-Lieutenant of Banffshire. Sandra Steel played the Last Post.

Inside the church the floral decorations echoed the theme of remembrance.

George Knight laying the church wteath.
Hugh Monro DL laid the Lieutenancy of Banffshire wreath
Poppies in remembrance

McCorquodale stone

On Thursday 19th September we dedicated the McCorquodale stone. This engraved stone had once formed part of the wall of the McCorquodale Hall at the Aberlour Orphanage. After the demolition of the buildings, the stone had gone to Stirling where it lay in the grounds of the Aberlour Childcare Trust offices. As they were moving to new headquarters this year, they approached Hugh Fraser, Chairman of the Aberlour Community Association, to ask if Aberlour would like to have it returned. Hugh in turn approached the church and we were delighted to accept the offer. Hugh’s grandson, Ben Morrison, kindly fetched the stone from Stirling and Hugh arranged to have it cleaned by Garry Laing, a local stonemason. It now sits in the entrance porch of the church.

The McCorquodale Hall was used as the boy’s dining room at the orphanage. It was a rather splendid hall and was used also for dances, film shows and other social events. The benefactors were Mr & Mrs George McCorquodale who lived at Dalchroy, now known as Tulchan Lodge. We were delighted to welcome Edmund Wood, a great-grandson, and Richard Heywood, a great-nephew, to the dedication service. Mrs Mary Heywood was also present as was George Knight, who in his youth had been resident for 10 years at the orphanage.

L-R Edmund Wood, Richard Heywood, George Knight, Mary Heywood,Nicola Irwin,
Kath Davies, Rev Roy Vincent and Daphne Laity

Marriage blessing

On 13th June 2019 Laura and Ben Benson brought their families from the USA for a blessing of their marriage. They had been married a month before in the USA and had a second ceremony here. It was a miserable, wet day but they didn’t seem to mind and everyone was warm and dry inside the church. The service was conducted by Rev Canon Michael Last, Rector of the Isla-Deveron group of churches.

The party stayed at the nearby Dowans Hotel where they had their reception. We wish Ben and Laura a long and happy married life together.

Antiques Valuation Day

We had a very happy and successful day on 25th May with lots of people bringing their collectibles for valuation. The experts from Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh were helpful and informative and so lovely with all the visitors. We are very grateful to them for coming.

There were mountains of sandwiches and cakes on offer so no-one went home hungry. All in all, a very good day for St Margaret’s.

Easter Day 2019

We had a good sized congregation for our Easter Day service. Rev Roy Vincent led the worship which started with bringing the light into the church. The paschal candle was processed to the chancel steps and then all the other candles were lit from its flame.

There was also a baptism during the service when we welcomed Susan McDowall into the church.