From the Rector

Vittoria's most recent letter is here. For previous letters, see our letters archive - you can also follow Vittoria on Facebook at Rector Ballater Aboyne.     


Rector's Letter, August and September 2021

Dear Friends,

To mask or not to mask, that is the question – or it seems to be in the press as I write this. Some of my friends are determined to continue wearing masks, no matter what – others are delighting in the prospect of throwing off what they seem as a redundancy. I will continue to wear mine indoors and in crowded places, out of consideration for others, and for peace of mind for myself. Peace of mind is something that, at present, I am finding difficult to grasp. My mind feels a little like walking through sludge, or rather butterfly like, flitting from one thing to another. I am finding it difficult to concentrate for any length of time on one thing. I'm told I am not alone. The effects of successive lock-downs, dealign with the stress of Covid-19 and trying to keep life going as normally as possible in such a context is draining. I had assumed as lock-downs started to draw to a close I would find it easier. But instead I am increasingly uneasy. Opening up seems a little dangerous somehow, and retreating back to the time of shielding – restrictive though it was - seems safer. The 'are we or aren't we' situation regarding opening up and Covid-19 levels is a little prickly to live with. So what can we do about it?

There is a prayer I use for times when I am feeling restless or disturbed. I think it was written by David Adam. 'Calm me, Lord, as you calm the storm. Still me, Lord, keep me from harm. Let up the tumult within me cease. Enfold me, Lord, in your peace.'. It is not some magical mantra, but it reminds me that no matter how uneasy or bumpy the ride, God is with me. That he is in control, he has the power to calm storms, both meteorological and metaphorical. I remind myself, however, that he does not step in where he is not invited. When things are unsteady, unpredictable or frightening, I must remember to call upon God, to spend tome with him, to invite him to be in the situation with me. 

Too often, when I am uneasy, I try to work things out by myself. I thrash around in my mind, trying to find a solution. I have learnt to try to calm myself, still myself, call out to God, be in the presence of God. One of my ways of doing that is to pick up my knitting needles, or my embroidery. I find in the repetitive motion of knitting or stitching my mind and body are stilled, and become more open to hearing the whispers of God. For some, this stilling will happen when walking, or gardening, or playing a musical instrument. Some may use the rosary, or meditate on an image. It is almost as though in some kind of bodily activity, our minds are free to slowly unwind and open up. 

I do not know what you are experiencing in this half-time, balanced between lock-downs and normality. You may be longing for all measures to be disposed of. You may be afraid of going back to normal. You may be hesitant. You may be joyful. All of these emotions are valid. But wherever you find yourself, mentally and physically, I encourage you to invite God into that place, to walk with you, to encourage you, to be alongside you.

With every blessing,


Rector's Letter, June and July 2021

Dear Friends,

Spring seems to be dragging its heels this year. My crocuses and snowdrops have been and gone, but the daffodils are still hanging on. The wild garlic is up and being enjoyed, ditto the ground elder, nettles and sweet cicely, but no sign in my garden as yet of the bluebells. Life appears to reflect the seasons  – things are slowly opening up, but the return to something like 'normal' seems to be long and somewhat tedious. 

I have slowly dug over the main section of the veg patch, and my potatoes are in. The two beds in the lawn are yet to be tackled – the soil is heavier there, and the prospect does not fill me with joy. Yet I know that the soil there is better for growing certain vegetables and salads – the heavy indicates clay, which is surprisingly full of nutrients. After six years of harvesting stones, I am still harvesting them as I dig. Enough for a rockery. 

You may wonder what my gardening woes have to do with faith. On the surface, not a lot. I am always reminded, as I plod away with fork and spade, of the parable of the sower. The seed that fell on arid ground, and blew away; the seed that fell on rocky ground and had only shallow roots; and the seed that dug down deep and produced fruit. For God to work within me, the ground has to be prepared somehow, so that what I think he may be saying, the lessons he is teaching me, will sink within and bear fruit. There are parts of my life which provide a decent soil. But there are parts where I know his seeds would struggle to find a purchase amongst the rocks. Like my vegetable beds in the lawn, I have to put time and effort into looking at my life, and removing any stones that could stop the lessons God teaches from taking root. 

I am, like most humans, reluctant to stir things up inside. Not wanting to uproot weeds that are flowering quite nicely in my life. And not all weeds are weeds. A weed is just a plant that has appeared in the wrong place. Likewise, some of our negative attributes could become positive, if we chose to utilise them properly. As I read and study the Bible, sometimes things start to stir inside. It's easy to ignore some of that – you can decide it's imagination, or coincidence, or something similar. But after a while, the twitchiness becomes too much, and you have to start thinking about it, and eventually, doing something about it, whether that is a change of behaviour, or an apology to someone, or a new way of thinking. There are weeds that seem to have deep roots – and if you've ever tried to pull up a dandelion, you'll know exactly what I mean! Some weeds, like ground elder, you have to remove even the slightest bit of root, otherwise it will return. Changes to our lives, our behaviour, or our thinking can be similar – often those things we know we need to correct in our lives have the deepest roots, and unless we do a lot of digging, they will come back up again, like dandelions. It often takes several attempts to remove dandelions – in the same way, we are unlikely to change our patterns and behaviour instantly. 

Needing to try again is not a failure, but instead proof that you are trying to change, and become more the person God wants you to be. An essential of Christian life is that knowledge that you can try, and try, and try again. That God will forgive you, hold out a hand for you to grasp, and walk alongside you on the road ahead. As life returns to a more 'normal' way of living, it will be easy to forget some of the lessons we have learnt in the last year. Hold on firmly to God, focus on the paths he sets, and look ahead, for the best is yet to come.

Every blessing,