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February and March 2019

Dear All,

In the evenings I tend to work with my legs up on the sofa, quilt tucked over me and lap-top on my lap as I type away. This evening the log burner is going, with my new fan whizzing round on the top, circulating the heat around the room. Such a small thing, but it makes such a difference. Those who have been in the big room at the Rectory will know how cold it gets. The throws on the arms of chairs and sofas are not just there for decoration. But the combination of double-glazing, the new boiler and the fan on top of the log burner means that this room gets warm. 

It is amazing what difference a couple of small changes can make. The start of a New Year is when we often dream about the changes we want to make in our own lives. We make New Year's resolutions to eat better or exercise more, to lose weight, read books, make more time for whatever hobbies. They tend to be personal, focused on self not world. Sometimes our resolutions are things that affect our daily behaviour – we may resolve to not be so grumpy, or to be more patient. I wonder what resolutions you have made this year? And – the big question – have you managed to keep them so far? According to studies, it takes an average of 66 days to make or break a habit.

I usually start the year with good intentions, which gradually fizzle out. This year I am trying to be less judgemental – of myself and others. I'm trying to be more patient – with myself. And I'm attempting to be gentler with myself. You see, all too often, resolutions are dependent on others, or on fitting yet something else into a busy life. This year I am choosing to refocus my time and energies, not on taking more on. I'm going to try to savour the moments I have, and to use them wisely; not to rush into doing, but to spend time being. 

In today's world we often define ourselves – and are defined – by what we do, not by who we are. God created us as human beings – not human doings. He does not care what your job is, or how many hours a week you work. Neither is he fussed about whether you have money or not. You cannot earn credit with God or impress God by doing more and more things. You can't buy God. His love cannot be earned, God is more accepting of us than we are of ourselves. So this year I resolve to try to remember to be. To walk with God, not rush around for him. To see myself as he sees me – to value myself for who I am. I have come to realise that when it says in the Bible 'love your neighbour as you love yourself' that you first do have to love yourself before you can fully love others. In order for us to love others fully, we must first love ourselves, and in order to know fully what love is, we must look to God.

This issue of the Tattler will take us into Lent. When we often resolve to give up sweets or chocolate, or some other luxury as a way of refocusing on God. What will you resolve to do? What small changes can you make, that will change your relationship with God? 

With every blessing,


August and September, 2017

Dear Friends,

A few days ago I was at the hairdressers. While I was waiting, I got handed a few magazines to read. The glossy type – 'Hello' and 'OK'. Flicking through them, a couple of things struck me. Firstly, I had absolutely no idea who most of the people were in the magazines. And secondly, as I read them, I realised that most were celebrities for basically being 'celebrities' – having appeared on this television programme of that, or having dated someone equally 'famous', or having a title.

I decided I was hopelessly out of touch with modern culture. It was fascinating having a glimpse into the sparkling world they seemed to inhabit, but it all seemed a little pointless. I was expected to admire these people for having money or being beautiful or having the right connections. There is nothing wrong with any of these things. But it struck me as out of balance somehow to have that as the reason for admiration. I was thinking back to the heroes and celebrities of my younger days. Who did I used to look up to or emulate? Nadia Comaneci – a gymnast. Torville and Dean, the ice-skaters. Fairground Attraction and Clannad, two folk bands.

I was brought up on stories from the Bible – Deborah who judged Israel, Jael, who bashed a tent peg through Sisera's head, Ruth who left family and friends, Esther, who defied the authorities. I had family and friends around me who provided me with role models – my Aunty Joan, who cherished an ungainly teenager, and put up with me offloading my angst onto her. My mother who modelled what it meant to have an open house and heart. My fearless little brother, bright and full of courage. Then those at school – my P.E. Teacher, Ruth Collingwood, who taught me to keep trying; the music teacher who saw my potential to sing; my A-level Maths teacher who radiated contentment. The list could go on and on through the years.

My celebrities were people who have by work, love, dedication, achieved something. They were models for me to learn from. They still are. They were not celebrities built on fairy-tales and empty plaudits, not admired for having money, or looking good, or having the right connections. They were mostly grounded in reality. Mostly normal people who went beyond the normal and ordinary to the extraordinary. A magazine full of those people would not sell. They are – by and large – not beautiful enough or rich enough. They have not appeared on television, and are unlikely to do so. But their examples have helped to make me who I am.

Above all though, the model, the celebrity, that was held up to me the most was that of Jesus. Thinking back to those who have influenced me, most have had a faith and belief in God. They have attempted in their lives to be imitators of Christ. They would often be the first to admit that they have not always succeeded. But their example has led me to seek Christ, to grow closer to him, and to attempt to imitate him in my own life.

This is part of our call as Christians – we are called to be imitators of Christ. To serve without hesitation. To love without boundaries. To give of ourselves without counting the cost. This is our calling as individuals and as church. We are called to be the role models of today in normal everyday life. To be visible and seen as those who love God.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2

With every blessing,


June and July, 2017

Dear All,

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2
This month is election season. I have great admiration for anyone who chooses to serve their community and their country in whatever way – including in politics. I do not always agree with the politics of our local councillors – but I honour their commitment to this community. However, as I write this it's the middle of May and I'm already tired of politics. Of all the hype, the promises, the – often empty – rhetoric. Frequently, what I listen to seems to bear no relation to the reality of my life and those of my friends and family. It often seems to be a point-scoring exercise against another party, rather than an honest appraisal of what is happening and what is possible. I would love a politician to say 'no, things aren't going well. I don't know what the answer is. But I'm prepared to listen and to work with the people I serve to try to work it all out.' So far, that is not something I am hearing.

As Christians it is our calling to pray for the leaders of this world. It is something we are told to do, regardless of the political allegiance of those leaders. I also believe that we have a responsibility to vote. Firstly, the ability to vote is a hard-right privilege, one not shared by a large number of people in this world we share. Secondly, if we want a government that works towards social and moral justice, for freedom and equality, then we must vote for whichever party we feel will seek to achieve it. Thirdly, if we don’t vote then we lose the right to complain about anything the government or parliament do until the next general election. And lastly, because democracy only works when the people participate.

The question is, how do you vote? That is not a question that can be answered by me. What I would ask you to consider is what values and beliefs you seek to live by – and what party will do its best to uphold those. I believe in a land of freedom and equality, of justice and fairness. Where all are accepted, regardless of class, gender, sexuality, nationality, religion or background. Where there is freewill but also responsibility. I know this may seem a utopian vision. But I am prepared to work for these values. As I read the election literature, the question I will be asking is – who is willing to work with me? 

With every blessing,


April and May, 2017

Dear Friends,

These last two weeks I have been taking advantage of the warmer weather – between snow showers – and working on the vegetable patch at the Rectory. It is amazing how much things have grown and developed in that time. Particularly the weeds. One of the pests in the Rectory garden is spreading buttercup. It rambles all over the place, especially where you do not want it. I have found to my cost that you need to remove every tiny piece of root, or it springs back to life in even more places. Digging it up with a spade is no use – you end up chopping the roots into little pieces and helping it to spread even further. It does, admittedly, look pretty when in flower. But it does end up sucking energy out of the soil and stifling the plants that I actually want in my garden. It is time-consuming to do the job properly. But satisfying and worth-while, in the end.

Gardening in the spring weather and Lent are always intertwined in my mind. For one of the tasks of Lent is to weed through our hearts, minds and souls. Seeking out those things which suppress growth, and those things which are in danger of overwhelming our lives. Doing some serious weeding, making sure you get rid of the roots of the weeds as well as those parts that are easily visible. Taking a good hard look at your spiritual life. If we do not tackle the weeds in our lives, they will gradually grow and spread, making new growth more difficult. It can be difficult to know where to start. The key is to work gradually, to tackle one piece at a time, and not to be overwhelmed.

Weeding and digging over is only one of the tasks in the garden. There are far more joyous ones. I have an accompanying scrawny robin who enjoys visiting when I'm working – the things I don't like, he does! I have spent endless moments just watching and appreciating. Then there is the planning and plotting. I went to the Seed and Potato Day in Tarland a few weeks ago. The potatoes have been set to chit, and I've been trying to plan what to grow this year – and where in the garden to grow it. What will work best in the soil and in which position. Likewise, Lent is also about looking at what works for us as individuals. What do you need to sustain your spiritual growth. Where are you best seeking it? How are you planning on doing it? For growth as a Christian, like growth in a garden, needs a little planning and feeding to occur.

We are fast approaching Holy Week and Easter. We will move from our time of preparation and reflection to a time of joy and celebration. Hopefully by that time the daffodils will be nodding their heads and the early potatoes will be in the ground. The garden will have less weeds, and the robin will be plump. We will share in that journey into new life and hope.

With every blessing,

February and March, 2017

Dear Friends,

I wonder how you switch off when you want to escape the world for a time. Some of you will go off for a long walk. Some will put some music on. Others may watch a film, or switch on the television. I have a tendency to retreat into books. Books of varying quality and substance, it has to be said. One of my favourite authors to escape into is Oscar Wilde. One of his best stories for me is the Canterville Ghost. A little bit scary in places, a shot of romance, a good dollop of humour, and, of course, all works out well in the end. It was one of the books my mother read to us as children. It is safe and predictable, and it doesn't matter that I know the ending (and can quote large chunks of the story). When the world seems uneasy, a little familiarity feels a good thing.

And today's world does seem to be uneasy and restless, doesn't it? As I write this, there is yet another article in the news about Brexit; stories of a 'failing' NHS; Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn seem to be attacking each other in the press again; there are dire predictions about the future president of the USA; news of a peace conference in France where the main participants have refused to attend... and so on and so forth. We seem to be living in 'interesting times'. It can be easy to want to retreat from the world. It is even easier just to block out the rest of the world, and carry on life as usual. But unfortunately, we do not live in isolation.

Part of our task as the body of Christ is to react and act to current events in the way that Jesus would have done so. Neither ignoring current events, or necessarily condoning them, but by modelling a different way of being. Jesus' style of leadership was counter-cultural then and it is equally radical now. It involves walking alongside people where they are. Reacting with love and acceptance first, not judgement. Not allowing our personal prejudices and politics to colour our view of our leaders. Being people who support others, who promote equality, who are actively seeking a world of fairness, of peace. It is not easy, and it is not the way the world we live in seems to want to work. But it is the way of life we are called to as Christians.

The Canterville Ghost is a great story. But it took me years to realise that it is in part a retelling of the Christian gospel. It talks about helping others to heal past wounds – and walking with them through the process. It speaks of love that goes beyond oneself and reaches out into a wider sphere. And it tells the story of salvation – how love focuses on others; is prepared to risk ridicule and hurt; can be uncomfortable and dangerous; but ultimately works for the good of all. After the 'death' of the ghost, Virginia speaks of what she learnt from the encounter. She says ' He made me see what Life is, and what Death signifies, and why Love is stronger than both.”

In this uncertain world, we are called to love, and in loving to live the Gospel. Love with our hearts, our minds, our actions; and if necessary, with our voices.

With every blessing,

December 2016 and January 2017

Dear Friends,

As I write this, I can see snow already dusting the tops of the hills around Ballater. Winter seems to have well and truly arrived. It always seems a time to huddle inside by log-fires, with a decent book to read and a mug of tea. There is a Danish term currently in vogue that seems to describe this – the concept of 'hygge'. In essence, hygge means creating a nice, warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people around you. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family – that's hygge too. It's about spending time in the present moment. But hygge is primarily about finding joy and contentment in the ordinary. Looking for the sparkles of light in the darkness. Something which seems very apposite at this time of year.

As we approach Advent and Christmas with all its attendant excitement, it can be easy to focus on everything you want to do, on creating the perfect day. Looking to make things special, pushing the boat out. The church seasons teach us to live in the here and now, not to strive forward, and not to look longingly backwards, but to be where we are. And to celebrate that time and space. You may be frantically preparing for a house-full of guests, expecting a home full of fun and laughter. It may be that you find little in your life at the moment to celebrate; that you are struggling with ill-health or loneliness or financial worries. Yet in the Bible we are encouraged not to worry, to look to God, to invite him into the troublesome parts of our lives, as well as those parts we are enjoying.

Advent and Christmas are about something very ordinary; and something extraordinary. About the anticipation of a birth, and the knowledge that the birth ushered in something spectacular. About a God who not only loves us, but loved us so much he sent his Son. In the centre of our hearts and homes, the source of joy and love and peace, of 'hygge', is Jesus himself – love without strings. Amidst all the emotions, all the preparations, all the celebrations, hold on to this: God loves you for who you are. And that really is the greatest gift.

With every blessing,

October and November, 2016
Rector's Letter

Dear All,

I'm writing this at the beginning of September. The leaves are already starting to turn on the trees, and the hills are already a russet colour in the late sunshine. The sky is already turning that particular shade of 'autumn blue'. My mind is turning towards our harvest thanksgiving services. By the time you read this, the one at St Thomas' will have been and gone; the one in St Kentigern's will be at the start of October. I used to love harvest festivals when I was growing up. Walking into church and smelling autumn. Seeing all the glowing colours. Staggering up the aisle with my shoe-box full of vegetables. Singing 'We plough the fields and scatter'. With a rural upbringing, and with a mother who grew most of our fruit and vegetables, it all seemed to fit together, somehow.

But we live in a world where the concept of harvest thanksgiving may seem rather irrelevant. Often our food may travel hundreds of miles before it hits our plates. Many may never have grown their own food, or see the point of doing so. So what is the relevance of harvest today?

Harvest is not only about the food we eat from day to day. It is about the fruits of our labour, the work of our hands, the relationships we have, the joys that we have shared over the last year. It is an opportunity to say thank you for the gifts and skills we have been given from God, and to offer him the products of those skills. Perhaps the key is in the second half of the title – harvest 'thanksgiving'. It's an opportunity for us to say thank you to God for all those things he has given us throughout the past year. It is time for us to acknowledge that all comes from God and belongs to God.

But also, for me the fruitfulness of the autumn season is a time to take stock. To examine my own life and ask if I am bearing fruit. In my work, in my relationships, and in my spiritual life. There may be moments of realisation – I may have allowed things to stunt my growth, to get in the way of following God. I may realise where I need help to overcome problems. I may realised where I need to do some pruning, where things are heading in the wrong direction. Autumn is a time to re-assess and re-evaluate, to check what I need to focus on to be productive for God – both personally and professionally. My life now should not be the same as it was this time last year or the year before. It ought to have moved on, to have borne fruit. Sometimes that fruit is not instantly visible until you look back. Sometimes the seeds you have planted develop in unexpected ways. My cabbages have not become cabbages – but I do have some very fat pigeons waddling round my garden! A different fruit, but not necessarily a negative one!

As the wheel of the seasons turns on to autumn and towards winter, take some time. Time to reflect. To take stock. To examine your lives. To give thanks for all that has been and for all that will be. And to walk with God, day by day.

With every blessing,

August and September, 2016

Rector's Letter

Dear All,

Since the last edition of the Tattler, the political climate has been rather unsettled, both in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. With referendums, terrorist attacks, attempts at military coups, and the hustings for the US elections, it's not surprising that there is a certain amount of unease in the atmosphere. What will happen next? Do we really want to listen to the news? How do we respond to everything? It can be difficult to focus or feel positively when everything seems topsy-turvy.

When life seems chaotic, I generally either do something like knitting, or gardening, or go for a stroll, to refocus slightly. So I took advantage of a rare afternoon free combined with relatively dry weather. Put on my walking boots and went for a stroll at  Muir of Dinnet. I walked the Little Ord trail. Not a challenging walk. But interesting. The walk takes you along a winding ridge, called an esker – left over from the last ice age. Then past an abandoned farmhouse, through some woodland by Loch Davan. To an iron age settlement, where you can see traces of the stone circles left from the houses. Past a crannog, then castle island. And finally the Kinord stone. It's a walk packed full of history, an landscape. It's a good place to go to regain some perspective. This land has seen countless people of different tribes and languages, of creed and faith. People with different ways of living. For countless generations, in this area, there has been love and laughter, joy, sorrow. Good times and bad times. Periods when life has been calm; and periods when there has been unrest and violence. Yet still life continues.

It is up to us how we respond to the events of this world. Whether we choose to react in fear and prejudice, or whether we accept those with different views. Whether we use events to condemn or judge, or use them to reach out to others. As Christians, we hold in common a portion of our religious heritage with Jews and Muslims. Alongside these other faiths, we are described as 'people of the the book', a book that has – in part - been around as long as the human settlement at Muir of Dinnet, if not longer. In the book, the Bible, we are given two key commandments; two laws we are called to live our lives by... love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul, and love your neighbour as yourself. This is what is required of us. Nothing less.

We stand at a moment of time. As we look into the future, let us not forget the lessons of the past. As we deal with uncertainty in our lives, let us not forget the calling to love. Seeking to model it in all we do and say and think.

With every blessing,

June and July 2016

Dear Friends,

Over the weeks running up to Pentecost, we've been looking in our services at the peace of God, the glory of God, and the Spirit of God. We now move on to the next step – the mission of God. For the peace of God is about an inward peace, an inward knowledge that if all around is chaos, God is constant with us. The glory of God is about awe and wonder, about submitting ourselves to the will of God, that his glory may shine forth in our lives. And the Spirit of God is about God filling us with his Holy Spirit, empowering and freeing us, giving us gifts to use and to share. For me the next step is mission, looking outwards. Knowing that we are loved by God, knowing that Christ died and rose for us, we have his peace to share. Knowing that his will is for the best we can possibly be, his will is for use to grow closer to him, we start to shine with his glory, not with our own. We must decrease so that he can increase. Filled with his Spirit, we must look outward, not inward. The gifts he has given us are not to be hoarded in the church, but shared with our communities. 

Our vocation as Christians is to share the love of God. In what we say and what we do not say. In what we do, and what we do not do. To demonstrate what a relationship with God can be like; and in doing so, to draw others into relationship with God.

This is what we aim for as Christians. We do not always succeed. I know that I am not the best role model at times. Don't stick me on a pedestal, for I am bound to fall off it. I am aware that I often fall short of this standard. Sometimes, the peace of God is far from my heart and mind. Sometimes I buck against the will of God, reluctant to submit my own desires to him. Sometimes I reject the gifts God has given me, and strive to do this task in my own strength, not his. I do not always speak truthfully or openly;  stay silent when I ought to speak. I am aware that my deeds do not always match my words.. and that often neither match the standard set by Jesus. When this happens – as it does - and I let you down, forgive me. But I also know that when this happens, I can go to God and say I'm sorry, and be forgiven. Pick myself up and start again.

I am always reassured by the stories of the disciples and the early church. With their insecurities, their wobbles and their squabbles. With their failures and their trials. Even with all this, they still managed to share the love of God in such a way that 2000 years later, the church still exists. The key was not that they were perfect. Not that they were spectacularly gifted. But that they kept picking themselves up and starting again. They were obedient to the leading of God; they trusted in him. Because of them, we still have a Gospel to proclaim, a love to share, a people to cherish. 

There is a great temptation to say, when Easter and Pentecost are passed – well, that's that over and done with. Now the long period of ordinary time. When nothing greatly excitng happens. We can relax. But we can't. For after Pentecost our work starts. Jesus said: 'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’  (Matthew 28:19-20).

This is our calling; this is our mission. To love God. To love his world. To serve his people. And to share his Gospel. Amen. 

Every blessing,


Rev'd Vittoria Hancock

April and May 2016

Dear Friends

There is a verse that is has been buzzing around in my mind for the last couple of days - “Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland”.  Isaiah 43:19. It fills me with hope and expectation; and a degree of trepidation. I wonder what that verse makes you feel?

We can get so stuck in the here and now of life and of faith that we stop expecting new things to happen ; so used to the everyday that the thought of something different is both exciting and worrying. What if things change beyond the point where we don't recognise them? What if our comfort is disturbed? Often we get so afraid of what might happen if things move, if things change, that we are afraid to even try. We would prefer things to stay as they are; and yet we want things to improve. 

Part of our problem as a community of faith is that we fail at times to live in expectation, in hope. Instead we live a life of 'if only's'. If only we had more young people; more people in their 30's and 40's ; more people in their 50's... If only we could have a warmer church, a smaller church, no pews, pews... If only we could have some more lively music ; some more traditional music ; the 1982 / 1970 / non-eucharistic service more often...   Both of our churches are full of faith-filled people. Both have a warmth of welcome that is wonderful to behold. Both are active. Both are different yet equally valuable.  If only we lived in expectation that God will use what we have instead of dwelling on what we don't have.

Our faith is often seen as a comfort, a tradition, as a firm place to stand while society moves onwards. The guardian of stability and security. Where will we be if things change? What will happen to our church? There is an old hymn I love, which illustrates what needs to happen: 'Now the green blade riseth'. If you don't know it, I recommend it. It describes the need to plant seeds, to allow new life. It talks of the pain of the barren times, the winter times. But also shows what happens when new growth is encouraged, when change comes.

We are not called as a church to remain the same. We are called to be transformed, to be changed into something new. To live our lives as individuals in the expectation that God will act within them. To live our life as a church with the same expectation ; that God will move and act. Our life of faith is called to be alive and active, not static and stagnant.  

This verse is a verse full of promise to the people of God and his church. It reminds us that God can still move, that things can still happen. That life can spring up again in the barren places. That is my prayer for our lives as individuals and for our life as a community of faith. That God will renew, transform, and bring new life.

With every blessing,


February and March 2016

Dear Friends

I wonder what your favourite Christian song is from your childhood? All things bright and beautiful? Give me oil in my lamp? This little light of mine? I'm sure most of you can still sing songs from earlier days. Often, when I do weddings or funerals, especially of people who no longer attend church regularly, the hymns they will choose are ones they remember from school or Sunday school.

The last few weeks here in Upper Deeside have been quite busy. And as I've been going around, one particular chorus from my childhood has been resonating in my mind. 'the wise men built his house upon the rock... the rain came down and the flood came up...'. I have been reminded of the importance of our foundations as individuals, as Christians, and as a community. It has brought into focus what people consider important, and what is of value.

As Christians, we are called to build our lives on the rock that is Jesus, so that when the world starts to shake around us we can stand firm. To consider what is of importance, what is essential in our lives, and focus our hearts and minds on those things. This is easier said than done, especially when all around us there seems turmoil and trouble. Where is the positive in all of this? 

The positive, for me, is in the people who surround me. Yes, properties have been destroyed. Yes, lives have been changed. Yes, it is going to take a long time to get back to 'normal'. But the congregations and communities I am proud to serve have shown that they are truly wise, built upon firm foundations. Despite the devastation and destruction, the sadness, and the shock, the people have worked together to serve all. In their love, support, and understanding; in their practicality and sheer grit; in their consideration for others - they have demonstrated what it means to be community. There will be very challenging times ahead for our communities and our churches - times of sorrow and sadness, stress and worry. But Upper Deeside has firm foundations, so there will also be laughter, love and joy alongside. 

As a church, we are now about to enter the time of Lent, a time of preparation, of consideration and contemplation. We are called back to refocus our lives. Some may think that Lent has already begun this year! But we are called not only to look inside ourselves, but to look outside. To think of those ways in which we can continue to serve the wider communities in which we are placed. Sometimes that may be in very practical ways – sometimes it will just be a case of listening, of being, of praying. 

It seems somehow symbolic that this edition of the Tattler will cover both Lent and Easter – we will move over these two months from our time of preparation and reflection to a time of celebration. At the same time, we are called to walk alongside those whom we serve, to share in the sorrow and sadness, and to join in the the laughter and love.

There is a phrase I used to use a lot at the end of services a few years ago, which seems important to hold on to at this time: 

Our worship is ended; our service now begins. Let us go forth in peace, to love and serve the Lord. Amen.

With every blessing,


December 2015 - January 2016

Dear Friends,

We're heading rapidly into winter, Advent and Christmas. A time of preparation, expectation, excitement. The turning point of the year. I wonder how you spend the long winter evenings? One of the things I enjoy doing at Christmas time is snuggling up on the sofa, log fire merrily burning, mug of tea in hand, and indulging in a little nostalgia in the form of my old favourite films. The Muppet Christmas Carol, Love Actually, The Sound of Music, Robin Hood - Men in Tights, Charlie's Angels, and the old Disney classics; Beauty and  the Beast, Cinderella... bliss. Earlier this autumn, St Kentigern's sponsored a showing of the new Cinderella as a fund-raiser / profile raiser in conjunction with Ballater Films. I really wasn't sure. I like the old version with the sewing, singing mice (I know, I know!). But the new Cinderella is surprisingly good. I enjoyed it... but one line, near the end, struck home: 'the greatest courage is daring to be seen for who you really are'. 

Cinderella must accept the fact that the prince doesn’t love her because she managed to make herself look love-worthy; he just loves her.  Here we have a glimpse of the kind of love that echoes the love of God. Jesus loves us just as we are. We don't need to be anything else. At Christmas, we celebrate the fact that Jesus came to us on this earth, that he lived with us, walked among us, gave himself for us. That it wasn't because of anything we did, but because of his love for us as we are. We believe he still joins us now, comes to us as we are and loves us.  Gone is the pressure of living up to the neighbours, of needing things. Our confidence comes from the fact that Jesus already loves us, not from any superficial trappings, not for what we earn, or what we do, or the time we spend doing things, but for ourselves.

You may be frantically preparing for a house-full of guests, expecting a home full of fun and laughter. Or perhaps this Christmas will be a bitter-sweet time of remembering those you've loved. Perhaps you dislike all the shiny stuff. I like tinsel, and glitter and Christmas Trees. Endless carols and fat Santas. But we need to remind ourselves that in the centre of it all Jesus himself – love without strings. Amidst all the emotions, all the preparations, all the celebrations, hold on to this: God loves you who you are. And that really is the greatest gift. 

With every blessing,


October - November 2015

Dear Friends,

One of the pieces of scripture that resonates within me, especially at this time of the year, is Ecclesiastes 3:1-10 'For everything in heaven and in the earth there is a time'... I drove back from Aberdeen today through the mist and rain. The trees have started to put on their autumn coats, and the nights are drawing in. The summer has sped, and there is no way of pressing the pause button.  We've had sunshine, rain and more rain, laughter and tears. Times of celebration and times of commemoration. It's time to pause and take stock of life. Early autumn is the time of new beginnings – the start of school, the start of autumn. But it is also a time of endings – the end of summertime.

Some of you will be at the beginning of exciting times. Moving onwards into joy. For others, the year so far may have been more difficult, with loss of jobs or loved ones. Some stages in life have mixed feelings. When children leave home for example. Where are you now in your life? What is important to you? It can be difficult to accept the season of life we are in. Often we want to rewind the moment, or  press the pause button. Sometimes we have just had enough of the current situation or our immediate concerns and want to move on, all resolved.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that all things happen in due time. That there is no point trying to hasten through life, and no point in looking backwards. That life, lived in all its fullness, will contain the highs and lows of existence, from joy to sorrow, the circle of life itself. Those experiences are part of what makes us who we are. It does not mean that going through them will be easy. We are called to live in the present moment, to be who Christ wants us to be, trying to live out his plan for our lives. 

As we live out our calling as Christians, we need to remember to turn to God, to walk alongside him. St Augustine wrote : "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." As you live your life, seek God, walk with him, and find your rest in him.

With every blessing,


August - September 2015

posted 12 Nov 2015, 10:31 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 12 Nov 2015, 10:31 ]

Dear All,

On my facebook page recently, a number of my friends have been celebrating their approaching summer holidays. For most, it appears, August is a time of long tranquil days in the warmth, no pressing deadlines, no major events... hmm. Not here on Upper Deeside. Activities seem to be winding up, not down. My diary is full of the business of life - festivals and games, exhibitions and weddings. I live in hope for the warmth and sunshine to reappear!

But looking at my diary, I've noticed something. My own Lenten discipline has faded into the background with the season. My Lent discipline was to leave room in my diary for God and for me. To not fill morning, afternoon and evening with things that need to doing, but to leave space for being. To refocus, step back, think and ponder. To reclaim the sacred space in my life. And somehow that concept of space I have allowed to be crowded out. It would be easy to blame the pressures of ministry – to talk of how difficult it is to not answer the phone, to not be present at a community event, to not visit people when I have a spare afternoon. One of the problems of ministry is that the work is never done. But it is my responsibility how I deal with that.

A lot of ministry does not produce concrete evidence that I can look at and say 'I've achieved that today'. And I like achieving things. Ministry is counter-intuitive – often the work you put in will not show results for years. It's difficult to deal with, and leads to overwork, for me. It's something which I have to fight with and cope with within me, and with God's help. Not a new battle by any means. But when I get over- busy, or stressed, it's one that rises up yet again. A matter of self-discipline – so I have gone through the diary and blocked out time.
But it is not only me that struggles with this. The world tells us that what is important are our achievements, what we produce, our monetary worth. We are surrounded constantly by that message. And we live in danger of swallowing that. But the greatest achievements we have are our relationships with God and with each other. If we do not have that, then the rest of our lives is empty. We will find ourselves striving for fulfilment, for happiness, for the temporary buzz we get from doing something. Rather like hamsters on a wheel, always active but not getting anywhere.

So this is my encouragement to you. Pause. Breathe. Be. Focus on the things that God tells us are important – faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.

Every blessing,


Rev'd Vittoria Hancock

June - July 2015

posted 9 Aug 2015, 01:01 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 9 Aug 2015, 01:01 ]

Dear All,

Pilgrimage is a fashionable term today. As I write this, I've been reading an article on-line about some Canadians who made a '2,000- mile pilgrimage for Kentucky Fried Chicken'. Not what I would usually consider a pilgrimage. It left me wondering what we mean by the word 'pilgrimage'.

Pilgrimage is both a spiritual concept and a physical concept. It is possible to go on pilgrimage without leaving the comfort of my armchair. It is possible to climb mountains, to seek – and never find. Pilgrimage is a journey of heart and soul, of mind and emotions. It may or may not have a physical element. As a Christian, I speak of my journey of faith – one that does not begin or end with belief, but winds throughout my life. Sometimes on my journey it has felt almost as though I am touching fingertips with God. An intimate soul friend, breaking bread with me along the way. At other stages in my life God has seemed so remote as to be almost invisible, a silent puppet-master. All this is the pilgrimage of my life.

The best pilgrimages raise questions. They may never result in answers. They fill ones heart and mind and soul – sometimes with confusion! A short stroll can leave you emotionally and physically exhausted – a long trek through the wilderness can invigorate and fill with delight. Pilgrimages are contradictory. Often we go in search of something, not knowing what that something is until we find it – or don't find it.

What is the difference between going for a walk and going on pilgrimage? That was a question I was asked a few weeks ago, at the Scottish Pilgrimage Routes Forum. I was there to speak on Pilgrimage and Story. But the question didn't arise in a formal session, but over lunch, as such things tend to. I think the conclusion we drew is that what separates a walk from a pilgrimage is that of intent. Yet I'm not convinced that's the whole answer. When I step out of my door for my early morning walk by the river, sometimes I go for a stroll and sometimes I go on a pilgrimage. Often my walk is a 'walk and pray'. Sometimes that's the intention - and I end up just enjoying the world. Sometimes I just walk for sheer pleasure – and I end up meeting God. For me, pilgrimage involves an awareness of God, a willingness to respond to him. It is the context in which I journey which is important.

Here in Deeside there is a group working to establish the North Deeside Pilgrim Way, using already established paths for the most part. Some of the sites on the way will have religious significance. Some will be historical curiosities. Some points will lead to greater appreciation of the natural world. But hopefully as the route is developed and walked, it will open hearts and minds to explore more of God.

And that is what I hope and pray for us all. That in our pilgrimage through life – together and as individuals – we will open our hearts and minds to God, and walk alongside him.

With every blessing,


Rev'd Vittoria Hancock

April - May 2015

posted 8 Aug 2015, 23:38 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 8 Aug 2015, 23:47 ]

Dear All,

This week has come the sad news of the death of Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite authors. I'm aware his books are rather like marmite – you either love them or hate them. I have the vast majority of his 'Discworld' series on my bookshelves. His books are thought- provoking even if you don't like science-fiction. Terry Pratchett is known to have had a questioning faith, and that comes across in his writing. One of his best books on religion is a book called 'Small Gods'. It talks about how gods – or God – can become so encapsulated in the process and routine of religion that the process becomes the object of belief, not God himself. Where the ritual becomes the focus, the faith can die out.

Churches can become very good at holding on to the ritual, the building, the routine of faith. Very good at focusing on the details. Chairs and pews and hymn books and what order of service is best. Perhaps because it's easier to focus on the small things rather than the big questions of faith. And we're approaching one of the big questions of faith. Easter. The death and resurrection of Jesus. As Christians, we believe that Jesus was the Son of God. That he was sent to earth to help us, to teach us, to spend time with us. That he was accused of crimes he didn't commit, and was put to death on a cross. But we also believe that he rose from the dead, and is with us now. All for love. Something that is so illogical and counterintuitive that we struggle to understand even as we believe. Yet as Christians this is a central point of our faith. I wish I could explain it logically. As a scientist it would make my life so much easier. I know from experience that I belong to a loving, generous God. I know the story. Yet there is a yawning, yearning chasm between logic and my reality. I must have faith, because faith is what allows me to believe the unexplainable.

For the world outside the church, we're coming up to the season of Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs. To the long Easter weekend, a time for celebrating with family and friends. And often that is what is remembered, not the source of Easter itself. There is nothing wrong with Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs – so long as we also remember the story and the reason for the eggs. The eggs are a symbol of resurrection. An egg looks from the outside as though it is a stone – cold and hard . Yet inside an egg the promise of life is held.

This Easter, when you celebrate, when you eat your Easter eggs, search for the life inside your faith. Hold in your mind that promise of new life and new hope. Remember that there is always the possibility of joy and peace.

I wish you that hope, peace and joy this Easter. With every blessing,


Rev'd Vittoria Hancock

February - March 2015

posted 22 Apr 2015, 09:22 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 22 Apr 2015, 09:23 ]

Dear All,

Despite it being only a fortnight after New Year, I'm sat down at my computer writing the Rector's letter for the Lenten edition of the magazine. It's snowing outside, and looking very wintry. Sometimes the weather seems to match what I'm writing about. Is snow and wintry weather a suitable match for Lent? Some would say yes – after all, it's not very pleasant out there, and Lent is meant to be penitential, isn't it. Or is it? Lent is a time of preparation for Easter, of focusing on God. We are meant to examine our hearts and minds, our faith, and turn again towards God. To whittle out any failings or weaknesses and work on them. Which is a bit of a tall order, to be honest.

I'm not sure we can ever truly know all of our failings and weaknesses. We're very good at seeing them in other people, but not in ourselves. I was once told that one of the best ways to identify my own weaknesses was to think about what annoyed me in other people. I'm not convinced about that, but it's worth pondering upon. There is an element of truth in it. I'm aware that one of my failings is a lack of self-confidence. Or rather, pride. It seems odd to combine the two together. I can be so afraid of looking a fool, or making mistakes, that I lack self- confidence. And I cover it over by a thin veneer of smiles. It stems from a lack of trust in others – and a lack of faith in God. Not a lack of faith that God exists, but almost a hesitancy – can I really trust him to look after me, can I trust him to guide me and protect me.

I have a small white dog curled up at my feet as I write this. No, I haven't acquired my own dog. I'm dog-sitting for the morning, much to my delight. Charlie, having had a good sniff round the kitchen and the garden, has decided that right under my feet is the best place to be.

He trusts me, and that's wonderful. He's content just to rest and be. Unlike him, I'm not very good at trusting and relaxing. But I have to think why. After all, Charlie trusts me because he has reason to do so. He knows that I will stroke him and feed him, maybe spoil him a little. He knows this because he's spent time with me.

And that really is the answer. For me, for all of us, the answer to dealing with our weaknesses and failings to to spend time with God, to get to know him and trust him. That is our task this coming Lent. And it might be a time of penitence, of saying sorry, or it might not be. It might be a time of new growth, of blossoming. It is not up to us to set the agenda for our time with God. It is for God to guide us, to steer us, to gently correct us if needed, and to love us into relationship with him.

So that is my prayer for this New Year – for this fast approaching Lent. That we all make time to spend with God, to focus on him, and to listen to his voice as we look forward.

With every blessing,


December 2014 - January 2015

posted 21 Mar 2015, 02:39 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne

'Christmas is a-coming and the goose is getting fat' – so goes the old song. Well, Christmas is rapidly approaching as I write this letter, and my diary is filling up fast. I have to admit to a slight panic as I look at all the events listed in it!

Advent is a busy time for most of us. It's a time when the ordinary seems to be ignored amongst all the business. Advent and Christmas are perhaps the most commercialised time in the whole of the church year. I do love this time of year, but I struggle with it as well. The question is, how amongst all the shopping and parties and twinkly lights, do we not only hold on to the seasons, but share them with our families and friends? Here are some suggestions.

I have a count-down Advent candle in my home, each day with a different name of Jesus on. I light it each day and try to spend that slot being calm and quiet with God. My closest friend has one in her home and uses it a meal-times, to remind her and the family that the focus of the time should be on God. I also have books that I read specifically during Advent. There are hundreds of them out there, but two particular favourites are the Advent Calendar by Steven Croft and The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder. They provide interesting alternatives to the well-know story.

When you think about Christmas day, think of those you know who could do with a helping hand. Christmas can be both emotionally and financially a difficult time. There may be a neighbour who is alone, or a young family who could do with some extra support. For a couple of years, one of my Christmas presents to a friend of mine was not an expensive gift, but taking her three children off for a couple of hours so she could wrap the presents. Not a big thing for me to do – but much appreciated by her and her husband.

Often the days after Christmas are a bit of a let-down. But they can be celebrated as well. There are various traditions that can be revived, such as going for a ride on St Stephen's Day (Boxing Day), drinking spiced wine on St John's Day (27th December), eating porridge on Holy Innocents (28th December), and eating doughnuts on St Sylvester's Day (31st December).

Take time at the New Year to rededicate yourself and your family to God, and look forward into the New Year with hope and expectation. God has wonderful plans for us, as individuals and as a church.

I look forward to celebrating Christmas and New Year with you. May God be with you all at this time.

With every blessing, Vittoria
Rev’d Vittoria Hancock

October - November 2014

posted 21 Feb 2015, 04:27 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 21 Feb 2015, 04:28 ]

There are certain points within the year which are touch-stones for me – times when I need to pause and take stock of what has gone so far and what is yet to come. Dream dreams. Early autumn is one of those times. One of my balancing points in the year is collecting some conkers. I delight in the wonderful rich colour of them as they emerge from their silky cocoon, nestled inside their spiky home. I like the feel of them, the smoothness as I run my fingers over them. I combine the joy of collecting conkers with the sheer playfulness of kicking my way through piles of leaves. Listening to the crisp crunch, and breathing in the scent of autumn. Watching the leaves dance down from the trees, sometimes in a sedate waltz, sometimes in a whirling polka. A few years ago, I left it too late – it was suddenly the end of September and I hadn't found time to go and enjoy myself. That was not a good year. I had become so absorbed in the doing that I forgot to be, to enjoy. This year I have already collected my first shining conker. It's rattling around in my car, where it gives me a small delight every time I look down and see it. There's still time for me to collect some more, though. This summer has whistled through at speed – we've had sunshine, floods, laughter and tears. Times of celebration and times of commemoration. And now we are approaching the time of harvest. I've been eating broad beans most of the summer, and am now hopefully getting to the final crop! I wonder what you've produced this year?

What do we have to show to God, to thank him for, to lay before him? Among the people of this area I see a wonderful harvest, a harvest of joy, of faith, of love, and of acceptance. What has happened in our lives this last year, since the last harvest? Can we identify one area in our lives where we have allowed and helped God to work, where there is some visible fruit? Have we become more tolerant of others? What is our relationship like with others? How’s our relationship with God nowadays? Have we developed the gifts that God has given us? What is our real harvest, that we’re giving thanks for? Only we know the answers.

The thing about a harvest is that it relies on someone sowing seeds, someone looking after the plants, watering them, supporting them, allowing them to grow, pruning them where necessary.

What are the seeds that are being planted at this time? What dreams do we have as individuals, as a church, for the future? No dreams means no future – no seeds means no harvest. Some people think dreaming is pointless – we ought to just get on with life. Think of what this world would be like without dreams. Do you remember Martin Luther King? “I have a dream …”

One of the essential parts of my job is the dreaming. Dreaming about what I’m aiming for, what I’m trying to achieve. Without a dream, I would never plant seeds. And even if I did, I wouldn’t have the enthusiasm to nurture them and look after them. Dreams are important – without them you have nothing to aim for.

I have a dream that the church will be refreshed and empowered. That next year at the harvest, we will see the fruits of our labour. That we will recognise each other’s gifts and skills. That our churches will once again be filled with life. That even more people will be worshipping here. I have a dream that one day, when people hear the name of Jesus, it will no longer be just an exclamation, but it will be a word of praise. That all will worship God. I have a dream. What’s your dream?

Without dreams, there is no hope, there is nothing to aim for. Without a dream, there will be no harvest. But if dreams are going to go anywhere, they must lead to action. Seeds must be planted, nurtured, and looked after, to bring a harvest. What seeds will you plant? What are you focusing on? What’s your dream?

Dream dreams. Plant seeds, talk to people, encourage people outside church, invite people to church, find out what people want from the church – not your church, God’s church. This will eventually produce a harvest, if we nurture it and look after it, and carrying on doing so.

With every blessing, Vittoria

Rev'd Vittoria Hancock

August - September 2014

posted 10 Nov 2014, 12:34 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 10 Nov 2014, 12:34 ]

At the moment our churches are dressed in green. We are in 'Ordinary Time', the time after Trinity season. It's a time in the church year which is not particularly marked by special feasts and festivals. A time of long summer days, picnics, gatherings, and games. Fun and laughter. Often we seem to lose a bit of focus at this time of year. The church calendar seems to turn its endless wheel, and without any highlights, it can be difficult to get excited.

I like the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. He has a wonderful way with words. In one of his books, Feet of Clay, a creature called a golem says ‘either all days are holy days or no days are holy days’. For me, when I think of my faith and my God, I think the same thing – either all time is ordinary or no time is ordinary. All time is holy or no time is holy. ‘Ordinary time’ reminds me to seek God not amongst glitz and pomp, but amongst the ordinary. Among the things of creation, among the people of this world. We should be looking for God within creation, recognising that God reveals himself through creation and treating all things as holy. All too often we think of God as separate. God is in the very air which I breathe. He is in the wood of the desk on which I rest my notepad. The rings of ageing look rather like part of a giant finger- print as I trace it with my eyes. Outside I can hear the rushing of the wind as it moves through the trees. I can feel the warmth of the sun upon my back. I can smell polish and perfume and newly mown grass. I can revel in the sudden downpour, go outside and stand in the rain, delighting in God as he touches me. God speaks to me as clearly through himself in creation as he does in the Bible or in prayer.

As humans we are unique, created beings. As Christians, we are called to a community of faith, but communities are made up of difference. Life would be extremely tedious if we were all the same! We are called to be the body of Christ and we are called to be parts of that body. In a body, all parts are important. While we cannot fulfil every function as individuals, in community we can. A big toe is important for balance. If you play an instrument, you will know that your little finger is extremely important. A belly button reminds us that we were born into relationship – and I won’t debate here if Adam and Eve had one or not!

God has a set, assigned task for each of us, unique to us. One of the mistakes we make is to overestimate what God wants us to do – and underestimate what God can do. We expect him to demand large things of us, and we are therefore afraid to listen. God needs those who are willing to sit and listen to the birds as well as those who can sing like birds. We all have our own individual callings from God. It is up to us whether we choose to respond to them. That is our own choice, made out of free will. But if we do not respond, then we are choosing to deprive the body of Christ of our call. And while other parts may be able to do some of it, there will always be an element absent. The other parts will become strained and tired, stretched beyond their calling. And that strain and stretch is our individual and corporate responsibility. Love of God is manifested in love of others.

Enjoy the summer months, the holy within the ordinary. Use the time to dance with God in the rain, to bask in the sunshine, to listen to God's creation, and to focus on his call on your life.

With every blessing,


June/July 2014

posted 25 Aug 2014, 10:20 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 25 Aug 2014, 10:20 ]

Dear All,

Doesn't time fly when you're having fun? I'm sitting writing this the week after Easter, looking out at a beautiful bright blue sky over the top of the hill. My first 'open house' is over and done with, and it was a pleasure and privilege to have so many of you dropping in to say hello. The Rectory feels more like home, now I've had the delight of welcoming you.

By the time you read this we will be approaching the next great church festival, the celebration of Pentecost. The birthday of the church, the coming of the Holy Spirit, a wonderful time of revival for heart, mind and soul. Pentecost was a time of surprises for the church, a time when God worked in unexpected ways and places. It was also the time when the followers of Jesus spoke about their Lord to many others. The Bible says three thousand people were baptised on the day of Pentecost. An incredible number, and only the beginning of the new church! We tend to see Pentecost as an event in isolation, when it is actually the finale of a long process.

The first step in the process was that the followers of Jesus listened. The book of Acts starts with Jesus ascending into heaven, leaving his followers. It would have been easy to have abandoned hope at this stage. They must have seemed a very small group among so many. But they remembered the words Jesus had spoken to them and took courage. They met together. They spent time listening. Listening to God and listening to each other. To try to discern what God wanted of them next. They didn’t just do it for half an hour, but continued to pray and listen, day in, day out.

We are called as a church, and as individuals, to listen. To listen to God. To listen to others. To try to discern what God wants us to do.

Having listened – and still listening, they started to look. Look at what needed doing, what was being done. Look at what God was already doing. Look at the people around them, at the situation in which they found themselves. They were in Jerusalem at the time of one of the Jewish feasts. Surrounded by people from different lands, speaking numerous languages. Some of whom would have heard the rumours about Jesus and perhaps be curious. What was needed? What was necessary? What did the people around them want? But most of all, they looked at where God was working, where God was giving them opportunity.

We are called as a church, and as individuals, to look. To look at where we are and what needs doing. To look at where God is working, is opening doors.

Having listened, and looked, they then acted, as God gave them opportunity. When the Holy Spirit came to them they were all together in one place. Not outside in public. It must have been a bit of a noisy meeting as they obviously attracted attention. People began to gather and to ask questions. The followers knew the needs of the people – they’d spent time listening and looking. God gave his followers the opportunity and the skills to proclaim his message. Had Pentecost happened a week later, the people would not have been there in such numbers. Had the disciples not been willing and prepared, the opportunity would have been lost. If the followers had been stuck in a ‘we’ve always done it this way’ mentality, or been unprepared to move out of their meeting place to where the people were asking questions, either Pentecost would not have happened, or they would have gone down in history as a bunch of drunkards. And the church as we know it may not exist.

We are called as a church, and as individuals, to act. To work where God calls us. To recognise that God will give us the opportunities and the skills required, if we are prepared and willing.

These three things are integral to this season of Pentecost, and to the life of the church. There are so many people in our churches who work towards this calling, in public or in private. So many who contribute to the work of the church. As a minister I do not work in isolation, but in the midst of the people. My task would be impossible without you, and to you all I am profoundly grateful.

If we are serious about renewal, refreshing and revival, then we must be prepared to trust our God, listen, look and act. It will not be easy, it will not be comfortable - but this is our calling as members of God's church.

Come, Holy Spirit, and take control.

With every blessing,


Making the Sign of the Cross

For some, this activity seems pointless; for others it is a valued part of their worship. When we make the sign of the cross, we are showing an outward sign of an inward prayer.

The sign of the cross is traditionally made as a method of focusing oneself on God. It can be made at the start of a service, at the words of forgiveness, prior to reading the Bible, during the blessing, and at other times. While traditionally the sign of the cross is made from top to bottom then from right to left across you body, it does not actually matter what direction you make it in, or where on your body you place it. Some will cross their forehead – 'God be in my thinking’, - their lips – 'God be in my speaking' – and their heart – 'God be in my loving'. Making the sign of the cross is a prayer and a reminder that all we do, say and think, should be guided by Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Multi- Sensory Church (pp.24) has a suggestion for exploring this ancient symbol slowly and thoughtfully.


April/May 2014

posted 22 Aug 2014, 09:03 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 22 Aug 2014, 09:04 ]

Dear All,

I'm never quite sure which is my favourite season, spring or autumn. Today is a beautiful early spring day. The crocuses are in full bloom, the snowdrops almost over and the daffodils starting to unfurl their petals. A time of new beginnings. And in the same way this is a time of new beginnings in both our churches. The induction service was a wonderful way to celebrate those new beginnings. Thank you to all those who contributed in whatever way to the success of that event. I felt thoroughly welcomed to both churches. Your warmth and welcome has continued over the last couple of weeks, and it has been much appreciated. Hopefully I will get to know you all more closely over the coming weeks and months.

I am very grateful to Rev'd Lisa Eunson, who has helped to make the process of transition run more smoothly. Change is never easy for those involved, inevitable though it is. Some of you may have heard that Lisa is not well at the moment. Can I ask you all to pray for her at this difficult time.

Lent is a wonderful time to begin a new ministry. It is the time in the churches year when we take stock, both individually and as a worshipping community. It's the time when we pause to consider our lives and the directions they are heading in. When we say 'for all that has been – thank you, God. For all that shall be – come, Lord Jesus.'

And of course, Lent flows into Easter, that great time of celebration for the church. It is the time when we remember the foundation of our faith and what that faith means for us today. Our faith is not just one of words, but of actions. It has at its heart the greatest act of all, forgiveness. One of the basic human needs is the need to be loved and accepted. Jesus demonstrated by his death that God loves us and accepts us as we are. It does not matter who we are, or what we have done, God seeks us out because of his great love for us. This is the message that the Church should be proclaiming by its words and by its actions.

The Cross is also a message of commitment. It expresses God's commitment to all humanity, throughout the generations. As such it demands equal commitment from us. If we accept that Jesus died for us on the cross, we must also accept the commitment that places on us.

In some churches there is a tradition of having a 'Covenant Service' at key points in the church life. It is an opportunity for us to reaffirm the covenant God has made with humanity, to acknowledge what God requires and requests of us, and to recommit our lives to God once again. The service has in it these words:

"Christ has many services to be done:

Some are easy, others are difficult;

Some bring honour, some bring reproach;

Some are suitable to our natural inclinations and material interests,

Others are contrary to both;

In some we may please Christ and please ourselves;

In others we cannot please Christ except by denying others.

Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ,

who strengthens us."

These words remind us of our calling this Easter. As we remember Christ's death and resurrection, so may I ask us to remember how Christ calls us to serve him and his church in the world.

With every blessing,


Letter from February/March 2014

posted 8 Apr 2014, 03:16 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 8 Apr 2014, 03:16 ]

From the interim priest-in-charge Rev’d Lisa Eunson ...

It has been such a privilege to do ministry with you all over these past months. It is exciting to witness these holy transitions, and to see the hope and life continue to spring forth as we move into the next phase.

The Christmas season was particularly rich, with extraordinary services of music and prayer and faith stories, offered in very full churches with local communities made welcome. The Ballater Primary School service on Friday Dec 20th filled the pews at St Kentigern’s, and then every chair from the hall, and still we had people standing. It must be some kind of record. Continuing the delight, we saw many of the same faces return for the Village Carol Service that Sunday. Both of these events were particularly moving because those gathered were of all ages, and from very different places on the road of faith. To see young people reading, and even reciting from memory, was particularly heart warming.

The Bishop has written his own words about similar events at St Thomas, and may I add how stunned I was to see so many gathered in Aboyne late on Christmas Eve, not daunted by the gales.

Christmas services would not have happened in our churches at all without the good and faithful work of Stuart Yarnell and John Lovie and Hugh Dawson. To these kind and wise and generous lay readers may I publicly state my deep appreciation for all they do, all year long, and all they have taught me in this time together.

Many of you have very kindly thanked me for my enthusiasm and care, and the Bishop for his wise guidance. But surely you must know the pleasure it is to serve you. You give so much: in creative planning, faithful commitment, and good old fashioned hard work. I will particularly remember all the shared laughter, as that is the number one indicator of spiritual health!

I was frankly not sure I could hand over the keys to your next incumbent, having grown quite attached to you all. But having met Vittoria I am more than pleased to see her join you, and all of us in the Diocese. She brings many special gifts that will be offered with energy, clarity, and a real heart for both lay ministry and rural congregations. I very much look forward to having her as a colleague and friend.

My personal goal for this time together was an opportunity to build on connections between all of the Deeside congregations. Even in this short interregnum, I trust that has happened, and pray we will continue to ‘grow together in unity and love’ in the years ahead.

With all blessings,


... and from our new Rector!

Greetings from Port William! As I sit here writing this, the sun has finally come out of hiding and the waves are gently lapping on the shore-line. A great change to last week's weather with the sea coming up to the front-door step and the rain pouring down.

And even more changes will shortly arise as I pack up my clutter and move up to Ballater. I am looking forward to being surrounded by hills again – that's one of the things I've missed this last year. More than that, I am looking forward to getting to know you all in Aboyne and Ballater.  I'll be the recognizable one with the dog-collar on. If you see me wandering around, please do stop me and say hello.

I come to you with a varied background – my previous post was that of Cathedral Chaplain and Diocesan Evangelism officer in North Wales, but prior to that I was a parish priest in a variety of parishes in Wales. For the last year I've been on sabbatical, based in South West Scotland. I've earned my living doing some art work, leading retreats, writing, teaching computing skills and doing some storytelling. An eclectic mix of things!

I am passionate about living life in all its fullness, with laughter, friendship and joy. I look forward to sharing my life and my faith with you, as we worship, laugh, weep, and celebrate life together.

Vittoria Hancock

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