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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,


Vittoria



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,

Vittoria


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,

Vittoria


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,
Vittoria


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,
Vittoria


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,
Vittoria


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,
Vittoria


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,
Vittoria


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,

Vittoria

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,


Vittoria 




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,

Vittoria



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,

Vittoria



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,

Vittoria