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posted 11 May 2020, 14:50 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 27 Jul 2020, 13:42 ]

Rector's Letter August - September 2020

Dear Friends,

Well, the coronavirus drags on. I've just been reading through my letter in the last Tattler, debating what to write to you since last time. I plucked up the courage to cut my own hair at the beginning of June, and have a hair appointment booked in for the first full week of August, so that Leona can repair the damage! The garden still flourishes madly, and in the last few weeks I've had the joy on entertaining some of you in the summer house (big enough to fit you in, sheltered from the breeze, still outside). Little dribbles of normal life are filtering back in to my routine. And it's good and scary, and wonderful, and feels a little like balancing on a tightrope. There is the 'what if?' fear, and that in counterbalanced by being able to have a cup of tea with someone. The reality is that for those of us in the medically high risk category life will not return to full normal for sometime yet, even as we watch the rest of Scotland move on. We are in a slightly odd half-way house.

I wonder how you are feeling in at the moment? A little fed up with the whole thing? Impatient? Afraid? Wondering what will happen next? Feeling rather disconnected from people and from the rest of the congregation? There is the whole gamut of emotions, and that is perfectly acceptable. We will all have contrasting feelings at different times.

I'm reassured by two things. Firstly the fact that throughout the Bible, people experienced the same emotions, from joy to fear to feeling overwhelmed by events. Secondly the fact that God was with them in all those times and those emotions. I often remember the story of Elijah, who having experienced a great triumph over the 450 prophets of Baal, having witnessed God prove that he was indeed was God, was intimidated by the threats of Jezebel and ran off into the desert, emotionally and mentally exhausted.  Despite the fact that the power of God has been proved, he is still afraid. Fatigue, emotion, fear, all contribute to that. God, in his mercy, doesn't tell Elijah off for being a wimp, or even say – why are you afraid? Why are you hiding? Don't you think I can protect you? Instead he (or rather an angel of his) provides Elijah with sustenance and rest, so that in due time Elijah is able to start his journey with God again in strength and faith. It's worth noting though, that when Elijah has stopped, has been refreshed, and is ready to go onwards again, God does not speak in mighty thunderbolts, but in silence. If you want to read that part of Elijah's story, you'll find it in 1 Kings 19.

The lesson, for me, is clear. This time has not easy, and continues to be uneasy. No matter what your emotions at present, know that God is with you. If you are tired and exhausted, God understands, and will sustain you. If you are ready for the next stage, God is walking with you. If you are eager to surge onwards, be prepared to stop and listen to God in the silence. 

It is difficult when we are all at different stages in our processing of the last few months. We are called to listen to each other, to respect where each other are at, to encourage each other. We are called to be the angel – the messenger – of God, bringing sustenance when needed, making sure the place of rest is safe. And ultimately, we are called to listen to God. Where is he guiding you next? What is he saying to you? Listen to the sound of silence.

With every blessing,


Rector’s Letter, June - July 2020

Dear Friends,

May you live in interesting times is supposedly an ancient Chinese proverb. It isn't, but it's quite a good one, isn't it? We are living in interesting times – and it's really not that comfortable. I don't long for cafes, restaurants and pubs. But I long to go for a walk by the sea, and to be able to go to food shopping for myself. And for a haircut – Leona, I miss you! I've already trimmed the fringe, successfully, but my hair is now longer than it's been for over twenty years. Will I be able to last out until July at the earliest, or will I have a go at giving myself a trim? Decisions, decisions!

Despite being in the shielded group, I seem to have been quite busy. The house shows this. The study is relatively OK. The kitchen needs a tidy. My ironing pile grows exponentially. And you'll be pleased to know that my wilderness zone in the garden is going great guns. Today I made nettle and sorrel pesto. It looks like blended Kermit, but it is delicious.

How are you all coping with lock-down ? For many it will have been a big change from your busy lives to a slower pace of life. Some of you will have filled the space with household projects from spring cleaning to tackling the garden. I wonder how many of you have actually stopped to enjoy the bit of extra space? We live in a very performance based society, where who we are is judged so much on what we do. If you aren't doing, the world seems to say, then you aren't worth much. We have become so used to occupying our time. I often think it's because when people stop to look at themselves and inside themselves, without other distractions, they are disturbed by what they find. If your raison d'etre is to live to work, who are you without that work? If you react instinctively, automatically to 

situations, then being in a place where you have the luxury to examine those instincts and emotions is valuable. Why do you get annoyed when people do this or that? Why are you restless when you can't get to the shops? What is that all about? Self-control? Choice? Discipline? Is there something that has happened which is affecting you? 

For Christians, we are faced with another challenge. How do we be church without meeting in a building, without seeing each other face to face? How do we build a relationship with God? Pause a little. Breathe. What can you hear? This is when most writings on prayer would tell you to embrace the silence. But the world is so rarely silent. You can withdraw to a silent place inside yourself, where world is subdued, but that takes practise. Acknowledge what you can hear or see. A couple of days ago I was sat working when all of a sudden there was a mysterious rattling, rustling sound. Yesterday, the same thing again. A mouse? A rat in the walls? Today I focused. I paused in my busyness and listened and looked. There, in the corner of the window frame outside, trapped by a spider's web, was a small autumn leaf. Fluttering against the window in the breeze. I have considered going outside to remove it. But I have decided to leave it there to remind me to stop. To pause. To listen and look. To try to sense what is going on. To allow God to speak into the space, full of interruptions as it might be. Perhaps the interruptions are themselves the voice of God.

We are entering the season of Pentecost, the time when we are particularly asked to invite the Spirit into our lives, to move and stir us to greater faith, greater action. To risk our lives being interrupted by God. Whether you have enjoyed lock-down or hated it, whether you have achieved great things or small, this Pentecost season I encourage you to stop, to notice, to be interrupted, and allow yourself to be stirred and blown by God, wherever he may take you.

Every blessing,


Rector's letter April - May 2020

Dear All,

Today has been another day of doom and gloom. Both in the news and in the weather. One of my Lent resolutions was to go for a walk each day – at least 30 minutes. To take time out, to pause, to be with God. Part of the drive for this is my own health. But a larger part was an awareness that I am starting to resume my old habits of whizzing from post to post, of busyness. This is a deliberate slowing of my pace, a time to meander and just be. I have explored more of the local area, I have walked with people and on my own. I have spent time thinking. I've been watching the seasons change around me. It has been good. So even in today's glumness, when – to be frank – all I wanted to do was pull my duvet over my head and stay in bed – I put on my walking boots and went for walk by the river.

The news today has been full of the latest details of the coronavirus and how we should or should not be reacting to it. This is combined with the graphs showing the fall in the stock markets, and various orders barring entry to different countries. There are stories about people stock-piling, those being quarantined, and so it goes on. I, like so many others, am in the 'vulnerable group', due to my suppressed immune system. What will happen next? It does not lead to an optimistic mood. How are we meant to respond to it all? In my walk I found myself calming, considering. I choose to distance myself from the knee-jerk reaction and look both inwards and outwards .

As I write this, a missive has come from the College of Bishops stating that the holding of services and church events must stop until further notice. How do we do church when we can't go to church? Do we see this as time off? What should our reaction be as Christians?  How about this one - 'Love your neighbour as yourself'. It really is as simple as that. If we look after the vulnerable and the weak, if we protect them, then we have more chance of getting through this together. We are called to look inward – what does my faith require of me – and outward – and where can I apply that faith. Where can we demonstrate the light of Christ in practical terms. Make sure those who are isolated or elderly are looked after. Offer what services you can to help, even if is only a phone call to a friend or neighbour who is alone. If you are self-isolating, please let me or one of the vestry members know. Likewise, if you need help, please do call. 

We are approaching the light of Easter. What systems will be in place, what precautions will be needed, whether we will be meeting together, I do not know. What I do know is that whether we meet together or not, Easter will still be celebrated. The risen Christ is still in this world. We are his hands and his feet, his voice. 

Every blessing,


Rector's Letter,  August - September  2019

Dear Friends,

The Rectory garden is not usually immaculately manicured, with

the exception of the grass. Peter comes and mows it for me, for

which I am profoundly grateful - it's one of those jobs which is now a bit beyond me - thank you so much, Peter. However, even by my

standards, anyone visiting might notice that the border to the north of the house is even wilder than usual. This is not just due to laziness on my part. This year I have deliberately chosen to leave it to go wild, in an attempt to encourage the birds, bees and butterflies. 

I have to confess, it seems mostly full of ground elder and nettles at the moment. The more eagle-eyed visitor will also notice a small wooden blue heart on display. Birds and bees and butterflies... it seems as though bee borders and butterfly beds are being planted left, right, and centre. It has suddenly become fashionable to care about the environment. The topic is one which is being raised in the news, spoken about by those we meet. Being eco-friendly is the new 'in' thing. 

For once, I am in tune with the times - or they are in tune with me. I am sure that most of you will already have been recycling, composting and so on for years. I was brought up in a household where my mother grew most of the fruit and vegetables for our meals, where it was make do and mend, where clothing was recycled from child to child, and then into rags for use elsewhere. This was partly due to lack of money, but more due to environmental consciousness, and faith.

Being as eco-conscious as possible has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. It is partlyhow I was brought up. I believe in caring from the environment - reduce, reuse, recycle etc. But it is more for me than just caring for the world in which we live. It is intrinsicallyconnected with how I live my life of faith. Part ofmy job as a Christian is to look after this world in which I live. In Genesis, God sets the task of humans as being stewardship of this world. That involves both the earthly environment, and also the people and animals that live in it. It involves living as ecologically sustainable life as possible, promoting care of the environment, seeking justice and equality for all. It also entails making sure that my actions do not - as far as I am able - damage the environment in which others live. It means trying to make sure that those I buy things from get a fair living wage; that I do not support oppressive regimes. This is easier said than done, and takes thought and effort. 

If I genuinely think this is part of living out my calling as a Christian, then I have to be prepared to put the time and effort in. There are things I cannot easily do - the only methods of heating in Ballater are either logs or coal fires, oil fired heating, or electric heating, none of which are particularly environmentally friendly. I need my car to be able to do my job, and it has to be one that I can easily drive. So I do drive a gas-guzzler. But there is lots I can do. When I travel outside the local area, I try to take the train, not drive or fly. As many of you are aware, I have a small vegetable patch, where I grow my own salad and vegetables for the summer months, although the size of this has reduced in recent years. When I shop, I try to buy locally. I aim to buy fairly traded goods where possible. I try to buy seasonal food. If I buy meat, it is usually bought from the butchers, not the supermarket. All of this takes time - it is a lot quicker to dash around the supermarket than to spend the time going from shop to shop. It is more expensive.

This year I have stepped up my efforts a little. So I am trying to reduce my plastic use, and trying generally to be more aware of why I am doing things. Being a Christian should involve our whole lives, but it takes thought, planning and patience. 

What are you doing as your contribution?

Every blessing,


February and March 2019

From the Rector

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,