Letter from Interim Moderator for St Ayle linked with Crail
To the members and residents of Crail and St Ayle
The season of Pentecost comes 7 weeks after (50 days) Easter and celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit as described in the Book of Acts to bless and empower the Church. It is often associated with the colour red and the images of flames and fire depicting its energy and power.
Fire is often a feature of religious life, and takes place in a number of world religions. Fire is, from one perspective cleansing and cleaning, and from another, destructive and dangerous. It is the burning of voting papers in the Vatican which tells us that the election of the Pope is completed or not. The palm crosses which are used on Palm Sunday are, in some traditions, burnt and the ashes kept and used in the next year to mark the faces of the worshippers on Ash Wednesday. Fire and ashes symbolising repentance and cleansing. They are physical reminders of a commitment to change and live according to God’s law and mourn (or perhaps destroy) our failures in word, thought and deed.
I worked for nearly 7 years in Australia where the horror of bush fires often ravages the country. In my first year there the most powerful fire started, significantly on Ash Wednesday, in the midst of the summer’s heat. The fire consumed vast stretches of territory in a similar way to the past summer in Australia, and ravaged homes and destroyed the environment of many citizens.
It is a dangerous and terrifying place to be on the edge of a bush fire, but after the fire is over, in the ash strewn land left behind, a very strange event occurs. Plants and wild flowers which are never seen at any other time emerge from the ground as a result of the fire and the cooling ash in the soil. New and different life appears and all sorts of beauty in colour and shape emerge out of the ashes.
Perhaps in this Pentecost we need to see the flowers that may – God willing – spring forth from the ashes. The Church in every land, as well as the whole of society, will be changed by the impact of the virus on us all. There can be no swift return to what we assumed was ‘normal’ in our daily lives.
This will mean we have to embrace change – some of it not welcome, or what we find comforting or fitting. There may be massive changes required due to the impact on the finances of the Church. The attendance may not, as some have predicted, return or even grow dramatically as a result. What is interesting and new, are the thoughtful and creative uses of the internet and the various means of communication employed by congregations at this time of social distancing and isolation. New forms of worship have developed.
I learn in my email and telephone conversations of dramatic increases in the engagement of people with the message of the Gospel at this time, many of whom are not usually found in our congregations. It will be foolish, and indeed a rejection of a God given gift of communication, if the Church fails to grasp these new found means of proclaiming the Gospel message. These must continue to be used appropriately in future.
Of course there is no alternative, or equivalent, for most of us other than attending physical services with those in our community of faith and those seeking the message of grace and hope. In future, these services will have to engage with people who have not only survived the pandemic and its impact, but also have been changed and transformed by it.
In the many articles and reflections I read, there is a new understanding and respect of the fact this virus, so tiny that we cannot see it, has caused many nations of the world to shut down and face economic and social gridlock. There is in some of the writings a clear understanding that the new ‘normal ‘after this has to be different. A time when our appreciation of the service and valiant efforts of our key workers has been sounded so loudly every Thursday. It should, in the future, become a daily observation of how much the rest of us depend on them for the way of life we treasure and enable us to transform the values of our society.
The Church had the wonderful opportunity, while weary of isolation and perhaps a bit bruised and battered by the impact of the virus, to be renewed and discover new places and fresh ways to proclaim the Word of truth and life. The Church is always in need of reform and reformation (as our Church of Scotland has articulated in its symbol the burning bush).
May we be ready in the post Pentecost season to grasp the new adventure and walk in the new avenues of faith and witness which God has granted us. Now is the time to give thanks for what we have and how we have fared throughout the crisis and in giving thanks, trust the One who has gone before us and given us the Spirit to transform our lives and those whom we encounter.
With a new ministry promised to begin in the now foreseeable future, we have every reason to give thanks and celebrate what wonderful new signs of life God has and is granting us. Perhaps new and beautiful growth will result and enrich all or lives. May it be so.
With the hope that you are all keeping well and safe in these strange and difficult times.
Nigel J Robb (Revd)
Interim Moderator of Crail linked with St Ayle.
Letter to Congregations of St Ayle and Crail
Dear Members and Visitors
Advent is the time of waiting in the Church. A time when Christians for generations and well over 1600 years have focused attention on the expectations and the patience required before the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s greatest gift to humanity.
We are not used to waiting in this age. We live in a time of ‘instantitis’ as one my American colleagues expressed it. We want super-fast broadband, complain when emails do not go immediately, and deliveries do not arrive as and when we have scheduled them and do not like waiting for a bus or a train or plane. We are in an age of ‘instant gratification’ where we expect everything to be immediately available and then we complain when they are not!
Therefore for the Church to celebrate a time of waiting is counter cultural and completely against the contemporary world’s expectations. It says that the Christian Faith is out of step with the current understanding of human life and the way human beings have learned to operate. Maybe that should give us pause for thought.
In another sense we have in this linked charge experienced a period of waiting. Waiting – sometimes impatiently - sometimes with grace and charm. The Members of the Nomination Committee which you elected and entrusted with the task of seeking a new minister has had huge expectations placed upon them. You have expressed confidence and trust in electing them and they have not been idle. Through the last 11 months letters, advertisements, and a parish profile have been created and circulated. Regular meetings have taken place to discuss the process and consider expressions of interest.
As a result of their labours, the Nomination Committee has come to a decision and has unanimously agreed to recommend the Revd John Murray, currently minister at Kilmuir and Stenscholl to the congregations as the sole nominee to be called as minister to the vacant charge.
A full profile of Mr Murray and why the Nomination Committee have agreed to recommend him for election will be available in due course.
The Church’s regulations now come into effect. Mr Murray has accepted nomination. Therefore he will preach and conduct worship on Sunday 26th January, 2020 at 9.45 am in Crail and 11.30 am in St Ayle.
After the congregations have heard Mr Murray and considered carefully the perspective and recommendations of the Nomination Committee, it is expected that they will vote to call him as the minister elect of Crail linked with St Ayle. There will be an opportunity thereafter to sign the Call, either as a member or an adherent, or those who are not members may submit a ‘Paper of Concurrence’.
The members of the congregations have an active part to play in ensuring that their names are on the electoral registers of their own congregations, and most importantly, keep all involved in prayer as we face the time ahead.
An induction service will be held in St Ayle Cellardyke after the Call is sustained by the Presbytery. This will not take place immediately as the manse has been rented out to the benefit of the finances of the congregations and will require work and be inspected by the Presbytery before any induction can proceed. Pastoral issues will also have to be considered in relation to the sole nominee and his family circumstances.
Patience will be required again. Your participation in the process is vital to the future of this linkage. Worship will be led by some experienced ministers and the worship teams until the new minister is inducted. Your continued support of the work of the congregations will ensure that the anticipated arrival of a new minister will find the congregations ready to venture into God’s future.
I am delighted that the labours of the Nomination Committee have borne fruit and entrust the next stage of the process to the guidance of God.
I wish you all health and happiness in this season of Advent and for the exciting year ahead of 2020.
Nigel J Robb (Revd)
Interim Moderator of Crail linked with St Ayle