Newsletter No 2

1 April 2020

Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney Scottish Episcopal Church Newsletter – Wednesday 1 April 2020 From the Bishop This comes to you as I am thinking about how I will make the journey through Holy Week this year. So much of what we usually do involves activities, some of them very public. We have Palm Sunday processions. We wash feet, strip the church and keep a watch. We particpate in Walks of Witness, make Easter gardens and light holy fires. I am thinking about how to do these things in and from my own home. In this news letter there are examples of things that we might do on Palm Sunday – and I will be joining in by placing green branches on the door of my house. On Good Friday I will make a large cross to hang there, and decorate it with flowers on Easter Sunday morning.

As I think about these things, I have been wondering if all of this is simply a displacement activity for me. Here is something that I can do to keep me occupied, that might take my mind away from the truly frightening situation we are experiencing. As the numbers of those dying rises day by day, how will we cope with and process this news? The story that we will hear again from Sunday, when we enter the Holy City with Jesus who is making his way to the cross, is not a distraction at all. In this story we will hear about hopes dashed and about people who are frightened and do the wrong things. We will see Jesus celebrated as the promised Son of David, who then takes off his clothes to wash the feet of his friends. The story of the first Holy Week challenges all human value systems, and will lead us to the foot of the cross, where we can join with those who weep at the loss of a loved one. This will be a Holy Week like no other that we have known. Finally, I am greatly missing seeing folk face to face, but this hardship is just for a season, and is nothing compared to the suffering of so many in our nation and the world at this time. Let us pray fervently for those who are ill, for those who will die through these next days, and for their families denied a proper goodbye and funeral. And remember, as you pray: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ’ Philippians 4:6-7

Holy Week in our Hearts From the Dean – the Very Revd Dr Dennis Berk

As part of the measures being taken to combat the spread of the Coronavirus, the restrictions placed by our Governments in Westminster and in Holyrood upon all gatherings mean that our much-loved annual celebrations of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection cannot be held in public this year. However even these prohibitions do not mean that they will not be taking place. Holy Week is about to commence, and the crucifixion and the resurrection still will happen as key commemorations of our Church Year. But this April we each will be making the Holy Week journey privately in our hearts. Whilst walking together through the solemn events that lead us to a cross and a tomb, may we hold each other in our hearts and in our prayers and in that way share this momentous religious journey with each other. Even though a great many of us may be alone this Easter, yet none of us really are absolutely alone because our Lord Jesus Christ is with each one of us. Let us not forget that Holy Week is about the Saviour who vanquished sin, defeated death, and triumphed gloriously when he arose and thereby bestowed upon us the gift of eternal life! The required “social distancing” rules made necessary by the Covid-19 precautions certainly are changing how we interact, yet there are a wonderful array of new and creative ways that Christians are linking up online and through social media to form the Body of Christ at worship. Even though there are prohibitions on our coming together physically, may this year’s Holy Week be an occasion when we all join together in our hearts and celebrate the amazing gift of new and eternal life that is the great and glorious gift of Easter.

I intend to send out a news letter every week. I would love to hear from you – tell us what are doing with your time, what is helping you to pray and stay close to God, what is helping you to remain hopeful and faithful. Please send your news to me at :
Palm Sunday Possibilities – Worship

In preparation for the day you might find green foliage to hang on your door or window (as described above) – an outward sign that those in your house are celebrating Palm Sunday.

Your church might be encouraging worship using a prayerbook or leaflet. There might be prayers you can join on-line through a website or facebook, or zoom.

The Provincial Eucharist for Palm Sunday is at 11am. The service will be led by the Bishop of Brechin. Details will be available on the Scottish Episcopal Church Website and Facebook page from Friday.

At 5.30pm, Canon Lynsay Downs will be publishing a Tenebrae Service on the website of St Ternan’s Church, Banchory. More details of this service as give below. The service can be accessed at any time after 5.30pm, the material used at your own pace.

At 7pm we will be lighting candles to place in our windows, that the light and hope of Jesus Christ will shine into the world. As we light our candles we are encouraged to pray.


Tenebrae, from the Latin word for ‘shadows’, has been observed in the church of Jesus Christ since the fourth century. During the service the readings recall the events that led Jesus to the cross, and eight candles are extinguished, one-by-one, dramatising the suffering and death of Jesus. The diminishing light symbolizes the diminishing faith of the disciples and the sin of the world. At the end, when all is dark, the music ‘Were you there..’ is played, and one candle relit as a symbol of the hope of the resurrection.

A service has been prepared for our use by Canon Lynsay Downs. The Tenebrae service will appear at 5.30pm on Sunday on the St Ternan’s, Banchory newsfeed:

It will remain as a link for Holy Week (look in the side bar after Sunday). Another appropriate time to use this material would be Good Friday evening. To prepare for this you will need to locate eight candles, to be extinguished one by one.

A look ahead…. Easter Gardens are a feature in many of our churches – this year we are encouraged to make our own at home. The article that follows describes how we might do this.
Making an Easter Garden Following a suggestion from a member of the St John’s congregation, we’re going to invite people to create Easter Gardens in their homes (or gardens) and share images of them. Your Easter garden can be as elaborate or minimal as you wish (and you have material around). Perhaps you might wish to build a large one in a front garden or a tabletop sized one made of ‘found’ materials in your house (or even use Lego!). Easter Gardens give a visual representation of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The key components are a tomb, a tombstone and three crosses alongside the garden in which to place them. As a nativity set is a visual representation at Christmas, so an Easter Garden can be at Easter. The garden itself could be created a tray of soil, a tray of stones or even a cardboard box which you can place things into and onto, grouping them together. The decoration of the garden is up to you. Perhaps a vase of flowers, some moss, some potted plants, hand drawn flowers or artificial flowers (even Christmas wreaths) which you have in the house. You may wish to add the flowers or more flowers on Easter Sunday. The three crosses can be made from sticks, fastening the cross pieces with string or twine. Other materials such as sticks, cardboard can be used. Place your crosses into your garden, if possible, on a hill you have fashioned. If one cross is larger than the others, place it in the middle for the cross Jesus was crucified on. These crosses remind us of Jesus’ Crucifixion on Good Friday and those he was crucified alongside. You will need a tomb and tombstone. The tomb could be a plant pot or yoghurt pot or a papiermâché creation. For the tombstone you could use a larger stone or another object (perhaps even a rolled-up piece of paper). On Easter Sunday morning the tomb stone should be moved to reveal the empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection. You might wish to create the garden early on in Holy Week and add the crosses, tomb and tombstone on Good Friday or create the garden as part of Good Friday devotions. There are many tutorials online about Easter Gardens, however, this is one way to focus on the resurrection of Jesus, the love of God and the hope of eternal life this Easter.
Image from Revd Dr Jenny Holden, St John’s, Aberdeen

Newsletter No 1

25 March 2020

Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney Scottish Episcopal Church Newsletter – Wednesday 25 March 2020 From the Bishop

In common with you all, I am getting used to staying at home. I am adjusting to working in this confined way – speaking to people by phone, Facetime or Skype. The College of Bishops are meeting by ZOOM, with lots to discuss as advice from the national and Scottish governments changes daily at present. More time at home means that I am preparing more meals and doing some baking, and we are enjoying more family time than we usually manage. We have much to be thankful for. Meanwhile, my neighbourhood is quiet, people are out in ones or twos to walk or run, as we wait to see the impact of this virus on Aberdeen City. It is a challenging time to watch the news, so I try to balance this with times of prayer. I was struck today, hearing the story of the Annunciation, that God does not want us to be fearful. I am praying the words we often pray after receiving communion: May we who have received the pledges of the kingdom, live by faith, walk in hope and be renewed in love, until the world reflects your glory and you are all in all.
Lighting a Candle of Hope as we pray for the world

Sundays (or everyday!) at 7pm Light a candle and place it in a window as sign of the light of Christ shining into the world.

Churches of all denominations across the UK are joining together to pray in this way for all affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

On Sunday 22 March, we used this prayer:

For all that is good in life, thank you. For the love of family and friends, thank you For the kindness of good neighbour and Samaritan stranger, thank you.
May those who are vulnerable, hungry or homeless, experience support, May those who are sick, know healing, May those who are anxious or bereaved, sense comfort Bless and guide political leaders and decision-makers, with wisdom, Bless and guide health workers and key workers, with strength and well-being, Bless and guide each one of us, as we adapt to a new way of living. And may the light shining from our windows, across road and wynd, glen and ben, kyle and isle, be reflected in our hearts and hands and hopes. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Revd Canon Neil Brice, Rector of St Magnus, Lerwick and St Colman, Yell in Shetland, sends us this message. Collective worship in our churches in Shetland ceased Sunday 15 March, the week before the rest of the Diocese.
News from Shetland. We are living through uncharted waters to say the least! It would appear that we in Shetland were first to close our church services and when we did some wondered if we were over reacting. Now I think people fully understand the need to be responsible. Covid 19 has hit Shetland hard. Last week we had 24 confirmed cases, and on Sunday the RAF evacuated one patient to Aberdeen in a Hercules transporter plane. We know there will be many more than 24 here with the virus. It is strange to think that in a time we are being told to live isolated lives for safety, that on Shetland, that is often described as isolated, that very isolation brings with it fear. We will need to learn how to recognise our fears, and let’s try and be honest about them when we support one another.

The church leaders here in Shetland are working closely together to support our congregations and community. We have learnt how to “Zoom”, to “live stream” and we are learning how to “lead” worship on BBC radio Shetland! All things we never did before. It is certainly true to reflect that we are discovering what being “church” is really all about. Maybe we will think of our buildings differently when they’re open?

I am lucky in that my isolated walks can take me into some beautiful places and I accompany this news with a picture from a recent walk.

Being Close to God and the Church, in Isolation – Erica Steele, St Machar’s Bucksburn. We are fearful, ignorant and confused about avoiding COVID-19, about getting essentials, about helping others. Yet amazing experiences occurred in the last weeks. God sends Angels, offering support and guidance: family, St Machar’s, Bucksburn, Bishop Anne, The Province, friends, The Julian Meeting, and more. My very busy son is helping his old Mum by collecting prescriptions. Friends, often in difficult circumstances are making us laugh! Teaching comes from Bishops and Priests. The Internet is a gift. God is Love. St Machar’s urges “Following Jesus and Making Him Known” using Bible and Liturgy. I also practice contemplation, according to Mother Julian, “Await God in silence” wordlessly, sitting at home or in the garden, another place for joyful thanks. God’s world reminds me of His love and offers smiles at the most difficult times like seeing frogs spawning in the pond. Music also provides spiritual experience. The need for prayer is greater than ever! I am lucky to be able to pray with my husband Michael. We name our family members, St Machar Church, neighbours, our various groups and friends near and far. We then try to follow this by getting in touch with as many as possible. We listen to their needs but they give us support; the sharing is important. Our congregation of St Machar’s distributed our regular Sunday Morning Prayer with readings and Psalms. Bishop Anne keeps us in touch with Diocesan events. I enjoy ‘Picturing Prayer’ on the website; this week’s image is so relevant; do have a look! Then there was SEC Service which broadcast every Sunday. We read Morning Prayer and then ‘attended’ Bishop Mark’s uplifting service. It was a special invitation to St Duthac’s Chapel. We are thankful for the continuation of ‘joint worship’. God is love.

I intend to send out a news letter every week. I would love to hear from you – tell us what are doing with your time, what is helping you to pray and stay close to God, what is helping you to remain hopeful and faithful. Please send your news to me at :