Category Archives: SEC

Unholy Holy Week

I woke up early on Palm Sunday morning, (after being up twice with the puppy from hell during the night), with Jesus’ words in the Garden ‘Lord, Let this cup pass by me’.  I was profoundly miserable and tired.  Holy Week and all that it brings with it – the mammoth services, the intricate details of the liturgy, the making sure that all is done correctly and smoothly – lay before me like a huge unwanted behemoth.

So I began Passiontide with unholy thoughts of pulling the duvet over my head, staying in bed, eating chocolate and pretending to ignore the world for the whole week.  But when you are the Priest that is simply not an option for Easter or for Christmas.  I often joke that I didn’t read the small print on my ordination Licence about having to work over Easter and Christmas.  That secular sense of unfairness that I have to work very hard while the whole world basks in Bank Holiday sunshine and merriment had overwhelmed me once again.

And then.  And then, I remembered that I had to be there.  So I got out of bed and began my day.  From the moment I got to the Church I was hit by signs of God and his sense of Humour.  ‘Yes, Samantha. This is why I have called you to do this job.’  I felt Him laughing at me.  The warmth of my Congregation who are so grateful to be doing Holy Week properly again, combined with the most amazing unrehearsed Dramatic Reading of the Gospel (where I only had to read Judas as people where falling over themselves to offer to read parts AND we had a female Jesus!), reminded me why I do what I do and who I do it for. 

There was a moment in the reading of the Gospel when Jesus died.  The whole church was still, even Baby Elizabeth.  My heart stopped.  I breathed again and the narrator carried on with her story that never becomes old by its retelling. God was present and with us.

The day carried on.  Lunch out with Robina and Scott across the road, gazing at the Sunshine and, again, wishing I was on the beach.  And so we moved on to the climax of our Palm Sunday at St Ninians and for Seaton.  As part of my efforts to make our Episcopal voice heard in Seaton and Donside, we have entered into joining the Ecumenical Donside Christian Partnership of churches with aplomb!  

So on that afternoon 10 local churches and their representatives began a Palm Sunday afternoon walk from The Mission Church.  Waving branches we walked through Old Aberdeen to St Machar’s Cathedral  for prayers and then on through the stunning Seaton Park.  Up to the walled garden for a brief meditation and then down to St Ninians for a short service and bun fight. 

From the astonishment that so many people had turned up, to the symbolic and moving moment when the Roman Catholic Priest said prayers at the foot of the Nave in a Church of Scotland ‘Cathedral’, God endlessly surprised me that afternoon.  Then we walked back to St Ninians to find my lovely ladies furiously buttering hot cross buns as more and more people began to fill our Church.

I stood at the lectern that afternoon and looked out at a full Church.  Full of many different people, with different ethnic backgrounds, of different ages and having different ways of loving our Lord.  And my heart sang and gave thanks.  I retold the Palm Sunday story through our own eyes and prayed for Seaton.  God was present and with us.

There is hope in this part of Aberdeen.  In amongst the deprivation, the drug abuse, the feral kids and the unemployed/unemployable despair.  There is hope.  There is hope because the Churches can come together and find a meeting point in order to build the Kingdom of God here in this place and this time.  We have begun. God is present and with us.

So my Holy Week began with unholy thoughts, but, my goodness me, I am ready for some Holy ones now.

Blessings

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Clashing Curates

I am currently working in a grey zone with regards to the Church.  I have not quite finished my curacy, am not quite a Rector but am Interim Priest-In-Charge at St Nins and, basically, am classified as the Bishop’s Curate till September.  So, technically, I am still in my training and formation period of authorised and ordained ministry.

This means that I attend our Diocesan Curates Support Group as part of my Continuing Ministry Development (CMD). Yesterday, we had an informal lunch and reflective session at one of the Curate’s homes.  There were only three of us but it was good.  The Curate is married to a priest who will be celebrating 50 years of Holy Orders in September – his Golden Jubilee!  What an accomplishment and how much experience has been gained in those many years.  So it is always a joy to discuss ministry and life as a priest with someone who has seen it all, done it all and heard it all.

What struck me yesterday, apart from how fabulous their Coronation Chicken and my brownies were, was that we are very blessed with our Church.  In the SEC all styles of worship and approach have a home and are accepted.  From the very low laid back to the more catholic than the Catholics approach, we all have a place, we are all tolerated and, for the most part, I pray that we are all welcomed.  There really is an Episcopal/Anglican church out there to suit everyone.  I simply love that about the church God has chosen for me to commit my life to serving.  It means that with all my quirky human faults, I am licensed to be a priest in a church that doesn’t bat an eyelid about red shoes and matching red nail polish on a Sunday morning. 

We got into quite a heated debate about when a priest is celebrating the sacraments how much of that priest’s personality should be on ‘display’.  From the staunch line of  ‘ absolutely nothing of the person should be revealed’, to the relaxed ‘we are human and we bring our humanity with us to God’s table’, the views were wide apart.  And yet, over brownies and Quiche and wine, there was laughter, common ground and trust.

I have probably opened a can of worms with this post, but each priest and each member of the church bring something different to worship every week.  We are all changed by our lives during the week.  I celebrate the fact that on a Sunday morning we can lay it all at God’s feet and simply pray ‘thank you for loving me as I am’.

Blessings

Eggs and Ecumenism

I grew up on a small Island off the south of England called Guernsey.  We were sent there when my dad was promoted by the Bank from mere Auditor to Bank Manager.  It was a fab place to grow up and I still consider it to be home. 

Guernsey is split into 10 Parishes, but within the 22 square miles of beautiful rock, sea, sand and fields, every religion and church is represented.  So I am always astonished by the lack of Ecumenism within  Scotland and England.  On my Island most of the churches and faiths worked very hard to work together – it is tricky if you don’t in such a small space.

As an incomer (once again) to Scotland and now working in ministry, I have an insight into what it is like to both be the parish church and not.  With the Church of England (CofE) we have automatic ownership of the parish and all souls therein.  With the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) we do not.  That is the right of the Church of Scotland.  This is very simple.  It never ceases to amaze me the shock that clergy coming up from ‘down south’ encounter when they realise (usually belatedly) that they are no longer King /Queen of all they survey. 

For me, training as a Priest within the SEC, whilst having the heart of a conservative Church of England Evangelistic lass, has been challenging.  I have always approached working within a parish, any parish, with openness and humility.  We are here to worship and serve the same God.  We just do it differently on a Sunday morning.  That is okay.  That is positive and good and effectively serves the wide variety of people who witness to having Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

Yesterday, we had a joint ecumenical Easter service at one of our local Sheltered Housing homes.  With Rev Elsie, her assistant Janet and various volunteers from both the Church of Scotland (CofS) of Seaton, St Mary’s, and St Ninians, the SEC of Seaton, we gave the folks a good snapshot of the last week of Jesus life.  There was singing, laughter, meditations, prayers and of course tea, cakes, easter cards and creme eggs.  It was good. 

What Elsie and I have got working in Seaton is, well, working.  We work together in the Primary School, at the University and at the Homes.  We work well because we actually like each other and have found common ground of friendship and trust.  I am very fortunate.  I have worked in some parishes where this has not been the case and it is so sad.  We can do so much together and are stronger than if we are apart. 

The main point for me is what kind of message is our effective working together giving to the local community both churched and unchurched?  I pray that it is a positive one and that our joint working relationship in Seaton will help to continue to build the Kingdom of God here on earth.  That may be a grand sweeping statement, but it is, in fact, what we are charged to do as Christians.  

Of course, the fact that chocolate, cake and laughter are involved in the process never hurts. Just a shame they forgot the Champagne.

Blessings

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