29th August 2021: Letter from the Interim-Moderator Rev David Scott
How many different congregations are there in St. Andrews? There are three kirks – and if you include Dunino, Cameron and Strathkinness which belong to the St. Andrews’ Cluster, there are six.
In addition, there are two Episcopal congregations, a Baptist Church, a Free Church and a Roman Catholic Church. There is also the Gospel Hall, Vineyard and Cornerstone.
The latter is a congregation which grew out of a division within the worshipping community at Holy Trinity. It is now affiliated with the United Free Church.
Is that fourteen? I am not sure I have counted them all. There is, of course, St. Salvator’s Chapel and St. Leonard’s Chapel for the University staff and students. Members of the town worship there too.
These sixteen different churches all witness to the different patterns of worship and belief systems which have emerged over the centuries. But this variety also witnesses to the Church’s inability to love as Christ loved us.
Within congregations, there are people who consider their point of view to be so atuned to the mind and heart of God that they are unwilling to let go for the sake of a love which transcends all our differences.
But the Church does not have a monopoly on love. This is an attribute which is evident within all peoples, all religions, all denominations, all secular and sacred institutions. The Gospel may have something unique to say about it but it doesn’t possess it exclusively.
And so, we realise that this is the very thing which has the power to unite us all – not just different denominations nor religions but the whole earth. And rightly so for Christians believe that God is Love!
David D Scott, Interim-Moderator
15th August 2021: Letter from the minister Rev Marion Paton
As many of you will know, last week I travelled to the South of England to conduct the funeral of a very close friend. I had known Hazel for 44 years and her home was my second home when I lived in the south. She had been ill for some years and it really was time to say goodbye in this life, but none the less, it was an emotional and difficult time for her family and all who were gathered. And it was a great privilege for me to be invited to conduct her service.
This took place in her local parish church, a place of huge significance for her as it was the place where she had been married, where her daughter was baptised, and where she attended the early morning Eucharist for as long as she was able. But it was a place of worship with very different traditions from our own. This set me thinking about the architecture of our places of worship and what they have to say to us.
As you will see from the photograph, St Peter’s Parkstone is a huge Victorian Gothic edifice with a high altar which speaks of the centrality of the Eucharist. In our own churches, it is the pulpit that is usually more obvious, speaking of the centrality of the Word of God. In both cases, the means of Grace, the Eucharist (or Communion) and the Word of God are intended to bring the worshipper closer to the Saviour. The way this happens for us is a matter of faith and tradition, for in both cases Christ is the central focus.
It was a huge privilege for me to be allowed to lead worship in this beautiful church. It was a huge privilege to have the opportunity to serve a family that I know so well and who have given me so much love and support over the years. And it is a huge privilege for me to be allowed to open the scriptures to all of you at Boarhills and Dunino and Holy Trinity, as well as those who join us on-line and in print week by week. Thank you all for your love and support.
With love and blessings
1st August 2021: Letter from the minister Rev Marion Paton
Addressing a letter to friends is always a privilege, and every week as I write to you, it is very special to be able to call everyone who will receive this letter, whether here in St Andrews or halfway across the world, a friend. But what is the nature of friendship? There is a wonderful description of friendship in A.A.Milne’s ‘Winnie the Pooh’.
One day Pooh bear is about to go for a walk in the Hundred Acre Wood. It is about 11-30 in the morning. It is a fine time to go calling – just before lunch. So Pooh sets out across the stream, stepping on the stones. And when he reaches the middle of the stream he sits down on a warm stone and thinks about just where he would like to make a call. He says to himself ‘I think I’ll go and see Tigger’. But he dismisses that idea in favour of Owl. Then he decides against that because Owl uses big and hard to understand words. At last he brightens up. ‘I think I’ll go and see Rabbit. Rabbit uses encouraging words like “How about lunch?” and “Help yourself, Pooh”’.
Friendship is such an important part of life, and true friends are encouragers who have the art of knowing what to say and what not to say, as well as when to speak and when to be silent. But friendships need to be nurtured and should not be neglected. This applies to both human friendships, and most importantly of all, our friendship with Jesus Christ. It is so important to understand that when we are spending time with him, if we do all the talking there will be no time to listen to his words of encouragement for us. Jesus wants to be involved in our lives, to talk as well as to listen.
Next week I shall be heading South to take the funeral of a very dear and thoughtful friend, one who has been a source of wisdom and comfort for more than forty years. Her passing was not unexpected, and although I have not seen her for a long time I shall miss the long telephone conversations we have enjoyed for so long. This means that there will be no letter with the service next Sunday. I shall be away from Wednesday to Friday and during that time any urgent pastoral needs should be addressed to Rev David Scott. Please contact him through your elder .
With love and blessings
25th July 2021: Letter from the minister Rev Marion Paton
‘Father, we thank thee for these thy gifts. Bless them to our use and ourselves to thy service for Christ’s sake. Amen’. So began every meal in my childhood home, and I can still hear my father saying grace when we sat down to eat. It didn’t matter whether it was Sunday lunch or Saturday tea and bread and butter, we always gave thanks. That was the way in many homes in those days.
In Orthodox Jewish homes too, grace would be said after every meal. ‘Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, who causest to come forth bread from the earth. Blessed be he of whose gifts we have partaken and by whose goodness we exist. Blessed be he, and blessed be his name’.
Jesus too, always blessed and gave thanks for the food that was to be eaten, and you will remember that it was as he blessed and gave thanks that the two friends on the Emmaus Road recognised the Risen Christ.
Today we shall be looking at the story of the feeding of the five thousand, a story that appears in all four gospels, a true miracle on several levels. There was not much to eat, but still Jesus blessed and gave thanks. And in the multiplication and it is called, there was enough and to spare.
In a day when we take so much for granted, it is good to remember that with God there will always be enough and to spare. And it is especially important to remember to give thanks for what we have. The problem in our own day is that the resources of the world are not equitably shared. Thus, there have to be charities like ‘Christian Aid’, ‘Oxfam’, ‘WaterAid’ and ‘Storehouse’. So, as we do what we can to support them and to share our bounty, let us always remember to give thanks to God for all his generosity and goodness in every aspect of our lives.
With love and blessings
18th June 2021: letter from the minister Rev Marion Paton
I have just finished writing this week’s service and, as usual, my last job was to insert the hymns into the script to go out by email. In order to save time, I use a website and copy the words of the hymns. But many of you will have noticed that sometimes the words in the script are not the same as the words that you know. That is because, down the years they have been modified, modernised, or made inclusive, and although the meanings are the same, the words are slightly different. Sometimes I don’t manage to spot the differences before going to print! Tunes too, can be different. We know and like the tunes we grew up with to particular hymns, but others grew up with something different. None of that is wrong. It is simply different.
Just at the moment we are having to accept that in all aspects of life, things will be different after Covid. And the reason for that is that every person has been changed by the experiences of the last few months. We all need to get used to a new normal, a new carefulness about the way we act and react. We will get used to it and it will become normal. We don’t like it but if we can cope, our future will be restored.
However, there is one thing that never changes, and that is the love of God for all his people, the love that gave his Son to save us from our sins. There used to be a children’s hymn that said:
Ev’rything changes, but God changes not;
The power never changes that lies in His thought:
Truth never changes, and beauty’s her dress,
And Good never changes, which those two express.
In a time of immense change, what great words to keep in our hearts.
With love and blessings,
11th June 2021: Letter from the minister Rev Marion Paton
Talking to a friend the other evening, I remarked on the fact that it was quite difficult to write a letter every week to go out with the emailed service, and that what I was going to say this week was still something of a mystery. This led me to think about what is meant by the word ‘mystery.’
It was Dewi Morgan in ‘The Times’ of 1985 who sad that mystery means, ‘not the inexplicable but the inexhaustible.’ The dictionary defines ‘mystery’ as an unexplained or inexplicable phenomenon, a truth that is divinely revealed but otherwise unknowable, a sacramental rite. We often speak about the mystery of faith, the mystery of the numinous, the mystery of the sacrament, and indeed, about the ultimate mystery whom we worship in the mystery of our God.
Many down the years have tried to define our God, the one who we understand as the creator and sustainer of all that is, the one who is the source of all love, and we all know that such discussions are completely inexhaustible. The fact is that no language has sufficient words to describe the divine mystery of God. Some things then, are just meant to remain a mystery. However, our God understands our difficulties and has therefore revealed himself through his Son Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is through Christ and in the power of the Spirit that we worship him. It is through Christ that we receive guidance for life.
It was the American preacher Jeremy Taylor who once said that ‘a religion without mystery must be a religion without God’ and it is the divine mystery of our God who we worship Sunday by Sunday. And as we do so, and as we do our best to understand all truth, it is through the mystery of faith, the mystery of the numinous, the mystery of the sacraments, that we can catch glimpses of the glory that is yet to come.
With Love and Blessings
4th June 2021: Letter from the minister Rev Marion Paton
One evening, just before the great Music Hall star Mary Martin was about to go on stage in ‘South Pacific’, a note was handed to her. It was from Oscar Hammerstein who at that moment was on his deathbed. It read:
‘Dear Mary, a bell is not a bell until you ring it! A song is not a song until you sing it! Love in your heart is not put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away’.
After her performance that night many people rushed backstage saying, ‘Mary, what happened to you out there tonight? We never saw anything like that performance before’. Blinking back the tears, Mary read them the note. Then she said, ‘Tonight I gave all my love away’.
Jesus says ‘The greatest commandment is this, love one another’. There are many, many ways of giving love away, both in practical support and actions, and in words. And there are so many people who feel unloved, particularly after all that we have endured during these last months. The Gospel message is all about love, and this means that everything we say and do in the name of Christ should, as far as we are able, reflect his love.
The first verse of our final hymn in this morning’s service says:
We have a gospel to proclaim
Good news for all throughout the earth;
The gospel of a Saviour’s name:
We sing His glory, tell His worth.
Now that there is real light at the end of the tunnel, and new freedoms are promised as the Covid restrictions gradually come to an end, let us resolve to use our new freedoms to do everything we can to share the Gospel of God’s love in the way that we live, so that everyone will know ‘Whose we are and whom we serve’.
With love and blessings
27th June 2021: letter from the minister Rev Marion Paton
When I lived in Dundee, my study window gave me a wonderful panoramic view over the city to the River Tay. I could see the boats going up and down the river, and away in the distance Newport and Wormit. With my binoculars I could even see my friend’s house and watch people going in and out of the shop! Not that I was nosey enough to do that, but I could have done so if I had wished. Sadly, from my study window now, I can only see across the road and there is usually not very much going on. I really miss the interest of the view.
All of this made me think about what we see, and what we don’t see, what we concern ourselves with, and what we don’t notice. During the past months for most of us, thoughts have been taken up with the rules and regulations concerning Covid, whether we are doing right or wrong, and whether and when it will all end. Now, all things being equal, we are told we can look forward to being set free to get back to normal on August 9th. Hooray! But free to do what? To return to the old ways, or to embrace new adventures? So, what is our vision for the freedom we are promised?
As the church in Boarhills and Dunino and Holy Trinity, we have worked hard to keep our fellowship together, to show we care, and to share the gospel message during the difficult times we have all endured. And we are now delighted to be able to return carefully to the things that we love about our worship and our Christian fellowship. But is that all we are going to do? During the pandemic we have learned a huge amount about the use of technology in winning people for Christ, and we must continue to develop and use that knowledge in our witness for Christ. But we also need to expand our vision as far as physical worship and service is concerned. Yes, quite rightly we want to get back to the ways of worship that we love. But let us also expand our vision, for there is so much more we could be offering in the service of Christ.
Can you simply see across the road, or can you see the panoramic view? And which is right for the future of our church, and which would you prefer?
With love and blessings
20th June 2021: letter from the minister Rev Marion Paton
This Sunday in Holy Trinity we shall welcome two more little children into our Christian family by Baptism. It is always a joy to celebrate and to welcome new life into our fellowship. We hear parents and godparents making vows about the Christian upbringing of their children, and we hope and pray that they will do their best to keep them. But they do need support and we, as a congregation of God’s people, also promise to take our part in the Christian upbringing of these children. For many months now, we have been limited in what we can do for the children, but come the new season, we hope to be allowed to re-start our Sunday School. If anyone feels that this is work in which they can share, please do get in touch with me.
It was a joy for us all to be allowed to sing last Sunday. Congregational singing has always been a vital part of Reformed worship and it felt so unnatural not to be able to express our worship through our praise. Now we can, even if still behind masks, so do enjoy singing with enthusiasm and conviction. We hope it will not be too long before we can remove the masks as well.
We are looking forward to the day when our choirs can be re-formed. We are very privileged both in Dunino and Holy Trinity to have enthusiastic choirs – quite different in nature – but such an important and enhancing part of our worship. Our organists Laura and Walter would be delighted to hear from anyone who feels that they would like to join the choir. There will be a simple audition as some of the music can be quite challenging. But it is great fun, and an important part of our worship.
Slowly, slowly, and with great care, the world is waking up after the pandemic. We have learned so much and have found new ways of sharing the gospel message. But there is nothing that can replace the physical Christian fellowship that we have all missed so much. So do come and join us – you can be sure of a warm welcome.
With Love and Blessings
6th June 2021: letter from the minsiter Rev Marion Paton
Whatever happened to a pen and paper and face to face meetings? We are now living in a digital age which is supposed to make everything easier. And of course, contacting all of you in this way is much easier, as is sharing our services on YouTube and Facebook. I am very grateful to Ron and to John who arrange all this for us. But still there are so many who cannot be contacted in this way, and I am so grateful to those who deliver letters and services by hand and make it possible for many more people to join us in spirit.
But for those of us who do use digital technology, what happens when it doesn’t work? I have spent many hours trying to fill in important forms only to discover that the recipient’s websites are down. The stress and frustration this can cause can be very damaging. No matter how useful modern technology is, nothing is as effective as face to face meetings.
During the period when our churches have had to be closed, many people have said how much they have missed meeting in person. Human contact is a fundamental part of the human condition. Indeed, part of our worship is the fellowship we enjoy and the encouragement we receive from each other. We know we have been separated for very good reasons and whilst things are not yet back to normal, we are doing all we can to make it safe for people to come together on a Sunday, and numbers are now only limited by the size of the building.
However, during this period, we have all come to realise more than ever how important communication with each other is. What is more, many who had never thought about it have come to realise that spiritual communication with our God in worship is important too. So, we want to use every way we can to make sure that as many people as possible are able to join us in worship, whether it is in the flesh, on paper or by digital means. Everyone is welcome.
With love and blessings
30th May 2021: letter from the minsiter Rev Marion Paton
As we are gradually and carefully being released from the restrictions that Covid has placed upon us, it has been interesting to talk to people who have found this whole period very testing. There have been those who could not wait to get out and about again, and also those who want to get out and about, but are not quite brave enough to do so. And there are some who simply do not want to go out at all. There is still much fear of the virus, and we know that there can be pockets of infection in unexpected places. So, it is that we still all need to be very careful as we try to pick up the pieces of our lives. Indeed, it has been so long since anything has been ‘normal’, that many are wondering what normality is.
In the church too, we are still taking great care. It was lovely to have a baptism in Holy Trinity last Sunday, with a most perfect baby, but some people remarked that I did not hold baby Alex and nor did I take him round the church, and that they had missed that. At the moment that is not possible, although I very much hope it will be possible within the not too distant future.
However, it is now possible to come to church and worship together as there is no cap on numbers and we can accommodate as many as the building can safely seat. We cannot yet sing, although I hope it will not be too long before we can. But we can worship together, and that makes a huge difference as we encourage each other in fellowship and faith.
One of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject of revival and reawakening was Dr. J Edwin Orr. In the early 1970s when Dr. Orr was presenting a series of lectures on revival at Columbia Bible College, a student approached him.
‘Dr, Orr’, he said, ‘Besides praying for revival to occur, what can I do to help bring it about?’ Without a moment’s pause, Dr. Orr replied, “you can let it begin with you’.
As we pray and work for the future of our own congregations, and for the future of the church in our land, after the restrictions of Covid, and we look for the revival of our work in the community, please remember that ‘You can let it begin with you’.
With love and blessings
March 2020: Covid-19 Prayer by Rt Rev Colin Sinclair