12th June 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
As usual at this point in the week, I have been sitting at my computer staring at the screen and wondering what on earth to say in this letter! It is at times like this that I sometimes turn to a little book of Daily Reflections from Pope Francis. You might think that a strange place for me to look for inspiration, but in fact, like most great people, Pope Francis has some interesting and challenging things to say to us. And today’s (June 9th) reflection says this.
‘We (the body of Christ in the world) need to avoid the spiritual sickness of a church wrapped up in her own world. It is true that going out on the streets implies the risk of accidents happening, as it would for any ordinary man or woman. But if the church stays indoors she certainly will age. The church is called to come out of herself and go to that place where the mystery of sin, pain, injustice and religious indifference, and of all human miseries is found’
At a time when all churches of every denomination are facing enormous challenges, this reflection has a lot to say to all of us. It is very comfortable to meet together on a Sunday and do what we enjoy doing as we worship God. And we are always delighted when more people come in and join us. And long may that continue. But it is so important that we should also go out and take risks for the gospel, go out and be church on the street for the rest of the week. So ask yourselves this question, ‘Would anyone recognise whose I am and whom I serve on any other day but Sunday?’ The answer might just cause you to pause and think about your life and what you can offer in practical love in the name of Christ and his church.
There will be no letter for the next two Sundays as I am on holiday for a week. Our services on 19th June will be conducted by Rev Alastair Symington and at Holy Trinity the St Andrews Community Choir will lead the praise. Rev George Fairlie will provide pastoral cover.
With love and blessings
5th June 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
During the past couple of weeks I have received two emails, (amongst the many) parts of which I would like to share with you. The first was from Charlotte, one of our Choral Scholars, who some of you will remember played the violin so beautifully during our Communion Service. In it, amongst other things, she said ‘I’m delighted to hear that the Bach felt right for the occasion — someone once said that playing solo Bach is like praying with the violin, and I have to agree’. What a timely reminder that there are many ways to pray and to worship, and that we are all called to offer our individual gifts and talents in worship and prayer, both to God and to our neighbour.
The second was from a group of pilgrims who, having walked the Fife Pilgrim Way, ended their pilgrimage at Holy Trinity, where a small group of friends welcomed them. It said, ‘I thought I would write to say how much we appreciated everyone’s welcome and hospitality at Holy Trinity’. Everyone was ‘so friendly and welcoming to a group of strangers who were invading your space. You modelled what a theology of hospitality should be’.
Then this weekend, we have been celebrating with the whole country, the remarkable life of faith, duty and service of her majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who has given seventy years of devoted service to our country. A truly remarkable and unique event and a life of service for which we all give thanks.
This weekend too, we are celebrating the Feast of Pentecost, that time when nervous, frightened followers of Jesus were transformed into courageous women and men through the gift of the Holy Spirit, enabling them to share the gospel message all over the known world. this is such an important event in the life of the church, one for which we all give thanks.
Worship, prayer, faith, duty, service, hospitality. These are all marks of the Christian life. We can’t all be good at all of them, although we can do our best. And we can all offer the best that we have to give, even though we may feel it to be inadequate, in all these areas. Through the gift and transforming nature of the Holy Spirit, we are promised that whatever we offer in faith will be changed into something and special as we do our best to serve our God, through our Lord Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
With Love and Blessings
29th May 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
We are now only days away from the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations that will give most people an extra four day bank holiday. This is certainly a unique occasion in the history of our country as we give thanks for the extraordinarily long reign of Queen Elizabeth II. In April 1947, the then Princess Elizabeth said ‘I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service. but I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join with me as I now invite you to do. I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it’.
Then on Coronation Day she said ‘When I spoke to you last… I asked you all, whatever your religion, to pray for me on the day of my Coronation – to pray that God would give me wisdom and strength to carry out the promises that I would be making… I have been uplifted and sustained by the knowledge that your thoughts and prayers are with me’.
The power of prayer is a remarkable thing. Whilst we don’t quite understand how it works, we know that it does. There are so many who can testify to the wisdom and strength that it brings with it, including our Queen.
We shall be celebrating the Platinum Jubilee in Holy Trinity Church on Thursday 2nd June at 11:00am with an Ecumenical Service of Thanksgiving. The speaker will be Professor Ian Bradley and everyone will be welcome. Then on Friday 3rd of June there will be a short service of thanksgiving at 3:00pm followed by refreshments. Again, all are welcome. I also know of other events taking place in the area to celebrate this momentous occasion.
But whatever we may be doing during the bank holiday and at any time, let us all pray for wisdom and strength to do God’s will in all that we undertake to the best of our ability.
With love and blessings
22nd May 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
This week the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is meeting, both in Edinburgh and remotely, and both our Interim Moderator, Rev David Scott and Dr. Mike Stewart, Session Clerk of Holy Trinity, are commissioners this year. This is the first time since before Covid that this meeting has been at least partly in-person. There are momentous decisions to be made so please pray for our representatives and all the commissioners as they wrestle with difficult questions on our behalf.
There was a time when every minister went to the General Assembly together with an elder from each charge, and what an exciting and impressive event it was. It was very demanding work for commissioners, as well as a time for meeting old friends and making new ones. Now the General Assembly has been slimmed down, like so many things, but it is none-the-less important for all that.
Significantly, the main business of the week has always been prefaced with the celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and I assume that this will happen this year. It was always very moving to be present at this great occasion. In addition, it was a timely reminder that, whatever our differences in opinion might be about the many issues that come before the courts of the church, we are all one in Christ and are called by him to ‘love one another’. Not always easy when there are profound differences of opinion on some of the issues to be debated.
We shall be celebrating the sacrament of Holy Communion in Holy Trinity this Sunday (22/05/22), and this too is a timely reminder that as we gather around the Holy Table to give thanks for Christ’s love for each one of us, we are called to welcome all who come, and also called to love one another as Christ loves us. If you are sharing this service with us at home, you can join with us in spirit by providing yourself with bread and wine/juice for the sacrament. If you would like the minister to bring you communion at home please speak to your elder or contact me direct.
With Love and Blessings,
A Prayer for the General Assembly: Almighty God, your Son promised his disciples that he would be with them always. Hear the prayer we offer for your servants now met in General Assembly. May your holy Spirit rest on them, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. Grant them vision and courage, unite them in love and peace. Teach them to be trustworthy stewards of your truth. And so, guide them in all their doings that your kingdom may be advanced, your people confirmed in their most holy faith, and your unfailing love declared to all the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
15th May 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
This Sunday marks the first day of Christian Aid Week. This is a charity which seeks to help people of all faiths and none who currently live in poverty through no fault of their own. The charity seeks to help people to live fruitful and fulfilling lives by helping them to become more self-sufficient in very challenging circumstances. As we all battle with climate change more and more people are finding it difficult to sustain life, and Christian Aid, through their agents, provide guidance and resources to improve conditions for many people. There will be an opportunity to donate this Sunday and next Sunday in church, but if you cannot come to church but wish to donate you could send your donation to the church either at Dunino or Holy Trinity.
Next Sunday we shall celebrate Holy Communion at Holy Trinity and of course, all members and friends will be most welcome at this service. If you would like Communion at home, please let your elder or the minister know, and this can be arranged.
On Thursday 2nd June at 11:00am in Holy Trinity we shall be holding a short ecumenical service of thanksgiving for the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and of course everyone will be welcome to come to this.
Then on Sunday 12th June, which is Trinity Sunday, the Friends of Holy Trinity will be holding their AGM after the service in Holy Trinity. The Friends were set up to support the music of our worship in Holy Trinity and we are very privileged to have wonderful musicians in both our churches as well as a fine choir in Holy Trinity. Fine music, offered to God in worship, enhances that worship for everyone, and it is important that we support our musicians in every way we can. If you would like to become a ‘Friend’ please contact the minister or Katherine Hogg, the secretary who can give you all the details.
It was St Augustine who said, ‘He who sings prays twice’. Whilst not all of us can be in a choir or play a musical instrument, there are so many other imaginative ways in which we can all use our gifts and talents to give our best to God in worship and service. If you have any new ideas about what you and your church could be doing, please do let us know.
With love and blessings
8th May 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that what the world needs more than anything at the moment, is a time of calm and peace, a time to reflect and regroup, a time to allow ourselves to come closer to God and seek his will. The situation in Ukraine is of course, at the top of people’s minds, but there are so many other countries suffering the privations of war. Then there are all the arguments about climate change which in really, we should be seeking to distil into one universal strategy, to which every country subscribes, to save our natural world. Then of course, there needs to be a time for recovery from the pandemic, which is far from over, but over which modern medicine seems to be gaining the upper hand. But of course, that is all very idealistic.
I think many people would want to argue that what this is not, is a time to be upsetting people even more. When the list of churches to be closed in this area was printed in the local press, there was immediately a great outpouring of distress, even from people who never darken a church door. The church in the community is, after all, part of the history of that community, as well as being a meeting place, a place of worship, and a place where important life events have been marked down the years. It is true that there are far too many church buildings, particularly in our cities, but at a time of such global uncertainty, the church building is a symbol of faith and continuity and security in the community and should be available for use. So, the message here has to be ‘Use it, or lose it’.
It is true that some church buildings are not considered fit for purpose in our modern world, and that some will need to go. But it is also true that there is a huge need, and there also seems to be a resurgence of people seeking after truth. Surely church buildings would be much better used in imaginative ways to bring people closer together and closer to God, rather than simply being open for an hour on a Sunday or converted into who knows what?
At a time when there is such a need for peace and calm and security in all aspects of life at present, surely that should be the goal of all people as we look to the future. It is the hymn writer Edward Henry Bickersteth who says:
Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin? The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
Peace perfect peace, our future all unknown? Jesus we know, and he is on the throne.
With love and blessings,
1st May 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
What a privilege it was in Holy Trinity last Sunday for us to welcome two Ukrainian families to our fellowship. One family had been here for a little while, and the other, who were relatives of theirs, had very recently arrived, having travelled for eight days to get here. Their presence spoke to us as no words ever could, of the terrible things that are happening to our sisters and brothers in Ukraine, and it was a joy to see the love with which they were immediately surrounded by the folk who had come to worship. The children were pale and shocked, and although they spoke no English it was lovely to see the young teenage boy eventually smile, and an even younger girl sit down and play the piano. I do hope we were able to help them in practical and spiritual ways and that they will be able to come back to share with us in worship again.
But our Ukrainian friends did not come empty-handed. Being Orthodox Christians, last Sunday was for them Easter Day, and despite all the privations they had suffered, they brought with them a traditional Ukrainian Easter Cake to share with us. It was delicious, but even more importantly, it underlined all that all Christians are called to share in faith and love.
But there is one more important thing that happened last Sunday. I had written the service long before I could possibly have known that our friends from Ukraine were coming to be with us. As you will know, it contained several references to what is happening in Ukraine at present, as well as underlining the urgency of not only praying for all those involved in this terrible war, but also doing what we can in practical terms to help them. By the inspiration and the power of the Holy Spirit the words that I had written became so much more personal because our friends were there.
In the service I also spoke about the disciples meeting the risen Christ and not recognising him, and about our call as his people, to recognise and serve Christ in those around us. I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that the post-pandemic world situation has made life very difficult for so many people who for whatever reason find it hard to move forward. So, whether it is in showing our friends from Ukraine that they are loved or spending our time with our next-door neighbour to help them to move forward, let us do what we can in Christ’s name to serve him in those around us.
With love and blessings,
24th April 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
There is a beautiful old story about a Sunday School teacher who asked the children in his class to bring plastic eggs to church with them on Easter Sunday. And he asked them to fill each one with something that symbolized the message of the resurrection. The day came, and the teacher took each child’s egg in turn, opening it and making a point of looking at the contents and explaining how these illustrated the new life that springs forth at Easter, and explaining and underlining its meaning.
One child had a tiny flower, and the teacher spoke of the new life this represented. Another egg contained a hand drawn picture of Christ and the teacher spoke about that. Another had a small nail, and the point was made about the nails of the cross. Another had a round pebble that represented the stone that had been rolled away from the tomb.
But the teacher was dumbfounded when he opened the egg of seven-year-old Brian, a child with learning difficulties, because it contained nothing at all. But he needn’t have worried for Brian himself spoke up and announced, ‘It is full of emptiness, just like the tomb of Jesus’. What better way to illustrate the empty tomb?
But there is more, for the fact that the tomb is empty shows us that that the risen Christ is no longer confined to time and space. It shows us that he can be everywhere all the time. As Christians, we rejoice in the miracle of the resurrection, for because of it sin and death have been defeated for all time . We also rejoice in the fact that because the tomb is empty, we can call on the Risen Christ at any time, for he is always with us and available to us through his Spirit. What a wonderful season this is!
CHRIST IS RISEN – HE IS RISEN INDEED – ALLELUIA!
With love and blessings,
17th April 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
This is the day of Resurrection. Christ is Risen – He is risen indeed! What a joy it is to be able to worship together on this special day! What a joy it is to be able to welcome visitors into our fellowship. What a joy it is to be able to welcome young people who want publicly to profess their faith in the Risen Christ. What a joy it is to be able to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion together. If you are a visitor, please do share with us, for Christ invites all his people to sit at the table with him.
Easter Day is such a joyous day, for on that first Easter Day, when the disciples thought that all was lost, the Risen Christ came to them, and so the news began to spread that death had been swallowed up in victory. It was a pivotal day in the history of the world, for nothing would ever be the same again as the gate of heaven had been opened to all believers through the Risen Christ.
There is an old legend of a priest who found a branch of a thorn tree twisted around so that it resembled a crown of thorns. Thinking it a symbol of the crucifixion, he placed it on the altar of his chapel on Good Friday. Early on Easter morning he remembered what he had done, and feeling that a crown of thorns was not appropriate for Easter Sunday, he hurried to the church to clear it away before the congregation arrived. But when he went into the church, he found the thorn branches blossoming with beautiful roses. New life. What better illustration of the Easter message could there be?
As we look about us, we see new life in nature all about us as the green shoots rise from the ground and the buds burst and the blossom comes on the trees. We see more new life as we gradually and carefully emerge from the restrictions of the past two years. And today let us pray that we will soon see more new life for those involved in the war in Ukraine and that hostilities will soon be brought to an end, for Easter is all about new life.
Christ is Risen – he is Risen indeed! A very Happy Easter to you all.
With love and blessings,
10th April 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
It seems incredible that we have already reached that time in the Christian year when we are invited to walk the way of the cross with Jesus. Today is Palm Sunday, the day when we remember his rapturous welcome into the city of Jerusalem. We remember the waving palm branches and the joy of the people as they welcomed their king. But we also remember how that joy quickly turned to hatred as they realised that he was not the sort of king that they had expected, and how they then cried out for his crucifixion.
This week in St Andrews we will remember all these things and on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday there will be services in our churches to remember the events of this week. On Wednesday we will meet in Dunino, at 7:00pm for a short service, on Thursday we will celebrate Holy Communion in Holy Trinity at 7:00pm, and on Friday we will meditate on the Passion of Christ in words and music at 7:00pm in Holy Trinity. Also, on Good Friday there will be an ecumenical pilgrimage around the town, starting at 4:00pm from St Mary’s Quad. You are invited to join any or all these events.
In his wonderful book ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ John Bunyan says this.
‘Now I saw in my dream that the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation. Up this way therefore, did burdened Christian run, but not without difficulty because of the load on his back.
He ran thus until he came to a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a cross, an a little below in the bottom, a sepulchre. So, I saw in my dream that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble and so continued to do until it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in and I saw it no more. Thus was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, ‘He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death’.
As we walk the way of the cross with Jesus this week, let us never forget that Jesus has offered to all who will accept it ‘rest by his sorrow, and life by his death’.
With love and blessings,
3rd April 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
What a difficult time this is! There is so much Covid about and people are continually asking should we be doing things, or should we not? Is it safe to meet up with people or is it not? What are the current regulations and restrictions? The list of questions goes on and on, and so many people have lost confidence in their own judgement as they try to get back to some sort of normality and at the same time take appropriate precautions. All the uncertainty is having a terrible effect on so many people.
On my recent trip to the south of England, it was interesting to see how many people took no precautions at all, and how many people were very careful. Of the two cathedrals I visited in England one insisted on face masks and the other didn’t. Some shops did and some shops didn’t. Some people wore them on the train and the bus, and some didn’t. Indeed, on one bus we were asked to take them off! It is really hard to know what the most sensible thing to do is.
We have reached that time in the Christian year which used to be called Passiontide, that time when Jesus was coming closer to Jerusalem and all that awaited him there. He was determined to go, but his disciples wished that he would change his mind. He was determined to do the will of God, whatever the cost, but his disciples felt the cost might prove to be too great. And the question on all their lips was, were they right, or was he?
Well of course we know the story now. We know about the agony and the tragedy of the cross, and we know about the miracle and the triumph of the resurrection. And we know that in all things Jesus was inspired by love.
As a very wise friend once said to me, whatever the situation, love must always be the bottom line. This means that as we try to make informed decisions about what we should and shouldn’t do, we should all try to remember that love should always be the bottom line, and that Jesus said ‘Love one another, as I have loved you, so you must love one another’. It does make it easier to make decisions when we can remember this. And when we remember that for Jesus the bottom line was always love.
With love and blessings
20th March 2022: Letter from the Session Clerk, Mike Stewart
“At least two million people have fled their homes to escape conflict in Ukraine. Leaving behind jobs, belongings and loved ones, they now face an uncertain future.
Intense conflict in Ukraine is threatening the lives and livelihoods of civilians across the country. Families have been separated. People have been injured. Lives have been lost.
Homes have been destroyed or are unsafe to live in. Critical infrastructure such as health facilities, water supplies and schools have also been damaged or destroyed.
At Ukraine’s borders with Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova, huge numbers of people are arriving with only what they can carry. In many places there are long waits to cross and scant facilities waiting for them on the other side, with temperatures dropping below freezing overnight”. (Extract from Disaster Emergency Committee report)
The Moderator of the General Assembly, Lord Wallace, has put out a heartfelt appeal for funds for the people of the Ukraine in their desperate circumstances.
Some donations were given last week. Could I ask you to contribute generously to the needs of the Ukrainians through the Kirk, who will ensure that the funds will be sent to the place where they can do the most good.
A special collection will be held THIS SUNDAY, 20th March 2022, for those who wish to contribute. Cheques (where applicable) made to Holy Trinity Church.
Mike Stewart – Session Clerk
13th March 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
I must begin by thanking our two Session Clerks for conducting the services last Sunday at very short notice. As you know, illness can come when you least expect it and there is not a great deal you can do about it. I hope to be fit to take services this coming Sunday, I am certainly feeling much better. Thank you too, to all those who have phoned and offered help during what has been a difficult time.
Next Sunday (20th) I shall be on holiday. This was planned before I was unwell. Rev Alistair Symington will be conducting our worship and I know you will all give him a very warm welcome. My holiday also means that there will be no letter next week, or the week after as I will not be home in time to send out a letter to be printed.
At this time in our world history, we are all very much concerned with the problems caused by the global pandemic and its effects on our common life, and more recently, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its far-reaching consequences. We all want to know what we can do in practical terms to help those who have been displaced, as well as those who have already lost loved ones in the conflict.
Of course, we must pray that meaningful negotiations may take place so that hostilities may cease as soon as possible. War is after all wasteful and destructive. Then there are many aid agencies who are doing their best to bring help and comfort to those in so much need, and the more you can offer through your church or any aid agency, whilst it may seem like a drop in the ocean of need, will help.
When Jesus made his way to Jerusalem and to Calvary he did so in love for the world. In our own day we are not asked to do anything quite so dramatic, but if everyone could be persuaded to deal in love and work for peace the world would be a better place.
With love and blessings
6th March 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
This morning I received an email containing a very fine prayer which the writer said that he had written and subsequently prayed every day, and which had helped him through some difficult situations. This prompted me to think about the nature of prayer and how it can help in all sorts of situations and ways. One definition of prayer puts it like this:
Prayer is giving our attention to God in a two-way spiritual relationship where we talk to God and also listen to Him. We don’t pray on our own, but alongside Christians throughout the ages and around the world. Prayer brings us in touch with God and others, and Christians pray in the name of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. As we pray, we offer every situation to God, and God uses our prayers to bring love and justice into the world.
Our world situation at present is very worrying at a human level. What is going to happen in Ukraine, and what will the consequences be for the rest of the world? What is going to happen with Covid and what will the consequences be? What is going to happen for the thousands of children who have missed so much education and now find themselves unable to go to school? What is going to happen for all those whose mental health has been damaged by all the uncertainties we have all endured and continue to endure? What is going to happen …? In human terms we do not know the answers, and we can all feel that the situation is quite overwhelming.
But as Christians we know that we don’t have to bear these burdens alone. As Christians we know that we can place them in God’s hands and that he knows what his future plan is. So let us do just that. Let us pray with all the intensity of which we are capable, for a resolution to the Ukraine situation, let us pray that Covid will be controlled, let us pray for the children, let us pray for all those who are struggling with mental health issues, and let us, wherever possible, turn our prayers into practical action, for we know that our God can use all our gifts to make the world a better place.
With love and blessings
27th February 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
An examination was being held in Emma’s class at school, and the question was asked, ‘Upon what do hibernating animals subsist during the winter?’ Emma thought for a few minutes and then wrote, ‘All winter long hibernating animals subsist on the hope of a coming spring’.
For two years the world has been subsisting on the hope of a coming spring, the hope that freedom from restriction will come, that Covid 19 will be defeated. And now it seems that those charged with keeping us safe are beginning to think that the spring of freedom from restriction is very close. We hope and pray that they are right, for the very thought of going back to lockdowns for our protection does not bear thinking about.
The church too, has been subsisting on the hope of spring, a spring that will allow us not to wear masks as we worship, a spring that will allow us to be together as we have in times past, a spring that will allow us to do so many of the things we enjoy and have missed, as we praise and thank God for his goodness to us.
But in the church, we also look to another spring, a spring of revival. There are so many people who have, because of all that has happened, had time to consider what life is all about, and have come to realise that it is about far more than the here and now. So as the church, the body of Christ, we who are his people, are being given a great opportunity to share the good news of the gospel and to welcome those who want to explore life in all its fullness, the life that God in Christ promises to all his people.
In the natural world, spring is coming. The daffodils are showing their faces, the sun is rising higher in the sky, and most folk are beginning to feel more positive. Let us not squander the opportunity we are being given to bring others to Christ. After all, that is what Jesus is encouraging us to do in the ‘Great Commission’ when he says ‘Go therefore andmake disciples ofall nations,baptizing theminthe name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching themto observe all thatI have commanded you. And behold,I am with you always, tothe end of the age’.
With love and blessings
20th February 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
Today, whilst I have been working in my study, my friends Eric and Alan, who used to look after my garden in Dundee for many years, have been painting my fence. And I have been plying them, and myself, with cups of tea. The fence was painted last year, but was already beginning to look a little shabby, and a fresh coat of paint has certainly brightened it up. When they have finished, they are going to tidy up the garden after the ravages of the worst of the winter. Meanwhile, apart from providing them with cups of tea, I have been working on the service that comes with this letter. All of us working hard but using very different skills.
Isn’t it a good job we are all different and have different skills? Isn’t it a good job that we are all unique and special? I think we sometimes forget just how much we rely on each other as we make our journey through life. I have heard people say, ‘O he is just a labourer, or, she’s just a housewife’. We could equally well say ‘He’s just a scholar, she’s just a doctor’. There is no ‘just’ about it, these and many others, are all important callings in life and we couldn’t do without any of them. Nor could the fence do without being painted as it would eventually fall apart without this care.
When Jesus was in the boat with his disciples, they panicked in the storm because they were scared, and they thought he didn’t care. But just the knowledge of his presence with them, just a word from him, and all was well again.
The life of the world is going through a very stormy patch at present. Because of this, we all need to be able to trust and rely on each other in order to keep everything going as it should. In the great scheme of things, we are all so important. But most important of all is the knowledge that we are promised that God in Christ will always with us through his Spirit and that we can always trust in him and rely on him. That promise bring with it great comfort in these difficult times. In the Gospel of St Matthew, we find these words of Jesus ‘Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’. Thanks be to God
With love and blessings
13th February 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
One evening, just before the great Broadway musical star Mary Martin was 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. The short note simply said –
‘Dear Mary, A bell is not a bell util 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, crying, ‘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 from Hammerstein. Then she said, ‘Tonight I gave my love away’.
Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”.
We live in a world that is full of wonders, modern technology, miraculous medicine, amazing scientific discoveries, fascinating literature, a remarkable natural environment. But instead of loving and caring for all these things, many people have a terrible tendency to take it all for granted. What is more, at this time in our history when we are struggling to recover from the pandemic and to come to terms with all the changes it brings with it, many people are feeling starved of love for all sorts of reasons. So, this seemed a good time to remind everyone that Jesus calls all of us to love one another as we know he loves us, and also, as Oscar Hammerstein says, ‘Love isn’t love till you give it away.
With love and blessings
6th February 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
I don’t know whether you have ever watched one of those time-lapse films that speeds up the opening of a flower or the growth of a bulb or the emergence of a dragonfly from a chrysalis, but if you have you will know how beautiful they can be. But have you ever thought that there is a sense in which our world is opening up again at present, as we emerge slowly and carefully from two years of restriction that have been put in place to protect us from the virus that has blighted all our lives for so long. And that is a beautiful thing. The pandemic is not over yet, but the end is in sight. So now we all have an opportunity to resolve to make our corner of the world a better place.
Sadly, as well as serious illness and death, many of the ordinary things of life have been lost during the pandemic, organisations have had to give up, never to be able to start again, and former office-bearers in many organisations have retired for very valid reasons. All of this is a source of great regret to many. But with our re-emergence into the light of a less restricted life, also comes opportunity. We are all two years older, and hopefully wiser. We all are more aware of what is important, and what we have missed most. And it may be that we have made new resolutions about the way we wish to live. We have maybe even learned new skills.
So, in this letter I am appealing to you to look at your own life, and at the things that you value, particularly activities that may not survive without an injection of new blood. And if you have gifts and skills that you can see are now needed in so many walks of life, you prayerfully consider whether the time is right for you to offer yourself in service. After all, if everyone offers a little, so much can be achieved.
With love and blessings
30th January 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
Isn’t it good to be able to sit down to a cup of tea/coffee and a chat again after the service? I hope those of you who share in this service at home will be able to do the same. If Covid has taught us anything, it is just how important human social contact is, especially for those who live alone. Sadly though, I know quite a few people who have become so nervous about human contact because of the virus, that they are now reluctant to leave the confines of their own homes. And I know from my own experience, how reluctant I was to mix with people I didn’t know after the lockdowns. And yet, being separated from other people for long periods, whilst it might protect from the virus, does cause significant problems. So, whilst we need to be careful, human company is essential for our well-being.
We only need to look at the gospels to confirm this. Jesus loved to be with the people, and much of his ministry was amongst the crowds who gathered to see and hear him. He enjoyed the wedding feast at Cana, and he travelled and worked with his close friends, the disciples. But more than that, he had special friends that he visited when life was particularly difficult for him. We think of Martha and Mary and Lazarus, to whom he went in times of real need. And of those disciples who went with him to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, as well as of his disappointment when they couldn’t stay awake to keep him company, and of his anguish on the cross, where he felt completely deserted and cried out ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’
Of course, our friendship with Jesus is especially important and needs to be nurtured, and the quality of our friendship with Jesus will bring out the best in us. But there are times when, in the words of a wise old minister who was a great fried of mine, ‘friends do need to have a skin face’. Yesterday, I was discussing a wedding with two people from different states in America. It was great to be able to talk to them and to see their faces, and I know modern technology has helped so many people during the past two years. But it is not the same as the real thing. So as we share our refreshments after the service, let us give thanks for the opportunity to do so with people with a skin face. And let us remember that the best of friends are the ones who bring out the best in us.
With love and blessings
23rd January 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
Today in Holy Trinity we are delighted to welcome our choir back to our worship after their Christmas break. So many people have told me how much they miss them, and we are very privileged to have such a fine choir to enhance our worship. The sense of the numinous, the atmosphere of the presence of God that they create through their music is such an important part of our worship.
It was St Augustine who said ‘The one who sings, prays twice’. And in Psalm 89 we find these words, “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations”. Somewhat surprisingly, John Calvin, the Reformer, also felt that singing was a very important part of worship, and we know that he wanted to encourage the entire congregation to sing. One does however wonder how it might have sounded!
During the pandemic we have all been asked to wear masks in church and I know how difficult this makes it to breathe properly and to sing. I also know that the church authorities are in discussion with the government advisors about this at present, and hope that this ruling may be reversed very soon. For many, even those who would consider themselves not to be singers, the music of worship is an important part of the who experience, and it is good to be able to sing our praise without inhibition. After all, the 100th Psalm says ‘Make a joyful noise to the Lord’. This is a gathering psalm, a call to worship, and it certainly says nothing about the quality of the sound!
So, as we come to worship, or as we gather for worship in our own homes, let us enjoy everything that we can offer to God in praise and worship. And let us open our minds and our hearts to all that he has for us, today and every day.
With love and blessings
16th January 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
In Holy Trinity it is that time of year again when we are trying to encourage people to join the Reader’s Rota. I know there are quite a few people who worship with us regularly but who are not communicant members of the congregation. If any of you would like to join the rota please speak to me or any of the elders after the service. It is an enormous privilege to read the scriptures during public worship, and it is not as scary as you might think. Equally, if any of you would like to explore the possibility of becoming a full communicant member of the church, please speak to me after the service. And, if you would like to explore the Christian faith further please speak to me.
Exploring the Christian faith is not a one-off experience, such as a series of classes after which a person knows everything that needs to be known. It is a life-long learning curve, with new adventures in faith to be discovered every day. This means that becoming a communicant member of the church is just one step along the way. I well remember the Sunday evening when I made my own membership vows over fifty years ago now. I was very young at the time and had no idea of the good things that would follow after I had made that particular commitment.
Jesus says, ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’. (John 13:34-35) All that is needed to begin the journey of faith is a desire to love God, through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, and to love all people. People with this desire are what the world most needs at present as we continue to do our best to right the wrongs that are part of our world and our society in our present day. Could you be one of these people?
With love and blessings
9th January 2022: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope you are all keeping well and that you have had an enjoyable Christmas celebration.
This is the time of year when the Christmas decorations come down and we return to normal, whatever normal is these days! It always seems a rather dark, dismal and difficult time of year, with short daylight hours, bad weather, a greater tendency to ill health, and no Christmas lights and music to cheer us up. But did you know that the Christmas season does not end officially until the beginning of February, at Candlemas? For that reason, we shall continue to sing some of the music that we associate with Christmas in our services for a little longer. But even after Candlemas we should all try to keep the spirit of Christmas alive in our hearts and our lives throughout the year.
By the time we reach February, the daylight hours are beginning to lengthen noticeably and, if the weather is not improving much, at least new life is beginning to show itself in the garden. Having said that, there are already shoots of new life in my garden and I guess in many others, possibly because it has been so mild lately. If we look for them, the world is full of symbols of hope.
We have spent much time and effort recognising and celebrating the birth of the Saviour and reminding ourselves that, whatever the secular world might say, ‘JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON’. People have come to worship who never come at any other time of year, and they have been welcomed and I hope, helped to feel at home with us. They too have acknowledged the birth of the Saviour.
But now our task is to remind these people that Jesus doesn’t disappear for the next eleven months, to return next Christmas, amidst new hype and commercialism. He is with us all through the year, our companion on life’s journey, our inspiration through the gift of his Holy Spirit to all people. So, let us make it as easy as we can for all his people to acknowledge his constant presence in our world, and in their lives if they will allow him to be there. And let us do what we can to share and reflect the light of his love in our worship week by week, and through our lives every day.
With love and blessings
19th December 2021: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
As you will all be aware, this has been a difficult week with so many changes to guidance concerning services and what we should and should not do so I want to begin by underlining what services will take place. Of course, everyone will need to wear masks as we have been doing, and to keep their distance from others not of their own household. Sadly, we felt it wise to cancel the proposed Children’s Carol Service on Christmas Eve, but all the other services will go ahead as advertised.
Sunday 19th Carol Service 9.45am Dunino
Sunday 19th Carol Service 11.15am Holy Trinity
Friday 24th Watchnight Service 7.00pm Dunino
Friday 24th Watchnight Service 11.15pm St Mark’s (Hope Park and Martyrs)
Saturday 25th Communion 10.00am Holy Trinity
Sunday 26th Morning Service 11.00am St Leonard’s
Sunday 2nd Cluster Service 11.00am Holy Trinity
As you will see, many of the services are not in our own church and most of the services are being shared between the three Church of Scotland ministers, so this will be the last full script sent out this year, as well as the last letter to accompany the service. We will return to normal on 9th January 2022.
It therefore only remains for me to say that I hope you all have a very Happy Christmas and a Good New Year.
With Love and Blessings
12th December 2021: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
I must begin with a big word of thanks to you all for the wonderful party last Sunday. I had not expected anything so lavish and I am so grateful to you for all that you did to make the day special. It is such an honour and a privilege to share the gospel with both congregations, week by week. I still wake up on a Sunday morning feeling excited by the opportunity to be with you all. May I also thank you for your very generous gifts. The picture means a great deal, not least because of the thought that went into it. The vase is beautiful and is currently full of the flowers you gave me. But most of all, I am pleased to be able to tell you that we shall be sending £1000 to Sight Savers. If you translate that into children whose eyesight will be saved that means 200 children will have been helped to have a brighter future because of your generosity. I cannot think of anything better that we could do for them.
Thirty years is a long time to stay in the same job. But ministry is not, and never should be simply a job. It is a calling and a way of life. Sometimes it is very challenging, and always it is very busy. When I first thought about offering for the ministry a very senior minister suggested that it was the most important calling in the world. Certainly. it is a privilege to be able to share with people in the most difficult times of their lives, and hopefully to be an agent of the comfort that Christ offers to all his people, as well as to share in the good times. It can be very practical too, and I have found myself helping to decorate a house, and helping someone to bake a special birthday cake, as well as other equally practical tasks when needed!
But most importantly, it is the challenge of sharing the gospel week by week, in a way that is relevant to everyday life, especially in these difficult times. It takes much time and prayer in preparation, but bringing the people to Christ and Christ to the people is such and important and never-ending task. There is always so much more to do.
As we approach the season of Christmas people often say to me, ‘this must be your busy time’. It is certainly complicated to fit everything in. It is rather like a jigsaw with too many pieces. It is challenging and exciting, and lovely to be able to share it with people such as yourselves.
With love and blessings
5th December 2021: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
This Sunday is a special day for many reasons, and I am delighted to welcome to Holy Trinity our friends from Boarhills and Dunino, together with friends from the Howe of Fife and St David’s High Kirk Dundee. You are all most welcome, as are those of you who are joining us on YouTube and Facebook and in print. It was while I was minister of Howe of Fife that I first organised an Advent Carol Service and it became very much an important part of this time of preparation for Christmas ever since for me. I am grateful to our choir and to Walter for the music they will contribute to this service, as well as to our readers for their contributions.
Advent is a time to look forward to Christmas and a time to reflect on the reason for the season. We believe that this is a time to prepare our hearts and minds to receive Christ once again in the festivities of Christmas, as well as to contemplate the second coming of Christ, whenever that might be. In its original form it was a time of strict fasting before the excesses of the Christmas season. Now we think we have done well if we only consume one chocolate a day from our Advent Calendar!
Certainly, this is a very busy time for most people, whether they are involved in the commercial hype of Christmas, or simply in the pressure of writing of cards and the preparation of food for the feast. The result is that many people become stressed by all that they try to do. And this year, like last, is blighted by the pandemic, as well as by a new strain of Covid, and by all that this might mean for the celebrations, and for our future freedoms. So, can I suggest that we all take a step back, and take time out to be at peace, and to think about the real reason for the season. Just five minutes of peace and meditation and prayer in every day will make a real difference and enable all of us to cope.
There are many Christmas services on offer in our parishes and I would invite you to join us for any or all of them as you are able, either in person or remotely. Details can be found in our magazine or on our website and Facebook, as well as in the local papers.
For those who are with us in person, there will be light refreshments in the Hunter and Memorial Aisle after the service and I hope you will stay if you can.
With love and blessings
28th November 2021: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
It seems very odd to be writing this letter so far in advance, but as I shall be having a break next week, it seemed sensible to do it now. This coming Sunday is Advent Sunday, the first Sunday of the new year in the Christian calendar. Advent is a time for looking back and assessing the year just past, and we have certainly navigated some difficult times during that time. But more importantly, it is a time for looking forward, for a new year is like a new page in the book of life, making this a time of opportunity. There will certainly be more difficult times ahead, but I am sure we will be better able to cope.
Advent then, is a time of recollection and a time of preparation, and as we get ready to welcome the Christ-child of Bethlehem into our homes and our hearts it is an exciting time, especially for the children. It is also a time to think about the second coming of Christ that we are promised in the scriptures. The ‘Second Coming’ is a concept which many people find difficult to accept or understand and I hope I may have gone some way to address these difficulties in our service today.
Next Sunday (5th December) is a very special day, for our morning service will take the form of an Advent Carol Service. We have all been delighted to welcome our choir, under the direction of Walter Blair, back to our worship and they will be taking a major part in this service. It is also the thirtieth anniversary of my ordination and so our friends from Dunino will be joining us for worship, as well as some friends from my first and second charges. The service will be followed by light refreshments in the Hunter and Memorial Aisle and I hope you will stay if you can.
I can hardly believe it is so long since I took my ordination vows in Kettle Church. Much has changed in that time, but the wonder of God’s love for his creation and the message of the gospel has remained the same. As people of God and disciples of Jesus Christ we are all called to love one another for Jesus says ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’. In a world so much in need of love, what better resolution could there be for a new Christian year than to strive, as we are able, to keep this commandment.
With love and blessings
7th November 2021: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
Today we invite you to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion with us. All are welcome at the Table of the Lord and we hope that as many of you as possible will join us in person. However, for those of you joining us on YouTube or Facebook I would invite you to prepare a small glass of wine/juice and a piece of bread so that you can share with us in the service. If you are using this service in the printed version, please also prepare bread and wine so that you too can share in the physical and spiritual aspects of this service. Wherever you are, whether you are at home or with us in the church building, you are welcome.
If anyone would like to receive Communion at home from the minister, then please do get in touch. As long as you can provide your own bread and wine/juice, this can be arranged in a completely Covid-safe way, and it is always a privilege to share this sacrament.
Colin Buchanan, in his book called ‘The Heart of Sunday Worship’ says this about the Sacrament of Holy Communion:
‘Without the communion there is no identifiable body of Christ to be his presence in the world. Without the communion there is nothing from which we can be sent out into the world. Without the communion there is no testable Christian centre or point of focus to which enquirers in the world can be pointed, into which converts can be introduced through baptism’.
Although by tradition, we do not celebrate the sacrament very often, it is a unifying occasion, one that brings us all together as nothing else can, as the body of Christ. And it inspires us to go out and witness for him in our daily lives.
Richard McKenna describes a ‘dirty back street church’ in Fulham where he celebrated Holy Communion for six or seven elderly decrepit people, and where the church almost trembled with the presence of mystery, and the presence of Christ. Wherever you are, we hope and pray that you will be filled with the presence of mystery and the presence of Christ as you share with us in this service.
With love and blessings Marion
31st October 2021: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
This afternoon I conducted a wedding, not in a church, but in a local wedding venue. I had not met the bride and groom until yesterday although we had considerable correspondence by email. This was their third attempt to be married, the first two thwarted by Covid regulations.
Interestingly, the venue was decorated to look as much like a church as possible, complete with candles and communion table. And there could be no question about the faith of the couple – this was very clear from their careful selection of scripture readings and hymns, as well as their active participation in the prayers and the vows. However, it did make me wonder why they were not being married in church, because clearly, I was not just a convenient person to legalise their wedding vows, and all that happened in the service meant a great deal to them.
It was after the ceremony that I discovered that they were both members of the armed services and might have been married in the garrison church, had that been possible. I also discovered that the groom had been posted and would be leaving on Friday for foreign parts. They would therefore have a very short honeymoon!
But there could be no question of their sincerity as they made their wedding vows to each other, nor of their love for each other as they looked into each other’s eyes as I pronounced them to be husband and wife. It was a lovely occasion, and it was a privilege to be part of it.
And all this made me realise again what a privilege it is for all of us to be able to worship together in fellowship and love whenever we wish, no longer prevented by Covid regulations. Whether you join us on YouTube or Facebook or in print or in person, we must never take the opportunity to worship together for granted. So, to all our congregation wherever you are, I want to assure you that you are truly part of our fellowship, and it is a privilege to share the gospel of God’s love in Christ with you all.
With love and blessings
24th October 2021: Letter from the Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
Today in the course of my duties for the day, I met a young man who I have never met before. Nothing unusual about that, and we made polite conversation for a while as he worked away. Then he made a mistake in what he was doing, and without thinking said ‘O my God!’ He then looked embarrassed and turned and apologised to me and said, ‘But I don’t believe in God anyway’.
I always find it interesting that so many people, when they see a minister, have to tell them that they don’t believe in God and therefore don’t go to church. But at the same time, when the going gets tough, it is the God they don’t believe in that they address in their frustration. Had we had more time, this might well have been an opportunity for a more in-depth discussion. But we did not, and it will be interesting to see what happens when next we meet, as we surely will.
But all this did make me think. For many people, absolute unquestioning Christian belief is a very hard thing. There are, after all, so many questions in need of answers. And our intellect does not always allow us to find satisfactory answers to all our questions about our faith. Indeed, I would venture to suggest that that is the crux of the mystery of faith.
Anselm of Canterbury was Archbishop from 1093-1109. He was an Italian monk, abbot, philosopher and theologian. He once said, ‘For I seek not to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order that I may understand, for I believe for this reason, that unless I believe I cannot understand’.
There are many things in this world of time that as mere humans we will never be able to understand. So, it only logical to accept that there is even more about God and eternity that we will never be able fully to comprehend. But that should not prevent us from being able to say with an anonymous Jewish holocaust victim, ‘I believe in the sun, even when it does not shine, I believe in love, even when I am not feeling it. I believe in God, even when he seems to be silent’. Therefore, let us not feel guilty about what we find difficult about our Christian belief, but let us pray with the father of the epileptic boy in the gospel of St Mark, ‘Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief’.
With love and blessings
17th October 2021: Letter from Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
I trust you are all keeping well and are managing to avoid all the viruses that are going around as well as THE virus. At the moment there are times for all of us when simply to keep going is quite a challenge. This morning, when I woke up, I went through in my mind, all that I hope to accomplish today, and gave it all to God. The list is long, and possibly I won’t get to the end of it, but so far (12 noon) it is going quite well.
One of the things I needed to do was to choose hymns for Sunday. Some of you might wonder how this is done. Often, when I am writing my sermon, lines of hymns suggest themselves to me as I think about my theme. This is always helpful. There is also guidance in the hymn-book where hymns are listed by topic as well as alphabetically. Then there are the musical considerations, metre, key etc. And I have always tried to begin and end with something both well-known and uplifting.
It was John Calvin, the Reformer, who said, ‘Among all the other things that are proper for the recreation of man and for giving him pleasure, music, if not the first, is among the most important; and we must consider it a gift from God expressly made for that purpose’. He also said that congregations should always be enabled to sing together as part of their worship. So in choosing our praise, all these things are considered.
During the past months we have for part of that time, not been allowed to sing at all, and so many people have made it clear how much they are enjoying the freedom to express their faith through their singing again. We are delighted to have our choir leading our praise again and we hope and pray that masks will become a thing of the past for all of us before too long, so that we can all have the freedom to express our worship as we would wish. Meantime, let us give thanks for all that we can do, and continue to look for new ways to praise God in our service to his people.
With Love and Blessings
3rd October 2021: Letter from Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
It hardly seems possible that it is harvest time again. The year seems to have flown by so quickly even though there have been so many difficulties along the way. This Sunday we shall celebrate Harvest Thanksgiving in both churches, and our gifts will be given to Storehouse, to help with their ongoing work amongst those in need.
It seems terrible that, in a country such as ours, there should be people who do not have enough to eat. It also seems terrible that there are families, some in which both parents are working, who cannot afford to keep up with their children’s clothing needs. We know that children grow very quickly and grow out of clothes very quickly and so our Kids Clothing Bank was set up to help alleviate this particular problem.
As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, many people are struggling with all sorts of issues caused by all that has happened. Some of these are financial, but others have more to do with a lack of confidence after the restrictions that we have all be living under. Whilst in the church we want to help our community and the wider world in every way we can, there is a limit to what we are able to do. However, if you know of anyone who would appreciate a visit from our minister or a member of our pastoral care team, do let us know. And can I remind you that there is a monthly short service on the first Friday of each month at 3-00pm for those who cannot for whatever reason, come to our morning service on a Sunday. All are welcome to this.
There will be no letter to accompany the service next week as the service is having to be prepared a week in advance.
With love and blessings
26th September 2021: Letter from Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
Today in Holy Trinity, we are so pleased to be welcoming back our choir. It has been such a long time since we have been able to benefit from their ministry during our worship, and it is so good to have them back. We are not yet quite back to normal as they will not process in the usual way, but we hope to go back to this tradition as soon as it is considered safe to do so. Meantime, we are just delighted to have them back.
On Friday of this coming week we shall also recommence our monthly Short Afternoon Services at 3.00pm, with a service of thanksgiving for the harvest. All are welcome to this service and to join in fellowship afterwards. We will also celebrate Harvest Thanksgiving at our Sunday services at both Dunino and Holy Trinity next Sunday. All of these events are steps along the way back to the things we love about our worship.
To be free to worship our God in the way that we wish is a huge privilege. To be able to share that worship both in print and on YouTube and on Facebook means that we are reaching far more people with the message of the gospel than we would have been able to reach by the traditional methods. Whilst being present in person at the service is always very special, we want all our followers to know that you are an important part of our circle and are all enfolded in the circle of God’s love. Ours is an inclusive congregation where all are welcome.
With Love and Blessings
19th September 2021: Letter from Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
This Sunday marks the annual Golf Service in Holy Trinity, and we are delighted to welcome the Rev Alistair Bennett as our guest preacher there, together with those golfers who are able to worship with us. Of course, because of the restriction on numbers and the social distancing still in place, and the fact that we have not been able to re-form the choir yet, the service will be a little different from usual, but I am grateful to all those who will be taking part in our worship.
Of course, so many things in life at the moment are a little different from usual, and for those who have to organise them, a lot more complicated than they might have been. So now is the time to re-assess what is really important to us as a fellowship of God’s people, and what is not. And I would want to suggest that at the top of the list of priorities should be our corporate worship. So many people have told me how much they have missed coming together for worship, and how much they have missed the atmosphere and the encouragement that worshipping God together creates.
But it is also important to remember that the good news of the gospel is for all people, and there are many who simply cannot come to worship together for health reasons. It is therefore equally important that they should feel included, so it is great to be able to send out our services on Facebook and YouTube and by email. It should be possible for all people to feel enfolded in the circle of God’s love, and as the body of Christ this is what we are all called to do. Throughout my ministry I have always felt that the core tasks of the minister are to preach the gospel and to love the people, just as they are for all of us. One does not have to stand in a pulpit to preach the gospel, for we all preach it by the way we live.
Of course, we all like other aspects of what it means to be church, but these, I think, should be the priorities. So let us go forward in faith with a real vision of our church as a centre for corporate worship, and as place where all people can feel loved and valued and inspired by the love of God in Christ Jesus for all people.
With love and blessings
12th September 2021: Letter from Locum Minister Rev Marion Paton
Yet, in another sense, we have all learned how important it is to be together. Since I have been home I have been asked to arrange a funeral, and it was so important that all the family should be together when arrangements were made. What struck me at the time was just how much it meant to the bereaved to be together with the minister on that occasion. No masks, no barriers, common sense of course, but we were together both in person and in spirit, and I hope in spiritual empathy.
In our church too, we have learned the importance of being together for worship, prayer and fellowship. Common sense and hygiene are both still very important, but it is the being together that enhances our worship and enriches the fellowship we enjoy.
Today, we are thinking about the words of Jesus ‘Who do people say that I am?’ and also about who we ourselves are in the light of his love. It is that love which binds us together with all our fellow Christians in that great cloud of witnesses referred to in Hebrews. It is also that love that inspires us to reach out to others in his name and bring them into the circle of his love, so that we are all together with him. So as we return to the new normal, let us take nothing for granted as we look forward in faith to a new future as the church, the body of Christ, that lives to serve the world in his name.
With love and blessings
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 Locum 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 Locum 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 Locum 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 Locum 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 Locum 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 Locum 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 Locum 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 Locum 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 Locum Minister 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 Locum Minister 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