Rector’s Letter for December

1st December 2021

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Advent Sunday has come and gone, and we are but three more Sunday’s away from Christmas. In Advent we wait with anticipation for the coming of our Lord, who we know came two thousand years ago, but will come afresh to us as a vulnerable baby in 25 days’ time.
At that first Christmas, many people had a sense that something life changing was going to happen. Talk of the Messiah, the Saviour, coming to the Jewish people, could not have got them ready for a baby. It took not one or a handful, but a heavenly host of angels to impart the news to the shepherds and persuade them to leave their hillside. A vulnerable baby, born to a less than perfect couple, not exactly royal kingdom material by the look of them. But then Moses CV would not have made you think he was fit to lead the Hebrews out of captivity, and David was the youngest son, tending the sheep, who was nearly overlooked when a new King needed to be anointed.
So, although we celebrate Christmas every year, let us be open to new possibilities this Christmas. This may feel a real challenge, especially with news of the numbers of people scattered across the world with the Omicron variant of the COVID 19 virus. This time last year we all knew that the New Year would most likely bring a further set of restrictions, and it did. However, in all the situations we found ourselves in, there was hope, and there were continual signs of ‘angels’ helping out those in need and in beavering away in laboratories creating different vaccines. Each one of those vaccines needed people willing to be part of clinical trials, and there was no shortage of volunteers to take part.
We have a lot to be thankful for as this year draws towards a close; an appreciation of life, despite restrictions; an appreciation of the dedication of so many in life sciences and in our health services; an appreciation for our friends and families and for our fellow members in the church.
Our own church services are accessible live on the internet and have enabled some people to remain in contact and enjoy the services from the comfort and safety of their own homes. If you would like to attend church but are wary of sitting close to others, be assured we can find you a seat with 1m distancing most of the time. Just let me know so we can plan the seating accordingly.
Some people have naturally got out of the habit of Sunday church attendance after over 20 months of disruption due to lockdown and not wishing to be an unwitting carrier of the COVID virus to others. If you have not made it back so far, be assured of a warm (and safe) welcome if you wish to reconnect with our church community and rebuild your habit of church attendance.

Advent Services
In the Advent season we have our usual services, and a few special services appropriate for the season: a Blue Christmas service that recognises that for some it is not a joyous happy time, followed by a short service of sung Compline; Nine Lessons and Carols in St James, which brings together people from our wider community; and the Crib Service at St Mungo’s which draws in families from around West Linton to join us on Christmas Eve and hear the story of Jesus’ birth once more. We shall also be hosting a ‘Beer and Carols’ at the Navaar Hotel on 18th December at 6.30 pm (as a Penicuik Churches Together event), and we are hoping to arrange something similar in West Linton.

Christmas Services
There will be services in both churches at 11.30pm on Christmas Eve, at 10.30am on Christmas Day and on Boxing Day (Sunday this year).
Learning New Worship Songs at St Mungo’s
Chris Shaw led the first of what may hopefully become a regular event, on 21st November at 5pm. Chris introduced some relatively new worship songs, and those gathered sang them through a couple of times. Watch out for further dates to learn some new songs.

Sunday Evening Services
We have held two Sunday evening services in St James the Less recently. On 31st October we held an All Soul’s Day service and on 28th October we held a Penicuik Churches Together service. The services were also streamed via Zoom. There is some interest in services in church of a Sunday evening, but perhaps not every week. I will explore options to hold the occasional Sunday evening service in St Mungo’s and St James from time to time, whilst continuing to make them available online using Zoom.

Diocesan Communications
Bishop John has sent a letter out to each charge to offer a possible route back to having communion in ‘both kinds’ (wine and bread), by using ‘tincture’, i.e. dipping a wafer in to a chalice of wine. I will be discussing this letter with both Vestries in due course and will let you know what steps may be open to us.

Faith Development
We hold our weekly Bible study at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon, online. We are drawing to a close with our study the first three chapters of the Book of the Revelation to John. We shall recommence our Bible Study on 4th January at 2pm, commencing with a study of the Book of Genesis chapters 12-28, which will take us through to 15th February. We shall then start a study of the Book of Hebrews. Why don’t you join us to explore the texts, understand their context, and just as importantly, explore how they speak to us and how they inform us today?

Monday Study Night: ‘Journey to the Manger’, ‘Expecting Christ’, and ‘The Meaning of Jesus’
In preparation for Christmas Peter Woodifield this week commenced a four-week programme following an Advent theme, called ‘Journey to the Manger’, using a book of that title by Paula Gooder. The sessions continue on 6th, 13th and 20th December.
Starting on 10th January 2022 and going through to 7th February Joy will lead a four-week programme following the York Course ‘Expecting Jesus’.
Starting on 14th and going through to 28th February 2022, we shall explore in detail three of the chapters of ‘The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions’ by Marcus Borg and Tom Wright, the book that we will have reviewed two weeks earlier.

Faith Development ‘Faith Books’
When we have a fifth Monday in the month I lead a discussion at 7.30 pm about a book as a way of introducing people to different authors which may pique an interest to read more of their work (or not!).
The next 5th Monday is on 31st January 2022. The book to be discussed is ‘The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions’ by Marcus Borg and Prof N T Wright. The books for the rest of 2022 are listed below. That should leave plenty of time to get the books or borrow them from someone (including me) or from the library.
Monday 30th May 2022: ‘Generous Justice, How God’s Grace Makes Us Just’, by Timothy Keller.
Monday 29th August 2022: ‘In The Shelter: Finding a Home in the World’, by Patrick O’ Tuama
Monday 31st October 2022: ‘Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi’, by Ami-Jill Levine.

In looking for new or used books, I have often used I am sure there are other search sites that will help people find the above books.

Diocesan Pilgrimages
The plans for leading a pilgrimage along El Camino Ingles, leaving here on 15th May 2022, are starting to take shape. Thirteen people are committed to this pilgrimage, and one or two of them are interested in walking on from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre and Muxia.
On Saturday 28th May people will walk from various starting points in the Diocese to St Mary’s cathedral. There is a ‘Big Walk’ starting from Roslin – a distance of about 8 miles. It would be good if we had representation from both congregations. Let me know if you are interested in joining the Big Walk.
The Diocese is offering a range of different pilgrimages, some short day walks close to home, others can be done from your armchair. There will also be a Diocesan conference early in 2022 on the subject of pilgrimage. Look out for details. The details of the other pilgrimage activities are given in the Diocesan online magazine, ‘The Communicant’ dated 25th August.

Mid-week Services on Zoom
Our services on a Wednesday evening at 7.30 pm follow the regular pattern of services set out below. They are all on Zoom.
* 1st Wed of the month: Healing service (if you wish someone or a situation to be prayed for send an email to me or Marion Mather)
* 2nd Wed of the month: Christian Meditation (a time to settle, a short line of scripture, 15 minutes of silence, and a closing prayer).
* 3rd Wed of the month: Iona Abbey evening service liturgy
* 4th Wed of the month: service in the style of Taizé
If you would be interested in helping with these services, please let me know.

At 9pm every Wednesday evening we hold the service of Compline. Please do join us for this short service of calm and settling prayers before sleep. This service continues throughout August.

Afghan Refugees
The Midlothian Care for People meetings I attend is where discussions about supporting Afghan families being settled in the EH26 area take place. The first two families have been resettled into Midlothian, one of them in Penicuik.

Continuing our Mission: Inviting Someone to ‘Come to Church’
As mentioned before, I would like to encourage you to invite a neighbour or someone from within our communities to join us for a service or one of our group sessions. It could not be easier to invite someone you know locally to join us at a one of our Zoom-based services, or to join us in person in church. You can send them an email if you want or pass them the Zoom meeting information. If you invite them to attend an online Sunday service, then do please give them a copy of the liturgy. Let me know their name, so we know to admit them to the service from the virtual waiting room.
In these times, when people may well be considering their life’s purpose and meaning, an invitation to attend a church service or to join a group may be well received.

Continuing our Mission: Leading Your Church Into Growth Prayer
Each weekday morning we pray for growth in our church. If you are not able to join us online for Morning Prayer at 9 am, can I encourage you to pray this once a day. The prayer is given below.
God of Mission, who alone brings growth to your Church,
send your Holy Spirit to give:
vision to our planning, wisdom to our actions, and power to our witness.
Help our church to grow:
in numbers, in spiritual commitment to you, and in service to our local
community, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Maintaining Contact – Email, Social media, YouTube, Zoom, In Touch.
If you have not received an email from me and you have an email address, please can you send an email to me, so I can add it to our contact records. In that way you will get more frequent communications and reduce our postage costs.

Facebook and Websites
Information is put on our Facebook pages and is a place to share information too. The St James website now holds the sermon texts and audio recordings of the bible readings and the sermon from each of the recent Sunday services. The St Mungo website is getting a facelift and we hope to launch it in the New Year.
We now have our very own YouTube channel. If you search for ‘St James and St Mungo’, you will find a number of videos. It includes the playlists for our services, so you can go back and listen to the hymns at a later date. Please do visit it and subscribe to it. With 100 subscriptions we get a formal channel name rather than an anonymous url link below.

In Touch Magazine for St James the Less and St Mungo’s
The deadline for content to be submitted for the next issue is 6th February 2022. I would like to encourage you to submit something for inclusion in the magazine; a poem, a review of a book or a film, an article on a subject of interest? If you wish to submit an article please send them to

Financial giving to St James the Less or to St Mungo’s
Church finances are feeling the effects of the lockdown, as the amounts normally collected in the offertory plate are obviously not currently being collected. If you are able, can I ask you to prayerfully consider setting up a recurring monthly payment to the church via on-line banking, to contribute financially on a regular basis. Details of the bank accounts are given below for each of the churches.

St James the Less:
Monthly donation by bank transfer (include your name in the reference line when setting this up – only the Treasurer knows the name of the donor). Bank details are: St James Episcopal Church Penicuik, acct no 17117264, sort code 80-22-60.

St Mungo:
Monthly donation by bank transfer (include your name in the reference line when setting this up – only the Treasurer knows the name of the donor). Bank details are: St Mungo’s Vestry, acct no 00817851, sort code 80-09-39.

Praying the Daily Offices
In the Daily Offices prayer booklet circulated in July 2020 there are specific prayers for each day of the month. I recommend these to you, as an aid to your prayer life. If you can’t lay your hands on your prayer diary let me know and I will email out or post another one to you.

Regular Services
Morning and Evening Prayer and the Wednesday evening services continue to be online using Zoom. Sharing the Daily Offices each weekday with others is a wonderful way of connecting, praying and praising together with a natural rhythm of the week. It is also one of the few times we can hear the psalms being read in more than just a few verses at a time. Please do consider joining us at 9 am and or 5.30 pm for about half an hour, whenever you are able.

Ecumenical Relations and Community Involvement Work
The Penicuik Ministers continue to meet on Zoom for coffee and chat and supportive prayers on a roughly monthly basis.
Once a month the Penicuik Churches Together (PCT) has a joint Sunday evening service. On that Sunday our usual schedule will be adapted so that members can attend the PCT service. St James the Less is hosting the service on 28th November (Advent Sunday)!

The EH26 Resilience Group continues to meet occasionally. It remains a good way to connect in with the needs of our community and support how those needs are met. I am also still attending the Midlothian Health and Social Care Partnership ‘Care for People Planning Group’ Zoom meetings, and the Afghan Resettlement Programme meetings.

Once the Revd Dr Tony Foley has settled in to his new role in the West Tweeddale’ group of churches, I hope we shall be able to build up a good ecumenical relationship.

In Other News…
Despite all distractions over the last month, I have managed to read an amusing account of someone who decided to walk the 800km El Camino Frances, from the French Pyrenean border village of St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela with a donkey. Having read it I think the benefits of having a donkey carry your bags was less than the hassle of persuading the donkey to do what the pilgrim wanted. The Book was called ‘Spanish Steps’ by Tim Moore. Yesterday I started Adam Nicolson’s book, ‘The Seabird’s Cry: The Lives and Loves of Penguins, Gannets and Other Ocean Voyagers’. I have previously read two of Adam’s books; one on the writing of the King James Bible called, ‘God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible’, and Sea Room, a story of his time living on the Shiant Islands between Lewis and the mainland of Scotland. Although both are about very different subjects, I found both absorbing.

My ‘to be read’ pile of books continues to grow as I am still acquiring books faster than I can read them! Recent additions to the ‘theology pile’ include, ‘Learning How to Pray’, By James Martin SJ, ‘The City in my Monastery: A Contemporary Rule of Life’ by Richard Carter (he led the Diocesan Clergy Conference this year), ‘The Gospel of Thomas: The Gnostic Wisdom of Jesus’ by Jean-Yves Leloup, and ‘Power and Passion: Six Characters in Search of Resurrection’ by Sam Wells. I am trying to resist buying other books recommended by friends, such as ‘Sunrise of Wonder’ by Michael Mayne, and ‘Music of Eternity: Meditations for Advent with Evelyn Underhill’, by Robyn Wrigley-Carr (the Archbishop of York’s Advent Book for 2021). I’ll let you know how well I resist temptation, next month…

November was a very happy month, with my elder daughter’s wedding, and being together with both my daughters for the first time in over three years. Thank you for all the good wishes which I passed on to the happy couple. They are now safely back in Vancouver, after a very early start on Monday morning that I haven’t got over yet!

It seems rather early to wish you Happy Christmas, so for now I wish you a blessed and love-filled Advent, full of anticipation for the arrival of our Lord.

Nick Bowry
Zoom-based Services

We have settled into a regular pattern of services. Details of these are set out below. You can access them by computer, table or smart phone, as well as by phoning in from your house phone to the numbers given below.

Morning Prayer at 9 am, and Evening Prayer at 5.30 pm, Monday to Friday.
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Meeting ID: 628 956 1588
Password: 040775
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St Mungo, Holy Communion at 10.30 am on Sunday.
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Meeting ID: 934 1719 0423
Passcode: 062021
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St James the Less, Holy Communion at 10.30 am on Sunday.
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Meeting ID: 920 0219 7798 Password: 040775
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Sunday Evening Services at 6.30 pm
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Wednesday Evening Services at 7.30 pm
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Wednesday Evening Compline at 9 pm
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Church life continues in a variety of forms online. Several groups and sessions have been set up. Details of the existing groups and sessions being run are given below.

‘Monday Evening Studies’
This is a series of studies and discussions, open to all who wish to join us, including anyone you wish to invite – they don’t have to be a member of St James the Less or St Mungo’s.
All of these sessions will use the following link.
Topic: Monday Evening Studies
Meeting ID: 976 7040 6222 Passcode: 202101
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+442039017895,,97670406222#,,,,,,0#,,202101# United Kingdom
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‘Faith Books’ 5th Monday Evenings at 7.30 pm
When we have a fifth Monday there will be a discussion about a book of Nick’s choice, in a series called ‘Faith Books’. Nick has intentionally chosen authors whose style of writing is quite different from each other. Some books are classics, some a more modern authors.
The next 5th Monday is on 30th January 2022, when we shall discuss ‘The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions’ by Marcus Borg and NT Wright.
The list for 2022 is:
Monday 30th May 2022: ‘Generous Justice, How God’s Grace Makes Us Just’, by Timothy Keller.
Monday 29th August 2022: ‘In The Shelter: Finding a Home in the World’, by Patrick O’ Tuama
Monday 31st October 2022: ‘Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi’, by Ami-Jill Levine.

If people wish to read these books but don’t wish to buy them, I am happy to lend them out. Get in contact with me if you wish to borrow a book.
These sessions are suitable for people at any stage of their faith journey; from those enquiring to those with many years in the faith.

Weekly Bible Study
Tuesdays at 2pm
This is a chance to discover and explore the Bible through reflection and discussion. Join us whenever you can. We shall start studying Genesis chapters 12-28 on 4th January 2022.. Why don’t you join us to explore the texts, understand their context, and just as importantly, explore how they speak to us and how they inform us today.
Meeting ID: 925 1096 2481
Password: 040775

St Mungo’s House Group
Thursdays at 7.30 pm
Contact Markie Woodifield for further information.

Monthly Book Group
The fourth Monday of each month at 2 pm
Contact Angela Sibley for further information.
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Meeting ID: 669 139 189 Passcode: 040775