Thursday 24th November, 2016
From the Provost:
By the time you read this I will have started my sabbatical prior to retirement. Jane and I are very conscious of the love, support and encouragement we have received over past weeks as we prepare for the Cathedral party and service with heavy hearts and joyful thanks. We are aware of all the work involved in organising what we know will be both poignant and very special. Time has flown since 1990 when Jane and I and our 3 young sons arrived in Lansdowne Crescent. 26 years later these young sons now have lovely wives and their own beautiful children, and Jane, who retires in June, and I look forward to the next stage in life’s journey.
As I look back over these years, none of what has been achieved would have been possible without the help of so many others: generations of fellow clergy, including the first female canon; office staff and vergers; inspiring musicians; sacristans and servers; faithful servants who have run the Sunday Groups, visited the housebound, made coffee, rang bells, delivered magazines, arranged flowers and gardens, stewarded services, concerts and events, walked with Christian Aid, worked with Palmerston Place Church, promoted One World, to name but just some of the vast number of groups and activities that flows from our Cathedral and sustains it.
You and the daily cycle of prayer and worship, which our open doors symbolise, have sustained me. The opportunities and challenges of the last 26 years beyond the safety of the Cathedral have been substantial. Law and justice loomed large: membership of the Parole Board was followed by 3 years as HM Inspector of Constabulary (during which time Dunblane happened) and then chairing the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission investigating miscarriages of justice (Lockerbie was one of our cases) and serving on the Cabinet Office’s security vetting appeals. Health and medicine were never far away: 13 years on the General Medical Council, as well as chairing the Scottish MMR Expert Group and the UK government’s ethics committee on Pandemic Flu. 5 years’ involvement in armed forces’ pay meant visiting troops in Afghanistan, or being submerged in a ballistic submarine or shivering in the Falklands or roasting in the Gulf. Secure in the prayerful support, I found these and other experiences continued to deepen my understanding of priesthood. These 26 years exposed me to journeys, literal and metaphorical, which I could never have imagined, as I was installed as Provost in 1990 or made deacon in our cathedral in 1976. The awards of a CBE in 2004 and honorary doctorates are gratifying, but much more so has been the privilege of journeying with you in times of joy, at weddings and baptisms for example, and with loved ones as they faced their final journey on this earth.
Advent is a time of new beginnings for us, for the Cathedral, for you. Last Sunday’s baptisms offered an icon of Cathedral life which I will always treasure. Around the font were a husband and wife, whom I had married, now holding their first born; a family from India, now working in Edinburgh, whose older daughter helps produce our Mothering Sunday and Harvest cards for the housebound and whose younger daughter was to be baptised; and an adult, standing there with her husband.
The team at the Cathedral, led by John McLuckie, is a strong team and a good team whom I have had the privilege to lead. You and the Cathedral are in most safe and caring hands.
Jane joins me in thanking all of you from the bottom of our hearts for all that all of us have shared together these 26 years. St Mary’s Cathedral has been and always will be a very special place in our lives.