July update

From the Provost

Dear friends,

Over the last couple of months, a group of people from across the Cathedral have gathered over a couple of Saturday mornings to consider how we might articulate a vision for our Cathedral, and put into words the Cathedral’s calling. I would like to thank that group, and offer to you all that vision for your prayer and comment:

St Mary’s Cathedral, where all are nurtured in faith and hope and love: through transforming encounter with God in word, music and beauty,

and with one another in the warmth of welcome,

the depth of theological conversation

and in generous action for our community and city.

We then thought about how that vision might be expressed, and set out five strands of our calling:

St Mary’s Cathedral, as part of the Diocese of Edinburgh, seeks to respond to God’s mission by:

Proclaiming the good news of Christ through the rhythm and practise of the church’s worship and prayer; by seeking excellence in all we do; by responding to the common search for meaning and purpose of all who pass through our doors.

Nurturing faith, hope and love wherever they are found: by teaching and exploring scripture, tradition and the practise of prayerful living.

Offering examples of generous and loving service, by creative use of our resources of people and buildings and by responding to local need.

Engaging with our Diocese, our city and civic partners to help build a sense of the common good and a community for all.

Witnessing to our responsibility for God’s creation, through our appropriate stewardship of the world’s resources.

It would be good to hear from you, the wider congregation, with your response to this vision. Please let me or the other clergy know your thoughts over the summer. In the autumn we will outline more fully how we will put some flesh on these bones, as well as the financial challenges that that all presents.

One of the many aspects of the Cathedral’s mission that we talked about, was our welcome of visitors to the Cathedral, and how we can help to draw them in to the prayer which is at the heart of the Cathedral’s life. We reflected that some of our daytime services during the week don’t seem to engage our visitors in the ways that we might hope, and in particular our lunchtime communion service often has a very small (or no) congregation. In response, from July, we are going to alter the pattern of our weekday services a little, to see if that helps draw more people into prayer. Our 7.30am Morning Prayer and Communion will remain the same, but our lunchtime service will move to 1pm, and on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, it will be in the form of mid-day prayer, in the choir, and to which all visitors will be expressly invited as it starts. On Wednesdays and Fridays it will remain a Communion service in the Lady Chapel. In addition, we will move our 11.30am Prayer Book Communion Service from a Thursday to a Tuesday from July 3rd onwards. Our evening services will remain unchanged. The new pattern of services will be on the Music and Services list at the back of the Cathedral and on the website.

There are also going to be changes in both the Vergers’ department and the Cathedral office over the summer. After 25 years as foreman of the Cathedral Workshop, Andrew Ramsay is having to step down on health grounds. I am delighted that Andrew has agreed to become our second Verger, alongside Colin Campbell. He will officially take up that post on July 14th. He brings a wealth of experience about the building to the job of Verger, which will be immensely helpful. He tells me, however, that the more ceremonial aspects of the role are not part of his previous life, and well out of his comfort zone! I am sure you will make him most welcome and put him at his ease about all that when you see him on a Sunday.

In the office, Anne Backhouse is standing down as Cathedral Secretary at the end of July after several years of service. We are immensely grateful to Anne for her patience, diligence, and cheerfulness, in what is sometimes a stressful environment, with many competing demands. She has administered much of the Cathedral’s life with immense skill, and she will be much missed from the office, but fortunately not the congregation. We wish both her and Peter a very happy retirement. If you would like to give something toward a leaving present for Anne, then please give it to the clergy, or in an envelope to the office (marked for the attention of Rosemary!)

I’m delighted that Rosemary Kaye is going to swap seats in the office and take up Anne’s post of Cathedral Administrator, while James Parsons, who is currently one of our Alto Lay Clerks, is also going to take up the post of Publicity and Social Media Officer, based in the office. As well as overseeing the many printed materials produced by the Cathedral, James will be developing our publicity, both printed and digital. We look forward to welcoming James in that role from the beginning of August.

Thanks to many of you for your generous response to the Organ appeal launched with the last edition of Magnificat. I’m delighted to say that we have already raised nearly £30,000 toward our target of the further £200,000 we need to go ahead. The plan had been for the overhaul of the organ to begin after the Festival this year. Unfortunately we have now learnt that Harrison & Harrison, the organ builders, are unable to schedule the work in time for it to be completed by the Festival next year.  This means that the overhaul and restoration is now scheduled for September 2019 – July 2020. Whilst this is later than we had planned and hoped, and it does mean that our organists will have to struggle with a somewhat failing organ for a year, it also gives us more time to raise the money, and complete the stonework renovations going on above the organ.

Finally, you will receive a copy of the Festival events in and around the Cathedral with this edition of Magnificat. Please do come and enjoy what the Cathedral has to offer, and let others know about the wide selection of concerts and other events on offer (many of them are free!). I am looking forward to enjoying the Festival at the Cathedral, and seeing the ways in which we can develop our ministry to all who come through our doors, drawing us all in to deeper praise of God and love of neighbour.

With every blessing for the summer,

 

May update

From the Provost

Dear friends,

The season of Easter is a good time to contemplate new life and fresh beginnings. It was a good time, therefore, to be part of a group of people from across the life of the Cathedral who spent a Saturday morning last weekend beginning to articulate a vision for our Cathedral. The results of that consultation will be shared more widely shortly, as well as a strategy for how we might develop and give flesh to that vision in practise. The group needs a little more time to articulate succinctly the life and potential within the Cathedral, but it is hoped that the fruits of that exploration and shared conversation will be available soon. The energy and excitement within the group was evident, however, and whilst the Cathedral is faced with a number of challenges (in the resources, both financial and personnel available to us), it is also the case that there are huge possibilities in developing the Cathedral’s ministry of welcome and prayer, its commitment to excellence in music and liturgy, and its desire to build community within its congregation, with our neighbours and across the Diocese. I look forward to sharing with you that vision, and some of the concrete goals that flow from it, over the coming months.

 One visible sign of our commitment to building up the life of our Diocese will be seen just as this magazine is printed and distributed, as churches from across the Diocese descend on the Cathedral for the Diocesan Big Day on April 28th. To accommodate stalls from every church, as well as workshops and other exhibitors, is a demanding task. Our vergers, in particular, have done an amazing job in re-ordering the Cathedral to accommodate what will be an exciting and uplifting occasion I’m sure. Look out for pictures in future weekly notices or this magazine to see the Cathedral in a whole new way!

 Central to the life of our Cathedral is our choir and music. With this edition of Magnificat, you will receive a separate leaflet outlining our Organ Appeal. This is to help raise the remaining funds for the major overhaul of the organ planned to begin in September this year. As the leaflet explains, this overhaul will give fresh life to our wonderful ‘Father’ Willis organ, but raising the remaining funds is a challenge. Please consider the contents of the leaflet and if you are able to help, perhaps by sponsoring an organ stop as suggested, or by putting us in touch with local trusts or companies, that would be hugely appreciated. We are enormously grateful to the Friends of the Cathedral for their generous donation that has given us such a good start to raising the money needed. To be without our organ for the best part of a year (although alternative arrangements are being put in place), will be an interesting experience. I thank you, in advance, for your generosity that will help ensure that our ‘Father’ Willis organ returns in August 2019 sounding better than ever.

 I would like to extend the Cathedral’s congratulations to our Master of the Music, Duncan Ferguson, on the announcement of his engagement to Alexa Jacobs. They will be married in Melrose in May 2019, but will be at the Cathedral shortly afterwards for a further blessing of their marriage, and an opportunity for us all to celebrate that wonderful occasion with them.

It was with sadness that we said farewell to our latest Chaplain, Kenneth Fleming, on April 15th, as he left to take up a post in the Church of Scotland. His wisdom and compassionate presence will be missed by many, I know. He was touched by the generosity of the congregation in the leaving present given to him, and by your prayers for his future ministry.

Eastertide is always a wonderful time to appreciate the ministry of the flower-arrangers at the Cathedral, as our Easter joy finds expression, after the sparseness of Lent, in a profusion of white, gold and yellow flowers that decorate our worship. After many years of service, Sheila Lister and Barbara Wright, have indicated that they need to step back from organising the flowers in the Cathedral. I would like to express our profound thanks for the many years that they have undertaken that task, and for the joy that they have brought. From this summer onwards, we will need to find a new way of organising the flowers in the Cathedral. It is proposed that the office will draw up a rota of people willing to be involved in flower arranging. We are also hoping to negotiate an understanding with a local florist, so that they can provide appropriate flowers at a manageable price. (The current arrangement whereby flowers are obtained from the flower market is no longer sustainable). If you would be willing to be on a rota for flower arranging from time to time please let the office know. If you fancy having a go but are unsure how to go about flower arranging, particularly within the Cathedral, then I’m sure we can arrange for some training to be given, or pair you up with a more experienced partner.

 With every blessing

February update

From the Provost

Dear friends,

As regular members of the congregation on Sunday mornings at the Cathedral will be aware, there have been a few changes in our liturgy over recent months. I wanted to use this opportunity to talk about a few of those, and also indicate some further changes that are planned in the months ahead in the production of this magazine, and the ways in which the Cathedral communicates with you all.

The most obvious change for the main 10.30am Sunday morning service is that we have moved to producing a booklet each week containing the entire liturgy, with the exception of hymns from New English Hymnal. The reason for this change is an appreciation of both the number of visitors and new congregants that are present each week, and the desire to help them participate and understand the service as much as possible. We were aware that having a service booklet, a weekly bulletin with order of service, and a hymn book, meant that people were juggling a number of items, and that to navigate your way through an unfamiliar service was quite a challenge. With increasing numbers of people new to our liturgy, and with a desire to help them engage with the service, it was felt that a single booklet made things much more straightforward to follow. We are aware, of course, that this does demand us to use more paper, but we remain committed to recycling as much as possible, and sourcing recycled paper if available. We would appreciate your feedback on the layout and readability of the liturgy booklet.

In terms of the content of that liturgy, there have been a few changes there also. This is something that is easier to do when we are producing a booklet each week. So, for example, we have used the different Eucharistic Prayers authorised for Advent, Christmas and then Epiphany, before returning to the perhaps more familiar words in the last couple of weeks. These different Eucharistic prayers have been used by the rest of the Episcopal Church for a number of years and attempt to give depth to the aspects of faith that the different seasons focus upon. The booklet also allows us to print the words of hymns not found in the New English Hymnal, which means we are able to broaden the range of hymnody we use and offer hymns written more recently. By and large we continue to use familiar tunes, but the advantage of having our wonderful choir is that it is possible to use their help in learning a new tune occasionally. We have also said the Creed in more recent weeks rather than sung it to Merbecke as had been the custom. I have no doubt that we shall return to singing it (perhaps to mark the seasons of Lent and Advent), but again it was felt that for those unfamiliar with the Merbecke setting, it was hard to pick up and sing from scratch.

These changes are undertaken to enhance the depth and appreciation of our liturgy: the way in which that liturgy gives structure and shape to worship, and how the poetry of words and music gradually reveals its depths through use. We are always happy to hear from you about what you feel works, and draws you deeper into prayer and worship, and what is less helpful. Please do let us know.

We have also been thinking about the role of this magazine. There is clearly a need for a publication that communicates something of the work of the Cathedral, provides a point of contact, and offers some reflective pieces on our life together. As a method of communicating what’s on, however, it is more limited in becoming quickly out-of-date. That task is now better performed by the weekly notices in the service sheet, and by the website and Facebook page which we do try and keep up-to-date. The magazine is also a considerable administrative burden to produce. For these reasons, therefore, we are proposing that Magnificat becomes a quarterly publication. In order to ensure that you receive notices of what is happening in and around the Cathedral, however, we would be grateful if you could ensure that the office has details of your email address (if appropriate) using the form opposite. The intention is that the weekly notices will then be emailed out, usually every Friday. The notices will of course be available as hard copy via the weekly service sheet.

A couple of other items of news: a travelling exhibition, organised by Edinburgh Interfaith Association, entitled Our Story, will be on display in the Cathedral from March 18th – 26th. This exhibition features testimony and objects that illustrate the history of the diverse religious communities of Edinburgh. It is a condensed version of the exhibition currently on display in the Museum of Edinburgh. We are delighted to be hosting it.

I’m also delighted to announce that from September 2018, another curate will be joining us. Andy Phillip, currently a member of St Peter’s, Linlinthgow, will be ordained deacon on September 30th and then join the Cathedral clergy team.

Full details of our Lent, Holy Week and Easter services are in this magazine. May your journey of faith through these coming months be blessed.

 

Cathedral AGM 2017

The Cathedral held its Annual General Meeting on Sunday 26th November 2017. It received reports from committees and groups across the Cathedral, the annual accounts were presented, and the Provost gave his annual report. Gill Stewart was elected as Lay Representative of the Cathedral, and Andrew Reddish as Alternate Lay Representative. Both will serve as trustees on the Cathedral Board.

Copies of the reports and accounts are available here:  Provost’s Annual Report 2017

Cathedral AGM Reports 2017

Cathedral Treasurer’s Report and Summarised Accounts 2017

 

December Update

From the Provost

Dear friends,

In Christ your Son our life and yours

are brought together in a wonderful exchange.

He made his home among us

that we might for ever dwell in you.

The season of Advent, which starts our church’s year on December 3rd this year marks the return of familiar hymns, themes, the approach of Christmas with all that that evokes. And the familiar is often comforting and welcome. On the other hand, Advent is also a time when we give voice to our longings, our sense that things are not right, that in our fractious world and broken hearts, we need the love of God to come and dwell among us once again. And so Advent also disturbs us, shake us up a little, and so prepares us for what we might otherwise miss in the coming of Christ at Christmas. Advent is about both the comforting familiar and the disturbing, surprising Word. Advent pulls us in two directions at once.

At the heart of our Advent longings, and our humanity, is the desire to connect, to be in relationship with both God and our neighbours. In amongst the strain and stress of Christmas preparation it is easy to lose sight of the fact that at the heart of Christmas is a celebration of that connection: as our Eucharistic prayer reminds, God coming to us, that we might come to God. Our gift giving at Christmas is an imitation and reflection of that wonderful exchange which is at the heart of the incarnation: the grace and love of God met in this human baby, and man; just as our own presents express the generous love of which we are capable, and our affirmation of what others mean to us. Our Advent longing for connection is met by that gift of Christ at Christmas that both affirms and redeems our humanity, affirms our longing and deepens our response to live out more fully that world where our connection one with another is recognised and honoured.

Advent and Christmas are busy times at the Cathedral, and it is wonderful to welcome so many through our doors. The challenge is to ensure that our prayer and worship helps draw them and us in to that wonderful exchange of love which is at the heart of the good news of Christmas. I hope that you too find time to encounter the God who makes his home among us, that we might dwell in him.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas,

 

November Update

From the Provost:

Dear Friends,

November is a month that is full of the action of remembering. We begin the month with our celebrations of All Saints and All Souls, and we then take our part in remembering all those killed in the wars of our last century on Remembrance Sunday. The month will end with a very different act of remembering as, at our Annual General Meeting after the service on November 26th, we look back at the previous year in our life together at this Cathedral.

Remembering is a central and vital element to our humanity: we are formed by our memories, by the stories we tell about ourselves, the world and society we inhabit, those who preceded and shaped us.  Such remembering is not straightforward, however. Memories can make us simply nostalgic, longing for our golden years back then, rather than helping to shape us for the time ahead of us, the risky and unknown future.

Remembering is at the heart of the church: we are re-made through gathering around the stories of the people of Israel and of Jesus and his disciples, re-enacting in words and deeds a tradition to which we are heirs. Saints have from earliest days been a central part of that remembering: people who in their lives fleshed out the following of Christ to which all are called. All Saints is an opportunity once again, to be inspired and challenged by their example of simplicity of life, of prayer in the midst of ordinary living, of actions to relieve the suffering of others. On All Souls we remember those who have particularly helped to shape us, loved ones whose memory we treasure, and whose faith in us we often seek to repay. On Remembrance Sunday, our remembering of the dead deepens our longing for peace and our conviction that we must do all we are able to avoid the tragedy of war.

Above all, our remembering is central to our following of Christ. Our Eucharist is testament to the truth that without our common remembering, we would not recognise Christ in the world around us; without our re-membering, our bread and wine remain bread and wine. The act of remembering puts flesh on the bones of our memories and enables us to receive Christ’s body and blood given for the life of the world.

That receiving draws us into living out of Christ’s life, death and, above all, his resurrection – that act of God which breaks open the endless cycle of violence and recrimination, a cycle often dependent on the cherishing and holding of long memories, memories that can foster division and bitterness. The resurrection reveals a God who turns our memories around, whose forgiveness, received and offered to others, breaks the hold the past can have over us. The church holds and hands on the memory of Jesus, because, in this man, we find our true home and identity; in the light of his memory, our memories are judged, and through being judged, not condemned but healed. Memories can both trap us (in nostalgia, in the longing to be somewhere other than here and someone other than who we are), or they can free us (by giving us an identity, a sense of self and a place in a larger story). May our remembering this coming month help us all into that freedom.

With every blessing

November Update

This may be my penultimate column, and yet in many ways nothing really changes, as we strive to witness to God’s love in the beauty of holiness and in the holiness of beauty.  We say welcome to the new generation of choristers who received their surplices.  These choristers, Florence Gill, Brigitte Harrigan Lees, Clara Harrigan Lees and Alex Mackie, despite their young ages have demonstrated their commitment to music and the choir, and with their white surplices now look even more angelic!  They are joined by our new Organ Scholar Adam Wilson.

Outwardly around the Cathedral much has changed, ranging from a car crashing into a pillar on Palmerston Place and ruining some of our brand new railings to the completion of the pathway from Old Coates House past the Garden of Remembrance and the North Door.  We are also all set for new stone pillars and railings to go on the Manor Place pavement side – thanks to the generosity of the Friends of the Cathedral and the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust.

What has not changed and what I have been so privileged to see time and time again over the last 26 years have been the quiet lives of discipleship and faithful commitment.  Alan Oxberry, who died suddenly this week, was one such person.  A Cathedral steward, an administrant of Communion, a former member of the Friends’ Executive, a loving and caring husband of Helen, the love of his life.  He was in the Cathedral the Sunday before he died. A man of relatively few words, his discipleship spoke volumes. RIP.

ADVENT Sunday and the evening before draw ever nearer.  Jane and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible that weekend.

 

October Update

The Provost writes:

ADVENT in the Church’s thinking has always been a time for new beginnings.  The endless procession of Sundays after Pentecost gives way at Advent to the sound of the voice of the Baptist in the wilderness, the Voice that points to the Word.  The Church stops, changes gear, listens to the voice of him who points to the Word made Flesh – the new beginning.

Because of this it seemed right to Jane and me that Advent should mark a new beginning in our lives as well as in the life of the Cathedral.  The formal end of our 26 years at the Cathedral will be on Advent Sunday (Sunday 27 November) at 10.30am when I will preside at the Altar.  The evening before (Saturday 26 November) there will be a party in the Cathedral (6.30pm – 8.30pm).  We very much hope you will be able to come along (ideally) to both of these celebrations.  We are also very much aware of the immense generosity shown to us last year on the occasion of our 25th anniversary of coming to the Cathedral: the presents given to us then are treasured and serve as most fitting reminders of our time and ministry here.  We trust the Party will be an informal celebration in a building we all love so much with some music and some wine and lots of chat.

 

 

September Update

The Provost writes:

1. The end of the Festival is always tinged with an element of sadness as we say farewell and thank you to our departing choristers. At the Chorister Valedictory Evensong Charles Bradshaw, Esme Frith, Peter Gill, Dominic Markus, Tallulah Molleson, Ciara O’Neill and Jacob Slater hung up their surplices. All – both individually and corporately – have given us so much over so many years, as their “angel voices ever singing” make way for the next generation of choristers. Our thanks go to them (and indeed to their parents) as we wish them all every success and happiness in the years ahead.

2. Bass Lay Clerk Colin Heggie sang in the Cathedral Choir when Dr Dennis Townhill was Organist and Master of the Choristers. Colin’s contribution to singing thus goes back decades, and warm appreciative applause and a bottle of Champagne honoured his retirement. Organ scholar Jonathan Yip and tenor Sam Jenkins are also moving on to pastures new, and we wish them all the best.

3. The above illustrates the constant movement of musicians as choristers move on and choral scholars leave university. It also illustrates how blessed we are in having a musician of the calibre of Duncan Ferguson in front of the next generation of new faces in the choir, training and inspiring them to the demands of daily choral evensong, live Radio 3 broadcasts, the recording of exciting new CDs such as Stravinsky.

4. This year’s Festival featured not only music (both our own musicians and others from places near and far) but also tours of the Cathedral and the Song School and exhibitions of “Women of the West End” and sculptural glass by Philip Baldwin and Monica Guggisberg. Part of our contribution to the Festival happened outside on the south lawn: “Still Here” – theatre for justice in association with Bristol Old Vic – served as a powerful and poignant reminder of the plight of the refugee in our world. None of these could have happened without the massive commitment of a squadron of volunteers who give so generously of their time and enthusiasm to make everything run like clockwork.

5. August also gave us the privilege of not one but two Presbyterian preachers climbing into our pulpit! The current Moderator of the General Assembly highlighted the work of Fresh Start: he was followed on the next Sunday by good friend (and former Moderator) John Chalmers who not only preached but also baptised a beautiful granddaughter.

6. Those of us who have been in and around the Cathedral for a long time will remember Lorna Ross who died recently. A Choral Evensong of thanksgiving for Lorna’s life took place earlier this month in honour of this special soul. RIP.

7. Michaelmas has been one of the traditional times for ordinations, and this Michaelmas will be no exception. On Sunday 18 September at 3.30pm in the Cathedral Kenneth Fleming will be ordained priest. Kenneth has already made a substantial contribution to the life and ministry of the Cathedral as our chaplain and patently has many gifts to share. The following Sunday at 3.30pm in the Cathedral former lay clerk Oliver Brewer will be amongst those made deacon. Please hold him and all who are preparing for ordination at this time in your thoughts and prayers.

Jane and I have been very touched by the kind and generous response to the news of us leaving the Cathedral after 26 years.  Advent Sunday is traditionally seen as the start of the Christian year, a time for new beginnings, for both the Cathedral and us.  I will begin my sabbatical then which in effect marks the end of my time as Provost of this wonderful Cathedral.  Below, Bishop John explains the process of appointing my successor and how that will happen next year.

Bishop John writes:

Dear Cathedral Member,

As you know, Graham has announced that he will retire as our Provost on the anniversary of his ordination next June. This marks the end of a remarkable 26 years of service to St Mary’s. In writing to you now I simply want to acknowledge all that Graham and Jane have brought to the Cathedral over this period and to recognize that many of you will have heard the news with sadness for you will have many reasons to be grateful for Graham’s ministry ‘through all the changing scenes’ of your lives.

I also want to tell you about the process to appoint Graham’s successor. According to the Cathedral Constitution, this is an appointment that belongs to the Bishop in consultation with the Cathedral Board. The Cathedral Board is the Provost (in the chair), the Vice-Provost, the Lay Representative (Sheila Kidney), the Alternate Lay Representative (Andrew Veitch), the Diocesan Chancellor (Cathedral member, Lord Bannatyne) and myself as Bishop. In the absence of the Provost (who will clearly play no part in this process) the Board is chaired by the Vice-Provost.

Graham goes on Sabbatical before the end of the year and I have asked him to draw up a report on ‘the state of the nation’, a realistic picture of Cathedral life, current and future tasks, opportunities and challenges to help the Board more accurately define the skills required and gain an understanding of the demands of the role of the Provost of the largest Cathedral in Scotland. This will be completed before Christmas and doubtless will give the Board much food for thought.

Graham has kindly agreed that we may begin the formal process in January by which point he will be on Sabbatical. Part of that process will be to enable me to hear your views, perhaps through the Cathedral’s many committees and groups. I will liaise with John McLuckie to determine how best this can be achieved.

The whole diocese will be praying for you during these coming months and I invite you also to pray. Pray for Graham, Jane and the family who have made their home with us and shared so many experiences with us over these years; pray for the Board and all those involved in finding Graham’s successor. And pray too for that priest, as yet unknown, whom the Holy Spirit is already preparing to come to serve God and God’s church at St Mary’s Cathedral.

With warmest good wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Bishop John

 

 

July Update

The Provost has announced his intention to retire. See: Provost’s Letter