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,


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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

May Update

CONGRATULATIONS to Helen Hood and Paul Foster who have been “canonised” or more accurately have been rightly recognised for the years of distinguished service they have given to the Diocese and the wider Church.

Helen Hood, in addition to undertaking an extraordinary number of roles within the Cathedral, has also laboured tirelessly in the ecumenical arena, having held a number of demanding and responsible roles, especially within ACTS (Action of Churches Together in Scotland) and Christian Aid.  Recent amendments to the Cathedral Statues and Constitution enabled the Diocesan Synod at Bishop John’s instigation to create an additional number of new honorary canons, including for the first time honorary lay canons.  Helen quite correctly is the first (and currently the only) woman in the Diocese to hold such a title which is richly deserved.

Paul Foster as well as climbing our pulpit steps, is the relatively recently appointed Head of the School of Divinity at New College, University of Edinburgh.  All of us celebrated with great joy when “Dr Foster” became “Professor Foster” in recognition of his highly rated contribution to New Testament scholarship which sees him lecture at home and overseas.  An honorary canonry is the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Edinburgh recognising both his scholarship and the unique achievement of an Anglican priest being Head of School at New College.

Marion Chatterley, Carrie Applegath and Fred Tomlinson have also been made honorary canons of the Cathedral.


  • Former chorister and current alto lay clerk (Dr) Michael Wood on the news of his engagement: we wish Lucy and him every blessing and happiness in their life together.
  • Former chorister David and Jen Chalmers on the safe arrival of a beautiful daughter Evie Elizabeth, a little sister for Rory.  Evie will be baptised in August.
  • Secretary of the Friends of the Cathedral Helen Godfrey on her appointment as Diocesan President of the Mothers’ Union.


March Update

  • With this month’s Magazine you will have received the Cathedral’s 2016 Stewardship campaign material.  All I ask is that everyone reflects carefully on what the Cathedral and its wider witness mean to them and return your pledge card. If perchance the Stewardship material has not reached you – worry not!  A simple phone call (225 6293) or email ( to the Cathedral Office will rapidly rectify this omission.
  • A special treat awaits all on Mothering Sunday (Sunday 6 March).  A Fairtrade breakfast will be served in the glass annex to the Walpole Hall from 9.30am.  If you can, do let us know you are coming. Otherwise simply turn up, and we hope our ability to feed the 5000 is not put to the test!
  • Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week, and as last year’s lunch was so successful we are holding a “bring and share” Lunch in the Walpole Hall.  Simply bring something to share.  Coffee, fruit juice etc will be provided.  Afterwards you might like to go for a brief walk and then back to the Cathedral in time for 3.30pm when the Choir is performing Stainer’s Crucifixion.
  • The Cathedral’s 2016 Holy Week and Easter Card is now available either with the Magazine or from the west end of the Cathedral.


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