Minister's letter

TBC LETTER September 2021— Tarves and Barthol Chapel Newsletter

The Manse
Tarves
Email: aswindells@churchofscotland.org.uk 
Tel: 01651 851295

Dear Friends

Last Sunday was our first Sunday back worshipping in Church after lockdown – the next step in learning to live with Coronavirus. The miracle of modern technology has made it possible to worship together on-line over the last 18 months. And this, I know, has been a blessing for many. However, the opportunity to see people face to face again (even with masks on!) reminds us of how fortunate we are to live in a country where we expect and enjoy freedom to worship without the risk of persecution.

Some among us may think that the current regulations around worship are a bit restrictive. I have even heard the suggestion that we should put up a glitter ball in the Kirk and introduce dance as part of our worship! (Don’t worry it is not going to happen – at least not in the immediate future!) But perhaps we might learn to think about the current restrictions in a different way – as something we can do to express our Christian love and concern for our neighbours, by seeking to reduce as much as possible the risks to which we expose them.

Love God and love your neighbour are the two commandments that lie at the heart of the Christian faith and indeed the whole Judeo-Christian tradition. And these two commandments should inform not only the way we worship but also the way we live our lives every day. The Bible reminds us that our neighbour is not only the person who lives next door to us but all who are in need, including those whom we might find most difficult to love.

In the last church where I was minister there was a stained-glass window which was divided into many panels, each with a picture of one of the stories Jesus told. At the bottom of the window, where it could be seen by the children, was a picture of a bandaged man on a donkey being led by another. When the children from the local school came to visit the church, we would stop and look at the window and they were all captivated not only by the beautiful glass, but also by Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, which the window represented. They loved to hear about the man who helped and cared for someone who would normally be his enemy. So much so, that they would ask to hear more of the stories that Jesus told!

We live in a time when we are ever more aware of the fact that the way we lives impacts on others around the world. Heatwaves, raging wildfires, melting ice-caps, flash flooding are sober reminders of this. As world leaders prepare to meet in Glasgow this autumn to discuss climate change, it is important for us to think about what we personally can do to show our concern for our neighbours. Small acts of love and compassion replicated many times can make a big difference.

With warmest wishes

Alison I Swindells
Parish Minister

 

TBC LETTER June 2021— Tarves and Barthol Chapel Newsletter

The Manse
Tarves
Email: aswindells@churchofscotland.org.uk 
Tel: 01651 851295

 

 

Dear Friends

Numbers, numbers, numbers! Percentages, percentages, percentages! Statistics, statistics, statistics! Never before have we had so many figures presented to us daily for such a sustained period. I’m old enough, and many of you will be too, to remember the days before reference numbers became common. Names took precedence. And many of us felt that as numbers began to take precedence over names, there was a risk that we were losing our identity – becoming dehumanised. Yet over the last year many of us will have been studying the figures, no doubt with concern over the huge number of deaths and perhaps with relief as the total number of people vaccinated has soared.

Of course, it is important to remember that behind each number is an individual and their family. And to realise that perhaps there is something worse than being given a number and that is not being counted at all. I’m thinking of the countless thousands, especially in India, Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South America who have been impacted by the pandemic. We have all seen the shocking media images from India of hospitals running out of oxygen to treat people suffering from Covid.

In this situation, it is both a comfort and a challenge to read in the Bible that even the hairs of our heads are counted by God, and that not even a sparrow falls to the ground unnoticed by God. It is a comfort because it is a reminder of the depth of God’s love for the whole of his creation, and of the eternal significance that God’s love gives to every individual and indeed to the whole of God’s creation. But it is a challenge because we so often fail to give all people that same significance. We fail to grasp the biblical vision of a new society where the well-being of all people, and of the planet itself counts.

A Report to this year’s online General Assembly of the Church of Scotland reminds us that, although the whole world may be facing the same storm caused by the corona virus, we are not all in the same boat. Partner churches in India, Malawi and Palestine all report the devastating effects of successive waves of Covid on already inadequate and struggling health services. Meanwhile the UK, at the same time as cutting down on foreign aid, is refusing to part with any of the vast numbers of doses of vaccine that we have ordered but cannot possibly use. Yet if everyone is ever going to be safe from this pandemic, the vaccine must be rolled out to the whole world.

There is a long way to go before any vision of a new and just future can even begin to be a reality. But I believe that each of us can play a part in bringing that about. As we move out of lockdown let me leave you with a challenge – “What changes are you prepared to make that will make an impact for good on our world?”

With warmest wishes

Alison I Swindells

Parish Minister

 

 

LETTER from the Minister  March 21 — Tarves and Barthol Chapel 

Dear Friends


As Easter approaches, and we begin to move out of lockdown, I’m pleased to say that under Scottish Government guidelines, we are now able to reopen churches for worship.   Opening is, of course, subject to the usual indoor restrictions, viz, hand-sanitising, the wearing of masks, no singing, and 2 metre distancing (which limits the number we can have in church).  After some discussion, the Sessions of Tarves and Barthol have decided that the best option for worship in the meantime is to continue to hold their united service of worship on Zoom at 10.00 am on a Sunday.  This has offered during lockdown an opportunity for both worship and fellowship, towards which all who attend contribute in their own way.

However, we are very aware that there are some, who for different reasons have not been able to connect into this service on Zoom either by internet or by telephone.  We have therefore decided to stream this united service live into Tarves Kirk where there are now screens and internet connectivity as well as a good sound system.   The service will begin at 10.00 am with the Church doors opening at 9.45am and friendly office-bearers will be there to greet you, guide you to a seat, operate the technology and take your contact details for track and trace.  This arrangement will be in place for both Palm Sunday, (28 March 2021) and Easter Sunday, and if there is a demand will continue thereafter. 

Those who have been able to access worship from home are encouraged to continue to do so and leave the seats in the Kirk for others.  I look forward to welcoming you all whether you are at home or in the church, as I Zoom in from the manse.  
You might also be interested to know that we are uniting with Methlick and Udny Pitmedden to hold short reflective services on Zoom in the evenings of Monday to Friday of Holy Week at 7.00 pm.  The meeting will open at 6.45 and the service will begin at 7.00 pm.  The link for this is available from any of the elders or myself.

May God bless you all in what will be once again a very different celebration of Holy Week and Easter. 

Alison I Swindells

 

 

 

 

LETTER from the Minister  Feb 21 — Tarves and Barthol Chapel 

The Manse
Tarves

Email aswindells@churchofscotland.org.uk
Tel Tarves 851295

 

Dear Friends

This has been a hard winter for everyone with another lockdown. The church building is closed again for everything except funerals.  We have no indication of when the building might open again, but we continue our weekly services of worship on Zoom at 10.00am on a Sunday.  This is made possible thanks to an amazing team of people, who generously offer their musical, creative and technical gifts so generously.  If you have not tried it yet, why not join us some Sunday?  You can join on-line or by telephone and we will talk you through the technology – please e-mail or telephone me for the link/phone number.  If it would help we can arrange a practice run through of a Zoom meeting.

As I write this we are approaching the beginning of Lent and this year during Lent we will be reading a book by Gordon Giles “At Home in Lent” in which the author takes everyday objects from around the home and uses them to help us explore the Christian faith.  The book is available to buy on-line ISBN 9780857465894 and there is a kindle edition for those who prefer.  There will be a weekly discussion group on Zoom on a Wednesday at 4.00pm to which all are welcome.  If you would like the link for this please contact me. 

We continue to be involved with the local care for the community project in Tarves.  As time has gone on this project has become more focussed on supporting families whom we know are struggling.  Thanks to all those who continue to contribute so generously to this work and to the local shops for continuing to act as collection points.

As many of you will be aware changes of a radical nature are taking place in the Church of Scotland at present and this is reflected locally in the work of Gordon Presbytery, of which we are a part.  Over the next 5 years many ministers will retire and fewer have been entering ministry to replace them.  As a result, consultation has been carried out with local Kirk Sessions to try and find new ways of ensuring that despite this reduction in ministers, local worshipping and witnessing communities can continue, and indeed, grow.

Last month Gordon Presbytery produced a draft plan which envisages teams of ministers covering groupings of congregations and parishes throughout Presbytery.  The proposed grouping for our area is Barthol Chapel, Tarves, Methlick and Udny Pitmedden, which would be covered by a team of two full time Ministers of Word and Sacrament and a locally employed Youth Worker.  This grouping makes sense in that we have all been working together for some time on the Formartine Youth Project.

This plan will be further considered and voted on by Presbytery at their March meeting.  If it is passed it will obviously involve a radically different way of thinking and working for everyone and the full implications will no doubt only become apparent in time.  But I do believe that this way forward could open up new possibilities for worship and witness in our local area.  If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch with me, or your elder, and we will do our best to answer them. 

In the meantime we look forward to working more closely with our neighbours in Methlick and Udny and Pitmedden in the future.  We are currently planning a series of United Holy Week Services, details of which you can find elsewhere on the website.

Once again, thank you all for your continued support throughout this difficult and challenging time.  

Warmest wishes

Alison I Swindells

Parish Minister

TBC LETTER September— Tarves and Barthol Chapel Newsletter

The Manse
8 Murray Avenue
Tarves 

 

Dear Friends 

A few weeks ago, we discovered a nest of sparrows in the outlet of the cooker hood in the manse kitchen. Unfortunately, one of the birds had actually found its way down into the hood itself rather than out into the fresh air. We could hear its wings beating. Sean did not feel he could take the cooker hood apart himself – or rather he could have taken it apart, but getting it together again would have been a different story. So, we had to call someone out to the manse to fix it. The tradesman was very busy but promised to come round as soon as he could. 

From time to time we heard the bird fluttering around. Then there would be silence. The silence grew longer just before the kitchen man arrived. And we were sure that the bird had not survived. However, when the cooker hood was opened up, we discovered that the bird had flown! The mess was still there but the bird had found its way out to freedom. 

If going into lock down was difficult, then this period during which we are trying to come out of it again, holds its own challenges. Those challenges are particularly acute for any who have been kept shielded. Most of us have had the opportunity to get used to a changed world more gradually and a little bit at a time. Even then, if we are honest many of us still find shopping a stressful experience, or at least I do – remembering to take my face covering with me is the least of it! 

But for those who have been kept shielded, moving out into the world is a huge step. Suddenly the freedom we thought we longed for does not look so inviting after all. No matter how much we may have craved freedom from the restrictions that were placed upon us, most of us have found it very strange to be out and about once more. Of course the freedom we yearned for during lock down, is not the one we enjoy now. Unlike the sparrow which managed to find its way out of the cooker hood into the freedom of its natural environment, we are still living in an unnatural state. The coronavirus is still with us. We are still having to physically distance which is not something that comes naturally to us. And as I write this there are still no gyms or swimming pools open and face coverings have become a regular feature of life. 

As far as the Church is concerned, the reopening of our buildings has been fenced around with so many conditions that the Kirk Sessions in both Barthol Chapel and Tarves believe we can offer a better experience of worship on-line or on the telephone for those who do not have the technology. On-line there is no restriction on the numbers who can join in; we can sing our faith together in the freedom of our homes; we can chat together after the service in small groups; and we don’t have to wear face coverings – we can see each other. 

This freedom seems to be much more in tune with the freedom of which the Christian faith talks. In the bible we find these words “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. (2 Cor 3:17) That freedom is the freedom from fear which God’s love promises whatever our circumstances. It is a freedom which we can enjoy and celebrate in spite of the physical restrictions that continue to feature in our lives. 

All that having been said, there may be other good reasons for our churches or hall to open and we are continually keeping this possibility under review. In the meantime, on-line worship continues – if you would like to join us please contact me or one of the elders for the link to our Sunday service. If you are not sure about how to use Zoom please just ask – we will be happy to help – a few months ago none of us had heard of it –so we know how you feel – it really is an easy app to use! And if restrictions are eased sufficiently before this letter is printed then we would be absolutely delighted to welcome you to a service in Church. Check out the Church/community web-sites for up-to-date information. 

With warmest wishes 

Alison I Swindells,  Parish Minister