The Link – pastoral letter, meeting times, and updates.

The Link St Catharine’s, Bo’ness   St Mary’s, Grangemouth

Dear all,

I’m finding this time quite trying. Many of the things I find give me energy have been taken away – visiting people, doing schools work, speaking directly to people from God’s word, just being with people as someone called by God to be with them and using time off to find refreshment. Much of the time I would use to do this work is no longer available either – somebody has to look after the children, shop, cook, wash, teach some reluctant children how to read, and there seems to be so much more to do of these things than there ever was before. As most of you know, at the beginning of the lockdown, Sarah was quite ill and it has taken a while for her to recover. And it seems like there are no days off anymore.

Instead of these things, I’m being thrown into using the things I find more difficult. I’ve never enjoyed using the telephone for anything and I find things like Zoom, Facetime or Skype even more difficult. And when something does happen that would normally demand my presence and time, I can’t visit. The phone just does not seem enough.

And then there’s the stress of the lockdown itself. I am an outdoors person. I love being active. Walking around the towns I care for, praying as I go, taking in the atmosphere and sights as I go visiting is part of the joy of my calling. Now, I’m nervous when I go out that the kids will do something silly, that someone will cough on me in Asda (or, worse, I’ll cough on them), and I just want to see something different. The mountains seem a long, long way away.

So while I started this time with a burst of energy, I know that I have narrowed my sights down to cope, mostly, simply with what’s in front of me to do. The church work I’ve been doing is the services which are put on YouTube each week (done jointly with Sarah for her church and ours), phoning people (not nearly as often as I would like), keeping Facebook and the website up to date, keeping in touch with the Diocese, and I’ve done one funeral (Sarah Snedden) with another one later this week (Nan Dunn – see below). Patricia Dennice died right at the beginning of lockdown, but the family chose to wait to have a memorial service when St Mary’s became available again.

There are, of course, blessings that come with the hard things. It’s a good thing to have so much time with the boys, although they are missing being with other children. Learning how to use some of the more modern technologies has been helpful, and should decrease the fear of using them at any time in the future (which we will need to do). People are caring for each other – thankfully it doesn’t all depend on my phone calls to keep us together and safe! And Sarah and I get to pray with each other far more than we’ve ever had time for before.

That’s more than enough about me, though. We are all experiencing the imposition of this lockdown in various ways. Some of us seem to have empty time stretching out before us and we’re not sure how to fill it, especially now all the oddjobs round the house have been done. Others of us seem more busy than ever.

St Mary’s and St Catharine’s are never far from my thoughts and prayers. On a Zoom chat with the Bishop, he warned the clergy to not fall into two traps – the depression that can come from feeling useless and unable to do enough, and the temptation to try to do everything for everyone when you can’t. I suspect that’s the same for everyone at the moment. Somewhere else it said that at this time, what we all need is radical self-acceptance. God accepts loves us just as we are, it’s not how busy or otherwise that decides our value in his eyes and whenever we are tempted to fall into either trap God’s acceptance of us and our acceptance of ourselves and our circumstances is what we need to remember.

God is faithful and forgiving. God provides what we need. He can help us do what we can and somehow remain at peace even when there are many things we can’t do.

With love and prayers, Willie

Here’s what we can do going forward:




Zoom Coffee Morning – Wednesday 27th May, 10.30am. Please contact Willie for the link to this informal chat. If you need help installing Zoom, please speak to Willie as well. This is a recurring day and time each week for a get together.

Funeral of Nan Dunn – Thursday 28th May, 10.45am. You can live stream her funeral at home – please contact Willie for how to do this.

Vestry meetings – We’ll try to do these by Zoom as well. St Mary’s – Monday 1st June at 8pm and St Catharine’s on Monday 8th June at 8pm. Let me know if you need help to attend – I’ll be sending a link and a short agenda around the vestry members soon.  We only get 45 minutes on the meeting.

The reason we have not been offering communion services online is because I believe that communion needs more than one person present for it to be communion. I don’t believe watching someone else having communion is the same in any way. A Service of the Word (an authorised liturgy of the Scottish Episcopal Church) seems more honest – we can share God’s word, even if we can’t share the elements at this time. We will share communion again and it will be more special because of the time we couldn’t.

The College of Bishops has put together a working group looking into the conditions required to ease the restrictions about meeting together in a church building. While the buildings may open soon to allow private, socially distanced prayer, normal services will not resume until stage 4 of the government’s programme of easing the lockdown. Even then, there are likely to still be restrictions in place about numbers of people, how close together we can sit, and even if certain groups (the over 70s, those who are currently shielding) can attend at all. We will keep you informed.