Message from Bishop Kevin
People constantly attempt to make the Christian faith much more complicated than it actually is. The whole of Christian preaching and teaching can be summarised in one short word – LOVE. And the paradox is you can’t write about love, you can’t read about love, you can’t preach about love, you can only ever experience love. And that is the abiding fascination of the Christmas story because we first experience love in the love of family and of friends, the warmth the affection, the security of being held: there is love. Love that is of God, love that is real and experienced and is secure and in which we are understood, cherished, wanted.
They are all facets of the story of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus. It is a fascinating story because it is so real, so human, so ordinary, and the real magic of Christmas is that we are reminded again of just how extra-ordinary the story of human love and birth actually is.
Who can fail to be moved at the sight of a small infant? Tiny hands, tiny feet, big blue eyes, a baby sleeps. The vulnerability, the need, the dependence of such tiny hands and tiny feet. At the same time, even the most hard-bitten bishop is moved at the sight because there in those tiny hands and tiny feet, looking through those big blue eyes, is so much potential. In the baby Jesus we see the true hope, the potential of being human.
How many parents have looked at their new-born baby and resolved to be better people, more caring, more understanding, more accepting? How many of us have read the story of Jesus and have longed, yearned to be more kind, generous, caring and loving? The importance of the story of Christmas is that it is the story of each one of us.
The babe of Bethlehem grew to endure misunderstanding and loneliness, pain and suffering, disappointment and failure. Jesus brought out of all those facets of our lives that we would rather be without. He brought joy that is profound and real, life-giving and peace-making, experiences of love in which God makes himself known. Covid has taught many of us to recognise God in the most surprising small acts of generosity and kindness, through which we have recognised the full human potential to love and have heard again the message of the angels - to allow ourselves to be loved. That is the simple lesson of faith in love, which we experience new every morning and yet it is the message which is eternal.
This Christmas time – look at a baby and see God.
May all God’s blessings be yours this Christmas time
Blessing of the Crib in George Square, Glasgow
On November 20th, Bishop Kevin joined with the Rt Hon Philip Braat, Lord Provost of Glasgow, in the annual Blessing of the Crib. This event, held under the umbrella of Glasgow Churches Together was originally scheduled for early December, but had to be moved forward at the last minute due to lockdown restrictions that were due to be imposed just a few hours after the time of the rearranged ceremony. It can be viewed through the following link which will take you to Youtube: http://bit.ly/CribBlessing2020
Welcome Financial News for charges across the Diocese
All church treasurers and clergy have recently been in in receipt of a letter from Bob Burgon, Diocesan Treasurer, and this is simply to summarise the main content of that letter, which was to say that both the Diocese and the Province have been very aware that the pandemic has caused financial concern for many charges, although it’s been hugely encouraging to see the efforts of many congregations to keep their income at a reasonable level through a variety of approaches, including a significant move away from Open Plate collections towards regular giving through Standing Orders.
Having said that, and recognising the ongoing uncertainty, the Province has reduced the amount of quota requested of our Diocese by 20% over the coming year, and Diocesan Council has agreed to pass this reduction on in full to all congregations. Diocesan Council has also agreed to make, from the General Fund reserves, a special grant payment to all congregations of 20% of the current year’s quota assessment and it is intended to make such payments in January 2021. Therefore, all congregations will receive financial support at two levels in 2021 - an immediate cash sum and reduced quota payments throughout the coming year.
Our New Dean
As most people reading this will already know, our new Dean is the Very Rev Reuben James Preston, Rector of St John’s Johnstone and St Margaret’s Renfrew. Details of his appointment are on the Diocesan website at http://bit.ly/DeanAppointment2020
Dean Reuben says… “Thank you for the messages of 'congratulations (and commiserations!)' on my appointment as Dean of the Diocese. It is good meeting people across the diocese on our now habitual Zoom meetings, but I am very much anticipating being able to start Dean's Visitations in the latter part of 2021 as restrictions allow and see some of you in real life rather than the 2-inch boxes we inhabit on our laptops. It is good to be able to work with you all in developing the life of our Charges, Regions and Diocese. I hope you have good, safe and creative Christmas celebrations in your homes and Charges.
News from our Canon Missioner
Our Canon Missioner, Audrey O’Brien Stewart, returned to work from maternity leave on 5th October. After arriving in the Diocese and assessing the most pressing missional needs, Bishop Kevin worked with Audrey to redesign the Canon Missioner’s role specification to allocate more resources to address Transitional Ministry. Transitional Ministry is a broad term that encompasses, among other things, congregations experiencing a vacancy. The primary goal of Transitional Ministry is to support congregations in using their time in vacancy to prepare emotionally, spiritually, and logistically for the call of a new clergy person.
Over the next year, Audrey will take the lead on a pilot project looking at the vacancy process in our diocese and designing ways we can better support clergy and charges in transition. Audrey came to our diocese having already participated in advanced training for Transitional Ministry. Over the past few weeks, she has completed additional training courses and has been connecting with professionals who work in Transitional Ministry around the Anglican Communion. More specific information about this exciting new endeavour in our diocese will come in due course.
Diocesan Synod 2021
As previously advised, this will take place on Saturday 6th March 2021, and we now confirm that it will be an online event, following a similar pattern to that used for the General Synod earlier this month, and using the same company (Sanctus Media, a non-profit organisation) to facilitate the technical support required.
New Diocesan Centre
At the Diocesan Council Meeting on 28th November, having examined and discussed the detailed tender proposals of the selected contractor for the new Diocesan Centre at 49 Cochrane Street, the Trustees gave approval for finalisation of plans and for building work to commence in January 2021. An entry date of late spring/early summer is our hope, but – given the events of 2020 – it would be foolish to make firm predictions.
Online Zoom AGMs and other Charge Meetings
We’ve been happy to offer help from the Diocesan Office to charges who needed assistance in facilitating their Zoom AGMs, and this is to reiterate the offer for any charges who are still to hold such AGMs, or any online meetings, but who are concerned about the technicalities of it. Support takes the form of setting up the meeting, assisting with invitations and – importantly – persuading members who don’t believe they can access Zoom meetings that they can do so, and offering practice meetings beforehand, as well as explaining the ease of listening and contributing by ‘phone if they are uneasy with computers.
Diocesan Schedules of Charges
Clergy and Vestry Secretaries will soon be receiving the annual request to update our central records of office bearers in your charges. Last year, Petko Marinov, our Digital Missioner, started the process of streamlining the time you have to spend on this task by storing these schedules electronically, so that you don’t need to ‘reinvent the wheel’ by filling in the same (unchanged) information each year. Instead, you’ll be sent an electronic record of the information we currently hold, and will simply be asked to notify us (electronically) of any change. Which will mean less paperwork all round, and zero postage costs…
Charge and Clergy News
St Mungo’s Alexandria: an online meeting took place on 14th December between Bishop Kevin, members of Bishop’s Staff Group and nine of the remaining members of the vestry/congregation at St Mungo’s, where it was unanimously agreed by all church members present that St Mungo’s should close, and governance would pass to the Diocese. The final decision on this will pass to Diocesan Synod in March. Although the closure will be a cause for sadness, it is Bishop Kevin’s intention to hold a closing service in due time (when fuller attendance is allowed), so that we can celebrate the long and illustrious witness of the church through many years, as well as the valiant attempts of the congregation to maintain that witness for as long as they could. Rev Heller Gonzalez of St Augustine’s Dumbarton is now their Interim Priest, and is providing pastoral care for the remaining members of the charge.
St Mary’s, Port Glasgow
It’s good to report that the long-running work on this church’s roof restoration is now nearing completion, which should allow the church to restart services, as well as its varied outreach programme (with dry floors at last!) once gatherings are allowed again. This project is being supported by a wide range of grant and loan contributions from outside bodies, as well as the Province and the Diocese to add to the impressive fund-raising carried out by the congregation, and a further report will follow once the project is fully accomplished.
Ordinations and Institutions
Bishop Kevin has been delighted to visit a small number of charges across the Diocese recently for hugely positive occasions, albeit with restricted numbers, and we offer congratulations to the Rev Heller Gonzalez, who was instituted as Rector at Dumbarton on 22nd October, and also to the Rev Matthew Little, who was instituted as Rector of St Mary’s, Hamilton and St Andrew’s, Uddingston, on 28th October.
Congratulations also to the Rev Harriet Johnston, who was ordained Priest at St James the Less, Bishopbriggs (where she is serving her curacy) on Advent Sunday, 29th November, as well as to the Rev Liz Crumlish, who was ordained Deacon at St Oswald’s, Maybole, on Sunday 13th December, where she will also be serving a curacy.
Bishop Kevin has also announced that Dr Lisa Curtice is to be ordained into the Diaconate in our Diocese at Michaelmas 2021. She will be curate in the Renfrewshire Region, working with all the charges and clergy within the region, including the Dean.
St Margaret’s, Newlands: congratulations are also offered to the Rev Canon Gordon Fyfe, currently Rector of St Columba’s, Largs, who has accepted the invitation of St Margaret’s Vestry to become their new Rector. The Institution is scheduled for Candlemas (2nd February 2021).
Bishop’s Lent Appeal 2020
The final total gathered in and transferred to Glasgow City Mission came to £11,730.88, a hugely impressive sum given the circumstances this year, and both Bishop Kevin and The Primus (our Interim Bishop at the start of the appeal) are keen to express enormous gratitude to those charges and individuals who contributed. We’re also aware that the actual total may be higher, as some individuals will have contributed directly and anonymously to GCM without alerting us (or GCM) to the fact that the Lent Appeal was the reason for the donation: grateful thanks are also expressed to such donors. A letter from Jack Glass, Fundraising Manager for GCM, is attached separately to this newsletter, which offers a fascinating insight to the work of Glasgow City Mission in 2020.
Diocesan Council Changes in 2020
The Very Rev Reuben Preston is now a member of Diocesan Council, by virtue of his taking up the post of Dean. Of the Trustees, we have said farewell, and offer grateful thanks, to those who have now either left the Diocese, or whose term of office is complete: the Rev David Gifford, the Rev Canon Sandy Montgomerie, Jean Mainland and Margaret Hanley. In turn, we welcome the Rev Jim Geen and Nigel Rayner from Ayrshire Region, and the Rev Willi Nesbitt and Maureen Russell from Renfrewshire Region.
From the Dean: Diocesan Property Committee
The Diocesan Property Committee (DPC) meets monthly as below in 2021
MeetingDates: 11/1 8/2 8/3 12/4 10/5
Submission Deadlines: 4/1 1/2 1/3/ 5/4 3/5
After a meeting, you should normally be contacted by email/letter within 2 weeks of the meeting in response to your item(s), although it may sometimes take longer. Please note that if we do not hear back from you after several months, items will be dropped from our business and we will not chase you.
About wider Provincial Building Grant Applications in 2021: the SEC Provincial Building Grants Group (PBGG) meets 3 times a year and the two remaining meetings in 2021 at which we can support applications to be submitted are as follows:
PBGG Meeting Submission deadline
Tuesday 25 May Tues 4 May (needs to have been supported by the April DPC meeting)
Tuesday 28 Sept Tues 7 September (needs to have been supported by the July DPC meeting)
When you submit applications to the DPC please submit electronically and also ensure that you cite evidence of your attempts to raise money from other sources and funding bodies. Failure to do so will mean that the DPC cannot support your application. In these difficult times, details of funding bodies you have applied to will be considered as evidence even if you haven’t heard back yet because we are aware that a number of bodies have stopped meeting during the pandemic period and we will be sympathetic to your attempts to raise funds in order to support your applications as often as we can.
In 2020 the grant applications considered by the Group totalled almost £400,000 – down from last year’s total of about £507,000 but still quite a bit more than the £257,500 it had available to spend. Grants were awarded to 15 charges. The Group was also able to meet in full the three requests for loans totalling £26,190. A number of the charges whose grant applications were not met in full were also offered loans (subject to diocesan approval).
The Group finds that photos can often assist it in its understanding of applications and is grateful to those applicants that have submitted photos with their applications.
(The application forms and guidance notes are available on the SEC website: http://bit.ly/ProvincialBuildingGrants2020 )
The Diocesan Administrative Staff continue to work from home, and grateful thanks are offered to Christine, Marion and Iolanthe for everything they have done and the (metaphorical) extra miles they have travelled over these past difficult months. As things stand at the moment, we feel it’s unlikely that we will return to using the offices at St George’s Buildings in St Vincent Street before our move is due to 49 Cochrane Street, but if anything is certain in these times, then it’s the fact that we can’t be certain of anything. We will keep you posted.
So it only remains to wish the happiest of possible Christmases to all the people of the Diocese, along with the hope and fervent prayer that 2021proves to be a kinder year for everyone…