Letter to the Diocese from the Acting Bishop
The Rt Rev Dr John Armes has issued a letter to the Diocese of Aberdeen & Orkney, updating members of the Diocese announcing details of the 2023 Diocesan Synod as well a number of clergy appointments. Bishop John is currently serving as Acting Bishop in Aberdeen & Orkney.
As we enter Advent and plunge into arrangements for Christmas, I thought it best to collect everything together in one letter rather than deluge you with a series of shorter missives. Apologies, therefore, for giving you so much to read. My aim is both to pass on important information about the life of our diocese and to give you an insight into some of my thinking.
You will remember when I first described my role to you, back in August, that I did not intend to undo work that is already underway in the diocese. I report on several of these below. At the same time, life in any diocese is in constant flow so, inevitably, the Standing Committee and I have plenty of new challenges and opportunities to face.
You will have received notice of the date of our next meeting on Saturday 4th March. Apologies to those of you who may have had a different date in your diary – the change is down to me. I gather that, in previous years, you have begun with a more informal meeting on the Friday before Synod. This could have had great benefits in terms of renewing our face-to-face fellowship, but Standing Committee felt (and I agreed) that coming out of Covid, with many still quite anxious about large gatherings, it would be better to start small. But we shall do our best to construct an agenda that will allow space for more informal conversation as well as structured debate. Amongst other things, we must consider a revision of Canon 4 – the Canon concerning the election of bishops. I’m sure many of you will remember that this revision came out of a request from Aberdeen and Orkney to the General Synod. This is an opportunity for honest debate and, indeed, the chance to offer amendments to the draft Canon for the consideration of the Faith & Order Board.
At the Eucharist to inaugurate our Synod we shall include the blessing of the oils of Healing and Chrism, so please bring containers with you if you need supplies. Traditionally, this ‘Chrism Mass’ includes an invitation to all priests and deacons to renew their ordination vows. Indeed, we might make this also an opportunity for all to renew their Baptism promises.
I’m delighted to say that the Revd Brenda Dowie has been duly licensed as Priest-in-Charge of St Mary’s, Stromness. For Brenda, this is a return home. The licensing was done on my authority but in my absence. I’m looking forward to being in Orkney next week so that I can bless Brenda’s new ministry in person.
The Revd Dr Jenny Holden has been appointed to a new diocesan post as Advisor for Christian Life. The Standing Committee has been working on this role for some months. Jenny applied and was interviewed by members of the Standing Committee shortly after I took up office. I am delighted to make this appointment and I know that Jenny brings many gifts to the role as well as significant experience prior to ordination. You will hear further from her once she begins the job in February – and I hope to install her at Synod in March.
Perhaps I should explain a little more about this new post and my hopes for it. Both the Anglican Consultative Council and the Lambeth Conference have affirmed the importance of encouraging every church member to reflect on their life as a follower of Jesus and what it means to be faithful to God in today’s world. In other words, living out our Baptism promises. It is sometimes called ‘intentional discipleship’, in the SEC we prefer the more general title, ‘Christian Life.’ This will be backed up by a Season of Christian Life which begins in January. Jenny will support all churches in the diocese in their engagement with what it means to live a Christian life. I shall oversee this work because I regard it as an extension of my own role as bishop. My (not very surprising) vision is that every congregation might be a community where people find faith, grow in faith and share their faith, always attentive to and responsive to the call of God’s Holy Spirit upon their lives and always ready to serve their neighbour. In a world beset by many crises, including a tangible threat to the future of our planet, never has there been a greater need for Christians to put themselves to work for God.
Jenny’s move means that St John’s, Aberdeen will be without a regular priest. I am, I have discovered, the Rector of St John’s and I shall do my best to live up to this. But you will understand that I am a largely absentee Rector, so I have invited the Revd Roger Dyer to work alongside me as I and the Vestry plan for a new appointment which we hope will be full-time. Roger has been serving as Assistant Priest at St Mary’s for the past year during which he has also become well-known and well-respected at St John’s. I am grateful that he has agreed to assist me in this non-stipendiary role.
Christ Church, Kincardine O’Neil have been advertising for a new priest for many months, to no avail. A faithful lay ministry team is soldiering on, but they would be very grateful if a priest might come to celebrate the Eucharist once each month. I wonder if anyone reading this might be available to help. They would also value, I’m sure, the assistance of an experienced Lay Reader. Please get in touch with me if you can offer help.
May I wish you a fulfilling Advent and, when it comes, a Happy Christmas. And may I repeat my encouragement to pray for our diocese, for those bruised and wounded, those perplexed, those disappointed by their church. May we find ways of treating one another with respect and kindness so that our diocese may move forward in love and faith, embodying the call of Christ to love God and neighbour. I shall shortly be sending you contact details for clergy outside the diocese ready to offer a listening ear. Such listening will be entirely confidential, and I shall offer their details so that no reference need be made to me.
I plan to be in Orkney and Shetland next week and back in Aberdeen nearer to Christmas. But please be in touch if you need to talk to me. I am slowly getting to meet you, but I’m conscious that I’ve a long way still to go.
With my love and my blessings
Rt Revd Dr John Armes
Bishop of Edinburgh