Welcome to Ness Bank Parish Church, a Church of Scotland congregation. We are a Presbyterian church and part of the Reformed tradition.
Ness Bank Church’s vision is to be a church without walls reaching out in faith to our parish and beyond with the light, the love, the hope and the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We serve Christ in many different ways at Ness Bank Church, but at the heart of all that we do week by week is our faith in Jesus Christ and central to that is our Sunday morning worship – come and see for yourself, you are assured of a warm welcome and you may just find it transforms your life.
Ness Bank Church remains a Church.
Our normal worship services, in line with the Church of Scotland guidance, have now ceased.
Our service to the homeless and vulnerable remains operational - food is being distributed outside the church building on Tuesday and Thursdays between 1.30 to 2.30 pm and on Saturdays between 2 to 3 pm.
We are here for all people in this time of crisis. Further details will follow.
Please know that you are all in my prayers and together we will get through this hugely difficult time.
Rev Fiona Smith
Pastoral Letters to the Congregation
15 December 2020
What a year it has been – none of us could have imagined this time last year what we and all the world would have to cope with in 2020. A virus, that is invisible to the naked eye, has wreaked havoc on the lives of so many people because Covid-19 has not only caused illness and death, but has had a catastrophic impact upon the economy, the provision of medical care for people suffering from other illnesses, as well as having a devastating impact upon people’s mental health and general wellbeing. While there is good news about the vaccine it is going to take many months before this will make a significant change to our daily lives.
It is hard to take it all in and we are all tired of living under such fear, tension, and uncertainty. While the twinkling lights and colours of Christmas decorations bring a wee bit of cheer, Christmas is going to be quite different this year with all the restrictions in place. So, what can we do to help ourselves process the journey we have all been on this year?
The trouble for us at Christmas is that we are so familiar with the story of Jesus’ birth that is sometimes hard for us to learn anything new. But the truth is it is a mind-blowing story. It is about God, the Creator of the universe, the source of all life and love, coming to us as a tiny human baby. The name Immanuel, which is given to that child lying in a manger, means God WITH us. Our God loves each of us with a love that is so deep that God came to us to show us the way back home to God. We believe in a God who is not distant from us but who understands completely the complexities and harsh realities that is earthly human life.
The story of Jesus’ birth is also about other human beings, like us, and they have a story to tell us too. To help us ponder their stories I share with you a Meditation, Reflection and Prayer written by Lynda Wright (who many moons ago was my spiritual director). I have taken the liberty of adapting it a wee bit, which I am sure Lynda won’t mind!
So make yourself a cuppa, settle down in a comfy chair and have in front of you some of the Christmas Cards that you have received – have a look at the pictures, particularly the ones with Nativity scenes on them and then slowly read this meditation.
Hidden Journeys of the Nativity
First, we might think of Mary’s journey to Bethlehem. How did she travel? (there is no donkey mentioned in the bible! And the journey was some 80 miles). On her journey think about how she might have been feeling. Did she travel with feelings of excitement and expectancy but also with anxiety and fear? She must have travelled with lots of questions and probably also with exhaustion and physical pain.
Joseph’s journey was a mixed one. He seems to have been caught in that place between faith and doubt – willing to be faithful in his commitment to Mary, but struggling to believe those things he couldn’t understand.
The Innkeeper. He had no rooms left for the tired Joseph and Mary but what an important role he served. Out of compassion for this couple in need he offered them the only space he had – the stable. Without his kindness they would have had to sleep outside. I wonder how he helped them to settle comfortably into this very earthy accommodation. I wonder if he also sought the help of the female members of his family to give support to Mary as she went into labour. Whatever happened the Innkeeper met God by tending to human need with compassion.
The shepherds’ journey was that of simple faith. They simply received the good news of the angels and responded straight away. And they were not disappointed.
The wise men travelled from far off. They were seized with wonder at the mysterious star and set out on a search – following, seeking, asking questions when they were lost. For them it was an intellectual journey seeking to understand the signs in the heavens.
Think of your own spiritual journey this past year.
Do you identify with any of the figures in the story of Jesus’ birth?
What have been the questions you have lived with?
Have you known exhaustion and physical pain, and what does that do to your faith?
Have you looked forward to anything with expectancy?
What have your times of doubt felt like?
How have you felt far away from God?
Can you name the moments of wonder or peace that have nourished your journey?
Have you found God in your compassion and caring for others?
Loving God, in our journeying we find you,
God of the unexpected people and places.
We find you there – in our doubts
As well as our certainties,
In our fears as well as our courage,
In our questions as well as our wonder,
And in our turning to others with compassion and care.
For you are WITH us
In all our comings and goings
The flicker of light in the darkness
The Hope for all the years
Help us to journey on
Into the unknown future
Knowing in our hearts that you are WITH us.
This we pray in the name of that baby lying in a manger
It has been a joy to be back worshipping in our beautiful sanctuary but no singing, face masks and social distancing does make for a rather strange experience! That aside it has been especially important to those in our congregation who do not have digital access to be back attending worship and it is a joy to see them even with a mask on! A huge thank you goes to everyone who is involved in ensuring that we follow all the Covid rules properly and to our fantastic cleaner, Heather Brain, for all her hard work. Another big thank you is also due to all who were involved in decorating the Church - it is beautiful, and we have also received happy feedback about our Christmas tree outside which is giving light to folk walking by on Ness Bank and to all at Inverness Foodstuff.
I have set out below the details for the services over Christmas – these can all be accessed live and on catch-up on our website nessbankchurch.org.uk . If you would like to book a place in church then please contact Mary Thomson either by phone (01463 221812) or by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Sunday 20 December 11 am
Festival of Lessons & Carols
Christmas Eve 11.30 pm
Sunday 27 December 11 am
End of Year service & Celebration of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper
Sunday 3 January
Online service only – The Right Rev Dr Martin Fair
The Property team have done another fantastic job to enable the AV system to be installed and Craig from Limelight who installed the system has been a continued source of help – so thank you to them all.
Another huge thank you goes to my husband Andrew. without whom we simply would not have had worship online this year. I also know how much you are all enjoying his photographs, which include the occasional glimpses of our two dogs Harry & Blue, that accompany the words to the hymns. On their daily walks Andrew now always has his camera with him and it is fair to say that at times the dogs get a bit fed up that stick-throwing is taking second fiddle to the taking of pictures!!
It has been a huge learning curve for Andrew, but he has done an immense amount of work to ensure that the operating of the live stream is straight forward. We are now looking for volunteers to be trained by Andrew to operate the AV. Please, please have a think about whether you or someone you know could come and join the team. Andrew had no expertise before he started doing the AV – it is all perfectly doable, and it is a vitally important service for our congregation and beyond. By having the AV system in place, we have also been able to live stream weddings which has been hugely appreciated by the couples. Please think about having a try and get in touch with me so that we can arrange the training.
Bridget Black – our Organist
After an amazing 35 years as our organist, Bridget has decided that it is time to retire as our main organist. Wonderfully her enthusiasm is not diminished, and she will remain the leader of our choir and our second organist. Bridget’s dedication, commitment and faithful service to Christ’s church is an utterly inspiring witness to us all. I am so thankful for all that Bridget has given to the leading of worship over the years and we will properly honour her service to the Church once we are all back worshipping together (and allowed to sing!).
I am delighted to tell you that Ian has agreed to become our main organist. Ian, like Bridget, is a joy to work with and we are blessed to have him.
Sunday 20 December will be the ‘premiere’ of the Ness Bank virtual choir singing ‘Hark the herald angels sing’ which Ian and Margaret Livingstone put together. It is brilliant! A huge thank you goes to all who took part and especially to Ian and Margaret for all their hard work in putting this together and for taking the leap of faith to have a go at something new!
The great work of IF continues to support the people in our city who are most vulnerable and in need. IF is ‘more than just a meal’ and our work has included helping people get accommodation, medical care and even hair cuts (albeit outside!!). On Christmas Eve we will be giving our participants lots of additional goodies and gifts as well as a wonderful meal. Please keep IF in your prayers and do look out for the Inverness Courier this Friday as IF will be in the news!
Pastoral care continues to be a vital part of our life together as a church. Through the work of the elders, district visitors, the Prayer group and the flower committee folk continue to be lovingly supported. The leaders of the Wednesday Lunch club are keeping in touch with all who came to the weekly lunch and a special gift is going out to them all too. The Guild have also been keeping in touch with one another and meeting on zoom (I am looking forward to being with them later today) and I know they too have been arranging gifts for Guild members.
Please remember those who are on their own, those who are ill, those who are grieving in your prayers. I continue to pray for you all and I am only a phone call away.
While this Christmas is going to be different, I hope and pray that each of you may still be blessed with the joy, the peace, the love and the hope that is ours through that baby, born in a stable.
Happy Christmas to you all and may you journey into 2021 knowing that you are held in the palm of God’s hands.
THE GATE OF THE YEAR by Minnie Haskins
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
9 October 2020
Lately when folk have kindly asked me how things are, I have laughingly come back with the line ‘I’m living the dream!’ It always makes the other person laugh and we so need a bit of light in these difficult times.
Laughter is a great medicine and you all know I enjoy laughing even though my laugh is quite frankly utterly ridiculous! In the good old days when we could gather at Ness Bank, Andrew and the girls, whenever they were looking for me, always heard my laugh before they could see me!
But there is little to laugh about at present, Covid is on the rise and the deeper impacts of the pandemic are now really being felt. But it is when life is at its toughest and the road ahead seems fraught with difficulty that we can still find joy in the peace and the love of Christ. Psalm 23 has spoken to me anew again these past few months – in the relentlessness of it all I go back to this Psalm to breathe and to be reminded that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leads us to still waters and green pastures but who is also with us in the pain and the struggles of life
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
My prayer for you all is that you too may find comfort and strength from the Good Shepherd to support you, and that you are also able to find something, however daft, to laugh about!
A huge amount of work has been going on behind the scenes to ensure that we are fully compliant with all the Covid regulations. I am delighted to say that we have Presbytery approval to be open for funerals and worship. Last week we held our first funeral service in the church, and everything went well. It was wonderful to be back in the sanctuary although it was amazing to see how much the removal of the pew cushions (a Covid regulation) has affected the acoustics!
We are planning to open for Sunday worship in November. The reason for the delay has been to do with issues with our internet and other matters which is why I have been conducting our zoom services from the manse since July. The maximum number of people we are legally allowed to have attending worship in person is 50, which means we will be continuing with zoom. The Kirk Session, as I indicated in my last letter, have made the decision that priority will be given to those who are not able to access worship digitally. If you are unable to access worship online and would like to join us in person when we re-open, please can you let your elder or Mary Thomson in the office know. Once we know numbers, we can confirm with you the date for coming back to church.
Sunday zoom services are continuing to go well – it is a joy to be able to see and chat to folk although it is not the same as being together in person. But one of the hidden benefits of online worship is that it has enabled people who would otherwise not have been able to come to church, to participate in worship and we also have folk joining us from far beyond Inverness. The online world we have now begun to engage with is a phenomenal missional opportunity which is why we are installing AV into the church, however, for a few reasons this remains work in progress, but we are getting there!
Attached to this letter are the new zoom details for worship from 25 October – it is the way zoom works that every 7 weeks I need to set up a new link. Please do note that you can join by phone. Also, if you would like to receive a hard copy of the service please let Mary Thomson know.
Sermon Reflection/Discussion Group & Coffee & Chat
We are using zoom for activities in the week. The Coffee & Chat is an informal get together every couple of weeks on a Wednesday morning. At their last get together they heard from June Macleod, the Operations Manager of Inverness Foodstuff, who gave a brilliant talk on what IF is up to and a tour of the hall!
We have had two sermon reflection/discussion sessions on zoom so far and they have been excellent. We meet on a Monday, again every couple of weeks or so, to look over the previous two Sundays’ sermons – all questions are encouraged! We have had some interesting discussions and it is also extremely helpful for me to hear comments and feedback on the services.
All our youth work continues to be online, although back in September when it was allowed, some of the Sunday school did meet up at Bellfield Park for a picnic and a play which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
I have led devotions at BB and GB and have been so heartened by the hard work of our officers who are doing so much to keep connected with the boys and girls as well as finding creative and innovative ways to engage with them online. We will be holding our BB & GB enrolment service on 22 November when badges and awards will be made.
The BB and GB are once again supporting the Blythswood Shoebox Christmas Appeal. If you would like to fill a box up to give a child or teenager in Eastern Europe some much needed support and joy this Christmas then please get your box filled and wrapped and down to the Church Office by 30 October. This link https://blythswood.org/shoeboxappeal/ will give you more information. If you are simply lacking a shoe box, please contact Janet Russell, our 4A GB Captain, who has some going spare - her number is 01463-711185
Although we are so restricted in meeting one another, we remain committed to pastoral care for you all. District elders and visitors have come together on zoom with me for further pastoral training for these times. Prayer and keeping in contact via the phone or a socially distanced chat at the door is what we are doing. I am still unable to do hospital visits but as soon as I know someone is in hospital, I contact the Hospital Chaplain who has been so faithful in visiting folk on my behalf. Please remember all the folk who are in care homes as again visits are hugely restricted.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to chat and know that all of you are held in my heart and in my prayers.
Parish Christmas Card
More than ever this year, our Parish Christmas Card is a vital opportunity to connect with all who live in the parish with the message that Christmas is not cancelled. Although our services will be different this year, we still have the message of love, joy, peace, and hope that Christ’s birth brought to us and all the world to proclaim. The Parish Christmas card also gives us an opportunity to remind folk of the wonderful work that happens at Ness Bank and that we are there to help support them if they are in need. So please if you are able, we are looking for volunteers to deliver the cards in December. If you can help, please contact Mary Thomson.
Annual Remembering Service
This is a beautiful service which I know is important to so many. We usually hold this in November but with all the Covid regulations we need more time to work through how we can still do this service meaningfully and so we are simply postponing this service until January to give us more time.
A huge amount of work has gone in to building our new website and it is looking super. This will be going live in the next few weeks and I will keep you posted.
Farewell to Hanneke & welcome to Tommy
It was sad to say farewell to Hanneke on 20 September because she is a much-loved member of our church family. However, it was a joy to be able to present her with over £2,000 which has enabled her to purchase both the computer and printer that she needs for her ministry and, on all our behalf, I also presented her with a preaching stole, an olive wood holding cross, a St Andrew’s Pottery goblet and plate for communion and a picture of Ness Bank. Enclosed with this letter is Hanneke’s beautiful letter of thanks to you all.
Hanneke has now been inducted into her new charge of Strathbrock Parish Church and this is the link to that service https://youtu.be/U_nF2ggHaIc. Please remember to keep Hanneke in your prayers.
I am also delighted to introduce you to Tommy MacGregor who has joined us as a first placement candidate for the full-time Ministry of Word and Sacrament. Tommy and I have already struck up a great rapport and some of you have already met him at various online events as well as in worship. The focus of the first few months of Tommy’s placement will be his university studies at HTC and working with me to find out more about the life of a parish minister. Please keep Tommy in your prayers, especially as so much of his training is currently having to be online.
The Church of Scotland & Inverness Foodstuff
The Kirk held its first ever online General Assembly on the 2 & 3 October. The headline news is sobering – finance and buildings are a huge issue, but the church is still doing amazing work on the ground reaching out to people with the love, forgiveness, and hope of Christ.
Inverness Foodstuff was commended for its work in the Scottish Parliament (this is a link to the Press & Journal article on this https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/lifestyle/food-and-drink/2468626/to-be-able-to-get-a-freshly-cooked-meal-was-like-christmas-to-me-participants-of-inverness-drop-in-cafe-pay-tribute-as-it-is-recognised-by-msps/
Following on from this I was interviewed by the Sunday National who did a big piece after the General Assembly on the challenges facing the church but who also wanted to hear about projects which were meeting a real community need. Wym, our Session Clerk, thought you would all be interested to read this article and so a copy is enclosed.
I shall be on holiday 12 to 25 October (inclusive) and I am hugely thankful to Penelope who will be covering for me – although I will be setting up the zoom link each week and joining you for worship!
Every blessing to you all
4 July 2020
Last Tuesday the Kirk Session met on zoom to review the work that has been going on, despite lockdown, in our church and to agree plans for the coming few months. Before I report on the Kirk Session’sdecisions, I want to share with you some of my opening reflections from that meeting.
Reflection: God’s whole will and purpose from beginning to end is to be with us.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it………And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”
The Word is Jesus Christ – God made flesh – God in human form.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Joseph after discovering that Mary was pregnant learnt the following in a dream
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, the Risen Christ says this to the disciples:
‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Once more we see the commitment of God in Christ to be with us always, which to put it another way simply means that there will never be a time when Jesus is not with us.
In the book of Revelation, we learn of what God’s ultimate destiny will be at the end of time when Christ returns – the voice from heaven tells John:
‘And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home[a] of God is among mortals.
He will dwell[b] with them;
they will be his peoples,[c]
and God himself will be with them;’
God will be with us forevermore…..
God’s will and purpose has been from the beginning to be with us – God did not need us but chose to create us in God’s image to share with us the love that is at the heart of God - that is the very essence of God.
In Christ God comes to us as one of us to show us the way back home to God
This is the unchanging purpose of God
In all the fears and uncertainties that we are experiencing in our world today to know this truth is the rock we can safely hold onto
God in Christ is with us
God in Christ is with us as elders of this wee branch of Christ’s Church
Our calling is to trust this truth – that we are not alone that God is with us as together we discuss, and we discern God’s will for us and our future as the Ness Bank Church family
I leave you with this prayer written by Thomas Merton
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going,
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Re-opening Ness Bank Church
We must adhere to the rules laid down by both the Scottish Government and the Church of Scotland. The Kirk has produced a 41-page guidance document and Covid-19 risk assessment for Kirk Sessions to comply with before any church building can re-open. The Kirk Session have appointed a team to work through all the rules and regulations and to complete the risk assessment which once completed must be submitted to the Presbytery for approval before we can begin to re-open. There is an inordinate amount of work to consider and to do!
The Kirk Session’s paramount concern is the safety and well being of everyone. Through July the team will carefully work on enabling us to be fully compliant with all the Covid-19 rules and regulations so that we can, in the first instance, open our sanctuary for funerals. We anticipate this will be done by the beginning of August.
Under the current Scottish Government rules, churches will be able to re-open for worship at Phase 4 – the timing of when that will be is still to be determined. However, I cannot stress enough that this will not mean we will be all be able to return to worship as we did before the pandemic started – there will be strict rules about numbers allowed into the building, physical distancing, hygiene, wearing of face masks and there will be no singing! This all means that the provision of online worship will need to continue. The Kirk Session have decided that when we are able to return to worship in the building priority will be given to those who are currently not able to access online worship.
The Kirk Session had already planned to install audio visual equipment into the sanctuary as part of the plans for our ongoing upgrade of our building as being able to live stream worship is of missional importance. Currently we live stream our services using Andrew and my laptops! The Kirk Session have therefore agreed to bring forward installing audio-visual equipment into the sanctuary to enable us to continue to provide online worship with proper equipment. The plan is for this to be installed during July. This will also mean that when the day comes (and it will) that we can all return to worship together we will still continue our online presence by live streaming the service directly to our website (which is also currently being redesigned and updated).
The Kirk Session meets again on 8 September to review where we are and to make decisions about re-opening for worship. We will also know more then about the Scottish Governments guidance on allowing other groups to meet and the schools will be back by then too.
The Kirk Session received an excellent report from the Finance Team who have worked so hard these past few months to adapt their processes to ensure that we are being rigorous in the monitoring of all income and expenditure – their dedication and commitment is wonderful. In my letter to you all in March, at the beginning of lockdown, I informed you that we had a monthly deficit of over £4,000. I am delighted to say that your faithful response has turned the tide and instead of looking at a deficit this year we are now looking at achieving a small surplus. I am truly thankful to you all – our giving is part of our faith and in faith you have responded.
Amongst everything else we have also received the 5-year Professional Property Surveys on the Church and the manse that are required by the Presbytery. The reports have been positive which is a testament to the work of our wonderful Property Team however there is essential work to be done. The Property team have produced a schedule of works that must be done and the approximate costs of these are in the region of £26,000.The remainder of the work to be done will form part of our planned Phase 4 upgrade of the sanctuary.
This vital work continues as we are sadly seeing an increase in need as the economic effects of the pandemic start to hit. We have served over 8,000 meals in the past 3 months. Please do remember to keep IF, all our volunteers and all who need this service in your prayers. The Church of Scotland did a great article on us for their website and this can be found by following this link
Worship for July & August
Attached to this letter are the details for worship through July and August. I am taking a break from 6 to 21 July inclusive – I have not had any time off in 5 months so you can imagine that I am rather in need of a break! The service on the 12 July is a pre-recorded service led by the Moderator of the General Assembly the Right Rev Dr Martin Fair who has kindly produced the service to enable ministers to get a holiday – this service will be available on our website. On the 19 July, the Rev Penelope Smirthwaite is kindly covering for me to lead worship on zoom (although Andrew and I will be in the background to set up the zoom!).
I am delighted to let you know that we have a newsletter for July! I am as ever so grateful to Joyce Muir for producing this wonderful resource for us. The newsletter can be found on our website. If you are unable to access the website, then please let Mary Thomson know in the Church Office and she will arrange to send you a hard copy.
To finish I leave you with this beautiful prayer, entitled ‘God with us’ written by David Adams
Lord you are present
And at work in the world.
I need you to open my eyes
To the glory of your presence:
To stir my mind to your grace.
Then, take my hands
And work through me.
Touch my mouth
And speak through me.
Warm my heart
And love through me.
Lord as you abide in us,
May we reveal you to others
And see you in others.
Every blessing to you all
Rev Fiona Smith
27 May 2020
Jesus said to the disciples at the Last Supper:
“If you love me, keep my commands.16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you.18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live…….
“All this I have spoken while still with you.26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14: 15-18 & 25-27)
These words of Jesus are eternal words which speak to us today – despite our isolation, our worries and our fears, Jesus promises to be with us and to give us peace to endure all that we are facing.
Jesus’ promise to the disciples that God would send them that Holiest of Helpers, the Holy Spirit, to equip and enable them to build Christ’s Church here on earth, was fulfilled at Pentecost which we will be celebrating this coming Sunday with joy because the Holy Spirit remains with us to give us today peace, love, joy and hope.
Our world has changed dramatically because of the Covid-19 pandemic but what has not changed is the sure and certain presence of our Lord Jesus Christ who is with us. My prayer is that your faith in Christ is giving you all support, comfort, and strength in these testing times, but also hope for the future.
The gift of faith, however, is not just for us but it is also there for all people and it is our calling to share what our faith means to us with others so that they too may be blessed as we are.
In my sermon a couple of weeks ago I asked a number of questions for folk to reflect on, which I set out below. By thinking about these questions, you will begin to see more clearly your story of faith and it is a story that others want and need to hear.
What difference has your faith made to you today?
How has it helped you cope with all that you and we are facing?
How does praying help you?
What ways is it shaping your outlook on the future?
What does it mean to you to be part of the Ness Bank Church family?
I too would love to hear your stories too so do please share them with me as well.
It is such a joy to see so many of you at our zoom services on a Sunday – it has been a steep learning curve for us all but the brilliant result is it means we are still gathering together to worship the Lord.
I am so thankful for the wonderful support of Andrew, my husband, who sits with his laptop on the front pew and ensures the words of the hymns and the music come in at the right times and for his editing skills after the service to enable the service to be uploaded by Jack McDonald onto our website.
Another huge thank you goes to Ian Livingstone for providing us with the joy of music each week, as well as to those who have agreed to read and to Rev Penelope Smirthwaite for all her contributions too – to have others involved in the leading of worship really brings our services together and it means you don’t just have to listen to me!!
Thank you too for the feedback folk have given me - I so appreciate it as it is the strangest experience preaching a sermon to an empty silent church! I am also glad that the technical hitches and the sight of me dancing away unaware that you could all see me has given you all a good laugh!
For those not online but who still wish to receive a copy of the service please telephone your elder/district visitor or Wym Simpson and we will make alternative arrangements.
This Sunday’s services
This Sunday we will be celebrating Pentecost – the day when we remember Christ’s promise to the disciples that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to enable and equip them to fulfill their mission to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to all people.
The new Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church, the Right Rev Dr Martin Fair, will be leading a National Service to mark Pentecost this Sunday at 10 am – it can be seen on the Church of Scotland’s website
At 6.30 pm there will be broadcast a local ecumenical ‘Thy Kingdom Come’service to celebrate Pentecostwhich I have taken part in, as well as Ian & Margaret Livingstone and Lilian Gilbert from our music group who boldly took up the challenge to record one of the songs which will then be mixed in with others from all the different churches in Inverness taking part – so do join us at 6.30 pm by following this link
Ness Bank live services for June
Attached to this letter are the details for the zoom services through June (here) – you will see that there is also the facility to phone in to hear the service live and I know this has been utilized by some folk already.
Sunday 7 June is Communion Sunday – we will be having communion as we did on Easter Sunday, so please, if you are wishing to take part in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper bring bread and wine with you when you zoom into the service. The Invite to the Table that I will be using is as follows:
“This is the table not of the Church, but of the Lord. It is made ready for those who love him and want to love him more.
So, come, you who have much faith and you who have little, you who have come to the table often and you who have not been for a long time, you who have tried to follow and you who have fallen by the wayside.
Come, not because it is I who invites you: it is our Lord; for it is his will that those who want him should meet him here.”
Covid-19 came at just the wrong moment for our Hanneke – she was to preach as sole nominee for a vacant charge in West Lothian on 29 March but of course by then all gatherings for worship had been stopped. This is very hard for both Hanneke and the congregation she and they believe God is calling her to. The Church has ‘furloughed’ Hanneke as her time with us was at an end. I have been doing all that I can behind the scenes to see what can be done to enable Hanneke to preach as sole nominee as soon as possible.
Please keep Hanneke in your prayers and pray that the Church will respond positively to the innovative ideas that are there to enable her to fulfill her calling. For now Hanneke remains very much part of our church family, it is always a joy to see Hanneke on a Sunday, we keep in regular touch and we plan to ‘meet’ each other outside as soon as we are allowed.
Rev Penelope Smirthwaite
Penelope is a United Reform Non-Stipendiary Minister. We first welcomed Penelope to the Ness Bank Church family some 9 years when she did one of her training placements with us. Since completing her training Penelope has worked as a minister at Nairn URC, as well as being the Locum Minister for five years with the Church of Scotland congregations of Dyke and Edinkillie Church, Forres, during which time two people responded to their call to the ministry and have become candidates in training in the Kirk. Penelope remains involved with the URC and is also a trained facilitator with Place for Hope.
In March this year our Kirk Session unanimously agreed to Penelope joining us at Ness Bank as our new part-time Community Outreach minister – this role will involve 6-8 days a month working with all our outreach projects and to help develop our mission to the West side of our parish; one Sunday a month Penelope will join me to lead worship and will be there to cover for me when I am away. As Penelope is a Non-Stipendiary minister the only cost to us is her expenses and pulpit supply when I am away.
Although Covid-19 means the work we envisioned we would be doing is on hold for now I am so thankful to have Penelope with us. Penelope has a deep faith and a passion for reaching out to all people with the love of God –she has already blessed us with her inspiring words on a Sunday and she is helping me behind the scenes as we begin to develop a new website as our online world is here to stay.
We delivered 48 Easter Messy church bags to our children and we have started Sunday school on zoom! It was such a joy for me to chat to our children and to hear how they are doing – all of them are missing their friends but not so much school itself! The Sunday school team, Penelope and I are also working on other ways we can support our brilliant kids with Messy church activities.
‘Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.’ Ephesians 6:18.
I am so thankful to the Prayer group for their dedication to meeting in spirit each Sunday at 5 to pray for the specific needs of our congregation and city. It means so much to me to have this support and it is a huge blessing to those who are in pastoral need of prayer. Please let me or Wym Simpson know if you have any specific prayer requests and these will be passed on.
But prayer is not there for others to do – it is there for us all – talk to God as openly and freely as you would to your best friend – lift up all your worries, fears and concerns to the Lord and tell others you are praying for them (whether they believe or not) because it genuinely means so much to people to know that someone else cares enough to pray for them.
Inverness Foodstuff has provided 6,885 meals to people who are homeless, vulnerable, or financially disadvantaged since it closed its café service on 12 March because of Covid-19.
We have an amazing team of volunteers who have risen to this challenge wonderfully and without whom we simply could not do what we do, nor could we do it without our brilliant kitchen and spacious hall. It is a military operation running this project and amazingly the food being served is still so brilliant. We are also indebted to the support we receive from local supermarkets through our partnership with Fairshare and Neighbourly, as well as with local retailers, like Swansons. We are also so thankful for the Covid grants we have received from, amongst others HIE, Crisis, the National Lottery, five local Ward discretionary funds, and individual donors.
IF also has a phenomenal working partnership with Acts of Kindness Inverness and In the Together Café on Church Street - together we work to ensure that those in need of food are given the right support.
What we are also now seeing is a sharp increase in a different kind of need, such as those who have lost their jobs or those who are new benefit claimants, as well as those who are struggling financially due to an increase in utility bills as a result of being at home more. This includes families with children. In response to this rising need we have set up a dedicated phone line where those who are experiencing financial vulnerability due to COVID-19 can access food with dignity. The dedicated phone is 07552303056 and is open Monday to Friday from 10 am – 12 pm and 2 pm until 4 pm.
Please keep Inverness Foodstuff, especially our volunteers and all those who are in need, in your prayers.
Our financial giving is part of our faith and I am so heartened to hear from the Finance team that your offerings are continuing to come in – thank you so much as the bills still need to be paid. The Finance team have set up new systems to ensure that they are able to keep a close eye on our cash flow.
The Team Leaders have been meeting and the Kirk Session will be meeting in June as per usual when they will receive a detailed review of our financial position. A report from that meeting will come to you after that.
Support for others – can you help?
Kate Maclean is part of the NHS Health Improvement Team – Kate works specifically with the elderly and she has become concerned by how many of the folks she knows are struggling with isolation. Kate is keen to gather some resources, which she is happy to deliver, with a view to giving the people a new interest or purpose. She has decided to gather wool, needles, crochet hooks, books and jigsaws to distribute to those she knows who are struggling. If you have any of these items to hand and would like to donate to help Kate support others then please drop the donations off at the Church office which is open Mon, Wed and Fri in the morning until 12 Noon and we will pass them onto Kate.
I leave with you with this poem that spoke to my heart - I ‘hope’ it gives you encouragement too.
Hope by Sharon Linnea,
Hope is the possibility of change.
It is our secret weapon against a world
that says No, that says Can’t, that says Will Never Be.
Hope is the firm knowledge that God dwells within each of us,
that Love will win, that a better day awaits,
that harmony is the norm and
anything else we’ve been taught is dross that must burn away.
Hope is the memory of those who have sacrificed to create the change we enjoy,
the appreciation of the strong shoulders upon which we stand,
Hope is the willingness to find those whose hands we can grasp as we find the courage
to move into a new, brighter reality.
Hope is our love for those for whom we clear the path,
for whom we willingly pay the price to fight for change
those who we may never know, who will someday stand upon our shoulders.
Hope is the spark that ignites vision
and the fuel that propels vision to become reality.
Hope is the knowledge that change is possible
that boils and burns and refuses to die
though dung and darkness threaten to snuff it out.
Hope is the secret weapon that will carry us
Into the harmony of the Kingdom of God here on Earth,
where we have belonged, all this time.
Every blessing to you all
25 March 2020
“The Lord said (to Elijah), “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” (1 Kings 19: 11-13)
The presence of the Lord our God is found in a gentle whisper – a still small voice of calm.
The Psalmist tells us the Lord says: ‘Be still and know that I am God’
In the whirlwind and frenzy of hour by hour changes to our daily lives as a result of Covid-19 all of us need a place of peace – to step back from all that threatens to overwhelm us and be still for the presence of the Lord is with us.
Now hear the Word of the Lord
Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. Anyone who dwells in me, as I dwell in him, bears much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Dwell in my love. If you heed my commands you will dwell in my love, as I have heeded my Father's commands and dwell in his love.
I have spoken this to you, so that my joy may be in you, and your joy complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you."
Last Sunday morning at the manse the four of us sat around the kitchen table and I led an act of worship which included the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper – our hearts were joined with you all.
In the prayer after communion I said these words:
“Loving God, we praise you for your goodness to us at our Lord's table. You have fed us with the bread of life, made us one with all your people in heaven and on earth, and assured us of your everlasting love.”
Through the power of the Holy Spirit we remain united as one people; we remain the church even though we can no longer gather together for our regular pattern of worship.
The past 10 days have been frenetic, but I am so thankful to my elders and district visitors who made contact with each of you last week. Pastoral care remains a top priority – if you need any help please contact your elder or district visitor – we have set up a volunteer list of people who can assist with shopping/getting prescriptions. Please also do not hesitate to call me – I remain your minister.
At 11 am this coming Sunday 29 March I will be conducting a simple service from the Church. I will be using Zoom and the details of how to join in live are to be found by following this link.
The service will be recorded and then uploaded to the Ness Bank Church website
I will also upload the written copy of the service to the website.
Please can you also send us your e-mail address to Mary Thomson email@example.com so that we can keep in regular contact with you without incurring more costs than we need to.
For those not online but still wish to receive a copy of the service please telephone your elder/district visitor or Wym Simpson and we will make alternative arrangements.
Paul wrote the following in his Letter to the Philippians 4: 4-7:
“4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Please pray and please especially remember in your prayers all who are working in the NHS who are at the frontline of this pandemic serving us all.
Every Sunday at 5pm the Prayer Group will ‘meet’ in their homes for a time of intentional prayer for the world, for the church and for one another. Please let me or Wym Simpson know if you have any specific prayer requests and these will be passed on. And do join them in prayer.
Our fantastic kitchen which we as a church family worked so hard to put into our church building has become a vital support to so many in our community, parish and city over the recent years. Although all other activities have had to cease in our building Inverness Foodstuff remains operational because it is an essential service. We made the decision to stop the café on 14 March and set up a whole new system with strict protocols in place to ensure that the homeless and vulnerable who literally rely on us to eat are still being fed. We are working with the Highland Council and the NHS and we are looking at other ways in which we can assist with ensuring that food gets to those who are most in need.
Please keep Inverness Foodstuff, especially our volunteers, in your prayers.
Our weekly giving to the church is part of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Although we are not gathering for worship and all our other activities in Ness Bank Church have ceased the vast majority of our normal costs will still need to be paid – these include Ministries & Mission; local staff costs; insurance; annual statutory tests; council tax; phone & other related costs. The only bills which will be reduced slightly will be heating & lighting.
Our current budgeted monthly costs are £12,955. We now will only be receiving through those who give by Standing Orders and from Inverness Foodstuff - £8,800 per month – this leaves us with a monthly deficit of £4,495.
If you don’t already, please can I ask you to seriously think about changing giving your weekly offering to Standing Order. A Standing Order is controlled completely by you. I enclose a Standing Order Form for you to complete.
If you wish to continue to use the FWO envelopes can I, please, ask you to write one cheque and encllose it in your envelope and post it to the church on a regular basis.
Each Sunday I will continue to Dedicate our offerings to the Lord.
Weddings, Baptisms & funerals
Please remember in your prayers the couples who I was to marry and whose weddings have had to be postponed. Please remember too wee Murdo Mackay and his family whose baptism has also had to be postponed.
Funerals are currently still taking place but only with immediate family present. I will do all that I can to give pastoral care and support to families who are grieving – please remember them all in your prayers as well.
When I was ordained & inducted as your minister on 15 January 2010, I made vows to the Lord to love, serve and pray for you – this does not change despite these hugely difficult times. My heart is filled with love for you all. And remember STAY HOME.
Every blessing to you all