Thursday 1st October

After weeks of work and preparation, I am please to be able to say that both churches will now be able to re-open on Sunday the 11th of October – 10.00am at Bendochy Church and 11.15am at the Abbey Church. However, you will notice some changes due to certain measures having to be put in place.

As you approach the church gates you will see signs advising you to keep a social distance from others. This is a distance of 2m in line with current Scottish Government guidelines and on entering the church you will be asked to maintain this, both when moving about the church and when seated.

Face coverings have to be worn in church at all times, unless you have a medical reason not to do so.

On entering you will see further signage giving guidance – please read these – and hand sanitiser stations, which we would ask you to use if you do not have your own. In addition to this you will be asked to give your contact details. This is for the NHS Test and Protect system. These details will be taken every week and will not be passed on to anyone. After a period of four weeks has passed from the date they were taken they will be destroyed

The offering will not be uplifted for the time being so you will also see an offering plate at the back of the church as you enter.

Both churches will be operating a one-way system around the church so please follow the markings on the floor. We would ask that you fill the church from the front, taking the farthest away seats first. At Bendochy only every third pew will be in use and there is signage on the pew indicating where you can sit. At the Abbey the seats have been arranged in a mixture of single seats and pairs of seats. Please do not sit next to anyone other than someone in your own household.

We will not be able to sing for the foreseeable future, however, there will be music.

Once the service has ended we will again ask you to leave following the one way system and maintaining social distancing.

Finally, whilst we look forward to seeing you back at church, for your own safety and the safety of others, please do not come to if you are displaying any symptoms of Covid-19 or have been asked to self-isolate.

Thank you and God Bless.

Andy

 

Thursday 24th September

As you read this today you will all of course be aware of the latest restrictions announced by the Scottish Government this week, so please pray for those who will be most affected with these changes. Prayer is essential in our lives as Christians so I’m starting to put daily prayers on the website from today and would encourage everyone to have a look at these as well as the Bible Study and Sunday Reflection. On the more positive side, both Churches have completed their Covid Risk Assessments and have received permission from Presbytery to re-open. We will be holding virtual Kirk Session meetings next week to confirm the precise date, but provisionally looking at Sunday the 11th of October – this of course assuming that there are no further restrictions imposed by the Scottish Government. But please keep an eye here on the website for all the latest up to date information.

God Bless

Andy

Friday 11th September

Both Kirk Sessions have now elected to re-open our churches as soon as we can safely do so and work is underway to comply with the various Covid Risk Assessment requirements now in place. The Abbey have completed most of this now and the only thing outstanding is an inspection of the Fire Detection System, which unfortunately can’t take place before the 30th of September. However, the necessary paperwork for Presbytery approval should be with them by next week, in the understanding that final approval will not be given until this inspection is complete. Progress at Bendochy is slightly behind the Abbey, however, things are now in place to move forward and hopefully the work and paperwork required will be complete over the next two to three weeks.

Taking all things into consideration, therefore, we are hopeful that we will be able to re-open our churches around the first or second week in October. However, I have to stress again, this is subject to Presbytery approval and on the assumption that there are no further changes in the guidance we have been given. As soon as we know more and are able to give a definite date we will you know via this website, the YouTube broadcast and via email and phone calls if we have your contact details.

In the meantime we continue to have our reflections and YouTube broadcast here on our website, both of which I hope to continue even after we re-open and of course we continue to pray for one another and our community. With recent changes to the guidance I am now also able to make pastoral visits, however, I am not permitted to do so unless I am invited to do so and arrangements have been made before hand. So if anyone would like a pastoral visit, please contact me and we can arrange for that to take place.

God Bless,

Andy

 

Thursday 3rd September

Both Kirk Sessions have held virtual meetings over the last couple of days and on the agenda of both was the question of re-opening our churches. As you know, before we can re-open we have to complete a Covid Risk Assessment and then forward the relevant paperwork to Presbytery for approval.

The Abbey Church Session have voted to re-open and have just about completed this assessment and hope to submit the paperwork to Presbytery very soon. Once that has been done we will get a better idea then of when we can re-open but we are hoping for the end of September or beginning of October – but as I say that is subject to Presbytery approval.

Because of time restraints on our virtual meetings we never quite finished our Session meeting at Bendochy and will re-convene this coming Wednesday, the 9th, to formalise our decision and we will of course let everyone know via this page at this time next week.

Over the past two weeks I have spoken to a number of people on the phone and the outbreak in our community has undoubtedly had an affect on many. Thankfully the numbers of new infections seems to be falling, but our thoughts and prayers continue to be with all who have become seriously ill with this virus and we hold them and their loved ones in our hearts. And we continue to remember all in our community and pray that we would all know God’s blessing on us at this time, thinking especially of those who are most frail and most vulnerable.

God Bless,

Andy

 

Thursday 20th August

Over the past few weeks there have been a number of changes to the guidance issued by the Church of Scotland in respect to what we need to do before we can re-open and we now hopefully have a final document. Both Kirk Sessions are due to meet in a fortnight and we will discuss this further as we look ahead to when we might be able to re-open, but for the moment we remain closed.

It has been a difficult week for our community and I would ask that you please pray for everyone in our community, particularly those most affected by this outbreak. Please also look to your neighbours, especially those who are on their own or more vulnerable and if you can safely help in any way, please try to do so – even a phone call can make a big difference.

I hope and pray that you are all well, please look after yourselves.

God Bless,

Andy

Friday 10th July

You will have heard yesterday the latest update from the Scottish Government saying that we are now in phase 3 of their easing out of lockdown plan. This means that after the 15th of July churches can open for communal worship, however, only after they have completed the COVID Risk Assessment outlined in my last letter, found below, and received Presbytery approval. Our churches are not at that stage yet but we will keep you updated.

God Bless

Andy

Saturday 20th June

You will all have heard the latest update for the Scottish Government on Thursday as we now move to phase 2 of their easing out of lockdown plan. From this coming Monday churches can be opened for private prayer, however, only after they are able to comply with guidelines issued by the Scottish Government, including a COVID Risk assessment, and approved by Presbytery. This guidance covers everything from the safety of the building itself, the risk of contaminated water, access to the building, seating, social distancing etc. – the full guidelines can be found on the CofS website.

At virtual meetings on Thursday evening both Kirk Sessions discussed this and took the decision not to seek to open the churches for private prayer at this time but rather to focus on complying with all these guidelines on order to prepare for opening for worship whenever we are told we can do so. However, we can all still continue to pray for one another – and I know that we are doing so – and for those whose needs are greatest at this time,

There will be no Daily Reflections or Sunday Reflections on this website for the next two weeks but there are others available via the CofS website.

I hope and pray that you and all your loved ones are safe and well.

God Bless,

Andy

Saturday 13th June

Although we will still not be able to open for worship for a number of weeks yet the Church of Scotland has now issued guidelines in line with Scottish Government instructions on what steps we will have to undertake before we can do so, these steps all designed to ensure the safety and well being of every one of us. Both Kirk Sessions will be having virtual meetings this week to look at these guidelines and to begin to arrange how we can look to put these measures into place. We know that there will be some restrictions in place, particularly around social distancing and hygiene measures, but there will be others and once we know what we need to do and when we might be able to open our churches again we will let you know – via the website here and via telephone calls and emails.

It has been a long time since we were able to gather in worship and I know that we all look forward to being able to do so again. In the meantime we have our reflections each day on the website here as well as the new You Tube reflections we have managed to set up for a Sunday and I hope you are all managing to access these okay. And I know that many have been keeping in touch with one another. We continue to pray for all within our church families and within the wider community and of course for all our health and social care workers and for all who have been affected worse by this pandemic.

On a personal note, I will be installed as the new Moderator for the Presbytery of Dunkeld and Meigle at a virtual meeting this coming Tuesday. This comes during difficult times for the Church but it is a privilege and honour to have been elected as the Moderator of the Presbytery and I’m looking forward to it very much.

I hope and pray that you and all your loved ones are safe and well and hold you all in my prayers.

God Bless,

Andy

 

Friday 29th May

Today sees the gradual easing of some of the lockdown measures that have been in place for the past nine weeks, however, we are still not yet in the position of knowing when we will once again be able to gather in church for worship. In the meantime church leaders are looking at what measures we might have to put in place when we are able to do so and at both of our virtual Kirk Session meetings we have been doing likewise, but of course we cannot plan anything definitive until we are issued guidelines from the Scottish Government. However, as soon as that happens I will inform the Kirk Sessions and let everyone know through this page on the website.

In the meantime, through the conversations I have had with some of you, it’s good to hear that whilst perhaps a little fed up, people are still generally in good spirits and still keeping in touch with one another. It’s amazing the difference a phone call can make – so please give someone a call for a chat whenever you can. You may have noticed that we now have a You Tube channel which is accessible through the link on our website homepage. Each Sunday there will be a short time of reflection available on that and I hope that you will take time to have a look at this. I had hoped to alternate between the Abbey and Bendochy each week, however the lighting at Bendochy has thus far meant this wasn’t possible – but I will keep going back to check if I am able to do so.  And of course we still have our Daily Reflections, continuing to look at the book of Psalms and our Wednesday Bible study on Luke. This Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, you will also be able to see a service conducted by the Moderator and you can access that on the CofS website.

Last week in a news post I indicated that one or two people had been asking about making a donation of some of their church envelope offerings during this lockdown period. If anyone would wish to do so then please contact either Peter Godfrey or David Donaldson – and their phone numbers are available on the Contacts page of the website – or email me if you wish me to forward on any details Andrew.Graham@churchofscotland.org.uk

We continue to pray for all in our community and beyond and ask for God’s blessing upon all His children, especially those looking after and caring for those who are ill and the most vulnerable in our community. And of course we remember our own loved ones and our own church families, in particular those who are shielding or in hospital, and we pray for them and their loved ones that they may know God’s hand upon them.

I hope and pray that you and your families are all well and look forward to us being able to come together once again. Until then look after yourselves and take care.

God Bless,

Andy

Saturday 16th May

Today Peter Godfrey and myself should have been in Edinburgh at the General Assembly, but of course as we know that, along with so many other things, was cancelled in the wake of the current coronavirus pandemic. However, the installation ceremony of the new Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland took place this morning and the Rt. Rev’d. Dr. Martin Fair has now taken up that office and you can see that on the Church of Scotland website.

This past week I was able to hold virtual Kirk Session meetings with both Bendochy and The Abbey Kirk Sessions, a first for us all. There were one or two hiccups as we all ‘found our feet’, so to speak, with this new way of doing things nevertheless we were able to conduct a good amount of business and plane to continue to meet in this way over the coming weeks. One of the things we discussed was for me to be able record something to put on the website and hopefully that will be available from tomorrow and easily accessible from our website homepage, alongside the Daily Reflections which will continue.

Through our Kirk Session meetings and from the conversations that I have had with many of you I know that we are still keeping in touch with one another and that is good to know. We continue to think of those who feel most isolated at this time and pray for those who have loved ones who are ill at home or in hospital, and of course we continue to remember those who have been bereaved in recent weeks. A couple of weeks ago I asked you all to remember Brenda and Eric Ritchie in your prayers after the tragic death of Brenda’s brother. Brenda and Eric have asked me to pass on their warmest thanks for all the cards. flowers and messages of support they received from so many of you.

Just a reminder of the abridged on-line “Heart and Soul” starting tomorrow at 2.00pm on May 17th — when the original event would have taken place. The programme will run until about 4.20pm. A recording of the event will be available and the Church of Scotland website soon afterwards. And on Sunday the 31st of May the new Moderator will lead a service to mark Pentecost and again this can be accessed through the Church of Scotland website between 10.00 – 10.30am.

I hope and pray that you and your families are all well and look forward to us being able to come together once again. Until then look after yourselves and take care.

God Bless,

Andy

 

Friday 8th May

As you will all be aware of by now the current lockdown period will be extended for another 3 weeks, effectively taking us up until the end of May. There may be one or two small changes before then but nothing that will impact on us being able to gather again for worship or indeed for any other services or events in our churches. They are to remain closed for the time being. Even when we are able to return there will still be certain restrictions in place and limitations on what we might be able to do and Church leaders will be meeting and discussing these matters over the next couple of weeks. Sadly this means that in the meantime the Church Fete and the Charity Shop fortnight planned for the Abbey have now been cancelled. Our thanks go to Bill, Sheila and Alan, and so many others who had done so much work organising and preparing for these events, hopefully we will be able to organise something again when we are able to do so.

More details on all that is happening in the Church because of this pandemic can be found on update pages on the Church of Scotland website. Also, over the next few weeks there are a number of special services and events taking place that can be accessed  through the website and full details can be found there. These include:-

The installation of the new Moderator will take place in the General Assembly Hall on Saturday 16th of May at 11am with just a few people physically present. You can watch the service live on the Church of Scotland website or Facebook page.

A special “Heart and Soul 2020” event will take place as an online event on Sunday May 17th 2020. We’re going to run an abridged “Heart and Soul” at 2.00pm on May 17th — when the original event would have taken place. The programme will run until about 4.20pm. A recording of the event will be available soon afterwards.

On Sunday the 31st of May the Moderator will lead a service to mark Pentecost and again this can be accessed through the Church of Scotland website between 10.00 – 10.30am.

These continue to be strange and uncertain days where, even after six weeks of lockdown, we are still adjusting to how we behave. I hope and pray that you and your loved ones are all well and continuing to stay in touch with one another and look forward to the day when we will be able to gather again for worship.

God Bless,

Andy

Sunday 3rd May

It’s difficult to believe that we are now into May. Time seems strange – each day seems to drag at times, with limitations on what we can do and where we can go, and yet the weeks somehow seem to pass quickly, or at least that’s how it appears to me at times. That said, it’s now been 7 weeks since we last met for worship in our churches and that seems such a long time ago – I hope and pray that we can come together again soon and look forward to seeing everyone again.

This week we celebrate Margaret Pattullo being an Elder in the Church for 30 years – an achievement she now shares with Bill (who has now gone beyond that) and together they must be one of only a few husband and wife couples who can make this claim. Congratulations, Margaret, on this fantastic milestone and we look forward to many more years for you in His service.

We continue to pray for our Church families and our wider communities in these strange and testing times, especially for those on their own who are perhaps feeling even more isolated and again I would urge everyone to keep in touch with one another, it does make a big difference. Also pray for those who have loved ones who are ill, at home or in hospital, and for all who have lost loved ones in recent weeks – keep each one in your hearts and prayers. And today especially we pray for Betty and Dave Crighton, and their extended families, as they mourn the loss of their daughter Dawn. May they know God’s peace and comfort at this time and may they know that we are all upholding them in prayer. Remember also to pray for all in our land and throughout the world who are most affected by this pandemic and join with us all in prayer this evening at 7.00pm.

This coming week will see the latest review on the current lockdown and whilst we know that there will still be some restrictions in place, we pray that if it is safe to do so that there will be some easing of these restrictions and that sometime in the not too distant future we will be able to see one another in church once again. Until then, look after yourselves, stay in touch with one another and stay safe.

God Bless,

Andy

 

Monday 27th April

Over the past week we have been blessed with some wonderful weather which has perhaps helped during this period of lockdown as it has enabled us to spend more time outside in our gardens or enjoying our walks. In this same period it has been good to get some feedback from many of you saying how you are enjoying the Daily Reflections – thank you. From today I thought I would also add in a Bible question at the end of the reflection, just to give us something else to think about.

Please continue to pray for one another and for our wider community and of course for all during this pandemic. I look forward to the day when we can all come together again in worship and fellowship. Until then, please keep in touch with another and look after yourselves.

 

God Bless

Andy

 

Saturday 18th April

It would probably have come as no surprise to any of us that the current lockdown period would be extended this week – now up until the 7th of May. It also seems quite clear that after that there will still be some form of restrictions in place, so what this means in terms of us being able to come back to Church, I’m not at all sure. I know that like me you are all missing coming together in fellowship to praise the Lord and hope and pray that we will be able to do so again in the very near future. In the meantime it is good to hear from so many that we are still keeping in touch with one another via social media, email and phone calls. It’s not the same as meeting and coming together, nevertheless, there’s no doubt that it does help to lift our spirits and keep us going and I would urge everyone to keep on doing so. And again, I would everyone to keep praying – and again to join all the churches for prayer on Sunday evening at 7.00pm.

Unfortunately, another down side of us not being able to gather for worship is that it is affecting the income of our churches and whilst none of us like to talk about this, the fact remains that even though we are not gathering for worship we still have financial obligations to fulfil. A good number make their offerings by standing order and that is helping significantly but could I ask please that those who would normally use the freewill envelopes continue to fill them in this period if you are able to. Thank you.

It has been a difficult few weeks and there will no doubt be more difficult weeks ahead and our thoughts and prayers go out particularly to all who have lost loved ones during this pandemic and to all who are doing such a fantastic job helping us to get through it. Yet even in these difficult days there have been some wonderful stories of individuals and communities doing amazing things to help lift our spirits and offer support and I know that so many here in our churches and community are doing good things for family, neighbours and friends. With God’s help we will all get through this.

God Bless,

Andy

 

 

Wednesday 15th April

For those who read the Daily Reflections you will note a slight change to things today. From now until the end of the lockdown period, instead of the usual reflection, on a Wednesday I will be doing a Bible Study, along the same kind of format as the ones I put in the Isla Link and over the next few weeks we will look at Luke’s Gospel.

I would also ask that we all continue to pray for those affected most by this pandemic, especially any in our own community. But please also remember all in our community, especially those who are ill at home or in hospital and those on their own, and if you are able please give them a phone call. Sadly over the past week or so we have had a few bereavements in our midst so I would ask you to remember them too. Please pray for Alison Farquharson and her family as they mourn Bob’s passing; also, please pray for John & Jacqueline Carrick as they mourn the loss of John’s sister, Nancy; please also pray for Brenda & Eric Ritchie as they mourn the loss of Brenda’s brother, Gordon Carrie, and finally please remember the family of Pat Anderson in Canada as they mourn the loss of their Mother.

In these strange and difficult days it is good to hear that people are keeping in touch with one another and I would urge everyone to keep doing so. A simple phone call can make all the difference.

God Bless,

Andy

Easter Sunday

‘The Lord is Risen! He is Risen indeed!’  Usually we would share these words together on Easter morning but of course today, because of all the restrictions in place to combat coronavirus, we find that we have been unable to come into our churches to do so. I expect that like me you all find this somewhat surreal. It’s certainly the strangest Easter I have ever known, not being able to share in this joyful time with others in Church. Yet the joyful message remains the same – the Lord has indeed Risen – and because of that we are all as one through faith in Him, wherever we are.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a message of comfort and hope and it’s a message that we need to hear and know so badly in our lives today. Through the Resurrection we know that God has fulfilled His loving promise to reconcile Himself to us. So with the Resurrection comes the assurance that despite all the sorrow, grief and heartache our world is suffering today, still we can look forward knowing that the presence of the Risen Jesus will always be with us, and in that knowledge take comfort and dare to hope for a brighter future.

Have a happy, peaceful and blessed Easter.

God Bless

Andy

 

Saturday 4th April

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week and I for one will find it so hard not to be able to lead and participate in our usual services over this coming week. However, I continue to be heartened by the way in which everyone I speak to seems to be coping with the limitations placed upon us and by the way in which everyone is keeping in touch with others and offering to help in different ways. The same applies in our wider community where I’ve heard different stories of neighbours and community volunteers doing shopping etc for those who are unable to get out at all. In the midst of all that is going on it is so good to hear that we are part of a community that is so caring and attentive.

Although we cannot meet on Palm Sunday there are again different services on line and the Daily Reflections here on our own website. Of course we can come to the Lord at any time and I would encourage everyone to spend time everyday in communion with our Lord, praying for all that is going on in the world today, as well as our own communities and our own families. There is also another call to prayer by the leaders of all Churches for this Palm Sunday at 7.00pm, where as a nation we can unite in prayer, praying for these same needs.

Lord, as we approach this most Holiest of weeks, help us to look ever to You, especially in these days of so much pain and heartache and help us to remember that You are with us and always will be. Amen.

God Bless,

Andy

 

Thursday 26th March

Over the past week we have all been adjusting to the limitations now in place to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus and I’m sure at times we all feel somewhat frustrated at not being able to come and go as we please and do the things we usually do. I know that I feel really uneasy at not being able to visit people, particularly those who are housebound or ill at home or in hospital. Yet in the conversations that I have had with so many over this past week I have been heartened by the fact that so many are still in good spirits and not to despondent. I have also been glad to hear that so many are keeping in touch with one another, helping to uplift our spirits and offering whatever small help they can by means of shopping. Indeed in the last couple of days we have received calls at the manse asking if we need anything – thank you.

From this Sunday the Church of Scotland will be putting services on their website from this Sunday and you will also find a list of churches who offer online services. In addition to this on the Ascend link on their website you can access different devotional resources for personal use and I would suggest having a look at this. One good one is a 24/7 prayer and devotional app provided by Lectio 365 – which can be downloaded onto your phone or tablet from Apple or Android. I know  many of you may already have such an app – and there are many others out there – but if you don’t or would like another, this one on the Ascend page is good.

As I’m sure you are all aware, this situation isn’t going to improve for some time and it may be a while before we can come together in worship and fellowship. But through the Holy Spirit we can still come together in prayer and devotion, and I would urge you all to do so. In your prayers please remember all who are giving of themselves at this trying time and remember those in our own communities too. Hold in your prayers Jim Lindsay and Bob Farquharson and others too who are in hospital – them and all their families and loved ones. Also please remember Sheila and Allan Legge as they mourn the passing of Sheila’s brother, Jim, as well as Jim’s family down South unable to come to the funeral. Indeed remember all in our church families – hold everyone up in prayer. Please continue to keep in touch with one another and please don’t hesitate to call if you need anything, even if just for a chat.

 

Lord, thank you for Your help, support and guidance at this time, and by Your Spirit keep us united with each other through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Amen

Take Care,

Andy

Church of Scotland Response to COVID-19 Pandemic (18th March 2020)

Hello Everyone,

Since we met for worship last Sunday things have moved on at a pace greater than we perhaps would have imagined. On Sunday I stated it was my desire and intention to keep our churches open until I was told not to and as you now know that decision came from 121 yesterday, based on advice they had been given by the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland. From now until further notice all worship gatherings have to cease. The guidance specifies what that means precisely in more detail but it does include Sunday worship and the services planned over Easter, so there will be no Easter services at either church. Although I have outlined this here and have notices on the notice boards of both churches, if you could please share this with others that would be good.

Like many of you I find this difficult to come to terms with and will miss the fellowship that we all enjoy when we gather together in God’s name, but the Church of Scotland has made this decision and we have to abide with it. However, whilst we may not be able to gather together physically, we can come together spiritually. For example, the prayer group would normally meet on a Wednesday between 2.00pm and 3.00pm – we can all set aside time during this hour to come to God in prayer – for our churches, our communities, our nation and indeed for all affected by this pandemic. At the same time we should not forget the many other needs in our community and world today and as importantly we should not forget to thank God for His never ending love and for being with us at this difficult time. Likewise on a Sunday, when we would usually sit together in worship we can have a time of personal prayer and devotion, spending some quiet time with God.

At this difficult time I would also ask you all to be aware of those who are alone and most vulnerable within our communities and please let me know of any specific concerns. There may be restrictions in terms of visitation and social contact, but we can still phone one another or keep in touch via email and social media. It may be more impersonal, and I for one find that difficult to deal with, however, the health and well-being of others has to be our main concern. Yet I am sure that many would welcome a phone call, just to ask after them and see if there are any needs.

Finally, although we cannot gather for worship there are services we can listen to on BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio 4 on a Sunday morning – and I’m sure there might be others too. There are also a number of churches who live stream their services, and a list of these can be found on the Church of Scotland website. And here I will be putting regular thoughts and reflections on our website www.bandcachurch.org.uk under the Weekly Reflections banner.

Throughout this week I have heard many repeatedly say that these are unprecedented times that we are living in – and they are – and I know that I have struggled to come to terms with what has happened and still find it difficult to take in. As always, however, at times like this I turn to the Lord and take strength and comfort in His Word – and I would encourage you all to do likewise – as I’m sure you already do. And so on that note I will finish with the words of the Psalmist, ‘ I will say of the Lord, ” He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust..’ (Psalm 91:2)

With Every Blessing,
Andy