Old High St. Stephen's, Inverness

Welcome to Old High St Stephen's Church, Inverness

Month: January 2018

Prophets or prattlers: sermon for 28 January 2018

Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 18.14-22

Mark 1.21-28

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

8-31-17-Fake-news-graphic_1504210558496_8357678_ver1.0_640_360
Donald Trump has added a few words and phrases to our vocabulary over the last couple of years (some too rude to mention in church!). But I suppose one phrase we will remember him by is the cry of ‘fake news’ with which he describes any news stories which he doesn’t like. Trump has caught the mood of many in the United States, and here in Europe as well, who have become deeply suspicious of what he likes to call ‘The mainstream media’. For it seems that many folk are having trouble sorting out the wheat from the chaff in the media- they don’t know whether what they should believe in the newspapers, radio, television or the internet. Or perhaps many of them do know what, or who, to believe- whatever news agrees with their existing beliefs, or what TV personality or newspaper columnist suits them.

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Pew alterations at the Old High Church

OH pew changes red
At the end of February we plan to make changes at Old High. As reported by Jim Alexander in our September 2017 magazine, the purpose of the changes is to deal with problems flagged up by a recent risk assessment: limited circulation space at the chancel area for wheelchair users during services and other events; and restricted access in the event of emergency.
The proposed changes are shown on the above drawing. Pew portions being removed are in red:

  • Removal of the central front pew
  • On pulpit side: front pew, cut back to match pew arrangement at audio console control end.
  • On lectern side: front pew, cut back at both ends to reflect proposed pew arrangement at pulpit side.
  • Associated work on heating pipes and the floor.

All the work will be carried out with due care and attention to detail in the reinstatement of existing pew finishes. The aim to respect the sanctuary and its symmetry centred on the chancel area.
For more details, please see the September 2017 magazine or contact our Session Clerks.
More details were in the September 2017 magazine

Fire and fury… and hope- A sermon on Jonah, Sunday 21 January 2018

Scripture Readings: Jonah 3:1-5,10

Mark 1:14-20

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

‘Now Jonah he lived in a whale’. That, in the words of the Gershwin song (sung here by Paul Robeson), is all that many folk know about Jonah. Or perhaps they know a little more of the story of this reluctant prophet. Of how he was asked to preach against the city of Nineveh, and how he decided to avoid the command of God by going in the opposite direction- he boards a ship headed for Spain. But God is not to be foiled. A storm springs up, and Jonah confesses to the terrified sailors that he is the cause of their distress- he has disobeyed the God of the wind and waves. They throw him overboard, and calm returns to the sea. Jonah, meanwhile, is swallowed by his famous giant fish, who spews him up alive on a beach. It is at this point that this morning’s reading takes up the story. So again, the command of the Lord comes to Jonah:

‘Go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to the people the message I have given you’[1].

And so, after his fishy adventure Jonah, does finally head for Nineveh, with a stark warning for the people of the city:

‘In forty days Nineveh will be destroyed!’[2]

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‘Come and see!'- Sermon for 14 January 2018

Scripture Readings: Psalm 139.1-18

John 1:43-51

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Just after I was ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament, I had an experience which reminded me that in this job, I would be working with all kinds of people. I was asked to appear on a late night TV show on Scottish Television in Glasgow. The show was called Trial by Night (there is one episode available on YouTube– thankfully not the one featuring me!), and it was presented by a former weatherman. The other guests were a member of parliament, and young women in a leopard skin dress. In the hospitality suite beforehand, I asked the lady what she did. She said she was a writer, and so I asked her what she wrote. She told me she wrote pornographic novels for women. Well, I thought, if I’d never been ordained I would probably never have met someone who wrote pornographic novels!

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Going Forward Survey: Congregational Retreat

Congregational Retreat, Saturday 20 January, 10.30am- 12.30pm at St Stephen’s

(Sandwich lunch to follow)
In early 2017, we commissioned a survey of our parish to try to identify needs in the communities we serve which we might be able to meet as a congregation. The Going Forward Survey was completed in August by Kerrera Wilson. We will be discussing the proposals at a Congregational Retreat on Saturday 20 January 2018, at an event led by the Minister.
Download a copy of the full Survey Report PDF image

PDF imageDownload the Report’s recommendations.

The suggestions made by the report include the following:

1 Employ a full-time community worker or associate minister for missional purposes.

2 Possible developments of St Stephen’s halls as a facility for older people.

3 Set up Messy Church for families with young children.

4 Explore the option of using OH halls on Academy Street as a dry bar or drop in centre thus supporting homeless people and the local business nearby.

5 Exploring a situation of working jointly in co-operation with another church(s).

For more information about the Going Forward survey and report, please contact us.

Orders of Service 14 January 2018

You can download the Orders here

Why wasn't Jesus baptised as an infant?

Peter writes:
Someone asked a good question after my sermon today on the Baptism of Jesus:

Why wasn’t Jesus baptised as an infant?

Jesus, of course, was Jewish. There was (and is) no baptism ceremony for children in the Jewish tradition. There is interesting archaeology at the site of the Qumran Community, an unorthodox sect which flourished around Jesus’ time who created the Dead Sea Scrolls. Their ‘monastery’ apparently had baths for ritual purposes- some kind of purification ritual, the details of which are now lost to us. It has been speculated that John the Baptist was a member of, or was influenced by, the Qumran Community. And it may be that other religious sects of the day had something like the ritual of baptism. Apparently there was also something like a ritual of baptism for Gentiles converting to Judaism. And there are many references to rituals of washing in the Old Testament.
But it is from John the Baptiser that Christianity picked up the practice. Matthew 28.19 has Jesus instituting the sacrament by commanding his followers to carry it out, but he doesn’t seem to have baptised anyone himself. St Paul makes the earliest mention of baptism in the Christian church (Romans 6.4; 1 Corinthians 6.11), but he’s writing about the significance of a rite which already existed in the church. In the Acts of the Apostles there are stories of people converting to Christianity and being baptised, such as the story of the Ethiopian eunuch at Acts 8.26-40.
Obviously the first converts to Christianity were adults. Acts 16.33 mentions Paul’s jailer, and how ‘he and all his family were baptised at once’, which might have included his children (see also Mark 10.13-16). Certainly Christians practised the baptism of their own children early on in church history.
The ceremony in Judaism by which male children were (and are) dedicated as members of the Covenant people was circumcision of male infants at eight days old (still, of course, practices and known nowadays as the Bris). Jesus’ circumcision is mentioned in Luke 2.12, where he is also formally named. In many ways, this is the equivalent to Christian infant baptism, a ceremony of dedicating children to God and naming them, aspects which we have brought into the Christian baptismal ceremony for children.

With water and the Spirit: Sermon for 11 January 2017

Texts: Genesis 1:1-5
Mark 1:1-11

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

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I hope you all left your Christmas decorations up until yesterday! Yesterday was Twelfth Night, the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas. So Christmas is now officially over. And now, having celebrated the birth of our Saviour, the Church moves- very quickly- to think about what this all means for us.
So, on this first Sunday of the New Year, we hear about a new beginning in our Gospel reading. Our Gospel passage takes us back to Advent first- reminding us of the strange figure of John the Baptist, calling on the people to repent. But surprisingly, we find ourselves encountering the adult Jesus today, as he come to experience the baptism which his cousin John offers. But what is this about? Why has Jesus come for baptism? And what does it mean for us?

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Old High St Stephens Winter Magazine

You can download a copy of the Winter magazine here

Old High St Stephens Sunday Orders 7 January 2018

You can download the Orders for 7 January here

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