Old High St. Stephen's, Inverness

Welcome to Old High St Stephen's Church, Inverness

Month: December 2019

Christmas 2019

Here are our services and activities over Christmas and the New Year

Sunday Bulletin 8 December 2019


Friday 13 December

Advent Opening at Old High Church: prayer and meditation from 1pm to 1.15pm, church open 12 noon to 2pm

Sunday 15 December 2019: The Third Sunday of Advent

10 am Morning Worship at St Stephen’s

11.15 am Morning worship at the Old High

NEWS FROM OUR CONGREGATION – contact details from the Church Administrator

ADVENT MEAL This evening December at 6.30pm in the Old High Hall we will share a simple meal around a table, incorporating readings and prayers, to inspire and guide our reflections as we approach once more the celebration of God’s gift to us at Christmas. Do join in with the preparations if you can, by contacting Christine Mackenzie who has a list of the food required.

ADVENT OPENING The Old High Church will be open from 12noon- 2pm each Friday from 29 November to 20 December: see advert. Further information from contact Andrew Stevenson or Sheila Macleod.

HIGHLAND FOOD BANK have asked that from November to January we donate Cartons of long life fruit juice; Small washing powder/gel; Tins of corned beef/ham; Jam. You will also be happy to know that some of the folk who use St. Stephen’s hall during the week have said that they are happy to bring along small donations on a regular basis, so crates have been supplied for this at the back of the hall. Thank you again for your generosity. Margaret Neville.

OLD HIGH CHURCH REDEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION PROJECT A small exhibition about the architect’s ideas is now on display at the Old High. You can visit it following services at Old High, or on Fridays in Advent from 12 noon to 2pm. We will have more opening times in the New Year. There are also forms available for visitors to give feedback. More information at https://www.oldhighststephens.com/2019/12/05/old-high-development-project-exhibition/, where you can also download the architect’s report.

OHSS CHURCH MAGAZINE The magazine will be available for distributors to uplift next Sunday (15 December). Jennifer Morrison.

GIVING TREES are now at both churches, so we ask for a thought to be given to those who sadly may not get any sort of small gift at Christmas. This can mean a lot!

St Stephen’s The Giving Tree is at St Stephen’s again today. Gifts are for Beechwood House, Cale House, Manna House, The Mackenzie Centre, Hilton Village (Social Work) and Porterfield Prisoners’ Children. Please choose a label from the Giving Tree and return the red bow now for future use. Please wrap your gifts, attaching the label outside for identification and return them on 15 December for delivery by 18 December. Cliff Sim.

Old High We will be providing gifts for homeless people in Inverness and it has been suggested that any of the following items would be appreciated: gloves, hats, scarves, underwear or toiletries. A little extra such as a Mars bar or some sweets would be a nice surprise. Gateway have advised that at present there are ladies and gentlemen who are homeless. Additional gifts would be appreciated for unexpected situations. Gifts labels will be available on the tree and indicate whether the gift is for a male or a female. Please take a label and attach it to your wrapped parcel. Wrapped gifts should be returned by 15 December. Further information: Sheila MacLeod or Liz McKimmie.

Sharing Your Faith (SYF) Discussion Groups will restart in 2020. If you are interested in joining a group, please speak to or email me with first and second choices of day and time that suit you best. Dot Getliffe.

Old High Organist Robin Versteeg has been with us for three and a half years, and sadly is leaving the post at the end of December. However, I am pleased to say he will be with us from time to time to assist with the organ rota. We have so enjoyed having Robin, Emma and their two sons with us during this time. If you would like to make a donation towards a gift for the family, please put this in an envelope marked ‘Gift for Robin’ and put it in the offering bag. We will present the gift to him at the Nine Lessons and Carols on Sunday 22 December although his last day will be 29 December. Christine Mackenzie, Acting Session Clerk.

OLD HIGH CHURCH REDEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION PROJECT We hope to have an exhibition on this ready for display at the Old High during the Advent opening. More details to follow.

GROW is on Saturday 29 February 2020 in Culduthel Christian Centre, Culduthel Avenue, Inverness. What is it? One Stop Shop for anyone who works or wants to work with a Christian focus on children and young people. Workshops look fantastic! This will equip OHSS for when we get more youngsters in. There is also a workshop for working with Toddlers and Their Carers. Dot would LOVE if 2 or 3 folks could go with her to represent our ‘GROWing’ church. Brochure/registration form and more details from her. Pray and see if it appeals!? Only £8….  Dot Getliffe.

SUNDAY BULLETIN Volunteers are needed to fold the weekly bulletin once a month. Can you help please? Further details from Rae Swan.

SUNDAY BULLETIN Please send items for this sheet to our Church Administrator Mrs Pat Macleod (079 342 85924) invernesschurch<at>gmail.com. Deadline Wednesday at 12 noon. Please keep items as brief as possible, and include contact details and/or e-mail.


COMMISSION OF ASSEMBLY Changes to the central structures of the Church of Scotland were agreed at a Commission of Assembly (a sort of mini General Assembly) recently. To keep congregations informed, Life and Work has released a FREE four page guide explaining these changes. You can view the supplement at https://www.lifeandwork.org/resources/church-reform-special-supplement, or contact Pat, our Church Administrator, for a copy.

Blythswood Care, Christmas Collection 20 December Blythswood are looking for volunteers to cover shifts at a charity collection to help support those in need this Christmas. If you have an hour or so spare, please get in touch with Elma. Thank you.

Christmas and New Year Services at Old High St Stephen’s

22 December Fourth Sunday of Advent 10am Morning Worship (9 Lessons and Carols) at St Stephen’s 11.15 am Morning Worship (9 Lessons and Carols) at the Old High
24 December Christmas Eve 6.30pm Christmas Eve All-Age Service at St Stephen’s 11.30pm Watchnight Service at St Stephen’s
25 December Christmas Day 10.30am All-Age Service at St Stephen’s
26 December St Stephen’s Day 10.30am St Stephens’ Day service at St Stephen’s Service led by Jim Alexander
29 December First Sunday after Christmas 10am Morning Worship at St Stephens 11.15am Morning Worship at the Old High Service led by Rev Alastair Younger
5 January 2020 Second Sunday after Christmas: the first Sunday of the New Year 11.15am Congregational Service at the Old High No service at St Stephen’s

Old High Development Project Exhibition

We now have a small exhibition about our proposed redevelopment of the Old High Church, based on a report by architect Alan S Marshall.

You can visit the exhibition when the church is open to the public:

Sundays after the 11.15am service (that is, from around 12.15am)

Fridays in Advent, 12 noon to 2pm.

We hope to open the church on further dates in the New Year.


The reports we comissioned are available to download:

Architect’s Report

Congregational Meeting March 2018

Architect’s Report Appendices

Indicative Cost Summary

Appendix C Indicative Cost (detailed)

For more information, please call 01463 250 802, or email invernesschurch<a>gmail.com (replace <a> with @)

Christmas 2019

Funeral Announcement – Mrs Eleanor Stewart

Mrs Eleanor Stewart died on 23 November 2019 at her home in Craigard Place, Inverness.

She was 85 years of age.

Mrs Stewart’s funeral will be held on Tuesday 10 December at 1pm at Inverness Crematorium, Kilvean Road, Inverness IV3 8JN.

Further details from D Chisholm & Sons, Funeral Directors, Huntly Street, Inverness, IV3 5HP (01463) 712255

Time to wake up! Sermon for The First Sunday of Advent, 1 December 2019

Scripture Readings: Romans 13.8-14.4

Matthew 24.36-44

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

Today’s Bible readings mention, among other things, drunkenness and debauchery, flooding, burglary, and people who disappear unexpectedly. For it is Advent, and strange things happen in the Biblical texts we hear at this time of year.

As the Christmas party scene gets into its swing, I wonder how many people will heed the words of St Paul which we read this morning:

Let us conduct ourselves properly, as people who live in the light of the day- no orgies or drunkenness!

Yes, it’s hard work being a Christian on a night out! The run-up to Christmas is really now part of Christmas itself, for all the preparing for ‘the big day’ is part of the process- indeed, it is part of the fun, if you like shopping or baking Christmas cakes. Christmas may be commercialised, but Advent hardly registers on the consciousness of the general population. We have Advent calendars for the kids, which are hardly more than countdowns until Santa comes. But we preachers will witter on about Advent for the next four weeks, and I wonder if anyone is taking much notice? When Christmas starts in mid-November, what can Advent possibly mean?

The Church season of Advent season of Advent is a strange sort of time. It’s supposed to be about looking forward to Christmas, to the day when we will remember the birth of the baby of Bethlehem. But how can you look forward to something which has already happened?- how can we be expectant about a birth which happened 2,000 years ago?

Yet all this confusing of past, present and future shouldn’t be disconcerting for Christians. For we Christians know what we are living in an in-between time in history. In Jesus Christ, God has come among us, in the child of Bethlehem. But the risen and ascended Christ is, in a mysterious way, still to come. And that should make a difference to the way we live.

We see this in the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans. In the first part of the reading, Paul is trying to encourage the Christians of Rome to lead good lives. He reminds them of Christ’s command to love, so that they fulfil the Law of God:

The commandments… are summed up in the one command, “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”. If you love someone, you will never do them wrong; to love, then, is to obey the whole Law.

And then towards the end of the passage, Paul speaks of a practical application of the command to love: how to deal with disagreements.

But between these two sections, in the midst of all this discussion about ethics (about how we are to live), we have some verses which tell us something about why we should love one another. It is because, he says, we are living in in-between times. At this point, Paul sounds like someone who feels that time is passing quicker than other people realise. He tells the Christians of Rome,

You must do this, because you know that the time has come for you to wake up from your sleep. For the moment when we will be saved is closer now than it was when we first believed. The night is nearly over, day is almost here.

There is an urgency here, and urgency which we also find in the preaching of Jesus. Consider this strange wee parable, which Jesus tells in our Gospel reading today:

If the owner of a house knew the time when the thief would come, you can be sure that he would stay awake and not let the thief break into his house. So then, you also must always be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you are not expecting him.

I’m sure you can think of many things the Bible says about Jesus- Prince of Peace, Son of God, Redeemer, the Word made flesh. But Jesus as a burglar- had that ever occurred to you before? But there it is, that’s what he apparently said. Not the most obvious thing to say about Jesus, but here he is, saying it about himself: I’m like a thief in the night!

Even odder is this strange passage- words which, again, are said to be the words of Jesus:

At that time two men will be working in a field: one will be taken away, the other will be left behind. Two women will be at a mill grinding meal: one will be taken away, the other will be left behind. Watch out, then, because you do not know what day your Lord will come.

Now, this is really strange stuff. Jesus seems to be saying that, at some point in the future, we’re suddenly going to find our neighbours and friends disappearing round about us, as if they’d suddenly been dematerialised and teleported on the starship Enterprise? What are we supposed to make of stuff like this?

It’s all about urgency, the sense that anything can happen at any time. And throughout, Jesus is urging us to watch out, keep alert, look for the signs that the unexpected it going to happen. Otherwise, we will be like the folks in Noah’s day, whom Jesus said didn’t know what has happening until they were swept away by the flood.

So St Paul tells the Christians of Rome that they’ve to wake up:

…the time has come for you to wake up from your sleep.

We humans spend about a third of each day asleep. But sometimes it is as if we are asleep the rest of the time, too. We can be jolted when something apparently unexpected happens because we were not alert enough to see it coming: a health problem that leads to hospitalisation, the seemingly happy marriage which- to everyone’s surprise- ends suddenly, the discovery that we have friend who’s deeply unhappy, and we never really noticed.

It happens on a world scale, too: everyone’s asleep, until something wakes us up. In summer 1914, European culture was seemingly at its peak, but within a few months the nations were slaughtering because a royal was shot in Sarajevo. 1989: Communism in Russia and Europe seems monolithic, but a few demonstrations and it all comes tumbling down. In 2007, bankers and investors, who treated the markets like as a casino where they would always win, did not expect their game to quite suddenly unravel, as the world was pitched into economic misery. Britain was, what one might describe as a stable country, until the EU referendum in 2016 pitched our politics and economy into chaos.

Often, there are those who can see what is coming. They are more awake than the rest of us, see the danger signs that all is not as it should be. But the rest of fail to be awake enough, for we have not been alert. And we are taken by surprise when the unexpected- ‘the wake-up call’- finally happens, and we sleepwalk into disaster.

As Paul writes to the Romans about how to love, he reminds them to remain alert. In their waiting, they are not to be lulled by the false security of the darkness. Love your neighbour, he says; avoid the darkness- because the time has come for you to wake up from your sleep. Night is nearly over, dawn is breaking, and soon all will be light.

And so, says Paul, we are to live in the light which is dawning: live by Christ’s law of love. He’s reminding us that it is as if any day now God will bring to completion the work he began in Jesus. We are to love one another, and not to have orgies or get drunk or fight or be jealous- because thief in the night is about to surprise us!

Christianity is an historical faith. We look backwards to the story of God’s dealings with Israel, which come to a climax in the history of Jesus Christ. Yet our historical faith points us towards the future. Christianity isn’t nostalgia- it’s about looking forward with hope.

In the life of Jesus, God has intervened once more in the history of the Jewish people, but now this old story takes on universal significance. For with Christ’s resurrection, we are pointed to the day when death everywhere will be defeated. And no longer is this history just about one nation: now it is about us all, about the whole of creation, which God wills to bring into a loving relationship once more with him.

Looking back to the biblical story of God’s dealings with this people, we are given hope for the future: the history which is past is leading to the end of history. And we are caught up in that process, in God’s great plan for the future of creation. This is our Christian sense that we live between the times when God has done great things in the past and the day when God brings it all to completion. We live between those times, looking back, yes, but also looking forward with hope. This is what Advent reminds us about.

Christians are folk who have learned from the Bible what God did in Jesus Christ. Responding to God’s love with faith, we now have hope, because God, we know, is taking things further. Not everything is quite complete. In Jesus’ and Paul’s day, many people had a sense that the end of the age was nigh. They looked forward to a day when, all at once, God’s reign of peace and justice was established on earth.

But early on, Christians, such as Paul, saw that the end of the world was, in a way, already underway. From them we get this sense of living in an in-between time. We know that evil has ultimately been defeated already the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Darkness still lingers, but, like people waiting for the sunrise, Christians can see the light on the horizon. We know the sun will soon appear, but the end is not quite yet.

And so we wait. And as Paul acknowledges, the waiting can be hard. We might get drowsy, and even fall asleep. We might allow the darkness, rather than the light, to lull us, so that our selfish appetites and desires get in the way of loving as Christ calls us. The vices Paul lists- orgies, drunkenness, immorality, indecency, fighting, jealously- even if we manage to avoid these things ourselves, they are still around us, for many still live in the dark! And these vices can seem attractive, acceptable, desirable, so that we are tempted to leave the light and spend some time in the darkness ourselves. In the light, you love your neighbour. In the dark, you become selfish.

In Jesus Christ, the light of the world has come to us. And his light is still dawning, especially in the lives of those who choose to live in his way, his light. He taught us to love, not just by tell us, but by showing us how to do it. In Advent, we are reminded that God’s Kingdom is it hand, already appearing among us. ‘The night is nearly over, the day is almost here’, says Paul, which for me, conjures up an image of a sunrise: the dawn light beginning to banish the darkness. Dawn is coming, and so we have hope! So let’s live in the light, this Advent, and always.

Ascription of Praise

To God be honour and eternal dominion! Amen.

1 Timothy 6.16 (GNB)

Biblical references from the Good News Bible, unless otherwise stated

© 2019 Peter W Nimmo

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