Like many people, bored and a bit ‘cheesed-off’ by lockdown and the prolonged effects of a pandemic, I have discovered a new hobby. Santa was good enough to furnish me with a book about stargazing which was really a beginners guide to astronomy. I also received a planisphere, which is a circular, moveable image of the night sky – one which cleverly tells you what stars you can expect to see on any given evening. Not only that, I was lucky enough to find an astronomical expert right on my doorstep in the parish, who introduced me to the world of computer apps, telescopes of both eye-watering dimensions and monetary costs and fascinating facts. David Millar, just like his namesake David Bowie, is undoubtedly a first class ‘Starman’ – one who enjoys sharing his love of all things astronomical with a wide audience. I now know that the bright object in the night sky which I see to the right of Castle Law as I lie in bed, is in fact the star Sirius. Also known as the Dog Star, it is the brightest star in Earth's night sky. The name means "glowing" in Greek — a fitting description, as only a few planets, the full moon and the International Space Station outshine this dazzler.
The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvellous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world. (Book of Psalms)
In the Hebrew scriptures, the Psalms written around 1000BC are perhaps one of the more popular books, not least because they combine beautiful poetry with profound theology. Traditionally, if we subscribe to the idea that they were written by (another) David then we might even harbour the attractive notion that (as a shepherd), he would be inspired to write this poetry whilst out tending to his sheep at night and looking up to the heavens. No problem with light pollution then. When I visited my parish Starman, he quoted something from the American astronomer Carl Sagan who once stated that “there are more stars in our universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches on Earth”. A mind-blowing fact, which is probably a conservative estimate. The sizes of the stars, the distances of planets and the prevalence of galaxies are too large for our small human minds to comprehend, and some modern theories of black holes suggest that the ‘rules’ by which we think time, space and light operate, will need to be eventually re-written.
Spring is a good time to do some star-spotting according to my expert, so why not take a look up there sometime soon on a clear night? If you do, you might want to consider that all that unmeasurable expanse of wonder is an indication of God’s glory and I defy even the most hardened of heart or cynical of mind not to be moved in the deepest part of their being. Those heavens at night, do indeed, keep saying something incredible about our God - and us.
With all good wishes.
As I write this in late January there is a definite feeling that many of the restrictions imposed by the long pandemic will be lifted. I hope, that by the time you read this, we will be much less bound by rules not only in our communal life but also within the life of the church.
Just as numbers attending services in the Kirk of St. Bride in Abernethy and Arngask Church in Glenfarg were (at long last) beginning to pick up, we were hit with renewed restrictions due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of Covid. This meant that the numbers attending the fewer special services around Advent and Christmas were much reduced.
I am pleased to say that currently, we are holding services alternately between the two villages on a Sunday morning at 10.00am. including Sunday Club for the children. Tea and coffee are now being served again after the services and all are invited. Masks are still having to be worn, Trace and Protect details are still being collected at the door and we are aiming to keep a distance between household groups of one metre. In addition, both churches are able to hold funeral services again up to the maximum number of people allowed in the building at any one time.
On a more hopeful note, talented villagers at the Abernethy end of the parish have been busy working on a triptych wall hanging which centres around the life of Saint Bride. When completed, it will be a sumptuous and impressive work of skill and artistry and we look forward to the day when it can be dedicated and made available for all to see. In Glenfarg, we have been holding an experimental ‘Café Church’ service in the village hall. The feeling of this service has been more informal and relaxed with tea and coffee being served, although soon we hope to ‘extend’ the ‘menu’.
Current worship information can be accessed through the Church ADA (Abernethy & Dron & Arngask) Facebook page and you can keep up with the regulations as they affect the kirk. Remember, you are always invited to attend services and would be made most welcome.