As a Bishop I often find myself explaining the church which I serve. People ask me “who are you”? what is the Scottish Episcopal Church? The position I have often taken is to recite the history of our church. I end up talking of Ninian and Columba, relating our loyalty to the Scottish Stuart monarchy, and the almost total destruction of our churches following the final defeat at Culloden. I can talk of baptisms through prison cells and the persecution of those people who remained faithful to the Scottish Episcopal Church, but is what I am being asked a question of history or a question of who we are now.
The other way people often explain who we are is to start by saying who we are not. Well here I will start by saying who I believe we are and that can be found in our very name. We are a Scottish church which is episcopal, which means it has bishops. We are a reformed church, that maintains the orders of Bishop Priest and Deacon and which has continued to serve the people of Scotland ever since bishop’s were removed from the Church of Scotland and our episcopal life continued independently from it.
I believe we are a church which seeks to serve God and the people of Scotland, we uphold the principle of territoriality, which means we serve people everywhere, there is not a place we don’t care about and a place we won’t go.
What we believe is important is to provide places for prayer and worship, we welcome people to share with us in the that worship and invite people to ask for prayers and to pray with us, we try to keep our churches open, to use our buildings for community use and to use community buildings as churches in our rural communities. Our worship is centred around the Communion service and we love keeping the calendar of Scottish Saints remembering them and celebrating their lives.
We are also a church which has developed the courage to talk about the difficult issues that face our society, conversation on human sexuality, conversations on the issues of nationhood and conversations on ecology and social justice. We are a broad church, welcoming people of many different backgrounds and religious experience.
The Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness is largely rural and mainly highland in it’s make up and so questions of our place in the identity of Scotland have to be measured by those facts, we are different from the Central Belt, just as Glasgow is different from Edinburgh or the borders differ from the Kingdom of Fife. Those differences though are simply part of the rich tapestry or dare I say plaid that, that gives strength to the people of Scotland.
I am a Bishop in a church that seeks to welcome the stranger, provide shelter and sustenance to the outcast, a church that walks the extra mile and offers it’s care and it’s prayer to this nation.
+Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness