St Machar, 12th November
For this article we are going back to an early saint of the Celtic church of whom few hard and fast facts are known and we are left relying on legend. Even that fount of knowledge, Wikipedia, is not much help, since a visit to it said that little was known about him and any reliable information would be welcome. Also I could not find any pictures of him. I would suspect therefore that he will be unknown to many members of our congregation unless they come from or have connections with the city of Aberdeen where St Machar’s Cathedral (since the Reformation a Church of Scotland Kirk), a University Hall of Residence, a North Sea Oil Field, and a Coffee Bar are all named after him. Despite the lack of knowledge about him he is named in the Episcopal Church Calendar of Saints as having particular relevance to the Aberdeen and Orkney Diocese as bringing Christianity to that part of Scotland. Anything else about him is based on unsubstantiated and often contradictory legend.
St Machar is alleged to have been the son of Fiachna, a prince of Ulster, and as a young man was baptised by St Colman. At his baptism he was given the baptismal name of Mochumma and appears to have been referred to by both names in the legends passed on by word of mouth – a source of confusion. To fit in with the legends he must have been born about 540AD and lived to about 600AD. In the year 561AD, legend has it that he was one of the Celtic monks who accompanied St Columba into exile in Scotland following a fight between two monasteries over the ownership of an illuminated Bible. From thence he followed Columba to Iona and was part of the community there with Columba as Abbot. Like other monks from Iona he carried out missionary work in the islands in that area preaching and founding churches particularly on Mull where he established a reputation for piety and miracle working. He is said to have cured seven lepers and when faced by a ravening wolf turned it to stone.
The other monks in the abbey at Iona became jealous of his success at conversions and popularity amongst the people of the area and persuaded Columba to order him to go to the land inhabited by the northern Picts and to travel until he came across a river with bends shaped like a bishop’s crozier and there to found a church. Machar went off on his journey, accompanied by St Devenich, and established a church at Old Aberdeen. This eventually became the Cathedral of St Mary and St Machar. The dedication to St Mary was dropped at the Reformation.
It is also alleged that late in his life St Machar travelled with Columba to Rome and was installed by Pope Gregory the Great as Archbishop of Tours. This is unlikely, as no mention is made of any visit to Rome by St Columba, whose life is reasonably well documented, nor is there any reference to the installation as an Archbishop. There is, however, a connection between Tours and the Celtic church, since both St Ninian and St Patrick studied at Tours under St Martin. Alternatively Machar may have been installed as a bishop at Tours to work in Pictland, if such an installation did take place.
On the road to Aberdeen from the west at Aboyne there is a crossing of the River Dee, which St Machar would have had to use on his travels, and where there is archaeological evidence of a fair sized Pictish settlement. Here also is a rock known as Machar’s Chair – and more importantly a stone with a Celtic cross pronounced to be Machar’s Stone. It is probable that St Machar may have founded a church there.
Most of what we know of St. Machar is taken from a Breviary known as the Aberdeen Breviary, but this was not written until the fifteenth century and is largely based on legend.
Fortunately we are not required to believe in St. Machar, but it is safe to say that a Celtic monk whose name may or may not have been Machar or Mochumma preached the gospel and founded a Christian Church in the Aberdeen area. What a pity that no real account was made of his work – but then what is more important: bringing souls to Christianity or keeping records?
The Vestry is pleased that the repair and cleaning of our beloved, over 100 years old, pipe organ have been completed. We would like to express our thanks to all who donated their time and money to the project. Thanks also to Jack Wardell who oversaw the work as Project Manager. The organ was blessed at our service on Sunday 17th September and it also featured in a special songs of praise service as part of our open afternoon.
Church improvements are ongoing, with the rails and porch floor being painted, plus the new chairs for the hall have arrived.
Thank you to those that supported the work of the Growing Congregations Planning group by attending their day of Celebration on Sunday 24th September or handing in feedback booklets. There will now be a period of reviewing the feedback from the congregation to identify three areas of action. This project is an opportunity to be engaged in the future of the church, by making it accessible and welcoming to all. We look forward to hearing the results.
Members of the Vestry and Contact Group leaders attended training on Safeguarding which highlighted their roles and responsibilities in this area. Donald Urquhart, Provincial Officer for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults, highlighted the importance of voicing any concerns we have about others. Each one of us can look out for the welfare of others, children and adults all deserve to be safe and healthy. If the Rector is made aware of issues it may be possible to access support for any vulnerable individuals or families.
The Ractor read this out on Sunday 29th October during the services at Rosyth and Dunfermline:
‘Earlier this year I was invited by the Archdeacon of Birmingham to look at a parish in inner city Birmingham. After much prayer and reflection Peter and I have decided to accept God’s call to move and on Sunday 18th February 2018 I will be licensed as Priest in Charge of St George’s church Newtown and the church of St Paul and St Silas Lozells, subject to a satisfactory Disclosure.
So today I am announcing my resignation as your Rector here, a little more over the twelve weeks’ notice required by the constitution. My last service in Rosyth will be on Sunday 21st January ay 9.30am and in Dunfermline on Sunday 28th January at 11am.
Please pray for Peter and myself as we prepare to take up this challenging ministry in a diverse and international community and I will pray for you all here too.’
The Rev’d Alison Cozens
**Applications have now closed**
Holy Trinity Episcopal church Dunfermline (a charity registered in Scotland No. SCO15181) is looking for a part time Church Administrator. Closing Date for applications Wedneaday 25th October 9am 2017.
For more information about the role please get in touch with the Rector via email or phone:
moc.liamgnull@7102snezocja or 01383 732654
The Rev’d Alison Cozens, Rector.