Scottish Episcopal Church History

20th Century

20th Century

The one in which modern language comes to the Liturgy and the ordination of women begins

A Moment in the Century : Two Country Churches - their story

Saint James's at Cruden Bay

Saint Mary's-on-the-Rock at Ellon

Gerald Stranraer-Mull writes:

I went to Saint Mary-on-the-Rock at Ellon and Saint James at Cruden Bay as Rector in 1972, and stayed until retirement thirty-six years later in 2008. Both churches are at the heart of communities in rural Aberdeenshire, and in the early 1970s each had small congregations. They were far away places - the Diocesan magazine in 1896, describing how to get there, said it was necessary to go Aff the earth and doon tae Buchan. But with the discovery of oil under the North Sea, the population of Buchan, the far corner of Aberdeenshire, grew - and with the growth came many newcomers to church.

The first lesson we learned was not to do the usual Episcopalian thing and wait for months before asking new people to be fully involved in the life of the Church - often they were just not in Aberdeenshire for that long. Many of them were gifts from God, some for the longer haul and others for a much shorter time. One of the short term people was a young woman with the amazing ability to bring children to church. Within weeks of her arrival all the children in her street were coming, soon to be followed by those from neighbouring streets, and there were eighty children around each Sunday. Similar things happened in both Cruden Bay, with a Sunday Club gathering in the village primary school, and in the tiny village of Collieston where an ecumenical children's group began to meet. Other young women, but with a gift for music this time, encouraged people to sing or play an instrument - the choir in Ellon grew to thirty, and had a small orchestra in addition.

We also owed much to visitors who came to us from outwith Ellon and Cruden Bay. They were people that I could not have expected to find in small country congregations which were after all "aff the earth" - Noel Tredinnick, founder and conductor of the All Souls’ Orchestra from London (with some of the orchestra); Terry Fullam, Rector of Saint Paul's, Darien, the fastest growing Episcopal Church in the United States; Alastair Haggart, Ted Luscombe and Richard Holloway during each’s time as Primus as well as other bishops from Scotland; bishops from Australia, France, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, South Africa, Tanzania, the United States and Zambia; and the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion. They, along with successive Bishops of Aberdeen and Orkney and many others, gave us generous encouragement and nourishment.

The Eucharist remained always at the centre of the life of each of the congregations and both churches became pretty full every Sunday - the attendance at the Sunday Eucharist in Cruden Bay rose from under ten to fifty and in Ellon from less than twenty to a hundred and fifty. Weekday numbers also increased, particularly at the Wednesday morning Eucharist in Ellon which now included music, hymns and a sermon. There were thirty people there and sometimes many more.

A hall was built at Saint Mary’s (and has since been twice extended) and Saint James’s was repaired, re-designed internally to include hall space and refurbished. A crucial part of all this building work was the construction of large carparks in fields adjacent to both churches - in these country areas travel by car was (and is still) the only practical way for many - although, for those without their own transport, we operated a Sunday mini-bus route to both churches. To pay for all of these things the finances of the congregations were put on a sound footing through careful and thoughtful stewardship campaigns, which put the needs of the church, the community and the wider world to the congregations' members, inviting their response in money or involvement or both - and as part of the invitation there was a promise that at least 10% of the parish income would be given to charitable causes outwith the congregations.

Eventually the short-term people who had been such a gift moved on leaving us with a wonderful legacy - the confidence to reach out to the whole community and not just to those who thought of themselves as Episcopalians or even as church people. One immediate result was that the notice boards were changed, taking out the word “Episcopal” - a word puzzling to some and a barrier for others. The boards now just gave the name of the church and the words A Church for Everyone. Very soon the congregations included people whose ecclesiastical origin had been in the Baptist, Brethren, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic Churches, or indeed in no church at all. Ecumenical services with the Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic congregations in the village of Pitmedden attracted surprisingly large numbers – three hundred on one evening.

Saint Mary's and Saint James's outreach to the communities included the founding of a lunch club for the elderly, a day care centre, parent and toddler meetings, home groups, a Mothers' Union branch, youth groups and a highly successful drama group for teenagers, Dramatize. Much time and effort was put into the chaplaincy of nine schools across the parish area and, at the other end of the age spectrum, to the care of the house-bound and those in care homes. There was also an awareness of the world beyond Buchan and we established companion relationships with parishes in Woodbury in the United States (where the clergy of Connecticut elected Samuel Seabury as the first Bishop in America, and who was consecrated in Aberdeen in 1784, the beginning of the Anglican Communion) and also with Engcobo in Transkei, South Africa. Links with mission partners were formed elsewhere in Africa and also in Nepal, Palestine and Papua New Guinea.

Vocations to ordained ministry were discerned within both Saint Mary's and Saint James's and there are fifteen priests across the world whose call to ordination was formed or nurtured during their time in Ellon and Cruden Bay.

At the Diocesan Synod of 1979, one of the last clergy only ones, an Eldership for the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney was agreed. The first Elders in the Diocese were commissioned by Bishop Fred Darwent in Ellon in 1982 and in Cruden Bay a year later. They were directly answerable to the bishop, with the role of working with the clergy and Lay Readers in pastoral care, compassion and love for the people. They could also preach and administer Communion from the Reserved Sacrament (consecrated at an earlier service or elsewhere when a priest could not be present). Along with this, very crucially indeed, went an encouragement to everyone in the congregations to use the gifts God had given them – everyone was thought of as having a ministry.

Bishop Fred's successor, Bishop Bruce Cameron, commissioned additional Elders and at his request, with the encouragement of Canon Alice Mann from the Alban Institute in the United States, who faithfully stuck by us throughout the national Mission 21 programme (and actually far beyond it), time was given to working out a Mission Statement. It was to set out the hopes and purpose of the congregations. A mission statement can be written quickly, but if people are to feel part of it, and be committed to it, then it takes much longer. It took eight months just to get the fourteen words. They were (and still are) -


The strategies and tasks to fulfill this aim were also worked out, the most important being -


Jesus is very clear in the Gospels about mission -

  • Love God and everyone around you

  • Make disciples of all nations

  • Heal the sick

  • Raise the dead

Saint Paul has very little to say about mission but much about faithfulness. In 2 Corinthians he says When I am weak then I am strong and he is making the point that if we do something because we think it is a good idea we may well be doing it in our own strength, which will eventually run out. Paul knew that he had just to join in with whatever God was doing and he would be strong. This is a very important element in the Ellon and Cruden Bay mission statement.

It encouraged us to realise that we did not have to be perfect or even to have special skills. What we had to do was be faithful and know and use all that God gives us. Terry Fullam, the Rector from Connecticut, told us that all the gifts needed were there among the people already, but that nobody had them all. For us it was to be a continuing, co-operative work of faith and love.

The pictures of Saint James's and Saint Mary's are by Glynis Stranraer-Mull , a fine artist who died in June 2015.

The Chronological Story of the 20th Century

1900 The United Presbyterian Church of Scotland and many of the Free Church of Scotland congregations unite to form the United Free Church of Scotland.

1901 Queen Victoria dies and is succeeded by her son, Edward VII.

1901 The Primus, Hugh Jermyn, resigns after fifteen years as Primus (he has been in ill-health for five years). He continues as Bishop of Brechin until his death in 1903.

The new Primus is James Kelly, who is sixty-nine and has been Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness since 1886. He had previously been Co-Adjutor Bishop of the diocese for a year and Bishop of Newfoundland in Canada from 1876-77, acting as co-adjutor bishop for the previous nine years). His link with Moray diocese dates back to his early days in Newfoundland where the diocesan ship, Hawk, had been provided by Bishop Eden. In Inverness he combined the role of bishop with that of Provost of Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, which he resigns on becoming Primus.

1904 James Kelly resigns as Primus and three months later as Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness.

His successor as Primus is George Howard Wilkinson, who is seventy-one. He has been Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane since 1893, and was previously Bishop of Truro from 1883 to 1891. The new Primus was born in Durham and educated at the Grammar School there and at Brasenose College, Oxford. He was ordained in 1857 and served in parishes in London, Seaham Harbour and Bishop Auckland before becoming an immensely successful Rector of the fashionable Saint Peter’s, Eaton Square, in London. He was nominated as Bishop of Truro by the Prime Minister, William Gladstone, and appointed by Queen Victoria. He oversaw the completion of Truro Cathedral and its consecration.

In 1891 Bishop Wilkinson resigned on suffering a breakdown in health and travelled to South Africa to recuperate, a journey which gave him an abiding interest in African mission. His health recovered within two years and he was elected Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane – the first (and so far only) English diocesan bishop to become a Scottish bishop (although Brian Smith, Bishop of Edinburgh from 2002 to 2011, was elected while serving as Suffragan Bishop of Tonbridge). One of the Canons of Saint Ninian’s Cathedral (a building which Bishop Wilkinson – as at Truro – saw to completion) described the bishop as having a “touch of holiness”.

1905 The Provincial Synod agrees to the creation of a Consultative Council on Church Legislation, which gives laity a foothold in the Synod’s decision making.

1907 The former Primus, James Butler Knill Kelly, dies in Inverness, aged seventy-two.

1907 The Primus, George Howard Wilkinson, collapses and dies soon after making a speech in the Representative Church Council Office in Edinburgh. He is seventy-four and has been Primus for three years.

1908 The new Primus is Walter John Forbes Robberds, aged forty-six and Bishop of Brechin since 1904. He is the first Scot to be elected Primus since William Skinner sixty-seven years earlier. He was born in Bengal, where his father was a chaplain with the Indian Ecclesiastical Establishment, and his education was at Banchory in Kincardineshire, Glenalmond and Keble College, Oxford.

1910 Edward VII dies and is succeeded by his son, George V.

1910 The World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh paves the way for the formation of the World Council of Churches many years later.

1911 The Primus, Walter Robberds, presides over the Provincial Synod which approves The Scottish Book of Common Prayer (it is in essence the 1662 Prayer Book with the addition of the Scottish Communion Office). The number of Canons in the 1911 Code increases to fifty-three.

1914 Aberdeen and Orkney becomes the final Scottish diocese to have a cathedral - Saint Andrew's Church in King Street receives cathedral status at a service on February 25th.

1914 The Million Shilling Fund enables the building of six new Episcopal churches in, or close to, Glasgow.

1916 The Primus, Walter Robberds, confirms Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon at Saint John’s, Forfar. Seven years later Lady Elizabeth marries the Duke of York, the future King George VI.

1921 The Westminster Parliament passes the Church of Scotland Act 1921, which confirms the independence of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland in spiritual matters. The Act is followed by the Church of Scotland (Property and Endowments) Act in 1925, which prepares the way for the union of the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church of Scotland in 1929.

1925 The Scottish Churches’ Council is established in 1925 with representatives of the Episcopal Church, Church of Scotland, United Free Church, Congregational Church, Baptist Church and United Secession Church. The original intention is that it be an instrument in situations where concerted action is necessary. In 1948 and 1964 the aims are broadened. A residential and conference centre, Scottish Churches’ House in Dunblane, opens in 1961. Declining use and increasing costs, however, causes the closure of the House in 2011.

1920s The Home Mission Appeal produces ten new Episcopal churches in the Dioceses of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Brechin and St Andrews.

1929 The Primus, Walter Robberds, presides at the Provincial Synod which approves four years of work on revision of the Code of Canons and also gives approval to the complete Scottish Prayer Book (which is still in use). Among three new Canons is one recognising the Order of Deaconess, although making it clear that a Deaconess is not to be considered in Holy Orders.

1931 Conversations with the Old Catholics in Europe lead to inter-communion with the Old Catholic Churches in communion with the Metropolitan See of Utrecht, although formal approval waits until the next Provincial Synod meetings in 1951 and 1952.

1932-1970 The Episcopal Church is involved in four separate sets of discussions with the Church of Scotland (the first two also involved the Church of England and the Presbyterian Church of England) but no agreement on union is achieved. In 1970 a proposal that the Episcopal Church become a Synod within a (united) Church of Scotland is not taken further.

1934 - The Scottish National Party is formed as a result of a merger between the National Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party.

1934 The Primus, Walter Robberds, resigns through ill-health and moves to Tunbridge Wells for ten years of retirement, mostly as an invalid.

1935 The new Primus is the seventy-seven year old Arthur Maclean, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness since 1904. The first Old Etonian to be a Scottish bishop he studied at King’s College, Cambridge, and was a lecturer in mathematics at both King’s and Selwyn Colleges in Cambridge, before being ordained in 1882 as a mission chaplain in the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles. In 1883 he was appointed priest of Saint Columba’s, Portree, on the Isle of Skye, and became a fluent Gaelic speaker. Three years later he was appointed as Head of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Assyrian Mission, travelling throughout the Middle East, learning the languages and becoming an expert on Eastern Liturgy. He returned to Skye as Rector of Portree in 1891 and became Dean of Argyll and the Isles the following year. In 1897 he moved to Edinburgh diocese as Rector of Selkirk and was appointed Principal of Edinburgh Theological College in 1903. Within a year he was elected Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness. The 1929 Prayer Book owes much to his skill and scholarship. He was also the author of numerous books and articles, mostly concerned with the Eastern Churches or Liturgy

1936 George V dies and is succeeded by his son, Edward VIII, who abdicates eleven months later to be succeeded by his younger brother, George VI.

1937 The establishment of a World Council of Churches is agreed but its official inauguration, delayed by the Second World War, does not happen until 1948.

1942 The British Council of Churches is formed.

1943 The Primus, Arthur Maclean, resigns aged eighty-five and dies within three weeks. He became Primus after more than thirty years as a distinguished bishop and in his last years has to contend with deafness and the increasing frailties of age.

His successor as Primus is Logie Danson, who is aged sixty-three and has been Bishop of Edinburgh since 1939. He was born in 1890 in Arbroath, where his father (later to be Dean of Aberdeen and Orkney) was Rector of Saint Mary’s, Arbroath. He was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School, Glenalmond College and Aberdeen University. He trained for the ministry at Edinburgh Theological College and served a six year curacy at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Dundee. In 1911 he became a curate at Singapore Cathedral and in 1914 moved to Malaya as Chaplain at Negri Sembilan. Six years later he became Bishop of Labuan and Sarawak, aged thirty-seven. He returned to the United Kingdom in 1931 and became a Residentiary Canon of Carlisle Cathedral and Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Carlisle. In 1938 he became Provost of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, and Assistant Bishop in Edinburgh Diocese. A year later he was elected as Bishop of Edinburgh.

1944 The former Primus, Walter John Forbes Robberds, dies in Tunbridge Wells, aged eighty-one.

1944 The Home Mission Crusade results in five new Episcopal churches in the dioceses of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

1944 The first women priests in the Anglican Communion are ordained, in part because of war-time necessity, in the Diocese of Hong Kong and Macao.

1945 The Scottish Nationalist Party gains its first seat in the Westminster Parliament. Dr Robert McIntyre wins a by-election at Motherwell but loses it within months at the General Election in which the Labour Party forms the government, replacing the wartime coalitiion led by Winston Churchill.

1946 Logie Danson resigns as Primus in May and as Bishop of Edinburgh in August, dying the following month aged sixty-six.

His successor as Primus is John How, Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway since 1938. He was educated at Pocklington School and Saint John’s College, Cambridge, and trained for the ministry at Ely Theological College. He was ordained in 1906 and was a distinguished priest in (successively) Cambridge, where he became the first Warden of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd, Diocesan Missioner in Manchester diocese, Rector of Liverpool and Vicar of Brighton. He might have been Bishop of Pretoria in South Africa or Archbishop of Brisbane in Australia but declined both appointments. He was fifty-six when elected Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway and sixty–two when he becomes Primus.

1951 Joseph Gray becomes Roman Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, aged forty-one.

1951 and 1952 The Provincial Synod meets in Edinburgh and makes a number of small amendments to the 1929 Code of Canons.

1952 George VI dies and his succeeded by his daughter, Elizabeth.

1952 John How resigns as Primus in March and as Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway in April. He becomes priest of two rural parishes in Somerset before finally retiring to Hove in 1955.

John How’s successor as Primus is Thomas Hannay, aged fifty-five, and Bishop of Argyll and the Isles since 1942. Born in Liverpool he was a student at Queen’s College, Cambridge, at the time John How was a priest in the city. In his first year at Cambridge he heard a future Bishop of Zanzibar speak about the needs of Africa and resolved to work there as soon as possible. After a curacy in Yorkshire he went to Nyasaland under the auspices of the Universities' Mission to Central Africa. He worked in Nyasaland (for two periods) and also in Kenya. He returned to England in 1926 and entered the novitiate of the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield in Yorkshire, making his profession as a monk in 1929. For seven years he was principal of the Community’s theological college. He became known in Argyll as a retreat conductor and was elected Bishop of Argyll and the Isles in 1942.

1952 and 1954 The Scottish bishops say they have no objection to ordaining men in full-time work as non-stipendiary deacons and priests - but the “Regulations” needed to enable this take a further twenty-one years to appear.

1959 The Representative Church Council approves a suggestion by Provost Paddy Shannon of Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, that the Church should have an identical sign outside each church building. The following year the Lord Lyon grants Arms to the Church and a design is agreed which includes the shields of each of the seven dioceses. The design is still used today and makes each Episcopal Church easily recognisable.

1960 The Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, makes a private visit to the Vatican and meets with Pope John XXIII.

1960 The Primus, Thomas Hannay, presides over the Provincial Synod which decides that members of the laity should have a place in the Synod – replacing the Consultative Council on Church Legislation established in 1905. Two new Canons are added to the Code (concerning the confessional and the method of release from vows for a member of a religious community) and it is also agreed that the Provincial Synod should meet regularly and more frequently – previously it had only met (usually less than once a decade) when called by the bishops.

1961 The former Primus, John How, dies in Hove, Sussex, aged seventy-nine.

1962 Thomas Hannay, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles since 1942, retires after ten years as Primus. As a member of the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, Yorkshire, he returns to Mirfield in his retirement.

The new Primus is Francis Hamilton Moncrieff, Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway since 1952. He is fifty-six. He was born in North Berwick and educated at Shrewsbury School and Saint John’s College, Cambridge. He trained for the ministry at Cuddesdon College and served curacies in Cambridge and London. He became priest-in-charge of Saint Salvador’s on the new housing estate of Stenhouse in Edinburgh and chaplain of Saughton Prison. He was appointed Diocesan Missioner for Edinburgh Diocese in 1951 and a year later was elected Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway, at the age of forty-six.

1963 and 1966 The Provincial Synod agrees a Canon which permits a cleric of any Trinitarian church to assist at a wedding, funeral or memorial service in the Episcopal Church. In 1966 this is extended to “a service or occasion of an ecumenical nature”. Lay Episcopalians are also now permitted to assist the priest in the administration of Holy Communion.

1964 Pope Paul VI meets the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, the first Pope since the ninth century to visit Jerusalem, and describes the Eastern Churches as "sister Churches" .This meeting with the Patriarch Athenagoras of Constaninople leads to a rescinding of the excommunications of the Great Schism of 1054. The following year a Joint Declaration - read at the same time in Rome and Istanbul - expresses the mutual desire for reconciliation. In 1973 the Coptic Patriarch, Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria, visits Pope Paul VI in Rome with a similar outcome.

1964 Leslie Drage is appointed the Episcopal Church’s first Overseas Chaplain – the intention being that he spend half the year immersed in the life of a church overseas and the other half travelling through Scotland raising awareness of the worldwide Church. The post is discontinued in 1975 and the then Chaplain, David Bruno, is appointed Provincial Director of the Department of Mission in Cape Province, South Africa, and becomes Dean of Windhoek in Nambia, Southern Africa, in 1980.

1965 Michael Ramsey is the first post-Reformation Archbishop of Canterbury, to make an official visit to the Vatican and meets with Pope Paul VI.

1965 Ecumenical Communities of the Franciscan Hermits of the Transfiguration are established at Roslin (for men) and Loanhead (for women) with the joint encouragement of the Bishop of Edinburgh and Abbot of Nunraw.

1966 and 1970 The Grey Book Liturgies are published. They are revisions of the Communion Office of the 1929 Prayer Book.

1966 The Livingston Ecumenical Experiment begins – the Church of Scotland, the Congregational Church and the Episcopal Church (later joined by the Methodist Church) jointly minister to the new town of Livingston.

1967 Multi-Lateral Conversations on Unity begin. They involve the Church of Scotland, the Episcopal, Congregational, United Reform, Methodist and United Free Churches and continue for over thirty years. In 2008 the Episcopal, Methodist and United Reform Churches sign a Covenant Relationship with a commitment to working together more closely.

1967 Winnie Ewing wins a by-election at Hamilton for the Scottish National Party and her success and the growing support for the SNP in local elections causes the Labour government to establish a Commission to consider devolved Scottish Assembly. The Leader of the Conservative Party, Edward Heath, tells his party's conference at Perth in 1968 that if he becomes Prime Minister he will establish a Scottish Assembly. The Conservatives win the 1970 General Election but the promise of a Scottish Assembly is not fulfilled. Winnie Ewing loses her Hamilton seat at the General Election but the SNP's Donald Stewart wins the Western Isles constituency, a seat the party holds at subsequent General Elections.

1968 The Church of Scotland opens all ministries and offices to women and men on an equal basis.

1969 The Roman Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Gordon Joseph Gray, is appointed a Cardinal, the first post-Reformation Cardinal to be resident in Scotland.

1970 The former Primus, Thomas Hannay, who returned to the Community of the Resurrection on his retirement in 1962, dies at Mirfield in Yorkshire. He is eighty-three and in the forty-second year of his profession as a monk.

1970 The Provincial Synod appoints a Diocesan Boundaries Committee. Its interim recommendations (some years later) include the creation of a Diocese of Central Scotland by merging the Dioceses of Edinburgh, St Andrews and Dunblane; the abolition of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, with some congregations being added to Glasgow and others to Moray; and the linking of the Dioceses of Brechin and Dunkeld, with some of the northern congregations of Brechin being added to Aberdeen. The Episcopal Synod decides not to proceed with the recommendations (although Cove and Torry are transferred from Brechin Diocese to Aberdeen and Stirling from Edinburgh Diocese to St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane).

1971 The Anglican Conultative Council declares that there is no theological objection to women being ordained as priests and that it will take no action against any Province of the Church which chooses this course. The Bishop of Hong Kong, Gilbert Baker,very soon ordains two women - one English (the founder-principal of Saint Catherine's Girls School) and one Chinese. Twenty seven years earlier the Bishop's predecessor, Ronald Hall, had ordained the very first women priests as there were no male ordinands available in Hong Kong at that stage of the Second World War.

1972 The increase in the frequency of meetings of the Provincial Synod and its subsequent greater amount of legislation requires a new edition of the Code of Canons.

One of the changes is recognition that the Primus, although not holding primacy, is able to act as other Primates do in his dealings with them. Amendments of are made to Canon IV “On the Election of Bishops”, a process which continues and occupies the Provincial Synod and its successor (in 1982) the General Synod a surprising number of times.

Lay Readership is opened to both men and women but co-adjutor bishops (who ensured Episcopal succession in difficult days) and catechists (who ministered to scattered congregations in the absence of a priest) disappear from the Canons.

1972 The Methodist Church agrees to a proposal for a union with the Church of England but the initiative fails to gain a sufficient majority in the Church of England’s General Synod. The Congregational Church and the Presbyterian Church of England, however, unite and become the United Reformed Church.

1973 The United Kingdom becomes a member of the European Economic Community, later to be the European Union. Two years later a referendum results in 68% of United Kingdom voters confirming the decision.

1973 The “Regulations” for non-stipendiary ministry in the Episcopal Church are produced and the first ordinations take place.

1974 A long campaign for women’s ordination culminates in the irregular ordination of women priests in the United States. The American Church authorises women’s priestly ministry two years later.

1974 Francis Moncrieff retires as Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway and Primus. He has been Bishop since 1952 and Primus since 1962.

His successor is Richard Knyvet Wimbush. He is sixty-four and has been Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, since 1963. He was born in Yorkshire in 1909 where his father served for forty years as Rector of Terrington, as his father had done before him. He was educated at Haileybury, Oriel College, Oxford, and Cuddesdon College. On his ordination he immediately returned to Cuddesdon as College Chaplain, followed by a curacy and an incumbency in Yorkshire. He was appointed Principal of Edinburgh Theological College in 1948 and held the office for fifteen years until elected as Bishop of Argyll and the Isles.

1974 Thomas Winning becomes the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow.

1974 The Scottish Episcopal Church establishes a Policy Committee to look at, among other things, structures for the governance of the Church. It reports in 1978, recommending that a General Synod replace the Provincial Synod and Representative Church Council. The recommendation is accepted in 1980 and the first General Synod held in 1982.

1977 The Experimental Liturgy - The Orange Book – is published, the first “modern” language Communion Office.

1977 Richard Wimbush retires as Bishop of Argyll and the Isles and Primus. He has been Bishop since 1963 and Primus since 1974. In his retirement he becomes priest-in-charge of two rural parishes in Humberside and assistant bishop in the Diocese of York.

The new Primus is Alastair Iain Macdonald Haggart, Bishop of Edinburgh since 1975. The new Primus comes from a Free Church of Scotland family and grew up in Hyndland, Glasgow. He became a member of Saint Silas’ Church in Glasgow (which was not at that time part of the Scottish Episcopal Church) and was trained for the ministry at Edinburgh Theological College and Durham University. He was a curate at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, Saint Mary’s, Hendon, in Middlesex, and Precentor of Saint Ninian’s Cathedral, Perth, before becoming Rector of Saint Oswald’s, Glasgow, and Synod Clerk of the Diocese. In 1959 he became Provost of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Dundee, and in 1971 Principal of Edinburgh Theological College. He was elected Bishop of Edinburgh four years later, at the age of sixty. He is committed to ecumenism and in the British Council of Churches is Chairman of the Division for Ecumenical Affairs.

1979 A Scottish referundum results in 51.6% support for the proposal for a Scottish Assembly. However, the number voting in favour falls just short of 40% of the total electorate - a condition stipulated in The Scotland Act 1978.

1979 The Provincial Synod removes subscription to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (agreed at the Convocation of Laurencekirk in 1804) as mandatory for ordinands in Scotland.

1980 The Provincial Synod agrees that those who have been divorced may re-marry in church, subject to the approval of the diocesan bishop.

1981 The ordination of women as deacons is agreed by the clergy and laity of the Provincial Synod, but not in the House of Bishops, and therefore cannot proceed.

1982 The Partners in Mission Consultation brings to Scotland representatives of the Church in South Africa, the United States, Ireland, North India, Kenya, South India and the Roman Catholic Church in France. Having travelled around Scotland and meeting with representatives from every diocese over several days, the external partners recommend ways in which the mission of the Scottish Episcopal Church might develop.

1982 The General Synod replaces the Provincial Synod and the Representative Church Council. Similar changes take place in each diocese with the present day form of Diocesan Synod being created.

1982 The 1982 Liturgy – the Blue book – is published. It is a revision of the 1977 Experimental Liturgy. It remains in use (with the later addition of seasonal material) as the most up to date Scottish Eucharistic Liturgy.

1982 The Ministry of Elders begins in the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney. Elders are commissioned (for a three year renewable term) by the bishop for a variety of ministries.

1982 John Paul II becomes the first Pope to visit Scotland.

1983 The Scottish Episcopal Renewal Fellowship is founded to encourage charismatic renewal in the Church.

1983 The requirement that clergy wear a cassock at meetings of the General Synod is removed.

1984 The former Primus, Francis Moncrieff, dies in Edinburgh, aged seventy-seven.

1985 and 1986 The General Synod agrees that women can be ordained as deacons and the first ordinations take place in 1986.

1985 Alastair Haggart retires as Primus and Bishop of Edinburgh. He has been Bishop since 1975 and Primus since 1977.

The new Primus is Edward Luscombe. He is fifty-one and has been Bishop of Brechin since 1975. He was born in Devon and educated at Torquay Boys' Grammar School. He began training for ordination at Kelham in Nottinghamshire but in 1942 was commissioned as an officer in the Hyderabad Regiment, serving in Burma and India, remaining in India until 1947. On his return to Britain he trained as a Chartered Accountant in Glasgow and was a prominent layman in the diocese. He resumed his training for ministry at Saint Boniface College, Warminster, Wiltshire, and was ordained to his home church of Saint Margaret, Newlands, Glasgow in 1963. He became Rector of Saint Barnabas, Paisley, before his appointment as Provost of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Dundee, in 1971. Four years later he was elected Bishop of Brechin.

1985 Cardinal Gray retires as Roman Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh – he dies in 1993. He is succeeded as Archbishop by Keith O’Brien.

1988 The Society of Our Lady of the Isles, a women’s community (partly Celtic, partly Franciscan and partly Carthusian in its Rule) is founded on the Island of Fetlar in Shetland.

1988 Women ordained priest in other parts of the Anglican Communion are given “sacramental hospitality” and permitted to minister during visits to Scotland

1990 Edward Luscombe retires as Bishop of Brechin and Primus. He has been Bishop since 1975 and Primus since 1985. Following his retirement he becomes a student at the University of Dundee, graduating as a Master of Philosophy in 1991 and Doctor of Philosophy in 1993. He lives in a village near Dundee and is the author of many books on the history and personalities of the Episcopal Church.

The new Primus is George Henderson, aged sixty-eight and Bishop of Argyll and the Isles since 1977. He was born in Oban and studied at Edinburgh Theological College and Durham University. After ordination he served as a curate for five years in Bridgeton in Glasgow before moving to the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles as Rector of Nether Lochaber and Kinlochleven. Two years later he was appointed Rector of Fort William. He served for twenty-seven years until his election as bishop. During this time he was also a Labour Councillor in Fort William, Provost of the Burgh and a member of Inverness-shire County Council as well as, successively, Canon, Synod Clerk and Dean of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles.

1990 The British Council of Churches and Scottish Churches’ Council are replaced by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and Action of Churches Together in Scotland, known as ACTS. The Roman Catholic Church becomes a member of ACTS, causing the Baptist Union to withdraw its full participation.

1991 Deacons are included in the electoral body which elects each diocesan bishop.

1991 Million for Mission begins. It is a five year programme reaching into areas of deprivation. A million pounds, raised from the Church’s assets, is used to fund the programme.

1992 Forward in Faith is founded in England to argue the “traditionalist” case against the ordination of women.

1992 George Henderson retires as Bishop of Argyll and the Isles and Primus. He has been Bishop since 1977 and Primus since 1990.

He is succeeded as Primus by Richard Holloway. He is fifty-six and has been Bishop of Edinburgh since 1986. The new Primus was born in Possilpark in Glasgow and grew up in Alexandria in the Vale of Leven. He was educated at Kelham, in Nottinghamshire, in the junior seminary run by the Society of the Sacred Mission, an Anglican religious order. After National Service in the Army he joined the Society’s novitiate but later became a student at Edinburgh Theological College. He was ordained in the Diocese of Glasgow and served a curacy in the Gorbals before becoming Rector of Old Saint Paul’s in Edinburgh. Twelve years later he was appointed Rector of the Church of the Advent in Boston, Massachusetts. After four years he returned to the United Kingdom as Vicar of Saint Mary Magdalene’s, Oxford, and two years later was elected Bishop of Edinburgh.

1992 The Meissen Agreement encourages Eucharistic hospitality between the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany and the Church of England, but still does not - formally - extend to the other Anglican churches of Britain and Ireland.

1993 and 1994 The General Synod agrees that women can be ordained as priests, and the first ordinations in Scotland follow in December 1994.

Affirming Apostolic Order is founded as a traditionalist group in Scotland. It merges with Forward in Faith in 1997. (In 2013 the Forward in Faith website indicates that there are now no member congregations in Scotland but that there are three churches – in Aberdeen, Dundee and Fort William – “where the priest himself has declared that woman priests will not minister within his care of souls”.

1994 The former Primus, Richard Wimbush, who retired in 1977, dies in York, aged eighty-five.

1994 Thomas Winning, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, becomes a Cardinal.

1994 Edinburgh Theological College is closed and replaced by the dispersed Theological Institute of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

1994 Gregor Macgregor is consecrated as Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness. He is the first former Presbyterian Minister to become a Scottish bishop since the years immediately following the Reformation in 1560.

1995 The College of Bishops discusses the abolition of the Dioceses of Argyll and the Isles and of Brechin. It is decided to leave the former in place but recommend that the northern part of Brechin diocese be added to Aberdeen and the southern to St Andrews. The proposal receives minimal support in the General Synod and is abandoned.

1995 A complete revision of the Code of Canons removes gender specific phrasing.

1995 Mission 21 begins, with the Reverend (and soon to be one of the American Canons of Aberdeen) Alice Mann as consultant. The initial phase - Making Your Church More Inviting - has an impact on many congregations across the country.

1996 The Scottish Episcopal Church signs the Porvoo Declaration, bringing it into full communion with the Nordic and Baltic Lutheran Churches, with inter-changeability of clergy.

1996 The former Primus, George Henderson, who retired in 1992, dies in Argyll, aged seventy-five.

1997 Further changes are made to Canon 4 (Canons are now numbered in Arabic rather than Roman numerals) on the election of bishops, enabling the electors to meet candidates.

1997 A second Scottish referundum on the creation of a devolved legislature (the first was held in 1979) leads to the enactment of the Scotland Act 1998 and the re-creation of a Scottish Parliament a year later. The electoral system includes a partial proportional representation system and the first election results in a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition government. Labour wins 56 seats, the Scottish National Party 35, Conservatives 18, Liberal Democrats 17, the Green Party one, Scottish Socialist Party one and one Independent.

1998 The former Primus, Alastair Haggart, dies in Edinburgh, aged eighty-two.

1999 The Reuilly Agreement between the British and Irish Anglican Churches and the French Lutheran and Reformed Churches, in effect, permits shared communion and looks toward a fuller unity.

Another Moment in the Century : Nuns come to Shetland

In October 2022 the Community of Our Lady of the Isles effectively came to its end as the Reverend Mother Mary Agnes left Shetland for greater ease of medical care and to be nearer to her sister and brother-in-law in England. One Sister in life vows continues to live in sheltered care on the Island of Unst.

In 2015 the increasing frailty of some members meant a re-location of the Community from the Island of Fetlar to the neighbouring island of Unst, the most northerly of the Shetland Islands. Both Mother and Sister will continue their vocation of prayer but now in separate locations. More details are given on the Community's website

The piece below is original to the 20th century page of the story of the Scottish Episcopal Church and describes the Community's arrival and life on Fetlar.

Photo: The Chapel of Christ the Encompasser and All His Angels, on the Isle of Fetlar

On the Island of Fetlar it is difficult to avoid seeing the sea - sometimes calm and of the deepest blue, sometimes leaden grey in the haar and sometimes white in the fury of a gale. Few places on the island are out of sight or sound of the sea.

To reach Fetlar from almost anywhere is a considerable journey. Those who have their own boat might, in calm weather, think of anchoring in the Wick of Tresta, the bay off Aithness, but most visitors from afar will come to Shetland either by plane from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen or Inverness or by overnight ferry from Aberdeen to Lerwick, Shetland’s capital. It is a twelve hour voyage (more if the boat calls at Orkney en route) and, for those without a car, a bus can take northbound passengers on the 28 mile journey to Toft and a ferry to Ulsta on the Isle of Yell. The bus continues its journey for 20 miles across Yell to Gutcher, from where there is another and another ferry crossing. - this time across the Bluemull Sound to Fetlar.

Fetlar is the fourth largest of the Shetland Islands – six miles by five – and has around sixty people living there. The name comes from the Old Norse word for “prosperous” and reflects the fact that agricultural land is better than in the peat filled surrounding islands. The main settlement is Houbie, on the south side of the island. Fetlar’s school and only shop are here. (Those coming to Fetlar should be aware that the shop is open for limited hours and also that there is little public transport and no fuel for cars available on the island).

A mile to the east of Houbie is Aithness and right at the tip of the Ness are the modern buildings of the Society of Our Lady of the Isles, looking over the Wick of Tresta and across the sea to the Out Skerries on the horizon. There is no overnight accommodation for guests but visitors are welcome in the Chapel. They are also invited to make themselves tea and coffee in a nearby room with a wonderful view across the sea. It is, though, appreciated when the quiet and prayerful life of the Community is respected.

In 1984 Mother Mary Agnes (then Sister Agnes) came from the Franciscan convent at Posbury in Devon to begin a hermit life on the island, living in a tiny croft house with its byre turned into a chapel. Later she was joined by others and the Society of Our Lady of the Isles was founded in 1988. In Mother Mary Agnes’ words - “A Celtic lifestyle grew from Franciscan roots, and later, in its blossoming, began to bear fruit with a hint of Carthusianism - a recipe that blended all three, and more, resulted in something which is uniquely itself.”

The croft house and byre chapel are still there, the chapel dark and enfolding with the Altar,pews and prayer desks created from the wood of the original cattle stalls. A light, and equally enfolding, Chapel of Christ the Encompasser and All His Angels, has been built as part of a new complex for the sisters. The numbers in the community have fluctuated over the years but it currently consists of two sisters in life vows; two oblates (known as companions, these two women live within the community and share in its work); other oblates living outwith Shetland and, finally, more than a 100 associates, members of the Caim, which is a Celtic word meaning "encompassment", the circle around the Community, sharings its values and ideals wherever they may live.

Daily life at Aithness is centred on God, the community coming together for the Mass and for some of the Prayer Offices, others being said in each of the separate hermitages. Tasks are shared among the community members – telephone calls received, letters and emails answered, the shopping done, the garden and buildings maintained. The lifestyle is so arranged as to provide for solitary and prayerful living within a community. The time over coffee and cake after the Sunday Mass is welcomed both by community members and those who visit for chat and relaxation.

The community was not the first religious house on the island. The earliest was founded by Celtic monks who, in the 8th century, were massacred by Vikings – Gruting Bay on Fetlar is where the Norsemen first came ashore in Britain. Nor is the Community of Our Lady of the Isles the only convent today - Mother Mary Elizabeth, an Orthodox nun, lives elsewhere on the island.

On a hill behind the community’s buildings at Aithness is a tangle of stones known as Hallaria-kirk. It was here that Mother Mary Agnes accepted her call from God to bring monastic life back to the islands. In her first book “A Tide that Sings” she wrote of this place -

“It had a very special feel, conducive to prayer, and had retained from who knows how many years ago the atmosphere of something sacred. A cold wind clutched at my cloak, and wrapping it more closely around me I perched on one of the scattered stones. Had a hermit perhaps lived here long ago? Why had it been dedicated to Saint Hilary, or perhaps it was Saint Hilarion? Had it been the church for this area of the island? Certainly it commanded a magnificent view. South over The Ness, east to Funzie and Everland, west over Houbie and to Tresta, and north to the Vord Hill; one could see the sea on almost every side. Why, though...? Why...? So many questions and why was I so magnetised to the Isles? Only the last question was I able to answer, and that now without a shadow of a doubt. I was magnetised because God was calling me to them.”

Since the day that she entered the convent at Posbury at the age of twenty (and came to Fetlar twenty-one years later) Mother Mary Agnes has sought to live in obedience to God and to do everything for his glory.“This”, she says, “is what it is all about. It doesn’t matter what we do, or how - whether it’s sweeping the floor, or washing the dishes, answering letters or digging in the garden - so long as we do it for the glory of God.”

The Society of Our Lady of the Isles is one of the Episcopal Church's hidden gems. Although difficult to find, the whole Church can value the women who live and pray there, providing a place of a-biding for Christ, a sacred place of worship and peace.

Photo: The Community's buildings at Aithness on the Islle of Fetlar

Mother Mary Agnes has written four books (published by SPCK) about the development of the Community - “A Tide that Sings”; “The Song of the Lark”; “Island Song” and “For Love Alone”. A fifth book is nearing completion.