On December 12, I took up a bishop’s offer and spent a day in Aberdeen, Scotland. The train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen, much like Metro-North, is a commuter train that takes about 2.5 hours. With coffee in hand, my friend Ashley and I cruised up along the coastline of Scotland greeting the sun on a cloudy day.
We were greeted by Bishop Anne Dyer, wrapped in a big scarf and an even bigger smile. We took a short walk to the Diocesan office for more coffee and cakes. The diocesan office is located in Marischal College. The building is a granite monstrosity of gothic architecture and houses a very Connecticut plaque in the courtyard of the building.
“This Tablet is by permission of the authorities of this university erected by Churchmen of Connecticut to preserve the memory of the place in Long Acre very near this sport where on the 14th November 1784 Samuel Seabury D.D. was consecrated the First Bishop of the Church in America.”
“I walk by this every time I walk into my office,” Bishop Dyer said as we looked at the plaque and I fan-girled a bit.
The next stop was to walk through the halls of the old college to the office of the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney. The diocese’s neighbors have leaked their collection into the hallway, their collection of bones. Yes, that is right, bones. And not just at random bones, but hundreds of human bones of monks from a former monastery in Scotland.
So guarding the diocesan offices is a literal communion of saints.
The diocesan offices look a bit like a smaller version of The Commons. Exposed beams, collaborative workspace, and smiling faces. We sat down for a cup of coffee and cakes, and had a look around the room.
Connecticut is very present in Bishop Dyer’s office; she has a drawing of the Glebe House and the Consecration of Bishop Seabury hanging side-by-side. Continently this trip to Aberdeen brought my experience at the Glebe House full circle. Hanging above Bishop Dyer’s desk is a framed display of bishop’s seals dating back to the 1600s through the 1800s.
We finished up our coffee and walked over to the cathedral. St. Andrew’s Cathedral, much like the diocesan offices, is not without its ties to the Episcopal Church in the USA. Not only are you immediately greeted by plaques and prayers for the collaborative relationship, but along the port side of the nave are state seals from all 50 states.
Bishop Dyer explained that not only does St. Andrew’s Cathedral feel a close connection to the States, but the whole diocese takes their relationship with The Episcopal Church to heart. It felt like we were walking through the home of a grandmother, and witnessing the pride she had for us.
The cathedral is very much a worshipping congregation, and their building is much like other buildings throughout the church – in need of repair and held up by the prayers of those inside. Cracked plaster and peeling paint are in complete juxtaposition to the beautifully intricate golden baldachin, carved by a former parishioner.
After touring the cathedral and learning more about the absolute importance of the Jacobite rebellions to the Scottish Episcopalians of Aberdeen and Orkney, we headed over to the Cathedral Church of St. Machar of the Church of Scotland. This church has one of the most impressive ceilings I have ever seen.
Next up was a visit to the University of Aberdeen and the King’s College Chapel. Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed inside the chapel, but the chapel does boast some pretty impressive woodwork and stained glass.
Mid-afternoon we hit a bit of a cathedral visitation overload and headed to the Aberdeen Art Gallery. If you remember from my interview with Bishop Dyer for Coffee Hour at The Commons, Bishop Dyer tries her best to see art every day; and every Monday she offers Picturing Prayer reflections on the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney’s Facebook page.
After some prayerful time looking at paintings and pottery, we headed back to the train station for dinner and a pint before heading on our way back to Edinburgh.
Before we left, Bishop Dyer extended another invitation to all of ECCT to visit Aberdeen and to pray for their diocese, our parent diocese and our partners.
Thank you Bishop Dyer and the staff in Aberdeen, I can’t wait to visit again! Cheers!