Daily Devotional reflections

As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will to seek post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.

Sunday 29th March


An attitude of gratitude

Today is the second Sunday of lockdown, and as with many places of worship right across the world, the Old Kirk at Cruden is shut. Apart from the odd Sunday when the roads are impassable due to deep snow or thick ice, this is unprecedented. Even during periods of political and religious upheaval, two world wars, failed crops and tragedies in the fishing and farming communities, the Kirk has remained open. But not now. The doors are locked and the lights are switched off. There is no singing or sermon. The voice of prayer is silent, at least from within the building.

A few thoughts here. The church of course is not the building; it is the people. It is the local community of faith, when we worship together, support one another and seek God. Whilst the Kirk is shut the human voice of prayer is still resonating within heavenly realms. People expressing grief and sadness as they articulate the deepest feelings of anger and pain, yearning for the outbreak to be over, pleading for normal life to return.

Yet there is another way of responding to the current situation. Call it an attitude of gratitude. There is a story of a Christmas Dinner being celebrated in a Nursing Home. Before tucking into platefuls of Turkey & Brussel Sprouts, the residents were invited to say the things they were thankful for. Thanks were expressed for this home in which they could stay, the committed and compassionate staff, families who loved them, people who came to visit. The list went on. Then one little lady spoke up and said, “I'm thankful for two perfectly good teeth, one in my upper jaw & one in my lower jaw that match so I can chew my food.”

Sincere gratitude and thanksgiving are essential components of prayer and worship. And these are amongst the healthiest of all human emotions. The psalm below was originally a processional hymn or chant of praise – sung or spoken by ancient Hebrew pilgrims on their way to worship in the temple in Jerusalem. You can imagine them hot and tired, journeying along hilly dusty roads and then with the temple in sight, bursting into rapturous praise:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
(Psalm 100:4)

I don’t know when the doors of the Kirk will again be open or how long before we can return to worship. But this I promise. Not only will this Psalm be the first hymn we are going to sing, but with thankful and grateful hearts we will worship God, hear His word and give Him thanks and praise.

Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church


Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Ephesians 5:20

"always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."


In your prayers this morning, try and cultivate an attitude of gratitude and give thanks.
Thank God for all the positives in your life.
People who love you, memories of joy, a safe and secure home.
Thank God for all the positives in your community.
People who strive to serve, carers putting their own health and well-being at risk for the sake of others, neighbours looking out for neighbours, retail workers and delivery drivers.
Thank God for all the positives in our nation – Scotland & The United Kingdom
The Queen and members of the Royal Family, The National Health Service, Police & Ambulance Service, Armed Forces, Political Leaders who are prepared to take tough and unpopular decisions.
And give thanks to God for the current situation. That the lessons we are learning will not be forgotten.
Lessons about how we depend on each other; the importance of community; loving others as we love ourselves; the need for properly funded hospitals and public services; the value of faith and place of prayer and the joy and privilege of worship.
When we come out the other side of this crisis, may we emerge better people and a better nation.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

God of all blessings,
source of all life,
giver of all grace:
We thank you for the gift of life:
for the breath
that sustains life,
for the food of this earth
that nurtures life,
for the love of family and friends
without which there would be no life.
We thank you for the mystery of creation:
for the beauty
that the eye can see,
for the joy
that the ear may hear,
for the unknown
that we cannot behold filling the universe with wonder,
for the expanse of space
that draws us beyond the definitions of our selves.
We thank you for setting us in communities:
for families
who nurture our becoming,
for friends
who love us by choice,
for companions at work,
who share our burdens and daily tasks,
for strangers
who welcome us into their midst,
for people from other lands
who call us to grow in understanding,
for children
who lighten our moments with delight,
for the unborn,
who offer us hope for the future.
We thank you for this day:
for life
and one more day to love,
for opportunity
and one more day to work for justice and peace,
for neighbours
and one more person to love
and by whom be loved,
for your grace
and one more experience of your presence,
for your promise:
to be with us,
to be our God,
and to give salvation.
For these, and all blessings,
we give you thanks, eternal, loving God,
through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Count Your Blessings
Count your blessings, not your crosses; count your gains instead of losses.
Count your joys instead of woes; count your friends instead of foes.
Count your smiles instead of tears; count your courage, not your fears.
Count full years instead lean; Count kind deeds instead of mean.
Count your health instead of wealth; Love your neighbour as yourself.



Saturday 28th MarchClosed


'Joy cometh in the morning'

This morning I was out walking the dogs when I noticed a council sign stating that the local play park was closed. This means no playing on the swings, slither down the slide or seeing how fast you can round on the roundabout. Innocent pleasures (for children!) suspended and for the moment banned.
As we continue to journey through this period of lockdown, it is important that keep in mind the context of current events. It will not last for ever. Soon the routines of daily life which until recently we took so much for granted will return. Soon we will be free to mix and mingle. Soon the church will reopen. The building which has for many centuries been a site of Christian worship will again resonate with the sound of the praise and the murmuring of prayer. Soon the children will again to able to head for the park and play on the swing, slither down the slides and get dizzy on the roundabout!
There is a lot of bad news at present. Families separated and unable to visit loved ones in homes or hospital. The death toll is continuing to rise, although thankfully very low in this part of the country. As we remember the anxious and grieving, we also recall the promise of Psalm 30:5:

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

This is how one person puts God’s promise into context:

Joy comes with the dawn.
Joy comes with the dawning of a new season of life.
Joy comes with the light of hope and a future.
Joy comes when we can see God at work by the light of a new day.
Joy comes when the darkness of our pain and difficulty gives way to the warmth and brightness of the Spirit working in us.
Joy comes as the winter of sadness slowly gives way to the hope we find in Scripture.
Joy will come, that much is certain. Light will prevail over darkness.

Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church



Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. (1 Peter 1:8)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control... (Galatians 5:22)

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)


May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health and making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country, let us choose love.
And during this time when we may not be able to physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors. Amen.
Fr. Michael Graham, S.J.
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
Lynn Ungar,
Father in these uncertain, anxious and fearful times.
Where families are separated and friends disconnected.
Where people worry and grieve.
Hear our prayer for
Those who go the extra mile
Those who strive and work long hours to find a cure
Those who lookout for neighbours
Those who risk their own health and well-being for the sake of others.
Bless our hospitals and nursing home and places of care
Bless our communities and those who serve them
Bless and renew your church
And remind us all of your joy. A joy that will be made complete.
‘weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.’
When evil darkens our world, give us light. When despair numbs our souls, give us hope. When we stumble and fall, lift us up. When doubts assail us, give us faith. When nothing seems sure, give us trust. When ideals fade, give us vision. When we lose our way, be our guide! That we may find serenity in Your presence, and purpose in doing Your will.

John D. Rayner

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you,
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face towards you
and give you peace;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen

Numbers 6:24-26


Friday 27th March


‘In lockdown but not separated’

Life is still feeling very strange as we move towards the end of the second week of lockdown! There is so much that is not happening. Shops, pubs, restaurants, gyms and even the golf course are closed. We cannot mix and mingle or freely travel. We risk an on the spot fine if we are part of a gathering of more than two people. Yet we are not separated. We can still communicate in so many ways such as post, phone, Facebook etc.
Why not use this time to catch up on old friends or distant family? And why not use this opportunity to spend more time with God – reading the Bible, praying for those going through difficult times and seeking the renewal of the church.

Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church


Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? it is written:
“For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8: 35-39



There were other doors
once locked in fear,
in a time of waiting
and distress.
It was an uncertain,
questioning time -
longing for what had been known
and treasured before.
Into that space,
calming and soothing,
came these welcome words -
“Peace be with you.”
Peace be with you in every worry,
in every sleepless night,
in every loss experienced,
in every comfort now distant.
Peace be with you in every certainty,
in the shared burden of these days,
in the unexpected connections,
in the gift of another sunset and sunrise.
Peace be with you and yours,
the deepest peace,
the strongest peace,
the peace that passes all understanding.
Christ is our peace
and is in our midst.
His words echo again -
“Peace be with you.”

Rev Dr Lezley Stewart

Give strength to the vulnerable, Lord.
Give peace to the troubled, Lord.
Give the gift of faith to the fearful, Lord.
We pray for those who are alone tonight, with no-one to check on them, and no-one to talk to. Please use us as Your Voice to the lonely, as Your hands to those who need Care, and as Your feet to those who need to know that someone is there.
We pray for parents and families. As they settle into long periods at home, may they find rhythm in their days and routine in their uncertainty.
We pray for strength and wisdom for those who are caring for the sick, and tending to those in need.
We pray for eyes to notice You in the faces of others. We pray for hearts of compassion to see the needs of those around us. We pray for wisdom in our own decisions. We pray for peace, for ourselves, for those around us, and for our communities.
Give us grace to rest in Your Presence and to trust in Your mercy. May anxiousness be replaced with quiet trust and hope.



Thursday 26th March



Yesterday I was speaking with a member of our congregation at Cruden Church (by phone of course!). They spoke of their sense of isolation at not being able to go about or visit a close family member who is in hospital, and compared the current lockdown as being under house arrest. That is not a bad description to what many of us are feeling at the present time. House arrest of course means isolation. Isolated from the people we love and care about. Isolation from the church family. Isolation from our place of work or leisure. This is the cruel irony of the present situation. Isolation is necessary to protect ourselves and the people we care about. But isolation is costly and painful.

I would usually argue that Christians who isolated themselves from worship and fellowship without good cause are being disobedient to the Lord. As the German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in 1930, “A Christian who stays away from the assembly is a contradiction in terms.” The writer to the Book of Hebrews saw worship and fellowship as the key way of encouraging and supporting each other, spurring one another towards love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10: 23-25) But there are times when isolation can be creative and necessary and when God does his deepest work. And don’t forget, we may be isolated but we are never alone!

Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church


What are you learning about yourself in this time of isolation? What are learning about faith?


Matthew 14:23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.

Luke 5:16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.


Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise you can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
so that the elders may have someone to call on.
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting.
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way.
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic-
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,

Fr. Richard Hendrick,

God of endless love,
ever caring, ever strong,
always present, always just:
You gave your only Son
to save us by the blood of his cross.
Gentle Jesus, shepherd of peace,
join to your own suffering
the pain of all who have been hurt
in body, mind, and spirit
by those who betrayed the trust placed in them.
Hear the cries of our brothers and sisters
who have been gravely harmed,
and the cries of those who love them.
Soothe their restless hearts with hope,
steady their shaken spirits with faith.
Grant them justice for their cause,
enlightened by your truth.
Holy Spirit, comforter of hearts,
heal your people’s wounds
and transform brokenness into wholeness.
Grant us the courage and wisdom,
humility and grace, to act with justice.
Breathe wisdom into our prayers and labours.
Grant that all harmed by abuse may find peace in justice.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.



Tuesday 25th March


Interesting story in this morning’s P&J [READ THE STORY] about how people are reacting to the Coronavirus. There are a wide range of emotions including denial, fear, shock and anger. Curiously, these are the emotions often triggered by grief and bereavement. Perhaps we should not be surprised by this. We have all lost so much. Loss of routine. Loss of work. Loss of freedom to associate, Loss of freedom to live our lives.


My biggest loss is not being able to visit folk or attend worship. To this could be added uncertainty. How long will the current lock down last for? Will we have a job or buisness to return to? Are we going to lose close family or friends?
As Christians we are of course not immune from these feelings. But alongside our human feelings there are another set of feelings that are generated through faith. These include hope, love, patience and an awareness that God is with us.
One Christian writer, John Ortberg makes this very thought provoking comment:

“Scripture alternates between hair-raising risks and assurances of impregnable security. And when we look at the lives of great followers of God, we see this combination of breath-taking risks with an almost brazen confidence of being safe in God’s hands.

So, when your world is turned upside down and your journey hard and difficult, where do you turn for help? What is your source for the confidence you need to face the struggles and uncertainties of life?

Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church


I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121

Jesus said, "I am always with you"

Matthew 28:20


The solace and hope of Psalm 121 sometimes seems elusive.
Let us pause and reflect on the help our Lord offers.

I lift up my eyes to the hills –
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth. (NRSV)
Lord, help us to lift our eyes up to you that we would look to you for help and strength. When we focus our eyes on ourselves or on the comforts of this world, draw our eyes back to you. God in your mercy: Lord, hear our prayer.
God will not let your foot be moved;
God who keeps you will not slumber.
God who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
Even as we grow weary, Lord, we know that you do not. Sometimes the help you offer us is an invitation to rest. Too often we refuse this gift saying, “There is no time!” May we not forget that like the heaven and the earth, time is also your creation.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
Lord, you are always with us, and all of our circumstances are under your control and authority. When the sun seems too hot please lead us to the shade you offer. When the nighttime seems too dark, help us find the light by which you guide us.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
the LORD will keep your life.
Lord, you protect our soul and our eternity belongs to you.
You were I AM before us and you will be I AM after we are no longer here. There is nowhere we can go that you are not. Help us to trust. Help us to be faithful. Help us to truly know you.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in
from this time on and forevermore.
In the entirety of our lives and the briefness of our moments; in our living and our dying; in our joy and our sorrow; in scarcity and abundance may we always lift our eyes to you, O Lord.
Lord… our help, maker of heaven and earth.
Lord… who does not sleep.
Lord… who provides both shade and light.
Lord… keeper of our life: our going out, our coming in.
Lord… who keeps us.
I lift up my eyes to the hills –
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth. (NRSV)


Rev. Michelle Henrichs


Tuesday 24th March

There was an interesting story in the news this morning about a seventy-two year old Italian priest – Father Giuseppe Berardelli, who died in hospital in Lovere, Bergamo - one of the worst-hit cities in Italy. According to the hospital, he refused to use a respirator his parishioners had bought for him - choosing to give it to a younger patient, instead. As his coffin was taken for burial (without a funeral) the residents of the community he served were reported to have applauded from their windows and balconies.

We do not know how long the current lockdown will last. We do not know how many lives this virus is going to claim. We do not know how long it will take for people’s lives and buisness to recover. What we do know is that God calls us to live lives shaped and infused by love.

In contrast to the selfish snowflakes greedily buying more than they need or can ever possibly use, it is remarkable how many people are helping folks they have never met before. Of neighbours looking out for neighbours. Not forgetting carers and medical staff who put their own lives at risk for the sake of others.

Rev Sean Swindells


Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever. To him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
Who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
Who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever. Who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
The sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
The moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

Psalm 136

A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:34-35


• Give thanks for people looking out for neighbours.
• Give thanks for medical staff and carers who risk their own health for the sake of others.
• Give thanks for politicians who are prepared to make hard choices and will not compromise public safety.
• Give thanks for people who work in shops and pharmacies, who deliver essential supplies and keep our communities safe.
• Give thanks for people whose generosity is stronger than the selfishness of others.

Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ,
you taught us to love our neighbour,
and to care for those in need
as if we were caring for you.
In this time of anxiety, give us strength
to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick,
and to assure the isolated
of our love, and your love,
for your name’s sake.

God of compassion,
be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation.
In their loneliness, be their consolation;
in their anxiety, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light;
through him who suffered alone on the cross,
but reigns with you in glory,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

For those who are ill
Merciful God,
we entrust to your tender care
those who are ill or in pain,
knowing that whenever danger threatens
your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe.
Comfort and heal them,
and restore them to health and strength;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

For hospital staff and medical researchers
Gracious God,
give skill, sympathy and resilience
to all who are caring for the sick,
and your wisdom to those searching for a cure.
Strengthen them with your Spirit,
that through their work many will be restored to health;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

From one who is ill or isolated
O God,
help me to trust you,
help me to know that you are with me,
help me to believe that nothing can separate me
from your love
revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord.

For the Christian community
We are not people of fear:
we are people of courage.
We are not people who protect our own safety:
we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.
We are not people of greed:
we are people of generosity.
We are your people God,
giving and loving,
wherever we are,
whatever it costs
For as long as it takes
wherever you call us.

Barbara Glasson
President of the Methodist Conference


Monday 23 March 2020


This morning I drove into Aberdeen for a 9.00 am meeting. Unlike our usual meetings, we decided to meet in the carpark at Duthie Park and continued our conversation from a respectful distance. It was a surreal experience. The rush hour roads were very quiet and our meeting was without coffee. We are indeed living in strange times!

Our usual response to the loss of routine and encountering the new and usual is often one of fear. Fear of not knowing what is going to happen. Fear for the health and well-being of our loved ones. Fear about unemployment or whether a business will survive. Many of these fears are well founded.

As Christians we are not excluded from these fears. But our fear and uncertainty should be undergirded by the knowledge and experience of God’s presence whose gift is peace and hope.


So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand

Isaiah 41:10



Almighty God,
Beneath your wings
Filled with light
I have no fear.
Wading through truth
Clean and bright
I have no fear.
Dwelling in love
Safe at night
I have no fear.
Soaking in your hope
Eternity sings
I have no fear.


May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

A wee note about the blessing
The blessing is known in Hebrew as the “Nesiat Kapayim.” The text is a direct quotation from Numbers 6: 24-26. In 1970 archaeologists uncovered a silver amulet with this blessing etched upon it. The find is thought to date back to the seventh century BC, probably making this the oldest known remnant of scripture. This ancient Hebrew blessing is also thought to be inspiration behind the Vulcan Blessing, made famous by Mr Spock in Star Trek. ("Live long and prosper.")