Minutes of the Congregational Annual Stated Meeting of Dornoch Cathedral for the year 2020/2021, together with a Statement of Accounts for the year ended 31 December 2020 as held in a virtual Zoom meeting on Sunday 30th May 2021 at 7.30pm.

The Moderator, the Very Rev Dr Susan M. Brown, constituted the Meeting with a reading and with prayer.

There were approximately 27 members and adherents attending.

Apologies were received from members of the congregation who were not present.

Due to the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, the 2020 Annual Stated Meeting was cancelled.
    What a year!
    What challenges everyone has faced on a personal level, as communities, as a nation and as a world. Those challenges have been there too, on every level, for us as individual people of faith, as a congregation of God’s people in Dornoch Cathedral and as the Church of Scotland. It is not every day we face a global pandemic and yet every day for over a year that is exactly what we have faced.
    The restrictions introduced by the government under the guidance of the Chief Medical Officer, to safeguard people of all ages has meant only sporadic gatherings for worship and only for a few. Not being able to meet together in ways we were used to, was a huge issue. We are a body of people, called to come together to worship God and to serve the community and for us not to be able to do that rocked our faith boat.
    How could we continue in fellowship together and keep safe? How long would these measures last? How do we keep a sense of community going when there is no communion?
    Additional challenges emerged. The use of paper was discouraged for fear of carrying the virus that way – which meant newsletters, in the beginning especially, were not advised. Members of the Kirk Session where possible, have tried to keep in touch with people by telephone, but we have relied heavily on individuals, looking out for individuals.
    Services moved from in person to online. There was an incredibly steep learning curve to negotiate when it came to putting together videos. Software had to be bought and familiarity with operating systems, mastered. I am grateful for everyone’s patience with the process. Much has been learned.
    There was the minefield of licences to work through. We have one which means we can print out and project the words of hymns (CCLI 615004) – and that licence has been renewed. During the first year we also has a PRS for Music Licence, as well as a streaming licence. These latter two have been replaced by a new Streaming Plus licence that ensures all the copyright and performance issues are covered.
    We put the service on social media, on the Cathedral facebook page and also created an account for the Cathedral on YouTube. The service can also be accessed on the Cathedral website – thanks to Chris Ferne. But that is only for the videos.
    We realised that not everyone is online and so a telephone line was set up where, by dialling a local number, the service could be heard as an audio only file. This required a new telephone number and paying a hosting rental through a company called Twilio.
    The telephone line and the Sunday services will continue to be made available.
    When we have been able to meet in person, the video has been used to give a sense of community with those listening in and watching in – but with additional prayers and thoughts.
    I am grateful to the cleaning team who regularly clean the Cathedral and help to maintain it as a safe environment. The Church of Scotland has offered regular updates on the safest procedures for churches and congregations which are rigorous. We are grateful for the help – even when, at times, it seems we operate far stricter rules than anyone else!
    We have looked to engage people more widely in the cycle of the Christian year through Advent, Christmas, Lent, Holy Week and Easter. We offered paper versions of thoughts at Advent and found very few taking the offer up, while many have taken part in the Walk and Talk’s offered, the online daily thoughts, as well as the zoom gatherings and the outdoor walks. A QR code Advent Calendar was a great success as are the virtual Walk and Talks.
    We are grateful for the Dornoch Firth Group (our community engagement arm) for faithfully working through all these weeks and months to ensure that people who need practical help with food, are able to get that help. They have ensured people are safe when they are called for their vaccination – no mean feat given the numbers it involves.
    We are grateful too, for the newest, short term project “Keeping In Touch” (KIT) which aims to do as it says on the label: it aims to keep people in touch by providing those with no online presence, to get online, with help from their family or from friends. No knowledge is needed and one option means the device can be operated remotely – so no worries about pressing the wrong buttons!
    Weddings have been very few and very small during this time and funerals have presented a very different challenge with the very restricted numbers allowed and all the additional emotional trauma of people not always having been able to see their loved one before their passing. The plan is to find some communal way of helping people to mark their loss in a meaningful way when restrictions allow.
    The Cathedral, like every congregation, has taken an enormous hit financially with not having services and with not being open to visitors. We are very grateful to those who give directly and can give you details if this is something you would like to do. We owe a big debt of gratitude to Kim and the Finance team for all their efforts over this last while and as we face what lies ahead.
    Alongside all these pandemic-related challenges for the congregation, the Church of Scotland nationally has been going through tumultuous times and with my national responsibilities, it has been non stop, full on, time consuming and in turn both incredibly frustrating and wonderful! Just over a year ago I had barely heard of zoom – now it is a daily occurrence – sometimes multiple times in a day along with Teams.
    We have rocky times still to face. People have got used to not coming to church. There are all sorts of questions around when to worship, how to worship, how to engage the community more widely, how to reach out – as well as discerning what it is God wants is to do for his people in this place and more widely – and for the world itself.
    At this ASM our Session Clerk, Kisha Black is stepping down from office. Kisha has given unwavering support not only to me and to the Kirk Session, but to the whole congregation, over her time as ‘Boss’. Far from ruling the roost, Kisha has quietly and faithfully fulfilled her role without any great fuss and has gone way above and beyond duty in her efforts on our behalf. I suspect we will only discover exactly how much she has done as, in the coming months, we see evidence of how many fingers she had in so many pies.
    Kisha, the congregation of Dornoch Cathedral cannot thank you enough for your wisdom, guidance, care and passion for the faith, that called you to serve as Session Clerk and for your care and passion too for the family of God in this place as well as for the building. We will miss your vision and humour and practical help but we wish you every blessing in your retirement and pray we will build on the legacy you are leaving. You have been and are, an enormous blessing. Thank you.
    We are right now, in the season of Pentecost and Pentecost reminds us that the God we worship, calls us through Christ to share in his mission of spreading the Good News of the Gospel. That means gathering together, whether virtually or in person, in order to go out into the community and world beyond, both to talk and to listen. It means sharing our lives with the lives of all those around us. And doing so because we know, how freeing and life-giving the love of God, is. So wonderful, that we want it to be, way more infectious than any virus.
    Let God continue to lead, guide, drive and inspire us. To his eternal glory and in the name of Jesus Christ.

    Very Rev Dr Susan M Brown, Moderator

    We have a lot to be thankful for. Despite Covid and all it’s implications, financial and otherwise, the Cathedral being closed for much of the year, weddings and concerts being cancelled, and offerings being significantly less, we have ended the year with a £14,016 plus in unrestricted income over expenditure.
    Unrestricted income is down by £5,744, but expenditure was down by a much larger figure, £15,521 and this was a major factor in the increase in our excellent year end figure.
    Offerings were down, but donations and a larger Gift Day figure helped to offset that.
    From restricted funds, we had no major payments in 2020, as the bill for the clock repair did not come in until 2021. However we had much less ‘regular’ restricted income with no safe, no sales tables and no rent for the WCH. There is an upside to having no lets though - we have been very glad to be able to offer the WCH to the Foodbank who have used it throughout the year and more recently Dornoch Medical Practice who are using it to roll out the Covid vaccines.
    Looking forward to 2021, we continue to work to find ways to keep financially viable. It will not be an easy task, as we must balance what we are likely to have with what we are likely to need. Some hopes are to have a warmer church, a better sound system and to be able to meet the bills for the inevitable repairs and maintenance of a very old listed building, but we have to consider every possibility and remember that whatever we do affects future congregations as well the current one. In the short term at least, our income in terms of offerings is almost certain to remain lower than previous years. We hope that we will have some safe income and sales tables income this year, and that the WCH is available for lets after the summer, however we also need to try to find other income sources. We have not enough funds for everything, and realistically choices will have to be made.
    Keeping that in mind, we do end the year on a good note. We are solvent, we have a net income over expenditure, and we have exceptional financial support from our congregation and friends. We have a lot to be thankful for.
    I would like to thank all of you for continuing to support the Cathedral financially, especially through the Covid pandemic. We would not be in this fortunate position without you.
    Many thanks also to Alison and Fay, and you all, for your on-going help and support. The above Finance Report was received and accepted, with discussed corrections, by the Meeting.

    Kim McCarthy, Cathedral Treasurer

    Gift Aid Claims
    There were two claims made in 2020, one at the end of June for £9,540.49 and one at the end of December for £10,247.16
    There was also a claim for £4,000 made under small claims.
    The above Gift Aid Report was received and accepted by the Meeting.

    Kim McCarthy, Cathedral Treasurer

    General maintenance
    1. The lower right hand corner of the Sutherland memorial plaque, in the chancel, has broken off and needs repairing. Still waiting for this to be done.
    2. The woodwork around the clock faces has been repaired and clad in lead. This should mean that no maintenance work will be required for some considerable time.
    3. The additional handrail at the west door has been installed.
    4. The worn steps at the West door have been replaced.
    5. The lifting and relaying the paver blocks at the north door still to be done.
    6. Hope to start work on the path from the north door to the boiler house later on after
    all COVID restrictions have been lifted.

    West Church Hall
    1. A path was proposed from the car park round to the main door to ease wheelchair access but this may not be necessary if the council put in a dropped kerb at the car park. Still no word yet from the Council regarding this option.
    2. The wall to the north of the WCH was in danger of collapsing. The remedial work has been carried out by Highland Council at no cost to ourselves.

    The Manse
    Nothing to report.

    John Calder, Property Convener

    No Report.
    No report

    Due to the Covid Pandemic the Woman’s Group have only met twice in ‘real life’ over the last year. One evening we managed a socially distanced walk and on another evening we gathered, again socially distanced, in a barn to make our Christmas wreaths. For the rest of the year our meetings have been by Zoom where we have enjoyed continued fellowship and catching up with one another. One of the highlights of our year was when we baked and did a doorstep drop of cakes for our friends in the Cathedral Guild. Hopefully next year we will be able to engage slightly more with each other face to face.

    Caroline Gilchrist & Morag MacAskill

    No report

    When we broke up for the Easter break in March 2020 little did we think that 15 months later we would still not be meeting ‘normally’. Neither the Anchor Boys or the Junior Section met until the end of September 2020 when we started meeting outside on a fortnightly basis. We managed to keep this going until the end of November and then started up again in February. Who knew that taking boys for torchlight walks in woods, hide and seek in the dunes, climbing hills, playing on the beach, cycle runs to Embo (and back!) and games in fields, along with other outdoor activities would prove to be so popular. The weather was very kind to us all winter – spring has been a bit damp! The parents have been very supportive and they and the boys appear delighted to have some out of school activities to help burn off some excess energy. The Anchor Boys meet this week for an end of session barbeque and the Junior Section next week and that will be us till the end of August. Hopefully by then we will be able to have access to the West Church Hall for our meetings but appreciate that the demands on the hall are high at this time.
    One sadness is that we have not been able to invite new boys to join us this year but with 18 in Junior Section and 10 in Anchor Boys we really do have enough to keep us busy. We will do a recruitment drive in August.
    Isabel Gillespie and I are ably helped each week by Kenny Shepherd and Ali Morrison and the BB boys love having these boys as role models.

    Morag MacAskill, Isabel Gillespie - Boys Brigade

    DFG are still running the foodbank at the West Church Hall and have raised over £150,000 for the community since March 2020. There are still have about 120 volunteers who are part of the Dornoch Resilience Project run in conjunction with The Highland Council. DFG volunteers are also helping man the doors at the Vaccine Clinics at the West Church Hall.
    Currently DFG are trying to sort out a permanent Food Larder for Dornoch and Embo and have funds set aside for it.
    The Men’s Shed now has an extension and we have some lovely new tools including a planer thicknesses, bandsaw, cordless power tools, amazing professional no-dust sanding system. The pottery workshop is now kitted out with 3 pottery wheels etc and the kiln is arriving in June.
    DFG also have a project called Keeping in Touch in partnership with Dornoch Cathedral.

    Charles Minall, Dornoch Firth Group

    Due to the pandemic, no Deacons’ Court meeting have been held in person. The following Deacons were due to retire at this ASM; Anne Chambers, Ann Creed, Jonathan Creed, Maureen Mackay, Elspeth Sim, Alison Mackenzie, Gwen Muir, Margaret Robertson and Ros Oliver-Jones. They were asked if you would be willing to stay on for a further year and this was agreed by all.
    Grateful thanks to Eileen Aitken who has had to retire from the DC. Her input will be sorely missed.
    At this point, the retiring Session Clerk, Kisha Black, made the following statement:-

    “This is probably the last time I can officially interrupt the Moderator so I am going to make the most of it.
    We all know the Moderator's job is not an easy one - trying to please the entire congregation is an impossible task even for a saint. But you have to hand it to the Very Rev Dr Susan Brown that over the past year she has excelled in a manner like never before. She has provided a daily thought and innumerable services for online viewing, touching loads of people who would not normally darken the door of a church and probably never will but she is still getting the message out. That has been a tremendous achievement and her skill and dedication should be acknowledged. So thank you Moderator, our own Rev Susan Brown, and we look forward to your continued, inspired support for this parish and far beyond”.
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The Moderator closed the 2021 Annual Stated Meeting with prayer and benediction.