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Dornoch Cathedral set to welcome Moderator of church of Scotland for 800th year celebrations

By Caroline McMorran

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The Moderator of the Church of Scotland will be in Sutherland this weekend to mark a significant milestone in the history of the 13th century Dornoch Cathedral.

The Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton is to join the cathedral congregation to celebrate both Easter and the 800th anniversary of the first stones of the cathedral being laid. It will be her first visit to the ancient building.

The Moderator of The Church of Scotland the Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton.
The Moderator of The Church of Scotland the Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton.
Dornoch Cathedral.
Dornoch Cathedral.

Church officers have put together a jam-packed, three-day programme of events ranging from special services to songs of praise, storytelling, a flower festival and a fundraising lunch.

A spokesperson for the cathedral issued an open invitation to all to join in the celebrations, saying: “Please come and join us for this amazing celebration. Everyone is welcome.”

The Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton will also visit Oversteps Care Home, which is run by the church’s social care arm, Crossreach Scotland, and Dornoch Distillery, where a special cask of whisky is being set aside to mark the anniversary.

Speaking earlier this week, she said: "I am very excited and looking forward to the weekend as I have never visited Dornoch Cathedral before.

“I can't wait to see it and spend time with folk - it is amazing that faith communities have thrived in spaces for generations and generations and will continue to do so.

“I find these visits the most inspiring part of this Moderator role and it helps to really connect you with what is happening in the local church on the ground, the good stuff and the challenges too.

“I also think it is encouraging for people to see that Moderators of the General Assembly are out and about in parishes and walking alongside them.

“It is critical to be a good and deep listener because there are some amazing things going on in the local church and I can take that back to the church offices.

“As a Church, we need to be constantly thinking about what we need to do to succeed and thrive and try and make sure that congregations are properly resourced.”

A grade A listed building, Dornoch Cathedral was built by Gilbert de Moravia, the first Earl of Sutherland and Bishop of Caithness, at his own expense and work began in 1224. By 1239 the building was ready for the first service to be held.

The cathedral was set on fire in 1570 during a clan feud. It was almost completely destroyed but was partially restored in 1616. The restoration was completed between 1835 and 1837.

There have been changes to the church structure in recent months with Dornoch Cathedral uniting with Creich and Kincardine, Croick and Edderton to form the new charge of Dornoch Firth Church of Scotland. A service of union was held on March 10.

The Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton will visit Oversteps at 11am on Saturday. Other events on the day include Playing 2005 Songs of Sutherland DVD at the West Church Hall from 2.30-3.30pm followed by Stories and Songs - Darkness to Light from 4pm-5pm. A labyrinth at Dornoch cathedral will be open from 5pm-7pm.

People can either walk the labyrinth, which is made up of stones and nightlights, or just sit in the cathedral and watch others walk while listening to music over the sound system.

On Sunday, March 31, the Moderator will attend an Easter sunrise service at the beach car park at 6.35am and will preach at Easter Sunday morning service in the cathedral at 11am.

She will then join members of the congregation and invited guests for a Christian Aid fundraising lunch in the West Church Hall after the service at 12.30pm.

And to round off a busy day she will introduce a favourite hymn at the Celebrations Songs of Praise in the cathedral at 6.30pm.

On Monday, April 1, the Moderator will visit those setting up the Flower Festival in the cathedral at 10am. The festival will run from Tuesday to Sunday April 2-7.

A Church of Scotland spokesperson said said: “The Moderator has been invited to visit Dornoch Distillery on Easter Monday. They are setting aside a cask of whisky that morning which will be available for sale at the main celebrations of 800 years of worship in 2039. All profits from the limited edition will go to the cathedral.”

Liz Manson, a member of the Dornoch Firth Church Session Clerk Team, said: “It is an exciting time for us as three congregations have come together and are looking forward to the future with shared optimism.

“We have a fantastic weekend of events arranged to mark this important anniversary.

“We are really looking forward to the Moderator’s visit and hope that her presence will be joyful and uplifting and help encourage unity amongst members of our newly extended church family.

“The cathedral is at the heart of the town and has been for centuries and the 800th anniversary celebration is good news for everyone, people of faith and none."

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