From The Manse

Dear Friends,

During my holiday in August I spent a few days on the Island of Arran. I have visited the Island on many occasions and I never fail to marvel at its beauty and the friendliness of the people.

On this particular visit I crossed over to Holy Island which is a short sail from Lamlash. The sun shone, the sky was blue and the sense of peace and calm was amazing. As I walked on the Island I spent some time thinking, some time reflecting and a lot of time praying! It was a great day and one I will remember for a long time.

Recently a number of ministers and elders within the Presbytery of Stirling met together to think about the challenges facing the Church of Scotland in these days. Some statistics were shared with us, which I, in turn share with you;

In 1995 the membership of the Church of Scotland was 700,000. By 2015 it had dropped to 363,000 and in the same period the number of ministers declined by 34%.

Today 76% of ministers are over the age of 60 and 50% of ministers are due to retire in the next five years.

Within the Presbytery of Stirling there has in the period 2000-2016 been a 38% reduction in the number of members.

The number of vacant charges is increasing and vacancies are lasting longer, some up to five years and more.

These statistics are in some sense alarming and a very real cause for concern. Inevitably, changes will have to come but before they do it is my firm opinion that we should not rush and come up with short term solutions to what are fundamental and long term challenges. Instead, we should listen to what proposals come to us from the Presbytery and the General Assembly and then we should take time to think, reflect and pray, and I believe, as we do so, we will find that within both ourselves and our congregation, we will know a sense of peace and calm, and in that circumstance, we will be better able to make the right decisions.

In May, the General Assembly issued a call to the Church to pray, specifically for God to renew us and to pray about the future of the Church. We will be offering prayers Sunday by Sunday but I encourage you at home to also pray for the Church and to pray for me and the Kirk Session that we may be faithful and be able to discern the leading of God’s Holy Spirit in these times.

Every blessing,

Your friend and minister,

Gary J McIntyre