From The Manse

Dear Friends,

On the 12th of May, I celebrated the Silver Jubilee of my Ordination. An occasion such as a special anniversary causes one to look back and reflect and I have certainly been doing that in recent days!

I was Ordained in the High Kirk of Rothesay and I recall shortly before leaving the Manse to go to the Church, looking out over Rothesay Bay. On the ferry that was arriving at the pier, I saw the coach with people from Upper Tweeddale in the Borders where I had been the assistant Minister. Then, as I looked to the north of the Island and the Ardbeg area, I saw the coach with people from Campbeltown coming for the service. And I thought ‘Help, this really is happening!’

I was very happy to begin my ministry on Bute where I spent five and a half years before coming to St Ninians Old almost twenty years ago. As I look back and reflect, I have called to mind many things, but it is the people I have known who are foremost in my thoughts.

It has been an enormous privilege to meet and minister to an amazing number of people and though many have gone to ‘greener pastures’, I readily give thanks to God for them and for their kindness to a young minister finding his feet and making a few mistakes in the process!

But my Silver Jubilee has also caused me to think about the future as well. Ministry today is, in many respects, different from when I started out on this wonderful journey twenty- five years ago. In the early years there was much more time to visit people – something I greatly enjoy – but now there seems to be an ever- increasing amount of administration and meetings with the result there is less time to do things I want to do. The decline in the number of Ministers has also meant that many ministers today are not only looking after their own congregation but one that is currently without a minister and the number of such congregations will increase in the coming years.

All that being said, my own view is and always has been that ministry is about people, getting alongside them in times of joy or sorrow, sharing part of life’s journey with them and encouraging them with words ‘from above’.

As we read the Gospels, time and time again there are instances where Jesus is with people and we are told he comforted them, he spoke a word that encouraged them, he spent time with the troubled and those low in spirit. He also fed the hungry and challenged injustice wherever he saw it. I believe Jesus provides us with a pattern to follow and as I said recently, to do what Jesus asks of us does not require us to wear a white collar!

We live in an age where many are lonely, a recent report informed us that a staggering number of young people have contemplated committing suicide and an increasing number of people are experiencing mental health problems. The daily pressure under which many are living also means countless numbers within our communities are suffering from stress and feel overwhelmed by the circumstances in which they find themselves.

As Christian people, let us remember our true calling. Let us be active in reaching out to those who are finding life a struggle and let us endeavour to make the Kingdom real not only in the future but now and in these challenging times.

With my thanks to you for your support and prayers.

Every blessing,

Gary