22 September 2021
Forty years ago tonight, I was ordained and inducted into the parish of Forth:St. Paul’s. It was a mining community on the edge of Lanarkshire, located a thousand feet above sea level between Lanark and West Calder. It was a marvellous beginning. The kirk continues to thrive largely due to its hardworking elders and members.
At twenty-six, it was quite a responsibility to be minister in a parish of four thousand people with a Kirk Session of thirty elders as well as a Congregational Board. But I wasn’t daunted. I had much to learn and plenty of ideas to share. The people were forgiving and always willing to ‘sing a new song’.
One of my former members, Isa, is now in her nineties and has corresponded with us regularly over these forty years. She is the only member in all four parishes who has sustained such an interest. We still look forward to her encouraging letters. She looked after our children when we needed help and they remember her with much affection.
Towards the end of my ministry at Forth, my hair began to thin. Our friend, Isa, took pity on me and gave me a gift – a bottle of Silvikrin to work a cure. I wasn’t as enthusiastic a recipient as I should have been. I was actually afraid of the product and wrote back:
Thanks for introducing me to Silvikrin.
For thirty-five years, I don’t know where I’ve been.
It’s just the answer for my problem hair –
If I waited much longer, there would be nothing there!
But there’s one thing that worries me about this shampoo
And I’m sure this worry has occurred to you!
If the wheat germ takes root and begins to grow
Instead of a minister, you’ll have a scarecrow!
The parish was great fun but also very hard work. However, it confirmed two things. Fulfilling my vocation is the one thing which makes me feel fully alive. And although I had always wanted to be a maths teacher, the ministry confirmed that it would have been restrictive for I loved working with people of all ages – 0-103!
Last Christmas, when the people at Forth sent me the video of the children’s Nativity Play, filmed under restrictive lockdown conditions, I marvelled at the fact that these sixteen children were the grandchildren of the young women who had helped sustain and develop my ministry so long ago. I thank God for their faith in me and their humility in accepting my untested ministry. I am, forever grateful for their confidence and love for they gave birth to my ministry!