Rector’s Letter – February 2017

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3.5-6 (NLT)

Dear folks,

I’m acutely aware that in the SEC and other churches, in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK, being incumbent of just one charge is something of a luxury these days for both congregations and their pastor. Further, even incumbents with responsibility for several churches are doing significant roles within the diocese and province. I’m pleased that now that I am fully settled, and we have completed the bulk of our buildings project, I am now able to take on my fair share of responsibility in the diocese, and have recently been appointed convenor of the Congregational Growth Group. The group oversees the Growing Congregations process (replacing the clunky Mission Action Planning process), and the annual Gathering, among other things. It’s a commitment of a few hours a month that will hopefully make a helpful contribution to the life of the diocesan family of which we are part.

On the 26th of this month I will reach a personal milestone having been at St Mary’s for 4 years! That’s not normally a big anniversary or significant birthday for anyone else, but it’s rather special to me because I have now been with you longer than I have been in any previous post since leaving my home town in 1998 to prepare for full time ministry. You may well think you understand why I have never achieved 4 years previously, but actually it’s mostly been due to the way that the unusual types of posts I have held are often funded, and developments in my vocational path.

My first post was a 3 year appointment with the Church Army bus project. Although the following post was a 5 year post, my vocation as a pioneer priest was affirmed just 3 years into it and I was quickly deployed in my new context and ordained soon after. So although I was not serving in a church under an incumbent my next post following ordination was technically a curacy and so was 3 years. The final post before I came to St Mary’s was only a 2 year appointment due to imminent reordering of parishes in that area that was scheduled to take place in 2013.

Despite my sense of achievement at reaching it, 4 years does seem rather pathetic in contrast to Canon Malcolm’s 50 year long incumbency, (a record I am not aiming to break!). I occasionally look back over the portraits in the priest’s Vestry which provide an interesting historical visual record of former incumbents of St Mary’s and wonder what their vocational pathway were that brought them here and took them away, what ministry with St Mary’s was like then, and what their legacies might have been. Among them I note there are several who were around much less than Canon Malcolm, some only 2 or 3 years. I am sure as I did in previous posts they had their reasons, but that seems short to me. My own policy is to have no plans for how long I might remain in any post, but to simply always be open to the prompting of the Lord to explore opening doors.

I was approached recently to consider an exciting new post which was very much the kind of post I would normally be keen to pursue. I was a bit taken back and rather intrigued. As with any important matter like this Andrea and I prayerfully brought the invitation to God and took time to reflect before giving my answer. But I really didn’t need long to respond – I know where I am meant to be for the time being.

So I am delighted to reach this milestone with you, and God willing, perhaps several more yet. And I’m very much looking forward to the 26th February, not just because it is the actual anniversary day of my institution as your rector, but also because Bishop David will be with us to confirm members of our Young Church. Hazel is one of them and there may be another yet which we will know closer to the time. There will be a bring-and-share lunch in the hall after the service to celebrate. Please keep the candidates in your prayers as they prepare to take this significant step in their journey of faith.