Tag Archives: Moray Firth

Inspirers

In my recent posting (For All) I paid my personal tribute to the countless men and women to whom I shall be eternally grateful. By their encouragement, support and love, aware of it or not, they contributed in no small measure to the development and maturing of my 41 years of active ministry. As I concluded the piece, nostalgia refused to take a rest and pointed me in the direction of another group within the church of inspirers and encouragers – ministers appointed to an area of work with and alongside colleagues. My young daughter came home from school one day somewhat perturbed. She had been quizzed by the girls, “what does your Dad work at Monday to Saturday?” Or something similar! I can assure anyone who thinks of a minster of religion to be on to a good thing, as I was greeted once – “the one day in the week man”, it is not so. Believe me if that is the regard in which the ministry is held, God, forgive us! And In our situation active and honest colleagueship is absolutely vital.

Anne Burgess [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Findochty. Anne Burgess [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Again I must confess my heart-felt gratitude for the encouragement and support of our brothers and sisters in ministry. Within the bounds of confidentiality I am about to share with you snippets of my story in this regard. These will be in the main senior ministers in positions of responsibility, such as superintendent ministers (supers) and chairs of district. They are appointed and given a pastoral role, not least for those in the early stages of ministry. It is with some reluctance that this little story is told because it is partially one of minor criticism but criticism nonetheless. Given my situation in 1953 at the end of college days I was sent, a single man, to serve my three years’ probation prior to ordination, at Findochty and Cullen. A tough assignment for a student probationer – the kind of appointment where you may understandably expect the superintendent to feature in his role as mentor and pastor. Not so within the Methodist set-up on the Moray Firth. I scarcely saw my super save on his four or five annual visits to comply with ‘Standing Orders.’ Here I come to my criticism – it was a bad system despite it being the practise for around 25 years before I arrived on the scene. My landlady ‘collected’ probationer ministerial lodgers! I might criticise the system, but not the supers who preside over it. I served with two of them as one moved on another took his place. There was no suggestion of negligence on their part but they resided 63 miles from my patch and not many ministers had a car. What could you expect? I was not alone on the coast. I had two colleagues, one in Buckie, the other, the more senior at Portessie. There was little opportunity to establish a close relationship with the latter, a nice man but his wife was an invalid, he was in his final years of active ministry and was not a strong man himself. So it was to Buckie and George Howarth I turned for counsel and support. His faith was robust as was his ministry. He loved people, he challenged them, got on well with them, church members and non-members alike. He got a great response from within the community to his appeal to the able-bodied to join him late in an evening to build a schoolroom/hall at the back of the church. Not everyone in church shared his vision. Some folk did not believe in halls and schoolrooms – the devil got into the Kirk through those so-called amenities! George came to my rescue within days of my arrival – my first funeral and a tragic one. A young skipper of a fishing vessel, a husband and father, drowned in the harbour as he was going aboard. George was quickly at my side and saw me through those early, sad days and I remain grateful. He was a real character, much more could be told. George was the minister who called you ‘Pal.’

Stephen McKay [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Haltwhistle Market Square. Stephen McKay [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

I went south for my first post-ordination appointment, from one beautiful part of the country to another – from the invigorating Moray Firth to historic Northumberland. (Got past Hadrian’s wall without passport!) This was a rural appointment and the super, Walter Thyne, and I cared for 14 chapels between us. I was indeed fortunate to be a colleague under the supervision of Mr Thyne (one did not address supers by first name in those days). Alas the partnership was only to last for 12 months, brief but beneficial. Walter was the kind of minister who was the salt of the Methodist’s ground! From the first day, Walter, a father figure, cared about me and quietly and humbly set an example to me to last a lifetime. In my first week two bicycles were produced and Walter conducted for me an interesting and informative tour of the terrain I was to travel many times over the six years. We saw a lot of each other, colleagueship made easier by the fact that we lived round the corner from one another, separated by the Newcastle-Carlisle railway line. Walter was a somewhat shy man, a gentleman, an excellent minister and personally a kind and generous mentor and friend. His daughter, Irene, known on occasion to read my blog, may be surprised to find her Dad featuring here, but he is remembered with affection and respect.

To be continued . . . . . .

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Weatherwise

“Give thanks to the Eternal – he is good, his kindness never fails.” Psalm 106: 1 (Moffatt Translation)

On a glorious September morning some years ago, travelling by road in a beautiful part of North East Scotland, the Moray Firth, with scarcely a cloud in the sky, the sun, pleasantly warm, shone brightly. There was a wonderful calm and the North Sea, a deep rich blue, lay mirror still (it could be very boisterous at times). On the one side, the inshore fishermen were busy with the harvest of the sea. On the other side, farmers were making the most of it, bringing the last of the harvest home.

I recall seeing the scene with new eyes. My mind went back to earlier days, my time on the farm, on a rainy morning, chopping firewood and cleaning out sheds, waiting for the hay to be dry and ready for cutting. I began to appreciate a sight with which I was becoming familiar, of crews pacing the quarter-deck of a fleet storm bound in harbour. There was still a reasonable number of fishing vessels based on Buckie and the other ports up and down the coast – it is very different now.

A farmer cannot get on with the harvest, hay, corn and wheat, until the crop is ripe. A fisherman cannot put to sea until the storm abates. For their bread and butter, the farmer and the fisherman depend on nature being kind.

God “has not left you without some clue to his nature in the benefits he bestows: he sends you rain from heaven and the crops in their season, and gives you food in plenty and keeps you in good heart.” (Acts 14: 17, Revised English Version).

It is not that God’s promised benevolence has dried up and is the cause of the appalling and sinful fact that millions of those “created in his image” go to bed night after night with empty bellies; with death the one assured certainty. Poverty (and its consequences) is today’s cardinal sin. We cannot get off the hook by labelling God the “Sinner”. How his heart must grieve!