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Rev David D. Scott, minister of the Parish of Traprain, stood down as Moderator of Lothian Presbytery after leading a service of communion in Prestonkirk, East Linton, at the end of September. Here are his reflections on a year at the helm.
I have to say that I enjoyed being Moderator and, compared with some of my predecessors, I’ve had an easier time in terms of moderating the meetings because there weren’t any really big, controversial issues under debate.
The biggest joy has been to be able to offer what I would call “the Ministry of Encouragement”. Because the Moderator leads the devotions before meetings, there is an opportunity to encourage presbyters and I really tried, in particular, to focus on encouraging those delivering a ministry of Word of Sacrament by what I said in the devotions.
As well as welcoming and supporting people presented to the Presbytery at its meetings, the Moderator also gets the opportunity to give charges to new ministers and congregations. During my time, we had two inductions and an ordination, as well the admission of a Reader, and in of each of these services my role was to give a ‘charge’ the person and their new congregation: advice and guidance, encouraging them in their new work. It was a great opportunity to really think about their work, to make visible what they were embarking on, explain it and, perhaps by articulating how important it is, allow everyone to see its true value.
So, I think, perhaps, what I enjoyed most was that Ministry of Encouragement, being in a position where you could be able to encourage other people in their ministry because those with jobs to do within the Church sometimes don't hear enough words of encouragement because they are busy encouraging others.
Being Moderator was a bit of a double-edged sword. The opportunities to encourage and support others was one edge. But the other is that Moderators are a bit like farmers. Farmers work under the scrutiny of their peers. Everybody sees what is happening in the fields around them and in their neighbours’ fields – everyone can judge how well a farmer is doing. The Moderator has to preach, for example, to his or her peers – which is quite nerve-wracking because you know that you are preaching to people who are themselves preachers, who know what it's all about and can make a judgement on how well you are fulfilling the task. Luckily, a number of my fellow presbyters are very good at being supportive in their comments and saying words of thanks.
I suppose I am glad that the year is over. Being the Moderator is extra work and it is also hard work because you want to do it diligently. But I'm also glad that it's over because it underlines what I said at the beginning of my year: that in the Church of Scotland we value corporate leadership. The world doesn't understand that, but we do. So, the mouthpiece of the Presbytery, the Moderator, the person who chairs the Presbytery meetings and leads their services, changes because he or she is a corporate leader and not an individual spokesperson as, for instance, a bishop is. In this way we avoid creating celebrities!
I have to acknowledge that it was an honour to be called to do it because, although every presbyter could be the Moderator, there aren't enough opportunities for that to happen. So, above all, it is an honour, and also very humbling, that the Presbytery should have put its trust in me to do the task.
The Church of Scotland’s Presbytery of Lothian has chosen the Minister at Newton Parish Church, Danderhall, as its Moderator for the coming year.
Rev Andrew Don, 62, who lives in Penicuik, takes over leadership of the Presbytery, which brings together ministers and elders from the church’s congregations across Mid and East Lothian, at a service in East Linton on 27 September.
“It is an honour and privilege to be invited to Moderate the Presbytery of Lothian for the coming year,” said Andrew.
“One of the strengths of the Presbyterian system is that the Moderator changes every year, each bring his or her unique style and personality to the role and, in doing so, adds to the richness and diversity of our Church.”
Andrew is an Ordained Local Minister, an unpaid minister who for nearly ten years until his retirement in 2016 combined ministry in the Tyne Valley Parish of Borthwick, Cranstoun and Fala, with working in the head office of a bank in Edinburgh. He was a locum minister at Penicuik St Mungo’s before moving to serve at Newton in 2013.
“I learned my trade in a number of bank branches within the central belt, Glasgow and Edinburgh, before moving into ‘Head Office’.
“During the early 1990’s, I sensed God’s calling to further service in his Church. I was already an elder in the Kirk and had led services at a local community centre. Rev John Fraser of Penicuik North Kirk was very encouraging and, over a number of years of practical assessment and study at Aberdeen University, I gained the necessary experience and qualifications to allow me to be ordained in Fala Church in October 2006.
Matthew says: “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” Matthew 11: 28-29
Through this period, I really did learn the ‘unforced rhythms of grace’. If the day job was busier than normal, I found the course work light; and when the course work demanded more attention, the day job seemed quieter. To me it looked like God was arranging my diary, but the simple truth is that if God is calling you to do something for Him, He also provided the time and opportunities to make it happen.
“I am what some of my colleagues in the ministry refer to as a tentmaker. Like Paul the Apostle, who made tents for a living and shared the Gospel of Jesus, I was able to combine going to work every day with serving God in my community.”
Andrew recently celebrated his 35th Wedding Anniversary with wife Fiona.
As Moderator of the Presbytery, his duties will include leading services of ordination and induction of ministers into new parishes and chairing meetings of the Presbytery.
Jennifer Macrae was a very diligent member of Lothian Presbytery. During her ministry at St. Mary’s, she was elected Moderator of the Presbytery and, more recently, had been the Convener of the Ministry Committee. She was particularly skilled at mentoring students and probationers, building their confidence and bringing their vocation to fruition.
Jennifer’s great gift was one of friendship – getting alongside others, building bridges, encouraging the less able and the more able in equal measure, sharing her life and love honestly and humbly with charm and good humour. We have lost a hardworking presbyter, an excellent parish minister and a delightful friend.
David D. Scott
Congregations fear poorest and elderly will be hit hardest
Church of Scotland congregations across Midlothian are calling on Midlothian Council to step back from making cuts in education, housing, library services and transport that they say will hurt disproportionately the poor and the elderly.
In a written response to the Council’s consultation Addressing Midlothian Council’s Financial Challenge to 2021/22, The Presbytery of Lothian asks the Council to look again at those proposed cuts that would limit the health and education opportunities for disadvantaged young people, impact the quality of housing enjoyed by Council tenants, lead to more homelessness, and impose greater limits on what older people are able to do.
The Church has also written to all MSPs and MPs serving Midlothian asking each to ‘to do all in your power to bring pressure to bear on those who are ultimately responsible for allocating finance to Local Authorities’.
The letter on behalf of the Presbytery of Lothian, which brings together all Church of Scotland congregations across Midlothian and East Lothian, is signed by Moderator of the Presbytery, Rev. David D Scott, and Presbytery Clerk, John McCulloch.
The decision to write to Midlothian Council was taken after Presbytery received a report from its Church and Society Committee. Committee Convener, Rev Sandy Horsburgh, says everyone realises that Councillors and their staff do not want to make any of the proposed cuts:
“Midlothian Council simply shouldn’t have been placed in the situation of having to consider cuts of this scale. The county is experiencing particular pressures from the rapid increase in its population. It seems unjust that so many jobs are projected to be lost and so many vital services cut in an area which should be seeing greater investment in order to meet real needs.
Mr Horsburgh adds: “Our hearts go out to the people who fear for their jobs and livelihoods, and also those bearing the heavy responsibility of making decisions to deal with a problem they didn’t create. The Presbytery and its congregations in Midlothian offer our renewed commitment to prayer for all those who work in Midlothian Council, our appreciation for the unstinting service offered to the community by the Council, and a commitment to work in partnership with the Council in whatever ways are possible.”
John McCulloch says saving money by moving more services online will hit some groups disproportionately:
“While there is a clear benefit in terms of cost and convenience of moving more council services online, those predominantly older people without the skills and equipment necessary, and those without an adequate broadband connection, because they live in a rural community, will be left behind.
“At the same time, everyone’s safety could be compromised if proposals to reduce regular maintenance of roads, cutting back on winter gritting, ceasing open space CCTV maintenance activity and potentially reducing street lighting are taken forward.”
In its submission and its letters to politicians, The Presbytery commends Midlothian Council for the open consultation process it has initiated and has encouraged congregations and church members to attend meetings and submit their own responses. It offers to explore whether congregations might take over some of the maintenance of church yards, and says it supports those proposals that will raise additional funds from those who can afford to pay.