A new minister takes over the reins at St Mary’s church in Haddington following a unanimous vote of the congregation when she preached as sole nominee.
The Reverend Alison McDonald, who has served over twenty years as minister of Musselburgh: Northesk, will be inducted to the charge at a service in St Mary’s this evening (Thursday 1st August).
Alison says she was struck early on by the clear commitment of the congregation to build on its work with the wider community of the town.
“When I met the nominating committee,” says Alison, “I was impressed by their vision to be an even greater positive force at the heart of the community. I am excited by all the creative possibilities of worship in the beautiful church building itself, I am looking forward to progressing some of the ideas that the congregation have for the space, and to working in partnership across the town.
“When I preached as sole nominee, the people of St Mary’s couldn’t have been more genuine, warm, welcoming and friendly. I felt that they were looking forward to me beginning ministry with them as much as I am looking forward to becoming their minister.
Haddington St Mary’s has not had a permanent minister since the death of Jennifer Macrae, who served the congregation for ten years. Session Clerk, Alison Meikle, says their hope was to find someone who could continue to build on the work that Jennifer had been leading:
“During the vacancy it was a difficult time and it was a challenging time, but we didn’t stand still. There was a lot of moving forward.
“We’ve welcomed quite a few new members who have joined us in the last few months, both people moving into Haddington and others who have lived her for a while. We have ordained twelve new elders, many of them younger people in our congregation, some with school-age families. We’re looking at opening up the church for wider use by the community. We are very lucky that we have quite a thriving Young Church and we’d like to attract more young families to join us, perhaps also having somebody who can work with parents and children in our wider community. And, of course, we have just completed a project to completely overhaul the lighting within the building in the biggest programme of work we’ve undertaken since the restoration of the church nearly 50 years ago.
“We were delighted that Alison answered the Call to be our minister. She has so much experience both as a parish minister and in the wider church. Things that struck a chord with us included her interest in working with families and across our growing community, her deep interest in music – which is so much part of worship at St Mary’s – and her commitment to ecumenical relations: St Mary’s works closely day-to-day with all our neighbouring churches.
“Her interests and ambitions fitted perfectly with ours.”
Alison McDonald was ordained in 1991 in Budapest, Hungary, into a new post as Associate Minster at St Columba's Church of Scotland and Mission Partner with the Reformed Church of Hungary. She returned to Scotland in 1994 and became Associate Minister at Mayfield Salisbury Church in Edinburgh, where she had a particular remit to develop ministry among families. She was called to Northesk Parish Church, Musselburgh, in 1998.
Alison has been involved in the wider work of the Church both in the Presbytery of Lothian, where she was elected Moderator for a year in 2004; and at the Kirk’s General Assembly, as Convener of the Ecumenical Relations Committee from 2013 to 2018. She is on the Governing Board of the Conference of European Churches and a Trustee of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.
She had got to know Jennifer Macrae well over many years working together in East Lothian.
“Jennifer was an excellent colleague for whom I had a high respect and regard,” says Alison. “She was a wise source of good advice. It is an honour to follow Jennifer. I know she has forged a good path and has left a strong legacy.”
In moving to Haddington, Alison McDonald steps down from being minister of Northesk in Musselburgh.
“It has been a privilege to serve as Minister of Northesk and the communities of Fisherrow and Musselburgh. I am grateful for their love and support and thankful for the journey of faith that we have been on together over the years.”
Alison’s husband, the Reverend Sandy Horsburgh, is minister of Dalkeith: St Nicholas Buccleuch. He too will be moving to Haddington so that, from today, the manse of St Mary’s will also be the manse of St Nicholas Buccleuch.
All are welcome at Alison's service of induction which begins at 7pm this evening (Thursday 1 August) in St Mary’s.