A new minister and her family are beginning a new life this month in Bonnyrigg.
Louise Purden will be ordained and inducted into her first charge as Minster of Bonnyrigg Parish Church on Thursday 23rd February, succeeding Rev John Mitchell who retired in the autumn of 2018.
She will be joined in the manse by her husband Richard and their children, nine year old Ryan and seven year old Christina.
Louise has been telling John Macgill of her feelings as they join the family of Bonnyrigg Parish Church.
“I am excited. I have spent all this time preparing and getting as equipped for the challenges that lie ahead as possible: first the pressure of exams and challenges of essays at Edinburgh University, then really get my teeth into some of the aspects of ministry during my time as a probationer, including with Keith Mack at St John’s and King’s Park church in Dalkeith. But the reality is that you have just no idea what challenges are going to be thrown at you; you have no idea what life will really look like. It feels a bit like having children for the first time. You try to prepare yourself and you try to get ready, but there is no way that you can really prepare yourself for those sleepless nights and those demands that will be placed on you.
There is a sense of expectancy and hopefulness – for me and my whole family. My husband is enormously supportive and my children are completely on-board and ready for the move too. It feels like something that we are doing as a unit – it’s very much not just my thing. It is our thing.
I was born in Glasgow and my family moved to Edinburgh when I was seven. I have lived most of my life on the south side of Edinburgh. I began by life in youth and community work at the age of 18 when I joined the organisation Youth with a Mission, spending a year in Plymouth before returning to Scotland. Most recently, before I began my training for ministry, I was a family support worker for seven years in Gracemount in Edinburgh, which I absolutely loved.
In hindsight you can see the youth and community work as a springboard into ministry – but I didn’t see it that way at the time. Although my father became a minister – he was a little older than me when he trained for the ministry – I was adamant for a long time that I was definitely not going to follow in his footsteps.
Then, one day, Dr John Young, the minster at Liberton, who was my manager at Gracemount, asked me straight out whether I had ever thought properly about becoming a minister. I remember getting butterflies in my tummy when he asked and realised it was a question I needed to think about properly. At that point the children were quite young and Richard and everyone else I talked to were enormously supportive. So I started pushing doors to see if this was where God was leading me. It has been a rollercoaster ever since.
I suppose my original reluctance to become a minister was simply because I am not a fan of institutions and I wrestled with the feeling that I would become part of this massive institution and perhaps, along the way, lose sight of the grassroots stuff of engaging with people that I love so much. But my sense is that the Church of Scotland is at a point where it is ready for change and is recognising that it is all about engaging in that face-to-face, ground level ministry of connecting with communities and building relationships. There are very few other places where you can have that sort of intergenerational contact, where people can really truly care for each other and stand with each other and celebrate different achievements within their community – and I believe that is the real opportunity the Church has in our society.
When I was applying for the job at Bonnyrigg, the tagline for the church was that they wanted to be known as “a church of compassion”, which I really connected with. I want to be part of that compassionate voice within the community, and one that is relevant. Bonnyrigg has lots of community hubs and groups and the church is one of them. People have told me that they were baptised in the church, just like their parents, children and grandchildren. There is a strong legacy of community, and attachment to the church and the building. I want to keep making those attachments.”