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.