Eureka! The door has now opened on a future in ministry. On 14th August this year I was licensed as a Lay Reader in the Scottish Episcopal Church in a wonderful ceremony in St. Finnian's church in Lochgelly, Fife. The church was packed with family and with friends from all areas of my journey in the church and in my training, folk from as far afield as Cumbernauld and Comrie, as well as friends who would not normally set foot inside a church.
After all, as we get older, we bring with us a huge bundle of experiences, good and bad, which have transformed us into the individuals we are today, probably quite unrecognisable from the bewildered school-leaver of ….years ago! However at that time I never dreamed that I would become a lay reader.
I am no stranger to change. I have followed two different paths since reaching my half century. Having trained and practised as a Medical Social Worker from my early twenties – apart from a few years break to care for my two little daughters – I had begun to find the job so changed, so form-centred rather than people-centred, that it was no longer fulfilling.
So, I returned to university at the ripe age of fiftyish, studying Scottish History and eventually graduating with an MA Honours in that subject. And I was not alone! I met a number of mature students, which really added to the excitement of the experience. Forget the night clubs, the agonising over boy/girl friends – think lunch and coffee breaks full of inspiring conversation and many laughs.
I topped that with studying for a doctorate. My field was the Disruption in the Church of Scotland (1843) and how it affected three rather different Highland parishes. Although many resources were in Edinburgh, I enjoyed numerous forays into the beautiful scenery of Easter Ross and Skye, loved the thrill of the chase which is at the root of research and graduated in 2004.
And the next move? Too old really for academic life, I did some local history research, which was good fun, then, for personal reasons, landed up in Dunfermline and took a thinking break.
Having been a practising, worshipping Christian since my late teens, in 1996 I joined the Scottish Episcopal Church and became heavily involved in the life of the church.
Originally called for greater service in 2003, being accepted for training to become a Lay Reader, personal circumstances rendered me unable to pursue this at the time.
However, the call came again in Dunfermline. I was accepted once more, despite being several years older, and started my training at the Theological Institute of the Scottish Episcopal Church in September 2011 to become a Lay Reader.
It has been absolutely fantastic, truly inspiring and I have met so many wonderful people, fellow students, staff and others. Prospective Lay Readers train alongside ordinands (those destined to be clerics) and the course, although designed as a three-year intensive part-time programme, permits Lay Reader trainees to complete after two years.
As well as reading, regular seminars, residential weekends at an old monastery on Kinnoul Hill, near Perth, we go on placement to other churches, to gain different experiences.
But you may well wonder what a Lay Reader does? The answer simply is – everything that a minister/priest does, except for consecrating the communion bread and wine, conducting baptisms in church and marriages.
So, no ‘hatches and ‘matches’ but I can do ’dispatches,’ as well as preach, take non-eucharistic services, assist priests at other services, take home communions, do pastoral care and conduct services in homes and day care centres for the elderly or disabled.
At my first service at a day care centre for the elderly I informed them that I was unable to baptise or marry them, but felt this would not prove a problem– they laughed and the ice was broken.!!!
The principal focus of my ministry is Lochgelly, undertaking mission and outreach in this former mining town, finding out where as a church we can best offer help to struggling people, bringing the news about God's love through our actions, not just in our words. It is a fantastic challenge and I am meeting incredible individuals who are devoting themselves to caring for the disabled, the elderly, the troubled, the underprivileged and to maintaining a sense of community spirit in an area deprived of its original raison d'etre. I am also heavily involved in leading or helping at services, including preaching, principally at St. Finnian's, but also assisting once a month in the churches at Aberdour, Burntisland and Inverkeithing.
No chance to carve a hollow in my sofa, staring endlessly at the television - my hours are packed with inspiring and fulfilling action. The world is indeed my oyster - and it can be yours. So, just get up off the sofa, use the gifts you have been given and involve yourself in whatever floats your boat!
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