The Challenge Ahead
May 2011 will, I am sure, be an important month in the history of our church, both local and national. On the political front, a new government heralds the start of a new era with all its hopes, uncertainties, fears and challenges. Our national church at the General Assembly has also to grapple with issues which could have a major impact on the future of our denomination; Sandyford, along with so many congregations in Scotland and beyond, will be holding a special prayer meeting on Saturday 21st May to bring before God the meetings of the Assembly to be held in Edinburgh, and, in particular, the debates on ordination and on the question of congregational autonomy scheduled for Monday 23rd and Thursday 26th May.
At a local level, on Thursday 6th May, we said farewell to our much loved minister Peter White. The large congregation, joined by some of Peter’s family and many friends, including some from his former congregation in St David’s Broomhouse, to whom Peter had ministered from 1974 to 1990, heard very warm tributes from the Presbytery Clerk, Dr Angus Kerr, the Treasurer, Gordon Penman, and the Session Clerk, Noel Peacock, regarding Peter’s considerable wider involvement, his immense pastoral contribution, both within the congregation and beyond, the life-changing preaching, and his leadership which had issued, not least, in the refurbishment of the building and most helpful succession planning. George Chalmers led the meeting in prayer; Mary Smith read the Scriptures and Margaret Wylie expressed our warm appreciation of Liz White with a presentation of flowers. The roof-lifting praise, led by our organist, Alastair Graham, also included a moving rendering from the choir of a favourite item of Peter’s which he himself had sung on numerous occasions (‘When I Survey’, to the tune ‘Deep Harmony’), and contributions from the Praise Group. The evening, which proved to be a thanksgiving to God, and an expression of gratitude to Peter, for all the achievements over the last 14 years, alternated appropriately between solemnity and light humour, culminating in a much appreciated song which Peter had composed to celebrate his time in Sandyford. Peter’s last service on Easter Sunday marked a fitting closure to a ministry which from 1997 to 2011 had done so much to develop the pioneering work undertaken over forty years by George Philip, all the attention being focused on the risen Christ, with four people joining the church by profession of faith in Him.
What of the future, given the likelihood of a long vacancy as all congregations await the revised Presbytery Plan, which is scheduled to be completed by June 2012? As indicated in the May Congregational Record, a pastoral coordinating group will be drawing up a profile of pastoral needs and a list of potential visitors as a supplement to the work done by the elders. The aim is to ensure, as far as is possible, that nobody falls through the pastoral net. To sustain our commitment to consecutive biblical ministry at both Wednesday bible studies and at Sunday worship we shall continue the practice of working through books of the bible. On Wednesdays, the series on 2 Corinthians will be followed by a series on I Timothy. On Sundays, we shall be looking at Mark’s gospel between now and April 2012, under the umbrella theme of ‘Meeting Jesus: the arrival of God’s reign’; the passages on Gethsemane and on the empty tomb will, it is planned, coincide with dates on which these events are marked in the Western calendar. Two additional series, on Esther and on Titus, while providing ministry for times such as these, will also help deliver the timetable above. On Sunday evenings, we shall be studying: lessons from the life of Joseph, under the heading of ‘Rising above circumstances’; the second letter of Paul to Timothy, which gives us a timely reminder to guard the gospel; the books of Daniel and of Ruth; and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The preaching will be undertaken largely by ministers with whom the congregation has been associated over many years. The Kirk Session would like to place on record its gratitude to all who have so willingly agreed to come in the next year to preach from the suggested passages (and, in anticipation, to those who will be contacted in coming days!). With these arrangements we would also hope to strengthen the bonds of fellowship with so many of these ministers who are in our prayer diary. We are also very grateful to Alex Green, our Interim Moderator, who will be presiding at our Kirk Session meetings, and helping to support the congregation in days to come.
However, all these arrangements will be of little value without the Lord’s oversight of our congregation in the next year. As a dual motif, two verses have become our watchword. ‘Without God we can do nothing’ (John 15: 5) will preface the prayer meeting news each week during the vacancy; ‘Ebenezer’ (I Samuel 7: 12), the stone of help, reminding us of God’s goodness in the past, and of his infinite capacity to help in the future, will be the spiritual memorial of all who join in worship. Peter has given us a wonderful legacy. Our greatest gift to him will be for us to build on it.
With very best wishes
Session ClerkView All Letters