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January 2007

Dear Friends,

I am excited by the prospect of our congregational day on Saturday 17th February, sure that good will again come from it for us. I commend it to you and I do hope it will be well attended: not only by those already regularly involved in our midweek activities, but by all of you who come to worship on a Sunday.

Phil Steed, OMF Director for Scotland, will be our accompanying observer and friend for the day and there will be time for both quietly thinking what we like about Sandyford and for suggestions, and more structured sessions.

Those who came to the first one in October 2005 said it was a really good day and it was interesting that they had very different reasons for saying so.

For some, it was because they got to know some fellow members by name for the first time. You know the kind of thing that happens. We ask after the health, or the family, of people we sit next to; we know all sorts of things about them; but we do not know their name and it has reached the stage where it would be a bit odd to ask them! I’ll make sure we will be able to put that right, without embarrassment, on 17th February.

For some the time over lunch was among the best bits of the day: actually to get to know someone else in the congregation so that they feel more part of Sandyford.

It was useful also to explore thoughts about worship, and our care for each other, and Christian witness; and together to make plans in all these areas. We have never had such a large number of the congregation involved in this. I am sure there are members who said ‘I now understand better what we do on a Sunday and why we do it’, and likewise with the other topics we discussed.

Now, fifteen months later, is a good time to check on the outcomes: did the officebearers deliver on what was said? There will be value in identifying how much has happened as a result; and also in reflecting afresh, so as to modify those proposals, reaffirm or even abandon them as we plan ahead.

In addition to his being ‘outside trusted friend’ we have invited Rev Phil Steed, Scottish Director of OMF, to introduce a session on missionary support and to prepare a question or two on that side of our life.

We are going to start with something enjoyable and perhaps a bit easier as an exercise: to look at several questions displayed in different parts of the room (we’ll have circulated them in advance) and to stick our own answers to any we wish to comment on, using post-it notes. Questions like, ‘what are we good at as a fellowship,’ ‘what could we do better’ and ‘are there any aspects of Sandyford’s life that I don’t feel part of.’ I think it could be quite thought-provoking, both on the day and later for the elders as they go through the answers.

Keith Graham has been with us as assistant minister now for nearly four months, and I have asked him to write a letter for this edition of the Record; it is set out below.

Sadly for our sake, Rev Ken MacDonald has sensed God’s call to move from Sandyford in order to help Rev Fergus Buchanan at St Paul’s Church, Milngavie. Ken and Evelyn, you have been marvellous friends to have among us and we have very greatly appreciated the ministry you have exercised: Ken, both on Sundays where your preaching ministry has been an immense boon, and in pastoral work. Evelyn, many people have spoken of the benefit you have brought by your quiet and encouraging friendship. We shall greatly miss you, hope to see you from time to time and pray God’s blessing on your new sphere of service. We have been remembering during January your labour completing a history of the Gardner Street congregation.

Every five years the Presbytery organises a small group to visit us and see how we are getting on. The time for this visit has come round again and it will take place on Tuesday 20th February for the officebearers, with a report to the congregation at morning worship on Sunday 25th February. The convener is again Rev Ian MacKenzie formerly of Gairbraid Church and now Interim Minister at Wallacewell. He will conduct worship and preach on 25th February. The other two members are Mrs Jenny Fraser (also of Wallacewell Church) whom we met last time, and Mr Forbes McCallum of Dennistoun Blackfriars.

These five-yearly visits are a fine feature of Presbyterianism. They constitute an oversight of our life, as is right and proper; but they are designed also to encourage congregations. They remind us that we are not alone in the business of enjoying God and seeking his honour in our city; and the visiting team are asked to let us know not only if they see any cause for concern but also if they see things to respect and commend us for. We look forward to welcoming the team and will be interested in what they have to say.

Yours sincerely

C Peter White

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