Dundee church reborn following painful chapter
Published on 25 April, 2014
In September last year, Logie and St John's (Cross) Church in Dundee endured the unsettling experience of seeing around half of the congregation, along with the locum minister, leave the Church of Scotland over the issue of same-sex marriage and ordination to the ministry.
The Session Clerk of the church, John Dent, provides a unique insight into this experience in the hope that it will help and encourage others who may find themselves in similar situations.
A vacancy is a difficult time for both a congregation and a Kirk Session as it invariably brings a challenge to the continuity of the life and work of the church in its community.
In September 2013, about four months into our vacancy at Dundee: Logie and St. John's (Cross) Church, about half of the active membership, together with the locum minister, left the Church of Scotland over the issue of same-sex relationships and ordination to the ministry.
We were saddened by this decision but not despondent and, after what had been a prolonged period of uncertainty for our congregation, were now pleased to be able to move on.
The Elders remaining wished to make it clear to any church members who also wished to stay in the denomination that doing so was not just an easy option.
It should be an active choice indicating an affirmation of the founding principles of the Church, the authority of scripture and a desire to obey our Lord's command to make disciples of all nations irrespective of race, age, status or sexual orientation.
A decision to stay in the Church of Scotland does not equate with an acceptance of the view of the General Assembly of 2013 on same-sex relationships and ordination.
We were advised by our Interim Moderator to demonstrate to the Presbytery of Dundee that we had a viable Kirk Session, a committed congregation and a clearly- defined mission in our location. There were six Elders remaining, a membership of 230 and a Guild of twenty.
Our mission activity in our location is centred on the fifty Toddlers and their families who attend a twice-weekly, church-lead play-group, and on events with our local schools.
Considering our corporate needs and role as a "re-formed" congregation, we identified six fundamentally important areas of activity on which to focus our efforts. These are:
To nurture children and families and other vulnerable groups; to nourish faith and discipleship in all members; to care for the pastoral needs of the congregation and for selected local, national and international charities ; to renew our links within the Church of Scotland to neighbouring parishes, to Presbytery and with the National Church; to see that all this is adequately supported by a finance team, an administrator and a fabric team, and finally to proclaim the gospel by welcoming and mission activities.
The Kirk Session remaining with the Interim Moderator in September comprised the Clerk, two organists, a fabric convenor, a safeguarding officer
and a part-time Children and Families worker.
Already present in the congregation were Sunday school teachers and leaders for the Toddler Group and Guild. We were soon able to appoint a part-time Pastoral locum minister. There were almost daily expressions of encouragement and prayer support from friends, and offers to take part and to serve together from the congregation.
A wave of renewed enthusiasm and a feeling of "belonging" was repeatedly remarked on. We soon had a treasurer and a financial team, an administrator, catering and cleaning teams, a website manager and a flower ministry and PA / technical team.
Volunteers came forward to cover around 170 tasks in 24 different spheres of service. After a period of prayerful consideration we were able to approach five members of the congregation who were ordained as new Elders in December.
Our vacancy procedure, which had been put on hold since our previous minister left in May, was unsisted by Presbytery and permission to make an unrestricted call confirmed. In January 2014 we elected 13 members to form a Nominating Committee.
Throughout this period we have been supported by the Presbytery of Dundee and recently by a meeting with representatives of the Council of Assembly. Bible teaching provided by excellent visiting preachers has widened our awareness of mission at home and abroad and introduced us to the Church of Scotland Evangelical Network (COSEN). Our evening "CONNECT" programme has given us opportunities to connect with God, with each other and to reach out to friends.
We now have a have a strong team of Elders, a congregation who are committed to their church, and a clearly defined mission. As a church we have not left the denomination, but, by the grace of God, we are a flourishing congregation and are united in our desire to serve the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ in our location.
We are now looking expectantly for a new minister who will help us to achieve our evangelical role within the Church of Scotland as we seek to bring the gospel of new life in Christ to the families and schools in our community.