US Pulpit exchange 'privilege' for Helensburgh minister

Helensburgh Parish Church minister Rev David Young has spent the last six weeks working in a church in the USA.

It was his first time visiting Hickory First Presbyterian Church in North Carolina but members can be forgiven for wondering if he had somehow worked there many years before.

For Mr Young, whose charge is linked with Rhu and Shandon, bears a startling resemblance to the last Scottish clergyman who did pulpit supply 59 years ago.

He shares the same hair colour and similar facial features to his predecessor.

David Young
Rev David Young and Rev Heather Woods

In his own words, Mr Young, who denies he is a time traveller, explains why he thinks ministers should jump at the chance to do a pulpit exchange in another country.

“Not since 1958 has a Church of Scotland Minister been on a pulpit exchange to Hickory First Presbyterian Church in North Carolina.

“His name was the Rev JA Ross McKenzie from Edinburgh and I bear an uncanny resemblance to him, something that was pointed out to me by Rev Heather Woods, Associate Pastor at Hickory First PC, who uncovered the historical booklet during my visit.

“I had thought about the possibility of a pulpit exchange for the past 10 years.

“I remember the words of a retired minister, the Rev John H Whyte, in my first charge of Old Gourock and Ashton, who said: ‘make sure you take advantage of the possibility of a pulpit exchange.

JA Ross McKenzie
Rev JA Ross McKenzie of Edinburgh bears a striking resemembance to Rev David Young

Do it every summer if you can!’

“Well, better late than never.

“From June 28 until August 9,I was privileged to serve with the PC USA in the city of Hickory in the gorgeous state of North Carolina.

“It was a daunting experience for me, travelling across the Atlantic to live and work amongt people I had never met before, in a place I had never visited.

“But then again, life does begin at the end of our comfort zone.

“My responsibilities included assisting with Vacation Bible School, delivering two presentations about the Church of Scotland and Church in Europe.

“Preaching every week, attending staff meetings, Hospital Chaplaincy, Fellowship Dinners and being invited to speak to the Presbytery of Western North Carolina where I was able to deliver the best wishes of the Church of Scotland.

“What struck me most was the warmth of welcome, the fantastic hospitality and the affirmation received from everyone with whom I was blessed to come into contact.

Scots accent

“I was quite concerned that my accent would bamboozle them.

“In fact, a member of the personnel committee, which is responsible for all staffing within the large church complex, prayed that ‘the congregation would understand him’prior to my first sermon.

“Of course I had to share that with the congregation in my opening remarks, they laughed, so the prayer must have worked.

“It was a wonderful privilege to be able to share something of the ministry of the Church of Scotland.

“People were genuinely impressed to hear about our territorial ministry, funded entirely by our membership, and about the many wonderful community-based projects in which the Kirk is involved across the country.

“The PCUSA do not operate a parish system.

Highly commended

“We have so much to be proud of and I for one was bursting with pride as I spoke about our beloved national church.

“I have been greatly enriched by the experience, not least because it allowed me the space to reflect on my ministry and recharge my batteries.

“I have come home with some hopes and dreams for my own congregations in Helensburgh and Rhu and Shandon.

“And I know that the Rev Dr Whit Malone, who occupied my own pulpit, returns to Hickory feeling exactly the same.

“If you have been considering a pulpit exchange but have not yet managed to get round to it, then I highly commend it."