The Moderator reflects on his visit to St Andrews Presbytery

Right Rev Dr Derek Browning writes about his ten-day visit to St Andrews Presbytery

It was an absolute delight returning to the Presbytery of St Andrews for my first moderatorial visit. Going back to a place that I knew well, and with many of the people I had known during my ministry in Cupar was emotional at times, but always a pleasure.

The main point of this kind of visit is to offer support to the local churches and it was so encouraging to see churches of different sizes facing up to a variety of challenges in imaginative and sometimes courageous ways.

Ministers from St Andrews Presbytery with the Moderator
L-r Rev Margaret Rose, Rev Brian Oxburgh, Rev John McMahon, the Moderator, Rev Jeff Martin & St Andrews Presbytery Clerk Rev Nigel Robb

Community

My old congregation at Cupar Old has redeveloped its church and hall spaces, and provides extensive and well used facilities not only for the congregation but the wider community.

The church at Anstruther, now St Ayles, with other East Neuk churches houses a food bank and is addressing issues of food poverty. In cities there can be a degree of anonymity for those who don't have enough to eat, but in smaller communities, how you address this challenge in a sensitive and enabling way feels even greater and the local congregations have created a safe place where people in need can come without fear of judgement and find the help they need. Sometimes that help isn't simply food, it is access to computers and phones and to a more general friendship and support.

Another outstanding visit was to the newly built Waid Academy and its Religious and Philosophical education classes - with some wonderfully articulate and perceptive young people.

Moderator outside the Lighthouse project
At The Lighthouse cafe, bookshop and Christian resource centre in Cupar

Agriculture plays a significant part in North East Fife and seeing two outlets - at Kettle Produce and at Ardross Farm demonstrated how the larger business at Kettle produces so much food for our supermarkets (there were a lot of carrots) whilst Ardross has diversified with a farm shop and enabling local farmers and food producers to sell their goods.

The University of St Andrews is a major employer in the area, and it was good to meet Professor Sally Mapstone, the Principal and hear about her vision for the future of the university, embracing diversity and inclusion. The University is also launching a new biomass site at Guardbridge, and the positive impact on local ecology and the university's carbon footprint will be immense.

The Moderator looking at a display
At the biomass energy centre, Guardbridge

At Leuchars it was good to visit the Army Base and get an insight into modern-day soldiering, and see how the armed forces and the local community worship side by side.

A final highlight was going out on the RNLI lifeboat based at Anstruther. Staffed largely by volunteers, this important emergency service is deeply appreciated by the local communities, and the church, through a chaplain, is fully engaged in connecting with the crew and community.

St Andrews Presbytery, in a relatively small landmass, has a wonderfully diverse range of churches and communities. Re-imagining what the Church needs to look like, and what it needs to do, will be an important way forward for the Christians in this area, and it was heartening to see the huge amount of work that is being carried out.

large congregation for the outdoor service
Open-air service on Allanhill Farm for Thanksgiving