Probationer minister juggles Scottish Ambulance Service role to support community

A probationer minister has told how the COVID-19 crisis led to him combining his day job and a volunteering role with the Scottish Ambulance Service to support his local community.

Douglas Creighton of Cumbrae linked with St John's Church in Largs, North Ayrshire has been working as an emergency call handler in an ambulance call centre and helping to co-ordinate local deliveries of food and medicines to vulnerable groups.

The delivery service is via The Living Room, a community drop-in centre which the Kirk is at the forefront of running.

Douglas Creighton
On the waterfront - Douglas Creighton with the Isle of Cumbrae in the background.

Mr Creighton, 35, who usually volunteers as a Community First Responder, said: "Lockdown has led to the closure of church buildings but the Church has never closed and in my view everything I am doing right now is ministry.

"Helping people in a time of need and simply being where I can to offer assistance is very much what I do seven-days a week.

"It is also about rallying people associated with the church to support those who need it most."

Mr Creighton, who is training under the supervision of Rev Jonathan Fleming, minister of St John's Church linked with Cumbrae, said both of his roles changed dramatically the week before lockdown in March.

"I was stood down from my Community First Responder role and all face-to-face encounters were suspended in my role as a probationer minister," he added.

"I quickly found myself thrust into a new position locally which seemingly merged both my roles."

The Living Room in Largs
"We want The Living Room to be a beacon of light for those who are traveling at the darkest points of their life".

Mr Creighton said The Living Room, an ecumenical project opened in September 2019, had more than cemented itself as the hub of the community during the pandemic.

"In addition to deliveries, telephone teams are on hand to offer pastoral support to people who are feeling lonely and isolated," he added.

Greatest gift

Mr Creighton, who is married to Emma with whom he has two children, Harris and Freya, said a team of six volunteers regularly check in with people identified as being at risk.

"The teams out on delivery runs will pass back any concerns they have to the telephone teams and a welfare check is done," he explained.

"When our teams feel they have reached the capacity of what they can do, the information is passed on to North Ayrshire Council who make a professional assessment so it is almost like a telephone triage system."

Mr Creighton, a former head teacher of Newark Primary School in Port Glasgow, has been a Community First Responder volunteer for five years and is a local group co-ordinator.

"Volunteers have the greatest gift to give people - by giving their time they show they care," he said.

"Under normal circumstances, we fundraise, organise local community awareness events for CPR and defibrillator (heart starting machines) demonstrations as well as being a custodian for 11 public access machines," he said.

Rev Jonathan Fleming
Probationer minister, Douglas Creighton, and Rev Jonathan Fleming listen intently to Gill Lyth of the charity Care for the Family, which is involved in the project.

Mr Creighton said he is proud to be part of an "amazing" team of people.

"I've chatted to road crews, call centre colleagues and many others beyond the Scottish Ambulance Service who are helping in times of need and the same theme is ever present," he added.

"People just need to have the opportunity to be listened to.

"Not helped, not told what to do or think, just listened to, heard and understood."

Seeking first charge

Mr Creighton is nearing the end of his probation period at St John's Parish Church and is seeking his first position as a full-time minister of Word and Sacrament.

"I am in the process of looking for a congregation focused on mission and discipleship that want to serve their community," he said.

"Along with my probationer colleagues, I am currently discerning where God is calling me to serve in this way."