Joy as church calls new minister with a vision to hold forest services

The Church of Scotland's newest minister has revealed plans to take the "care for creation" message to new heights.

Fraser Edwards is being ordained and inducted into Innerleithen Traquair and Walkerburn Parish Church (ITW) in the Scottish Borders this evening.

Fraser Edwards
Fraser Edwards and his wife Fiona.

The 42-year-old has joined a group called "Forest Church" and is exploring the possibility of holding services outdoors in the future.

A place where nature and worship come together, it is a fresh expression of church that draws on much older traditions when sacred places and practices were outside.

Mr Edwards, a former IT specialist, said: "I'm really excited about my ordination and it is a privilege to have been called to be this congregation's minister.

"I'm looking forward to the adventure of faith in following Jesus together.

"The parish is in an area of such natural beauty that I hope, in time, to explore a fresh expression of church to take place outdoors.

"I've become part of a small group exploring ‘Forest Church' and I'm keen to see ways that people can connect the wonder and beauty that we all see in creation with the God who made it all and who cares for us."

Follow Jesus

COVID-19 restrictions mean that only Mr Edwards and three members of Melrose and Peebles Presbytery will attend the service at Innerleithen Church at 7pm.

His family and friends will be watching on video conferencing platform, Zoom, and a recording will be posted later on the church's website.

Mr Edwards, a graduate of Highland Theological College in Dingwall, is married to primary school teacher, Fiona, with whom he has two children, Anna, 13 and Matthew, 7.

"The call to ministry is a call to make Jesus known, to share of his love, his grace and the invitation to follow him," he said.

"At a hard time for our whole country I think more than ever that Jesus offers the hope that we all need."

Although buildings are temporarily closed to public worship due to the pandemic, Mr Edwards said the congregation has embraced technology with gusto to ensure that the church is most definitely open.

"A background in IT and a degree in theology seem to be a fairly good combination of skills in the current life of online church," he added.

"We have started online services followed by a post-church Zoom coffee time."

A warm welcome

The vote to call Mr Edwards to the parish took place in December and he was supposed to be ordained and inducted on the 28th of January.

But he has been in his new role unofficially for several weeks and currently lives with his family in Edinburgh with plans to move to the Scottish Borders as soon as possible.

"I'll be spending time on Zoom and telephone calls until I'm allowed to travel to the parish freely," said Mr Edwards.

"It's definitely not easy to get to know people this way but I've had such a warm welcome from the people of ITW.

"At a time like this it's important to keep everyone safe."

Huge encouragement

Mr Edwards' home church for the last 15 years has been Palmerston Place in Edinburgh.

Before he began his formal ministry training, he worked closely with the minister, Very Rev Colin Sinclair, for three years.

He did his 15 month probation at Palmerston Place under the supervision of Rev Bill Taylor who looked after the congregation while Mr Sinclair served as the Moderator of the General Assembly in 2019-20.

Mr Edwards said: "Colin has been a huge encouragement and he and his wife Ruth have been really influential in me going into ministry."

ITW Parish Church has not had a full-time minister since July 2018 when Rev Janice Faris retired.

Excitement

Session Clerk, Jim Borthwick said: "There is much excitement in the parish about Fraser's appointment.

"Many members of our congregation have contacted me to say how much they have enjoyed watching and listening to him preach these last few weeks during our Zoom Sunday morning service.

"During these difficult times, it is marvellous that our part of Christ's church in this area is looking forward with great anticipation to what may lie ahead."

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