Three ministers from overseas share their path into the Church of Scotland
Published on 2 February 2021
Three ministers who were ordained abroad in partner churches have shared the experiences which led them to take up their first Church of Scotland charges in 2020.
Rev Gert Van Rensburg, originally from Pretoria in South Africa and raised in the Dutch Reformed Church, was inducted at Udny and Pitmedden Parish church, just north of Aberdeen, last October.
A keen triathlete who has taken part in five ironman competitions, he grew up on a dairy farm in the South African countryside and describes himself as a "free spirit".
Mr Van Rensburg, who has also led congregations in the United Church of Canada, gained experience as a minister in South Africa, where he was part of an ecumenical team at a newly formed church plant.
He describes the ethos behind it as aiming to "create a safe space" where people from diverse backgrounds could join together in worship.
At first the congregation consisted of just two-Mr Van Rensburg's parents, but before long around 200 people were attending each week.
"The church plant worked," he says. "I learned a lot and it will stay with me for the rest of my ministry."
After a spell in Canada, Mr Van Rensburg returned to South Africa to support his parents through illness. Then, encouraged by his father, he decided to pursue ministry in Scotland.
He first spent a year of 'familiarisation', learning about the Church of Scotland, at Cranhill Parish Church in Glasgow, where he supported people who were trying to apply for Universal Credit.
"Universal Credit keeps people in poverty - for me coming from South Africa it was a real eye-opener to see as people really needed help. It challenged my preconceptions," he said.
Starting his new charge during the coronavirus pandemic has been a challenge, but he is looking forward to developing his ministry.
"We're going on a journey towards the Kingdom of God," he says.
"As Jesus said, the Kingdom is here and now. I want to guide people in my parish towards this.
"Faith is a life. It's not a building."
Guided by light
Rev Eduard Enslin, who is also from South Africa, was inducted to Mortlach and Carbrach in Dufftown in October.
His decision to come to Scotland came after a friend encouraged him to discern if he was called to minister here.
"It took some time but we decided to go through the interview process," he says.
"I have travelled overseas a lot and enjoy expanding my horizons.
"I remember that at Sunday School our minister always said that ships coming into the harbour were guided by lights which line up to show you are on the right path.
"As a Christian, if these lights line up you are sure this is what you're supposed to do."
Mr Enslin, his wife Carlien and their border collie Levi moved to Pollokshields, Glasgow for the first phase of his Church of Scotland journey .
But just as he was open to finding a congregation to lead, the coronavirus pandemic was changing everything. It was daunting, he says.
"March 2020 put me in a completely different phase."
Luckily the couple were able to visit the area when restrictions relaxed. They "completely fell in love" with the Highlands and have now been welcomed by a supportive congregation.
Mr Enslin has adapted to getting to know the people in his parish online but says he has become very conscious of those who have difficulties accessing technology.
"Not all of my congregation are well-versed in online platforms," he says.
"That said, I've learnt not to be afraid to use technology with my parishioners. People find a way of connecting.
"Digital ministry is definitely something I'm passionate about."
Mr Enslin, who loves painting and going for hikes, says that once the pandemic has passed, his focus will be on building a sense of community.
"I love the pastoral side of ministry, which is tricky at the moment," he adds.
"Rather than being confined to the church I want to be involved with the community."
Healthy in spirit
Rev Zoltan Safrany, who is originally from Hungary and was ordained in the Hungarian Reformed Church, was inducted to Lochgelly and Benarty in Fife last November.
Having spent the last decade in Scotland, he previously worked with young people as a ministries development staff member at St John's Church in Bathgate.
"We did Messy Church. We did a holiday club. I really enjoyed it," he says.
After this Mr Safrany, who is married to Annetta and enjoys drawing, completed his familiarisation period at Gorgie Dalry Stenhouse Church, which he "really enjoyed".
"I found brothers and sisters in that church - we spoke the same language," he says.
Mr Safrany says that his congregation have been "very enthusiastic" about getting a minister and were extremely welcoming when he applied.
"One of the things that drew me to my congregation is I'm more evangelical and this works with the theological understanding they have," he explains.
Separately, he has also been involved for several years with a Hungarian worship group, which he is continuing to lead online.
Once the pandemic restrictions are lifted, Mr Safrany hopes to build up the youth ministry at Lochgelly and Benarty.
In the meantime, however, he is aware that many people are in need of support.
"To keep people healthy in spirit, this is what we're praying for," he says. "We will need to recover spiritually when the pandemic ends."
Find out more about becoming a Church of Scotland minister on our vocations page.