Talking Ministry: "Every congregation has its own story, its own challenges"

A minister with more than 20 years' experience is encouraging those who have a sense of calling to ministry to "persist".

Rev Dr Andrew Gardner
Rev Dr Andrew Gardner.

Speaking as part of the 'Talking Ministry' series, Rev Dr Andrew Gardner said it was important to "keep pushing at that door" and that it was helpful for those in training to develop a support network.

"Find mentors and form a good peer group and stick with them - you've got to have folk about you," he said.

After two decades of parish ministry, which included 14 years at St Andrew's Church of Scotland in Brussels, Dr Gardner explains why two years ago he chose to become an interim minister.

"Our role is to be a non-anxious presence. A congregation or a presbytery may ask for an interim minister if they've had a short ministry in the past, or a very long ministry or a minister has died or if there's some conflict," he said.

"It's where there has been some kind of issue that needs settlement from an experienced minster. You're there for 18 months or two years and then you move on.

"It's been a chance to do something different, to keep your ministry fresh and I'm still learning lots. It's really important to know what God is calling you to do."

The father of two, who up has recently completed his two-year post at Christ's Kirk Glenrothes, said the pandemic has presented new challenges which have taken a lot of adjusting to over the last 12 months.

"The lows have been being physically distant from your congregation and wondering if I was doing enough by making contact with people over email, the phone, by text or by any method I could to keep regular contact and make sure people knew the church hadn't forgotten them," he said.

Reflecting on parish ministry, Dr Gardner's advice is to "go to the right place where your ministry will fit as a congregation will see through you quickly" and bear in mind that "every congregation has its own story, its own challenge".

Each month throughout 2021, the Talking Ministry series will share a personal story from those serving in Christian ministry, as well as discernment resources filled with questions, prayers and reflections to help encourage your own reflection on how God might be calling you.

You can read Rev Dr Andrew Gardner's full interview and access the resources for April on our Talking Ministry page.