Talking Ministry: “Why not here? Why not now?”
Published on 25 July 2022 3 minutes read
As a young Christian, Gillian Rooney thought that one day she might like to be involved in overseas mission work.
Instead she has found her own path to Christian service at home in Scotland.
Speaking as part of the Church of Scotland's ‘Talking Ministry' series, Rev Gillian Rooney recalled attending African Inland Mission conferences and being inspired by the speakers' stories of faith in action.
"I had this notion that I might want to do something in the missionary field when I was retired or older," she said.
However, the mother of three did not to wait until she retired or have to leave the country to serve, and last December was appointed to her first charge as minister of Orchardhill Parish Church in the Giffnock area of Glasgow.
Mrs Rooney's move into the ministry follows an earlier career spent with the NHS as an occupational therapist, but she began feeling a call towards the ministry while helping with service preparation and worship at her own church.
"What I felt God was saying to me was: ‘Why not here? Why not now?'" she said.
Encouraged by her husband Mark and supportive comments from friends and family, Mrs Rooney began studying for the ministry through the distance learning courses offered by Dingwall-based Highland Theological College.
It may seem a radical career change, but for Mrs Rooney, the move into the ministry is in many ways a continuation of her previous role.
"I don't feel that this is a second career. My experience with the NHS was preparation for this part of my life," she said.
"I'm really comfortable going into people's homes and visiting them, I'm quite good at listening and hearing their stories and I suppose my core desire is that people flourish and live independent lives. Just because as a minister that has a more spiritual side, it doesn't mean that it's very different."
Mrs Rooney's path to ministry went more smoothly than she anticipated.
She joined Giffnock Orchardhill Church as a probationary minister, and was able to stay on when the then current minister, Rev Grant Barclay, left to take on the role of clerk to the Presbytery of Glasgow.
This also meant that when the congregation began the search for a new minister they did not have far to look and in December 2021, Mrs Rooney was inducted into the role.
"It's just been extremely positive, not just for me, but for the congregation as well because there was never any gap in their provision," he said
"To be honest, I wasn't sure when I first arrived that Orchardhill would be the type of church for me because it was quite different from my home church, but as I got to know the people and the area better my preconceptions were challenged, and I started to see that I could minister there.
"I did think: Can it be this easy to find your first charge? But as one of my friends said to me: Do you not believe that God wants the best for you? If it is so easy, that's OK – you don't have to be spat out of the mouth of a whale. It can be a bit more straightforward."
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 Gillian Rooney's full interview and access the resources for July on our Talking Ministry page.