Talking Ministry: Laura Digan on breaking down barriers
Published on 16 June 2023 4 minutes read
Laura Digan was perhaps always destined to be a minister – unlikely though that may once have seemed.
Speaking as part of the Church of Scotland's monthly Talking Ministry series, Laura, who is now in her first charge at Whiteinch Church in Glasgow, recalled how she would sneak into the pulpit in her family church in Coatbridge and pretend to be the minister while her parents were on cleaning duty.
But if she had any early ambitions for the ministry, at the time it seemed an impossible dream. At that age, Laura did not even know any female ministers and even when she was older and seriously contemplating how to serve, she did not think she matched the typical idea of a minister.
"I didn't think I was ministry material or the kind of person the Church would want – too flawed and too exuberant," Laura admitted.
However, she did know what kind of church she wanted to serve in, thanks to memories of her childhood church in Coatbridge, Gartsherrie Church, which is now the New St Andrew's Parish Church.
"That was a wonderful church where you felt everybody was cared for. The adults were really involved in the youth organisations and shared their time and talents," she said.
"That is what I want to bring to my ministry, the feeling that we belong to a family and to give people a chance to be themselves and feel loved."
As she grew older, work commitments meant Laura could not attend church as regularly as she did when she was younger, but after she began working Monday to Friday, she was able to renew her church connection and became steadily more involved, leading to her minister and others to encourage her to pursue some form of service.
Living the dream
At that point, full time ministry still did not seem an option. As well as her doubts about her suitability for the ministry, she loved her job in communications with John Lewis. But when the retail business opted to transfer her role to London, that obstacle was removed.
"It felt like God was saying: ‘You are cutting ties – it's full on now, Laura.'" she said.
Even then, Laura was still looking towards the diaconate rather than full-time ministry, seeing the role of deacon as a bridge between church and the wider community.
It took a dream to persuade her that Ministry of Word and Sacrament was right for her.
Laura revealed: "I had a dream where I was at my church and it was really busy with all these people in the car park waiting for communion and the minister called me by the wrong name and said: ‘I need you to go outside and give communion.'
"As a deacon, you can't do that, but he told me that I had to and gave me The Book of Common Order and said: ‘You'll get the words that you need there. Stop faffing about and do it' I felt that was the voice of God telling me what I had to do. The next day I phoned up the Church head office and asked how to apply to be a full-time Minister of Word and Sacrament."
Laura praises her mentors in placements and probation who gave her a grounding in the necessary skills of pastoral ministry, but also importantly room to be herself and to experiment.
She also drew on her communications background to work with the Church of Scotland's online worship community, Sanctuary First, before being ordained and inducted into Whiteinch in late 2021.
Still determined to be a bridge between church and community, Laura avoids the traditional trappings of ministry to ensure she is always approachable.
"I don't like the idea of wearing a collar," she said.
"I felt that wearing it would collar me, diminish who I am as a person, taking away my individuality. I think that sometimes people see the collar and separate you, elevate you, which I don't agree with.
"I don't call myself Reverend and I try and discourage other people using the title to refer to me. What I like is that when people find out I'm a minister, it takes them aback a bit and they go: ‘She's just like me.' I think it's important that people see you as an equal. That's when the conversations start."
A thrilling adventure
Similarly, Whiteinch, an evangelical and charismatic congregation in the west of Glasgow, is also non-traditional in its approach.
"We don't have a church building and we meet in Whiteinch Community Centre. That means we are easily accessible – it's easy for anyone to come into the community centre where it can be difficult for some people to go into a church," she said.
"It's really good to be a part of the community because we really do love it."
Laura's future ambitions are equally non-traditional.
She hopes to do more work in mental healing and has an idea for a centre where humans on the path to spiritual recovery can work with horses and other animals which are also in need of support and can heal together.
But as she looks to the future, Laura recognises the need for herself and anyone entering the ministry to be ready for change.
"You have to trust that God has got you, but also that God has been preparing you. All the experience that you have gathered in your life, He will use, but perhaps in a way you have not imagined," she said.
"Anyone coming into ministry also has to seriously think about whether they are really willing to give everything up to serve the Lord and go on a really thrilling adventure, because that is what it will be."
Read more on our Talking Ministry page.