August Talking Ministry: Building Bridges
Published on 17 August 2022 3 minutes read
In the Church of Scotland deacons fulfil five key roles: apostle, prophet, servant, collaborator, and bridge.
All of these play an important part in the work of the Church, but for Paul Cathcart, it is the role of bridge which is perhaps the most relevant to today's rapidly evolving Kirk.
A long-time resident of East Kilbride where he lives with his wife Christine, Mr Cathcart is usually to be found performing his duties as deacon at Castlemilk Parish Church in his home city of Glasgow.
More recently, however, he has been seconded to work with Ruchill Kelvinside Parish Church which has emphasised the deacon's roll as bridge-builder.
Ruchill Kelvinside is in the process of uniting with neighbouring Maryhill Parish Church, and over the last year Mr Cathcart has been helping ensure the union of the two kirks goes as smoothly as possible, while at the same time providing pastoral care for the small, but faithful congregation.
The last year has seen him take on a number of roles at the church, including property convener, and he has also helped forge new links with the local community. This has resulted in the launch of a new group, Mainly Music, which now has more than 80 member families.
"Part of the role was to work with the team at Maryhill Parish Church to ensure a smooth process of union was able to happen," he added.
"I helped build a case for keeping the buildings at Ruchill Kelvinside open as part of the agreement for the Basis of Union. This was crucial to the congregation who have worked so hard to keep the buildings going and who have a very outward looking focus.
"I grew very fond of the folk at Ruchill Kelvinside, and at Maryhill and will keep in touch with them."
Deacons occupy a special position within the Church of Scotland.
Defined as Ministers of Word and Service, deacons have long been a vital element of the Church of Scotland's ministry. Working as a link between the Church and the wider community, they collaborate with individuals and groups at grassroots level, nurture relationships, and offer pastoral support, training and education.
They have an important role within the internal workings of the Church, serving on national councils and committees as well as local presbyteries.
For Mr Cathcart, being a deacon runs in the family. His father was also a deacon, which he believes makes him unique as the only person to have followed a parent into the Diaconate.
It is a form of service which is all consuming and not without its sacrifices, but one that Mr Cathcart has no hesitation in recommending to others.
"There are so many things I have learned over the years," he said.
"I have learned the value of being a reflective practitioner. I am much more able to think before I react now and this means I can carry out tasks in a more measured way.
"I have also learned that if God calls me just as I am then maybe I am enough. God does not call us and then change us into something we are not supposed to be, rather He calls us as we are and then shows us the fullness of life he promises.
"And lastly, I suppose I have learned how to ask for help, that it is not up to me to do and to change everything. The past year in particular has shown me that to widen the sphere of support is invaluable.
"It is a great adventure and every day brings something new. I have been able to work with people of all generations, backgrounds, nationalities, and I am learning every day from them.
"I would urge anyone who thinks they are feeling a call to ministry to look at the Diaconate, ask whether it is to this ministry they are being called, and if so, to get in touch with a deacon nearby who will be more than happy to have a chat."
You can read Paul Cathcart's full interview and access the resources for August on our Talking Ministry page.