Moderator reflects on the people who nurtured his call to ministry
Published on 9 August 2022 2 minutes read
It was June 1978 and I was on holiday in Ness, in the North of the Island of Lewis – a place we always referred to as our second home. I knew that my life was at a crossroads and I was seriously considering applying to university to study with a view to eventually working in social work.
As was the church practice in Ness, the church had a "mid-week" service on a Thursday evening in what was called Lional Mission Church, part of Cross Ness Church of Scotland. By this time I had been a Christian for two years.
I walked in, sat down, like a good Presbyterian, at the back of the church and Rev John Ferguson led the worship. When it came to the "sermon", John said, "Iain is with us from Glasgow. He will bring us a word."
Totally unprepared, but focussing on what I had been reading from Ephesians in the morning, I got up and "gave my word" – all 20 minutes of it.
Afterwards John Ferguson strongly encouraged me to apply for the ministry in the Church of Scotland, beginning my journey to a call that was to lead to me being accepted as a candidate and starting studies at Glasgow University in 1979.
Part of my roots – my mother's home – are in Ness. So too is my call to ministry and the place a few months later where I was to meet Linda, my wife. Coincidences? I don't believe in them.
But this is only part of the story. Curiously, I am writing this reflection on an island while thinking of John Donne, who rightly said that no man is an island. Everything leading up to that moment of call was about people. Here in Ness the kindness, love and prayers of ordinary people encouraged me. Is there such a thing as an "ordinary" person? – maybe not. And the skills of doctors who helped me heal from a serious accident along with the wisdom of many other people have helped form me as a person.
Since that moment of call, my life has been the story of an infinitely patient God. It has too been the story of people who have formed and reformed my life: Linda, friends and the people of God whom I have been privileged to serve. People "in the pews" have encouraged, inspired, prayed for me. For we are not "islands" but part of a living body, joined together in faith with a common hope and purpose.
The older I get, the more I see those "connections" and they are always about people – both within and outwith the Church—who have consciously or otherwise assisted me on this journey so far.
On reflection, I think that we do not, in today's church, have the confidence to see and know that God desires to use us to help transform lives. Getting alongside people, supporting, encouraging, nourishing and even challenging people to do more than they might have thought possible is our ministry with and to others. We can do it if we believe enough to not accept second best for either ourselves or other people.
God has changed my life! Without doubt this has most often happened through the influence of other people. My aspiration has always been and still is to inspire the people of God to share their story of faith, through word and action. Now, I know we can never do this perfectly, but we can do it intentionally, prayerfully and consistently, and leave the rest to God.