Stranraer Church is a ‘perfect fit’ for new minister
Published on 5 October 2022 4 minutes read
Scotland's newest Church of Scotland minister is looking forward to making a positive impact on the community of Stranraer following his induction at the town's parish kirk.
Rev Andy Muir said he was delighted to take up the role and excited about the potential it holds.
"I consider myself very blessed to have been called to Stranraer Parish Church, as it feels such a perfect fit," he said.
"There is a huge scope for mission and outreach.
"That really excites me, but my first job will be to identify exactly what those various needs are, and how to prioritise my time accordingly."
Mr Muir, a resident of Ballantrae 20 miles to the north, knows the area well and its challenges and opportunities, so is looking forward to providing a "full ministry", one that goes beyond a Sunday morning service.
"It's that ministry where you are involved with everything, not just within the church, but within the whole parish," he explained.
"I think there is a big need for that within Stranraer and I just want to do my bit to fill that need."
Brought up in Ayr, Mr Muir fell away from the church before his teenage years, but although he never lost his faith, it was his keen interest in history which led to him taking a deeper interest.
Asking questions and finding answers
"That inevitably led me to focus upon church history, but it also left me with so many questions regarding what I believed," he said.
To find answers to those questions, he began attending an Alpha Course to explore Christianity further.
"What was great about Alpha was being able to bring all my questions. Nothing was taboo," he said.
"There was also the fellowship. You felt: These lovely people, they don't even know me and yet they have welcomed me into the fold. That was what brought me back to church."
However, even after he began attending Colmonell Church regularly, Mr Muir still had questions and at his minister's suggestion he began an access course delivered online by Dingwall-based Highland Theological College (HTC).
"I really enjoyed it and also felt that was drawing me closer and closer to God," he said.
"Soon after, there was a worship team training course run by the presbytery, worship team and I completed that. That's when people started to say to me that they thought I was cut out for ministry."
Mr Muir, who had previously been self-employed in a number of different roles, accepted this was God's plan for him and at the age of 50 began training for ministry by enrolling for a theology studies degree with HTC, both online and in person at Paisley.
However, committing himself to study meant financial as well as academic challenges, which Mr Muir says he would have been unable to cope with without the equal commitment of his wife, Shona.
"If it wasn't for my wife, I wouldn't have been able to do it. She's been very supportive throughout and it has helped her own faith as well," he said.
Placements in Kirkcowan and Wigtown, Fisherton and Kirkoswald, Luce Valley, and Strath and Sleat in Skye followed, before Mr Muir completed his probation under Reverend Edward Lyons in Penninghame Parish Church, in Newton Stewart.
"I am so thankful to have had so many wonderful supervisors, and also so many loving and patient congregations," he said.
Some of these mentors, as well as others who have helped him on his path to ministry such as the members of that original Alpha Course, were able to join him at last week's induction.
Reaching out in faith
That support has enabled him to look forward to his new ministry with optimism and excitement.
"I think we have a great opportunity now, and so I'm determined to work hard to achieve not only sustainability, but to see growth, both in people returning, and with new people coming to faith," he said.
A keen amateur photographer, he hopes to use this talent to strengthen local connections.
"One thing I would like to do is reach out to people where they are," he explained.
"There is an idea that a minister is unapproachable, but if I can do a photography course or walking group and be seen as a normal person or a friend, people are more likely to open up.
"I hope that I will be received throughout the parish as someone who is approachable, and non-judgemental. Someone that people can connect with, and that I am able to convince people from all different walks of life, that Jesus can make a difference to everyone's life, if you just let him in."
Rev Andy Muir's induction service can be seen on Stranraer Parish Church's Facebook page.