Talking Ministry: 'Nothing is impossible through God'
Published on 18 September 2023
4 minutes read
Being asked to step in at short notice to deliver a service was a turning point for an oil sector engineer who has swapped the oil platforms of the North Sea for the pulpit.
Rev Elsie Macrae, who was ordained as the minister of Moffat St Andrew's Kirkpatrick Juxta and Wamphray just under three years ago, has been speaking about her own path to ministry within the Church of Scotland as part of our monthly Talking Ministry feature.
Mrs Macrae was born in Malawi to a family very involved in Christian life. Her mother was among the first women to preach in church, while her paternal grandfather was a minister and her mother's father a deacon.
"Church was at the centre of everything we did," Macrae said.
"It was where I made friends and felt accepted."
Unfortunately, her first experience of church life when she moved to Scotland in 1997 was quite different, and it was only when she began attending St Machar's Cathedral in Aberdeen under then minister Rev Richard Frazer, that she once again felt part of a church family.
"They took me under their wing and treated me like their own," Mrs Macrae added.
Lessons from the Lake
However, when she was made redundant and without the immediate prospect on new employment, she returned to Africa to spend some time on the shores of Lake Malawi where her family had a fishing boat.
Immersing herself in the life of the community, she realised that it was not so different from the way of life experienced by Jesus and his disciples on the Sea of Galilee.
You can read Rev Elsie Macrae's full interview and access the resources for January (September) on our Talking Ministry page.
"As the night fell, all you could hear was the sound of the waves and as you looked upon the water, you would see the fishermen's dotted lamps on the lake. As the sun came up, there was bustling and noise as the fishing boats would pull in and villagers came for a wash, to collect water or to buy fish," she said.
"This is when I started reflecting and drawing closer to God, as I imagined the life of Jesus on the shoreline and the many people he met and blessed.
"It was here I found myself talking to God and really questioning what my purpose was. I stayed for 11 months and though I had no clear answers, I knew I had to return to Scotland."
However, ministry was still very far from her thoughts until she received a call from the session clerk at New Deer St Kane's Parish Church in Aberdeenshire where she was worshipping, who said there was nobody to preach on Sunday, and asked her to step in.
That address was so well received that Mrs Macrae was soon being encouraged to apply for the ministry herself, eventually leading to her applying to study with Dingwall-based Highland Theological College.
"The staff at Highland Theological College were amazing, and the mode of studying meant I could still be a mother and wife and still work part-time in my first year," she said. "Everything was virtual but the open days were a blast and very memorable."
A time to prophesy
Almost three years into parish ministry, Mrs Macrae has found the purpose she was looking for.
"I love parish ministry as it allows me to be authentic and be the fun-loving person who is very involved and engaged in the community," Mrs Macrae said.
Married to Colin and the mother of two children, Caitlin and Ethan, Mrs Macrae is optimistic about the future of the church at the heart of its community.
"Reinstating the Church to be part and parcel of a vibrant community is a challenge, but nothing is impossible through God," she said.
"It is time to prophesy over the valley of dry bones and bring life into the communities we serve. After all we serve a mighty and Sovereign Lord. We are seeing the work of the Holy Spirit break through, and it is inspiring meeting some of the prayer warriors, not only in my own congregation but further afield, that want to see God's moving power in the new forms of church that await us."
Each month, 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 Elsie Macrae's full interview and access the resources for September on our Talking Ministry page.