Letham St Mark's in Perthshire

Rev James Stewart minister of Letham St Mark’s Church of Scotland in Perth explains how his Church puts mission at the front and centre of its work.

Letham St Mark's confirmation service
Letham St Marks admitted 13 people into in the Church at a special confirmation service in October. Seven of the communicants were teenagers from the youth fellowship.

“There are too many meetings and not enough parties in the Church.”

This quote from Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, seems to catch the mood of Letham St Mark’s Church of Scotland in Perth. I think it is a prophetic word for our age and allows us to unlock the biblical idea of “Festival” and “Celebration.”

After all, as Christians we have so much to celebrate and so much to thank God for – why wouldn’t we want to have a party?

In March I celebrated 20 years of ministry in Letham and over these years I have seen many changes, faced many challenges and observed a congregation grappling with Mission in its context.

We live in a fast moving world where the Church can be a stabilising good in peoples’ lives but also a fluid movement under the Holy Spirit’s guidance in keeping our faith relevant.

In Letham –as in every congregation— we have tried to put mission at the front of the agenda.The need to share and live out the Gospel is not just an aspiration it is now an imperative.

As a denomination we are in a post-Christian age in a country that is mostly secular.

This has been bruising for many congregations as long established traditions seem to be irrelevant to non-Church people and new practices can often be seen as bewildering to long standing members. But, I humbly believe the missional need is greater than the need to unquestionably retain some Church traditions.

In Letham St Mark’s this open question is now part of our Church culture and has served us well in keeping mission at the forefront of our Church.

Rev Jim Stewart at the confirmation service
Rev Jim Stewart congratulates the communicants at a recent confirmation service

This challenge has led to change including: a new Church building, a restructuring of the Kirk Session and Church leadership, a re-prioritising of resources, letting go of unhelpful practices and embracing new ones and consciously working at creating an inclusive sense of family.

On Sunday 22nd October 2017 we had the joy of admitting 13 people into Church membership at a service of confirmation.

Three people were renewing their vows, nine were confirmed and one was baptised by immersion. Nine of the 13 are members of the church’s youth fellowship.

Each of them has a faith journey.

We affirmed the vows taken on their behalf at their baptism and rejoiced in the vows each took at their confirmation.

It was a very special day for my own family as I had the joy and privilege of confirming two of our daughters. Present at the confirmation ceremony was my father-in-law, their grandfather, who is also the minister who had baptised them into our faith.

The vows my wife Anne and I took on Hannah and Ellie’s behalf were now fulfilled and with the other families we gave our thanks to God for His faithful love.