February 2023: Why am I here?
Each month throughout 2022, the Church of Scotland's ‘Talking Ministry' series will share a personal story from those serving in Christian ministry, along with resources filled with questions, prayers and reflections to help encourage reflection on how God might be calling you at this time.
For February, Rev Andrea Price speaks about her role as minister of St Michael's Parish Church in Edinburgh and we explore the theme: Why am I here?
My ministry: Rev Andrea Price, Minister of St Michael's Parish Church in Edinburgh
Originally from the Ruhr Valley area, Rev Andrea Price had intended to pursue her ministry career in her native Germany. But after meeting her husband Neil while studying in St Andrew's, it eventually led to her ordination as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Church of Scotland. Having previously served in Orkney and London, she is currently minister of St Michael's Parish Church in Edinburgh.
What led you to consider entering the ministry?
I remember my sister being baptised, but otherwise, I can't remember going to church until a neighbour's daughter asked me to go to Sunday school. After that, I quite often went by myself. I enjoyed it so much I volunteered to help at Sunday school – aged about 10! They laughed at me and said I was too young and had to go to confirmation class first. I was appalled and thought them very rude!
When we moved house I went to a YMCA crusade with a friend and joined their weekly bible studies. But when that group became very strict and narrow I left and joined a Roman Catholic youth group instead, which was influenced by the ecumenical Taizé Community. All of a sudden I was experiencing a different kind of spirituality with a wider way of worshipping and letting God come to you.
I wasn't the only one who felt that way. We had a real harvest of young ministers - two or three of us decided to study theology!
What first brought you to Scotland?
I first came to Scotland in 1981-82 because studying for the ministry in Germany I thought it would be nice to spend a year abroad. I went to St Andrews where I met my husband Neil and when I had completed my studies in Germany, we got married. I went to selection school for the Church of Scotland, but I became pregnant. So they told me to come back when the children were at school.
Where did your Church of Scotland ministry begin?
Eventually in 1997, after 15 years of slowly training to fit in with family life, I was licensed and then ordained to a part-time post. I was living in Orkney at the time and the Stromness minister, Rev Dr Marjory MacLean, became part-time depute clerk to the General Assembly. When she had to go to Edinburgh, I stepped in.
When her role was made full-time and she had to leave her parish it meant that I lost my job too. I did some locum work, a little bit of hospital chaplaincy, but then was able to apply for the charge of Birsay, Harray and Sandwick.
That was an exciting appointment because they had just been united. They still had retained their three buildings, so every Sunday we would go to a different church. After two years I asked the kirk session how long we could continue to afford to do this and discussions began. It took us seven years to decide to build a new church and community facility, the Milestone Church, which was opened in 2012 at the crossroad of the three former parishes, a growing village called Dounby.
It was so nice to hear people who belonged to the Church all their lives saying how much they enjoyed being part of something that was growing and new.
After 12 years there, I was tired and needed a change, so I applied to become associate minister at St Columba's Church in London alongside Rev Angus MacLeod.
I was mainly tasked with pastoral care and supporting the work with the children. I was busy, but I also had time to enjoy London and visit our daughter, who lives in England.
What did you learn from working in two such different parishes?
Although a lot of people said London couldn't be a bigger contrast after Orkney because I come from a place like London – the Ruhr area is basically one huge urban conglomerate – it was actually easy for me to adjust.
Going to Orkney as a city person was not that easy. A lot of people move to Orkney to try and get away from everything, but what they don't realise is that they bring everything with them, and if they can't deal with it they do not have the usual distractions and networks to fall back on.
Living in the country you have to find ways of contributing to community life. The difficulty and expense of travelling means that everyone's talent or interests are needed. As a result, Orkney has a wide range of voluntary organisations you can join.
Orkney taught me about community life. It was a pleasure to live there and it was a fantastic place to bring up our children.
What led you to your current role?
After five years, I thought it was time to pull the full yoke as minister again, so I moved to St Michael's in Edinburgh in November 2018. Just over a year later, Covid closed all live activities down and I had barely begun to get to know the congregation and parish.
We started a weekly digital newsletter to keep in touch, which we still do now. We also continue to record our services and send people the online link and I think that is appreciated.
Under the Presbytery Mission Plan for Edinburgh, St Michael's will come together with three other congregations, Barclay Viewforth, Craiglockhart and Polwarth. At the moment each of them has a minister, so four ministers will go down to two and a 0.5 OLM (ordained local minister), who will be very important in forming links between the congregations.
It is good to have been through something similar in Orkney and seeing what is possible, even when resources and money are limited. Sometimes the tiniest congregations can be viable thanks to imaginative ways of working together and sharing skills.
What have been the highlights of your ministry career?
Probably working together to open the Milestone Community Church. That was a fantastic achievement by everyone and the highlight for me in Orkney for sure.
In London, I really enjoyed working with the children on the Quiet Corner (which caused some noisy parents to disturb worship, forgetting that they could be heard on their phones), the Easter Experience (taking the children through the Easter story in different stations) and communion preparation, which lead to a very joyful communion together. Taking part in preparing the weekly winter night shelter meals for 35 homeless people and caring for a congregation living far apart was a great challenge and joy.
Meeting so many ordinary but exemplary Christians who are doing God's work very quietly in their church or in the community was and is an utter delight. Knowing them has always been a privilege.
What advice would you give to someone contemplating a career in ministry?
I can't recommend ministry as a profession highly enough. It is a most fulfilling career if you enjoy change, creativity and working with people. If the Church of Scotland is to survive, it is because of the people on the ground giving their love, not just love for the Church, but love for each other because they love their Lord.
If you are considering ministry, keep praying. Speak to your family and friends and be sure that they support you.
Make sure that you don't lose the joy of your own faith and of sharing faith. That might mean at some point you do something crazy/creative. But then life would be very boring if you didn't do something crazy once in a while!
There are so many opportunities within ministry to do something creative in your parish. And from time to time it is good to step back, take a break and go for study leave or do something completely unrelated.
Whatever you do, God will see to it that what you have learned on your journey will contribute again to your ministry.
February Discernment Resources
Why am I here?
At different times in our life we will experience significant change. Change can be planned or unplanned, and sometimes we have little control over the circumstances that might arise. Sometimes it can lead us to ask questions about what God might have planned for our lives? As God's people we trust and believe we are in God's care, no matter the twists of the journey, but it doesn't mean we can't ask searching questions!
Keeping trusting that God is still active in the world, trusting that God still cares, even if we have a healthy dose of doubt in the midst, can show an active and questioning faith which is consistent with so many individual stories in the Bible.
For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Despite our belief that ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.' Hebrews 13:8, faith invites our questions.
Just as we can ask questions of God, so too we ask questions of ourselves to gain a better understanding of who we are, as unique individuals, and part of God's creation. There's always so much to learn about ourselves and our faith, and the world around us, that learning should never stop.
If we understand that God's presence is with us, then in our questions might we also be ready for God's invitation to a new direction and opportunity to walk a different path? It is possible, that God would speak to us about a new shape our lives will take in the days ahead. Are we listening?
We have been made for more than the everyday grind. We have something to offer to the story which is still to be written for our communities, towns and cities. God has a plan for how he will use our lives for his glory.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
It might be easy to be overwhelmed by possibility or discouraged by our own limitations. That's why we take time to reflect on the lessons learned by us and the things quietly spoken by God. He doesn't look to us for our great ability. God looks for our availability. Will we say ‘Yes'?
What have I learned about myself throughout this last year?
What have I learned about my faith in this last year?
What has God been showing me and saying to me about his work in the world and my part in it?
Am I ready to explore fresh opportunities? What could they be? What might my next step be?
How does this make me feel?
What might stop me?
Prayer – John Wesley's Covenant Prayer
There are two great days in a person's life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.
"I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen."
If you would like to consider how God might be calling you to serve at this time, you may want to discuss further with your minister or be in touch with your Presbytery to explore local opportunities.
If you are interested in exploring a call to the recognised ministries of the Church, you can find more information on our vocations page and can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a Discernment Conversation with one of the Recruitment Team.