Ministerial Update December 2022
To members and all living within the bounds of the parish of Crail and St Ayle
As the year comes to a close it is a time to look back and to look forwards. In 2022 the rising cost of living has been one of the most talked about and debated issues in the media. In the conversations of many people as they go about business and try to budget and deal with the impact of impact of the war in Ukraine and the soaring costs of fuel and food, there are strong overtones of worry and fear. There is little certainty that the issues surrounding the cost of living may improve in 2023 as the war continues and the ordinary citizen pays the price of the political and military developments in the world.
It could be argued, with some strong evidence, that this brings us closer to the situation we read of in the Birth narratives of Jesus in three of the Gospels. The way in which Mary and Joseph were forced by military might and power to take a hazardous journey to Bethlehem and then, later on to flee to Egypt. This may be like so many in the days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the bombing and attacks of the country and its people. Like the account of the Slaughter of the Innocents by Herod after the birth of Jesus, the world has seen a number of cases of the suffering of children and families. Many have endured grave losses and dangers due to the callous indifference and unfettered ambition of powerful people to accumulate more power.
The needs of the Church in this time have not been forgotten. While the cost of living affects so many households, it is vital that the everyday expenditure of the congregations continues to be met. It is impressive that the givings on a regular basis have not been dramatically affected. The fundraising activities of both congregations have not only offered community engagement but have helped the financial position of the congregations positively through the generosity of members in time, talents and donations.
Alongside this, there is the continuing uncertainty about the implementation of the Presbytery Plan for the Presbytery of Fife as it affects this linkage and the cluster of congregations which stretches from Largo to Kingsbarns. Some issues are, however, clear. There will have to be changes as I have indicated previously. Many of them will be tough and some very precious, beloved traditions and practices will be lost, and new ways of working will have to be discovered. These will mean further expenditure and a willingness to be flexible and adaptable as the Church of Scotland strives in a secular age to make mission the prime focus of all its activities.
The General Assembly, composed of elders and ministers, not 121 George Street, and the Committees and Councils appointed by the General Assembly, are embarked on a process of radical action to shape the Church of Scotland for the future. Like the Children of Israel under Moses and Joshua, we might complain, mutter, moan and groan and wish for the good old days- in biblical terms ‘the flesh posts of Egypt’ – but we are not liable to return there. The Church inherited, through historical accident and diverse fights and arguments, a huge number of buildings and structures which are no longer fit for purpose. The embracing by the General Assembly of the Faith Action Plan will lead to some probably unpalatable decisions having to be made.
Crail Church has felt this in particular due to the designation of the Church building and is engaging in a discussion with the Historic Buildings group of the Presbytery. The Presbytery Plan will be reviewed in the coming year and it is clear from the caveats attached to the agreement to the Presbytery Plan by the Faith Nurture Forum that some serious questions will be asked of some congregations in the cluster as to the wisdom of retaining a building that is not ‘a well-equipped space in the right place’ and only used once per week. Buildings are undoubtedly important to people and have powerful associations and attachments. There will be serious processes required to deal with what may come out of the review.
So, what can we be certain of in the coming year? First, that worship on a weekly basis will continue. Second, that outreach and mission will remain the focus and many current initiatives and perhaps some more like the new lunch club in Cellardyke may be extended in the cluster.
We are fortunate to have had the services of a capable and responsive locum to give continuity and lead worship so helpfully on a regular basis. The Revd Scott Burton’s sermons and conduct of worship and pastoral care have been much appreciated by the congregation in the past 9 months. It is with great sadness that the Kirk Sessions have had to accept his decision to cease his locum duties in the linkage. He has indicated that he will continue as locum on a one day plus Sunday worship until the end of January 2023. Then he will have a holiday in February and may be willing sometime thereafter to conduct worship on an occasional basis.
As we move forward, we will see others involved in the leadership of worship and the Kirk Sessions will plan for how we are going to ensure - individually and together - in the parish that mission is a priority and that the witness to the Gospel continues in a variety of forms. Support for the vulnerable through the weekly events and the food bank and the focus of congregation life on living out the principles of discipleship will be the prime concerns of those in the leadership as we negotiate the challenges of 2023 and beyond.
I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year with the strength and energy to become the people God has called you to be.
Nigel J Robb ( Revd)