Summer 2018

When Presbytery first raised the issue of Union it was some distant idea which would affect us after I retired. However, the need for a reduction in churches has accelerated due to the shortage of ministers - indeed the number of ministers has reduced by half in just over twenty five years.

The last year and a half has been quite a roller-coaster following the suggestion that our four congregations unite following the retirement of the East Church Minister - The Rev Bill Stewart. Having agreed to take on the additional responsibility, I have been delighted at how the discussions and preparations of the group of representatives have progressed so effectively.

It’s not a straightforward process to unite four congregations with three places of worship. The most difficult part of the process is the resultant loss of a church building. The East Church has been part of Strathaven for so long and has been the home church for many generations, therefore its closure is naturally upsetting.

In order to ensure that everyone feels a sense of belonging to the united congregation, a new name was chosen. Additionally, the Baptismal font from the East will be used in what used to be known as Rankin. This has been a deliberate decision so that as we welcome the next generation into our church, there is a sense of continuity with the past, either due to the building or the font from which they are baptised. The Communion Table from the East Kirk will be used as the welcome table in the Vestibule in the Lethame Road building. A new lectern has been made from the lecterns from the East and Rankin, based on the new logo, as a symbol of our coming together. The small hall is to be called the East Hall and the upstairs meeting room the Rankin Room. While none of these can compensate for the loss of a building, our hope is that they send a clear message of commitment to ensure all members can sense a real belonging to Strathaven Trinity.

While a lot of our attention has been focussed on the Strathaven congregations, it does not mean that Chapelton and Glassford are anything other than integral parts of the Union. The administration burden on the two village churches will be significantly lessened which will, hopefully free up resources to look at strengthening the congregations there.

As has been previously intimated, additional support is being appointed. Until September, Mrs Fiona Anderson who is training for ministry, while having a full time job, has agreed to assist with preaching. Hopefully, by the time she moves on to her next placement, someone will be appointed on a permanent basis. Until then, and with the summer holidays, it may be difficult to plan a long-term rota of who will be preaching where on what Sunday. However, we are all one congregation worshipping in any of the three buildings, so we can all choose where we worship each week.

So much more could, and should, be said about our Union. Hopefully, all the planning will make things go extremely smoothly. There will almost certainly be challenges ahead and matters to be addressed that no-one has thought of. With God’s blessing and the continued sense of understanding and good will, as has been evident so far, the Union to form Strathaven Trinity will prove to be a success and an example for the wider church.

With every good wish
Shaw J Paterson

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