Ministerial vacancy news
From the Interim Moderator – Revd Alastair Duncan
AS I set fingers to keyboard for this first edition of Focus in 2012, may I start by wishing you all a very Happy New Year. I hope that in amongst the activities of the festive season, you also found time for rest and stillnes and that you emerged from the New Year storms with the minimum of damage.
Last Sunday marked a landmark moment in, the history of Cardross Parish Church, when members of the congregation voted to decide whether or not to accept the terms of the Draft Basis of Deferred Linkage between Cardross Church and Helensburgh: Park Church. You have previously received a letter from me explaining what that was about, and the terms of the Draft Basis have been available at Church since the beginning of the New Year. l trust that everything has been clear to you.
Following last Sunday‘s service, which it was my pleasure to conduct, Revd David Clark, one of the ministers at Helensburgh: St. Andrew’sChurch, and a member of the Planning Committee of Dumbarton Presbytery, convened the congregational meeting to outline the terms of the Draft Basis of Deferred Linkage, to answer questions about it, and to oversee the ballot which followed. The result of that vote may be known to you by now, but I now report that 94 voted in favour of accepting the Draft Basis, with 9 voting against.
As the nature of the ballot requires a simple majority, the Draft Basis was therefore clearly accepted. The congregation of Helensburgh: Park Church, which held its ballot on Sunday at the same time, voted by a large majority to accept the Draft Basis also.
So what happens next? Both votes will be reported by the Planning Committee at the next meeting of Presbytery, which will take place on Tuesday, 7 February. It, as we hope, Presbytery concurs and also agrees to accept the Draft Basis, then everything will be in place to allow Cardross, together with Helensburgh: Park Church, to begin the process of electing a Nominating Committee. This group will be elected hopefully over the course of the next few weeks and it will be their task to begin the search for a new minister and to invite applications for the vacancy. That minister, once identified, would then be invited to preach as Sole Nominee in both Cardross and Park churches, whereupon the congregations would vote to accept him or her as their minister. If so elected, he or she would then commence their ministry in Cardross Church immediately, and become minister of Park Church automatically at whatever point a vacancy might arise there. Revd Gavin McFadyen, who is currently incumbent minister at Helensburgh: Park Church, was inducted to that charge on a basis of Reviewable Tenure, which means that he is entitled to remain as minister there until September 2013 at the latest. Were he to accept a call elsewhere before that date, or apply for and be elected as minister of the new linked charge of Cardross with Helensburgh: Park, then the linkage would be effected sooner.
As you may have heard, the one question which generated the most question and discussion at last Sunday's meeting concerned the Manse. The terms of the Draft Basis, which have now been accepted, state that the Manses of both congregations are to be sold (or let, or otherwise disposed of). This decision was not arrived at lightly, nor without a great deal of careful thought, both on the part of the Kirk Sessions and those representatives of Cardross and Park Church who have been meeting to discuss the terms of the Draft Basis. Both Manses are very large, resulting in significant running and maintenance costs. The Cardross Manse in particular currently requires a considerable amount of money spent on it, both in terms of repairs and upgrading to make it comfortable and energy efficient. Neither Manse is in a particularly good location from the point of view of ministering to the other half of the linkage. It was therefore agreed that the best proposal would be that each congregation would sell its own Manse, Cardross first, Park Church later, and purchase jointly a new Manse for the incoming minister. Depending on the proceeds of those sales and the cost of a new Manse, it is to be hoped and expected that this would eventually release some money to each congregation which would be vested with the General Trustees towards the ongoing fabric costs of its other buildings. In saying this, it should be absolutely clear that the assets of each congregation in the linkage will remain the assets of that congregation, and are not ‘pooled’ - the only shared costs are for ministry and for the upkeep and maintenance of the Manse.
Clearly selling either Manse will be the loss of a part of the history of each congregation - and for that reason it is important to stress that the decision has only been reached as a result of compelling practical reasons. A Manse is a symbolic part of a congregation, representing the presence of a ministry in the midst of parish and people. Whilst no decision has been made about the expected location of the new Manse - as there are far too many variables to be considered to say with any accuracy at this stage - please be assured that those charged with the responsibility of finding and purchasing a new Manse, will be very aware of the sensitivities around the question of the location of the Manse - for both congregations. But in these changing times, it is also worth noting that whilst the Manse was once a central base for ministry, nowadays it is far more common for a minister to meet with individuals and groups either in an office at the Church, on Church premises, or by visiting people in their own home. The location of the Manse, therefore is arguably less of a critical factor today than once it was. Reflecting on the question of the Manse, I was thinking about God‘s various 'dwelling-places' amongst His people. In the Old Testament the first such dwelling-place was a tent, or Tabernacle - a mobile structure, whose design and layout are very precisely described in the book of Exodus. It allowed God's people to worship Him wherever they might Set up camp as they made their way through the wilderness. Later, once established in the Promised Land,
King Solomon was directed by God to build a magnificent stone Temple, which stood for centuries in Jerusalem before war and foreign invasion brought about its destruction. Twice it was rebuilt - although never to the same standard as originally. And some 37 years following the death and resurrection of Jesus, the last of these stone-built Temples was destroyed and never rebuilt. And since then, God has sought to live, not in buildings, but in people, in you and me, by His Spirit. In I Peter 2:5, Peter writes to the Church saying, "you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house". Paul, writing to the Corinthians says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?" God is not so concerned with buildings or locations as He is with His people, for it is in the midst of His believing people - and not just in the one leader that we identity as 'the minister, that the presence of God is to be found.
The question of selling the Manse is a painful one, as well as a practical one, for buildings represent part of our story. But equally important is to focus on the next chapter of that story, and the God who remains in the midst of His people to lead them through the next leg of the journey.