Minister’s Letter February 2017

Dear friends,

Someone asked me today if I have any ‘big projects’ in the pipeline for 2017. I thought for a moment and answered ‘No:  I don’t have any big projects for 2017’. With our daughters now in full-time education in the UK it is a time in our lives to allow them to pursue their big projects, while we provide a degree of stability. God willing, the vacancy at the Scots Kirk Paris will be coming to an end at the end of March. As interim-moderator this vacancy has been my most recent big-project. There have been moments when the role has required focus, energy and time. However, testing experiences such as this, also provide opportunities for growth. There continues to be a number of vacancies in the International Presbytery and that means that, like many of our colleagues in Scotland, a number of the full-time ministers have been  challenged with additional work.

There are times  when we have to focus on the day in, day out tasks. In ministry this can be pastoral work, preparation for leading worship or Bible studies, administration and being available to the congregation for advice or counsel. These tasks are not big-projects, like the building of a new bridge across the River Forth in Scotland, but are more like the painting of the Forth Rail Bridge: general maintenance work that keeps things in good order.

2017 will see our congregation welcome a visiting team from Presbytery to carry out the five-yearly Local Church Review (LCR). The LCR team will meet the Kirk Session, speak to other office bearers, inspect the properties that the congregation maintain, be present at morning worship and meet the congregation over tea and coffee after the Church service. A lot of documents will be submitted prior to the visit, so that the team can come to Brussels with as full a picture as possible of the work that is done by many people to sustain the life and witness of the congregation.  After the visit, the LCR team will write a report of their findings and help the Kirk Session set goals for the further development of congregational life.

As part of my personal preparation for the LCR, I will engage in some reflection about my own role within the congregation over the past 5 years – the high points and low points. Personal reflection is an important process in the work of ministry and in other roles as well. When we fail to reflect on what we have been doing and what we wish to achieve, then we can stop moving forward and start treading water.  In his letters to house-churches or to church leaders, the apostle Paul would often include biographical material. His reflections upon his own ministry helped him to think of how his personal situation could be used to help others in their discipleship with Christ. In his letter to the Christians in Philippi Paul speaks of his house arrest as a positive opportunity for the furthering of the gospel. He writes, ‘Now I want you to know, brothers that what has happened to me really has served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the palace guard and everyone else that I am in chains for Christ’ [1:12-13]. In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle writes about his own conduct with the church leaders in Jerusalem, in order to support his position as the apostle to the Gentiles, whom God had called to faith, through the freedom of his grace in the Lord Jesus Christ, just as he had called converts from Judaism to faith in the very same Lord Jesus Christ [see 2:1-21].

Reflection can give context and understanding to our life’s events and help  us to see where God has been at work weaving together all things under God’s providence.

May you know God’s peace, blessing and grace throughout 2017.

Your minister and friend,