Minister’s Letter Summer 2014

Dear friends,

I recently spent some time in Scotland. When I am in Scotland life feels different from being here in Belgium.  In Belgium I am an expatriate but in Scotland I am not.  I cannot define in words why life feels different in Scotland, but it does. It always has for me, since we came to live in Brussels.

The make-up of congregations in Scotland is different too, although there is a lot of variety in terms of styles of worship, expatriates are rarely part of the congregation. Most of our congregation in Brussels is made up of expatriates and we are deeply enriched by each and every person. I keep the lists of those who have been invited to Welcome dinners and lunches over the years and have come and gone from St Andrew’s. It runs into hundreds.  For those of us who live in Belgium long term it is hard to say farewell when people move on, but it is part of life here. Over the years I have observed increasing transience as people move around the world more and more.

This summer we bid farewell to some key people who have made significant contributions to the life of St Andrew’s.  Penni Clark, our Director of Choirs, steps down from her position to spend a year with her family in Canada. Penni’s skill in conducting both choirs and her commitment to nurturing the talent of our young choristers in our church family has been outstanding. We will sorely miss Penni, Damien, Amelie and Lucy from our Church family and we wish them God’s blessing in their new adventure.

Nancy Craig, who has worked alongside me as our Ministry Associate, will complete her work among us at the end of June. Nancy came to work among us for one year and we have been blessed to have her work with us for two and a half years now. Nancy has worked hard among us, developing new avenues of service such as the ladies fellowship and the Caring for One Another Group (CFOA) which will continue to provide pastoral support along with me in the time ahead. We praise God for Nancy’s faith and commitment to the task and wish her well as she adjusts to life again in Montreal. Canada is a popular place!

Since the earliest of times- the Church has been about community; a community that is shaped around its common faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus begins with an inner circle of apostles and a wider outer circle of disciples. After Pentecost different communities of Jesus’ followers were established in different places, often in urban centres. Over the years these communities grew in number and in size and as time went on the Church spread throughout the world. Today, through new technology we are much more aware of the global community in which we live through Facebook, Twitter, websites and blogs. It takes remarkable people to build up a Christian community: the Lydias (from Philippi), the Timothys, the Pennis, the Nancys and many others who do visible and less visible work to support the life of the local congregation. Yet the nature of community is changing and our Church is affected by that.

Increased transience means fewer permanent people to do the same work that we have done in the past. What does it mean to be a Church in a more transient society and how will we adjust to this in the next few years? Some of the jobs that people have done in the past will be harder to fill in the future; I believe that we are already seeing a trend in this direction.  Many congregations in Scotland are experiencing the same problem, not due to increased transience of people, but as a result of ageing congregations.

I want you to leave you with a question to ponder over the summer. If we want to reach people for Christ, offer spiritual hope through the gospel, be a vibrant and God honouring Church, show Christian kindness to those who are in our midst and beyond our doors, how will we achieve this for God’s glory in the years to come?

Your minister and friend,