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Jackie Macadam examines how congregations in long term vacancy cope with maintaining their Christian witness and presence.

LONG-TERM vacancy. The words occur more often now than ever in the past. Declining numbers of ministry candidates graduating, increasing numbers retiring – we all know the problems.

Or do we?

Crimond linked with Lonmay Churches found themselves in that situation nearly 20 years ago. Crimond became vacant when minister, the Rev Hamish Lyle, died some 17 years ago. Lonmay became vacant when their minister, the Rev Alan Fawkes, retired.

Gordon Reid, Elder in Maud and Savoch Church and reader, Tim Barker, member and elder at Macduff Parish Church and Locum to both churches, take up the story.

“I undertook training as firstly, an Elder Moderator in 2010 and then as Elder Interim Moderator in 2013. In 2014 I was appointed by Buchan Presbytery to be Elder Interim Moderator to Crimond linked with Lonmay in February 2014,” says Gordon.

“When the charges first fell vacant, both churches had had ministers so it seemed it would simply be a matter of filling them.

“As the years went on though, gradually it began to occur to the churches that it might take longer than anticipated.

“The problem with a long-term vacancy is that when prospective ministers view the charge and see the length of time it’s been vacant, it is almost taken as read that there ‘must be a problem’ and they turn away.

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About Life and Work

Life and Work is the 138-year-old magazine of the Church of Scotland providing news and opinion on every aspect of church and religion within Scotland and further afield.
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