It was an early start this Sunday morning as I headed out the Manse driveway heading for Ayr. I had been invited by Fraser Aitken the minister of St Columba's to be the guest preacher and to hand out long service certificates to a number of choir members.
What a delight it was to meet up with Fraser again but also to witness a congregation that is truly buoyant and in great shape. I attended two services in the morning one at 9.30am and the other at 11.15am. Both services were packed. I'm sure there must have been well over 150 people at both services.
I didn't need to ask why the church was so well attended. I could see that under the leadership of Fraser a great team of people were working together to make a difference in each other's lives and in their community. I could also see that the congregation were serious about worship. The singing was excellent and the prayers written and read by the minister led you into the presence of God.
After the service I spoke to a man in his early forties who told me he couldn't wait to get to church every Sunday. He said, "there is something special in this church. I come to worship God and I find each week I have been refreshed for the coming week."
Before I left the sanctuary a woman was waiting to speak to me. She wanted to tell me how much it meant to her to attend this congregation. She wanted me to know how much she and so many others valued the ministry of Fraser. I came away heartened to have met so many people who were excited about their church and their minister. I also found a minister who after 22 years in this parish was still interested in his flock and took great delight in their achievements
Driving home reflecting on the experience I came to the conclusion I had witnessed a master class in pastoral care. I didn't need to attend a conference on the subject. I had seen the reality and the results of a prayerful and grace filled ministry. I really think St Columba's does what it says on the tin. Here is an extract from their web page.
"It is my privilege to minister here in this congregation where worship is at the very heart of our life together. Offering a diversity of styles, formal and informal, we experience the mystery of God, hear and wrestle with His word, share Christ's presence in the Sacraments, feel God's love in the community, and leave strengthened to live and serve in the world.
I like to think that we practice a radical welcome, trying to live as a faith community in the way Jesus lived in His life and ministry. I suppose most of us are searching for something larger than ourselves - for connections that are real and meaningful. St Columba offers you the opportunity to go a bit deeper and discover a warm, caring community, and a place to belong while you get to know us and what we stand for. At all times you will be shown respect for where you are on your faith journey, whether that means you want to take it slowly and tentatively, or jump right in." to
Here was a congregation where people felt valued and respected and it emanated in my opinion from the pastoral care shown to so many by their minister. It got me thinking that all around the country their are congregations being served by ministers and elders who do an amazing job and don’t look for the limelight but indeed are shining examples of service to their communities and above all seek to serve their Lord. Too often we consentrate on the negative stories and we forget to talk about the positive things we encounter in our churches. At the end of the day people are searching for something larger than themselves. Finding meaningful worship for many helps to fill that longing.