Presbytery of Buchan
Local Church Visit April 2015
Mrs Margaret Grant (Presbytery Elder, Aberdour), Rev. Dr. Iain Macnee, Mr Kenneth Sim (Presbytery Elder, Sandhaven, and Convener).
On Thursday 15th April the Visiting Team met, Mr Gordon Reid and Mr Tim Barker, Interim Moderator and Locum Minister, respectively, of the Crimond/Lonmay linkage, and fourteen office bearers (Board and Session) of Crimond Church.
On Sunday 19th April the Convener led worship in Crimond Church, and also in Lonmay Church.
Discussion with Interim Moderator and Locum
Gordon Reid is a fairly recent appointee as IM, and reported that, despite a vacancy of fourteen years’ standing, the morale within the congregation appears to be much higher than at the time of the previous visit. This he feels to be largely because of the efforts made by Tim Barker, the Locum, since his appointment in September 2011 to the Crimond/Lonmay linkage, whom he feels to be fitting well into the workings of both parishes. For his part, Tim opined that further recent improvements have been brought about by the arrival of the current IM in January of this year: he having brought an increased sense of structure to the linkage. As well as overseeing the current Stewardship programme in both churches, GR has instigated periodic joint Session Meetings to add to the list of shared activities occurring under the linkage.
However, both IM and Locum were at pains to emphasise that each of the congregations exists autonomously, and that is something which everyone involved with each church has striven to conserve throughout the period of the linkage. In spite of the fact that they both feel a close bond with the churches, TB and GR are conscious that their role is purely a temporary one, and look forward to the time when a Minister may be found to come and take over the charge. It was clear that the relationship between the IM and Locum is a harmonious and mutually supportive one.
The IM pointed out that, while several new members had been admitted to the Church in the recent past, relatively low attendance at Sunday worship was still proving worrisome: a point made by the IM officiating at the time of the previous visit. He has taken steps to highlight this problem, as evidenced by a robust letter in the most recent edition of the parish magazine, in which he underlines individuals’ responsibilities as members, and the potential consequences should the situation not improve.
Meeting with Office Bearers
The discussion with the office bearers was open and amicable, and facilitated by a folio of documentation, provided for each member of the Visiting Team by the Session Clerk before the date of the visit.
They were keen to state how much the morale within the congregation has risen since the last visit, despite their vacancy, which is now of 14 years’ duration, and were at pains to point out their satisfaction with Tim Barker as Locum. The recent additional appointment of Gordon Reid as IM has brought further strength to the church.
A continuing source of concern is the relatively low level of attendance at Sunday worship, and a concomitant decrease in financial donation. This was highlighted after the previous visit, and still remains a problem. Current average turnout has been calculated at 11% of the roll. The office bearers are clearly aware of the implications for the future, should the situation not improve, and are working to try and find a solution. As mentioned earlier, the IM has taken a forthright approach, and the situation is being examined as part of the current Stewardship programme, to establish both the reasons for the low numbers, and possible means of improving it in the future. Copies of the church Accounts were provided going back over several years, and the office bearers were able to point out a gradual reduction in offerings over the period. They are very aware that, while the church is able to cover its costs currently, a greater level of financial commitment will be required from the membership in the event that a minister is appointed to fill the current vacancy: something which the joint Nominations Committee is working diligently to bring about.
Crimond church has a rota of six organists to call upon for Sunday services, and a fully functioning pipe organ which is maintained in very good condition. The recent addition of projection equipment for hymn-singing further enhances worship. Board members take turns to cover the readings.
As part of the linkage joint services are held with the Lonmay congregation on special occasions, such as Easter and Christmas. This has been further strengthened by Lonmay’s Singing Group’s now being augmented by members from Crimond to visit Fraserburgh Hospital. Under the auspices of the Guild a joint Cookery Club now meets regularly. As well as all of these activities, joint Session Meetings are held periodically. One point made by the office bearers, was a clear awareness of the difference in the dynamic of each of the two linked congregations; however this was perceived as a strength, and something from which both benefited.
Sunday School has not been reinstated since its demise some years ago, before the previous visit; however the feeling is that the range of activities available for the youth of the parish more than compensates for its absence. These include:
Holiday Club (led by Chris Watt from ‘Out of the Box’);
active links with Crimond and Kininmonth schools;
Cosy Corner, each Tuesday, with tea/coffee and pancakes;
Parents too are involved in many of the above, and the family services are very much designed for active involvement of the young people themselves.
In addition to the various fund-raising ventures held throughout the year, the church has instigated Buttery Mornings on the third Saturday of each month, and Soup-and-Sweet on the last Thursday of each month; both of which also form part of its outreach policy. Each December the congregation is involved with the rest of the community in the provision of Christmas lighting for the village, and hosts a fun event.
A team of members produces, periodically, a church magazine to highlight the church’s various activities, and to disseminate essential information.
The church building appears to be in excellent condition externally and internally, and is obviously lovingly cared for. A well-appointed portacabin has been erected adjacent to the main building.
The Crimond manse is shared as part of the linkage, and is currently let. A report from the Resources Committee in March of this year indicated that it is in good condition overall; although it would require some upgrading work before the induction of a minister.
As mentioned earlier documents containing details relating to the life of the church, and copies of the Accounts were provided for the Visiting Team to inspect. Also made available were the documents relating to Safeguarding, and these were found to be in order.
A well-detailed two-year Action Plan Review was provided to tie in with the long-term Five-Year Plan. This focuses very much on expanding and developing the activities already taking place in the church and more widely throughout the parish, to encourage increased attendance over the entire age range.
It is hoped to expand the scope of Family services; negotiations are planned to have an informal monthly service at the Strathbeg Sheltered Housing project; the Hour of Hope meetings are to be held on a more regular basis, and through the summer; discussions are under way to have House Visits for those unable to attend worship or church events.
Through the Stewardship programme arrangements are being made to contact all communicant members, by visit, letter or email, inviting them to meet and find out about all of the church activities, current and planned. The intention is one of encouraging a greater individual involvement in all aspects of their church’s life.
Ideas are under discussion to increase the number of activities being shared within the community with individuals and groups not involved with the church, and to publicise church events more widely via the media, community notice boards etc.
What emerged from the visit was that Crimond has a very active core of highly-motivated members and office-bearers, who have a deep love for their church, and who are desperate to ensure that it may continue to carry on God’s mission into the future. The obvious problem regarding the membership’s involvement and financial commitment, described earlier, is something of which they are fully aware, and which they are working to overcome. They themselves made the point that, while they are able to meet their financial obligations at present, this would not be likely to continue, on their current level of income, were they to face the additional costs incurred by having a minister in post.
However, it is clear that there is a very positive spirit here, and that the congregation feel bolstered by the presence of their Locum and IM, who are working with them to carry on the good work being done, and to make certain that the church in Crimond remains vigorous in the years to come.
I should like to extend to the congregation the sincere good wishes of the Visiting Team, on behalf of Presbytery, for the success in their endeavours in the future, and to thank their office bearers for our warm reception.
Kenneth Sim (Convener)