Monday, 24 August 2009

Banff - North of Scotland Mission Circuit

Banff is a small town on the Moray coast. The Methodist church in the town is part of the North of Scotland Mission Circuit which includes 5 other churches on the Moray coast stretching westwards to Portgordon, in addition to larger churches in Peterhead and Aberdeen.

Methodism in Banff has a long history stretching back to three visits from John Wesley, with a society being established here by 1773. The congregation has though seen many ups and downs in the last 4 centuries, no more so than when the Circuit Superintendent challenged the Banff Church Council in 2001, “It’s your church. Give up and close up, or continue the work in other premises, or tackle your building.” The Church building which had fallen in to significant disrepair had already been valued with a view to selling it, and with a congregation of just 12 members it seemed the only sensible option.

However the faithful congregation thought otherwise. After a Day of Prayer they rose to the challenge set them. They have since managed to raise enough funding to enable them to completely refurbish the church and hall. They were not even set back when the church ceiling was suddenly condemned and had to be replaced. Time and time again problems have been solved better than could have been hoped for and money has been found to support the work.

8 years later the congregation has almost doubled, growing to 20 members, a real sign of resurrection and new hope.

I was warmly welcomed as the first Vice-President or President to visit the church since John Wesley! We shared in the “Time-Out” offered by the church twice weekly at lunch-time, a time to meet over an informal lunch. It gave us an opportunity to talk to those church members that had done so much to renew the church in recent years including Alison Borrowman and Michael Burch.

The circuit often struggles to attract ministers to this part of Scotland, although once you’ve seen how beautiful this area is you realise why once people do move to the area they don’t want to leave. 2 years ago the circuit employed local man Willie Aitken as lay pastor and he has since had a real impact in some of the coastal churches, including setting up a youth club that is now at capacity of 50 children and with a waiting list to join.

The picture show me with Willie Aitken, Alison Borrowman and Michael Burch

Later that evening I joined church members in a service to which other members of the circuit and churches in Banff had been invited. I spoke about the role of lay leadership within the church, but it was clear that this was a church and circuit that had much to teach me and the wider Church about how lay members of a church can step out in faith and with God’s help achieve far more than they could imagine.

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