Presbytery of Buchan
Local Church Visit April 2015
Lonmay Parish Church
Mrs Margaret Grant (Presbytery Elder, Aberdour); Rev. Dr. Iain Macnee; Mr Kenneth Sim Presbytery Elder, Sandhaven, and Convener).
On Tuesday 13th April the Visiting Team met Mr Gordon Reid, and Mr Tim Barker, Interim Moderator and Locum Minister, respectively, of the Crimond/Lonmay linkage, and ten office bearers (Board and Session).
On Sunday 19th April the Convener led worship in Lonmay Church and also in Crimond 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, TB 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 in both churches 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 each 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 a gradually reducing membership was one of the main things to have been addressed by the current stewardship campaign, and that, while no immediate solutions to the problem had emerged, one main cause was found to lie in the fact that the majority of those who were no longer attending were either deceased or not able to be present through illness or frailty: many now living in care or in sheltered accommodation. The other factor was the lack of sufficient numbers of new recruits to the church. Nevertheless, numbers attending Sunday worship, as a proportion of the total roll, remain healthy.
Meeting with Office Bearers
The office bearers were enthusiastic in pointing out the progress made by the congregation since the last visit. While accepting that their numbers were slowly declining overall, they pointed out that weekly attendance normally exceeds twenty, and that Tim Barker has re-instituted monthly Sunday evening service at the ‘Kirkie’, in nearby St. Combs. Since his arrival a pattern has been set of three services being conducted by him each month, and the fourth by a visiting reader. This is felt to combine a very necessary stability with variety for the congregation. TB has also involved congregation members in the services by having a rota for the readings, and has introduced new hymns.
The Christianity Explored course has been run three times now, and a Stewardship programme is in progress. The church has established a website, and also publishes The Messenger, a news-sheet for members.
A Singing Group regularly visits Fraserburgh Hospital, with Crimond members also participating. The Guild are active, and in fact organise Cookery Club demonstrations that involve Crimond as a part of the shared activities within the linkage. A very successful ‘Over-50s’ Club’ continues to function under the auspices of the church.
The Visiting Team was made aware of a long list of further activities which helped to promote the Mission of the church, as well as, in many cases, fulfilling an effective fund-raising function.
The Sunday School meets weekly in St. Combs, and has, currently, sixteen children aged 4-11 years, with six helpers in charge. During the year there are five Family Services on Sunday mornings, in which the children play an active part.
The Lonmay Boys’ Brigade company is healthy, and a Messy Church is in operation. TB has also created new and active links with Kininmonth School, where he takes regular services.
There was a feeling amongst the office bearers that one advantage of having had a fourteen-year vacancy was that they had been forced to develop a ‘pro-active’ approach to running their church in the absence of a minister, and to take more responsibility than might otherwise have been the case. There had recently been a change of Session Clerk, with Roy Kinghorn replacing Alistair Laird, who had retired after forty-two years’ service. In addition, a new Elder had recently been ordained. There was a definite sense that the Session was pulling its weight, and the Nominating Committee had been active in the search for a minister to fill the vacancy.
There was acknowledgement of the fact that the membership was gradually diminishing, and that there was a particular dearth in the 20-30 age group, which could prove problematic in future. However income through the various forms of offering was shown actually to have risen by £1579 per annum since 2008.
The main church building appears to be in very good order, and lovingly cared for; being supplemented by a well-appointed portacabin.
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 well as details relating to the life of the church, 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. Included were suggestions to vary the types of service held, and the content, to provide interest and accessibility for all age groups, particularly children and young adults. One hope is that Sunday School members might also attend church – and might bring parents with them. Another idea mooted was the possibility of bringing ‘Home Communion’ to housebound and sick members; although indications so far are that, as yet, there is no real demand for this.
The Plan is also looking at means of encouraging more people, again very much including the younger individuals, to become more involved with the church than simply attending worship: by helping with fund-raising and with the care of the church property. Further ways are being sought to build on and strengthen the links with Crimond church.
What was impressive, apart from the detailing of the Plan, was the frankness in admitting when and why suggestions were not proving successful.
For the Visiting Team the feeling during the visit was a very positive one, and what emerged
throughout was the sense of ownership felt by those office-bearers present, and of their determination to ensure the future of Lonmay church. Equally clear was the affection and esteem in which they hold their current Locum. Clearly both he and the recently-appointed IM function well as a team. As a result the morale in the church appears to be high.
There are some negatives. It is a fact that the congregation numbers are in diminution, and that despite the rise in income through offerings, cited earlier, increased costs will inevitably be incurred through having a minister to oversee the linkage, as and when that may happen. However, the office-bearers are fully aware of these realities, and their approach in working towards safeguarding their church’s future is exemplary. They are to be commended for it.
I should like to extend to the congregation the sincere good wishes of the Visiting Team, on behalf of Presbytery, for the success of their endeavours in the future, and to thank their office-bearers for our warm reception.
Kenneth Sim (Convener)