Three vignettes.

As a teenager on a Church of Scotland Sunday School Teacher Training Course at Carberry Towers I vividly remember being presented with the image of the teacher planting a seed but doing so with no guarantee that they would see any fruit produced. We do what we can in our time and it is God’s Spirit which produces the fruit – only if we are fortunate may we learn of it. If the child remains in the community where we live we may see that seed sprout and fruit.  If they move away then probably not.  Nonetheless the teaching, the planting, is critically important.

At my Ordination in Kirkwall East Church as a Minister of Word and Sacrament, the Moderator of the Presbytery said it would be important for me to remember my call to was to be faithful, not to be successful.  Immediately afterwards another minister came up to me and said, they thought that was rather lacking in confidence, why shouldn’t a call be to be faithful and successful!  Nonetheless, the Moderator’s words echoed with me.  If our primary focus is on attempting to be successful and we forget faithfulness then something of the very essence of the teaching of Jesus Christ is missed.   Surely if we are doing our best to be faithful we can do no more.  Yes, we can long and pray for success for the congregation but that’s outwith our direct control and is in God’s hands.

A number of years ago whilst serving in Parish Ministry in the Presbytery of St Andrews I was privileged to be part of a pilot group which gathered local ministers together to form a cohort for a three-year programme.  It was run by what was then called Macedonian Ministry (now called The Ministry Collaborative).  Ministers met, studied and shared together intentionally. It helped generate and deepen the supportive nature of how we related to each other.  It helped us to think about how to be faithful in mission and service for today. As part of a review, at a discussion with one of the Macedonian Ministry staff members, I expressed a degree of frustration.  I preached week by week, visited the ill and housebound, amongst many other tasks and responsibilities that come with Parish Ministry, but still I saw little growth. They listened and simply and clearly offered support for what I was doing.  Yes, have an eye on the future, yes, seriously engage with change, but yes also to valuing and cherishing the existing congregation. They affirmed the importance of preaching and pastoral care.  They affirmed how important it was to do our best to be faithful.  Their response echoed the words I heard decades previously at Carberry and Kirkwall.

Ultimately we are called to be faithful.  That doesn’t mean we cannot yearn, pray and look for successful growth.  We try our best to follow the teaching of Jesus Christ and then in trust we have to hand it over to God, who will take what is planted faithfully and then offer the sunshine and rain.

May we be faithful and then wait, trusting in God that fruit will follow.

Rev Allan McCafferty, Ministries Support Operations Manager