The little church may have been all but dead – but now it is most certainly alive!

Dane Sherrard, Minister - Fogo Parish Church

Rebuilding community

Fogo Parish Church is a tiny, rural church with hundreds of years of history, but the congregation had dwindled to single figures. The Presbytery of Duns granted a three-year spell in guardianship and appointed an interim moderator and three assessor elders to support the struggling congregation.

Three years later the congregation is out of guardianship and appears to have a bright future with a non-stipendiary minister appointed by presbytery with the approval of the congregation, with a Kirk Session of seven elders (with two more in training) and a regular weekly attendance of around thirty folk worshipping in a newly restored church building which no matter when one visits is always warm and dry.

What has led to this mini-revival? The minister says that it is down to traditional ministry, a bit of luck, and seeing problems as opportunities. Once a month the minister visits every home in the parish with a breezy newsletter, the first took the parish by surprise as everyone had assumed that their church was now closed.

Worship is participative with the minister welcoming, preaching and pronouncing the benediction. Everything else is led by members of the congregation: At least a dozen people are equipped and willing to share in the leading of worship Sunday by Sunday.

Services contain a great deal of singing with excellent music provided by a modern electronic organ in the hands of an accomplished director of music. The congregation which has now grown to more than fifty, is made up of folk from a whole range of Christian traditions – Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Anglican, Evangelical and Church of Scotland – as well as a significant number who have had no involvement in Church before. All say that it was the welcome, the music, the feeling of being important that drew them into the Church family.

Other things are clearly important as well – a share of the sale of a former manse enabled an air-to-air heating system to be installed which keeps the building constantly warm and dry. There is no running water but a toilet was required to give members the peace of mind to remain for refreshments after a service, so a ship’s toilet was installed and in the ‘kitchen’ a tea-urn took the place of taps to ensure water for those refreshments.

Early on the congregation decided to spend a number of evenings looking at education, mission and worship. On each of these occasions more than half of the congregation arrived to take part and great things have happened as a result. As well as preparing an interesting educational programme, twenty-five members are going as pilgrims to the Holy Land in January. As well as ensuring that the congregation is missional in all its activities, a Music Festival and Garden Party was arranged this summer with live music from 2 – 10 p.m – five hundred (mostly young people) turned up. The little church may have been all but dead – but now it is most certainly alive!

Key Points

  • Reopening traditional channels of communication
  • Volunteer worship groups
  • Key refurbishment choices
  • Ecumenical approach
  • Mission centred community involvement