This year I had the privilege of presenting a report to the Free Church General Assembly (#fca13). The Personnel Committee Report is not even remotely the highlight of the week, but for me, the personnel we look after – our people, particularly our paid staff and office bearers but also the thousands who serve God volunteering in our congregations – are one of the greatest blessings enjoyed by the Free Church. This year’s Assembly was, for me, great because of what it demonstrated: we have great people, and a greater God.
Our paid staff
I don’t mean our ministers! We have many excellent auxiliary staff – youth workers, alcohol workers, family workers, and so on. But the work and witness of our Church would be severely curtailed if we weren’t supported by a team of really profession and dedicated staff in the Offices. These are not front line ministry workers – but they administer camps, manage denominational finances, answer the phones, talk to the press, and so on. We’d really struggle without them. This year, Calum Ferguson reached the end of his full time service with the Church. It was a pleasure to join in one of the longest standing ovations I remember at Assembly. His work as International Missions co-ordinator has been incredible – to God be the glory. I was also really impressed with Sarah Macleod’s introduction to the Assembly. She’s an incredibly gifted young woman, and I pray God’s blessing on her work as Mission Co-ordinator, “looking after” both Home and International fields.
I wish I could share some more detail of the International Missions speakers we heard. Some of these men and women serve God in really dark places, and their security is paramount. But their vision is glorious. They are not going to do it alone, but they want to see the world change, whole nations transformed – one life at a time. One I can mention is Clive Bailey, who has just returned from Peru. He has done sterling work in securing a long term future for a Christian school in Lima. Our people are doing great work, all over the world. To God alone be the glory.
Our elders (and deacons)
I was so impressed with the elders at this year’s Assembly. If we have guys like Tom Muir (championing discipleship and training for young men and future office bearers), David Kirk (articulating a vision for excellence doctrine, training, and ministry) or James Fraser (Principal of UHI, who still finds time to be chairman of our Board of Trustees) in our ranks, I have huge optimism for the health of our Church. The Assembly was also full of a good number of older elders, few of whom spoke. I made a point this year of hanging out with them at meal times – and their chat showed just how engaged they were with the sometimes difficult issues we faced. To God alone be the glory.
I just wish we had ways of bringing deacons into some of our Assembly deliberations – maybe a day where diaconal work is dealt with in full, and deacon commissioners could deliberate the practical ministry of the Church?
We have some excellent ministers. I have never suggested people watch Assembly speeches before, but this year there were some outstanding contributions: Angus Howat’s Moderatorial Address; Iain D. Campbell’s Ecumenical Relations Report; Iver Martin’s vision for the Edinburgh Theological Seminary (the Free Church College); Derek Lamont’s Home Mission Board Report. Watch them if you are able – these are Free Church leaders with vision, and ambition for the glory of God. We have men like Alasdair MacDonald, Angus Macrae and Jeremy Ross, whose contributions were full of deep pastoral concern. We have some really impressive young ministers too – Hugh Ferrier is a wee star, I think the youngest minister in the Church, but insightful, and worth keeping an open ear for in the future. And we have gracious and patient men too – the nomination to the Chair of Old Testament crystallises the Free Church’s financial dilemma in one guy, and Daniel Sladek deserves a medal for the way he has conducted himself throughout.
These guys – led by the excellent Gordon Bell (like a herd of cats? – Ed.) – just get a mention for being #epic and #madeofwin
I can’t mention everybody here – but we have great people in the Free Church. But we have greater God, and I thank him for the great gift he has given our Church in our people.