So back in the sultry climate of Scotland in late October, I’ve been twice with our congregation at St Mary’s, Aberfoyle. It’s a beautiful place in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. St Mary’s completed the creation of its MAP (Mission Action Plan) in January 2012. Our pattern is that I go back to the congregation at this mid point to review and to encourage.
So I went and spent part of Wednesday afternoon and evening with them. We began with my usual excursion into the community with some members of the congregation. We visited the Search and Rescue, the Woollen Mills, the garage and anybody else up the street who was prepared to talk to us. And back at the church, we had presentations about the place of Aberfoyle in the National Park and about the potential of pilgrimage routes in Scotland. Then we shared a meal together and I had a meeting with the Vestry.
Reviewing the Mission Action Plan sounds a bit ‘tick box’ and I’m not sure that that kind of exercise is the best contribution I can make. I think it’s probably better to head off up the main street in a determined effort to live what is our aspiration – to help a small and very faithful congregation to transcend the obvious challenges of age profile and size and to live on a bigger map.
On Sunday morning, Alison and I went back to share in worship. I did some more encouraging – a visitor from one of our congregations in Edinburgh was astonished to find that Mission Planning is under way here too. The message is very simple. The loving restoration of St Mary’s was a statement that the Episcopal congregation is here to stay for another generation or two … and the Mission Plan attempts to answer the question ‘What is this congregation called to be and to do?’
And then we are invited to lunch. People care deeply about their church. They are incredibly warm and hospitable. And there will be a future …