In talking about my Christian formation and vocation to ministry I should begin by saying that I believe the usual order of these two callings is reversed in my case. I think I have been hearing and seeking to respond to a summons to the ministry of word and sacrament since my teenage years but I became a Christian only in my ‘30s. That summons has always, for me, been experienced as the impulse to speak for and to represent hope, to speak of the possibility of a fulness of life beyond what seems credible but having no knowledge or experience of the Church or its life I sought other ways to articulate this message.
I turned first to politics. In my teens and twenties I was a convinced and active marxist. I was utopian in my hopes for political action to sweep poverty and injustice from the world. I came to realise that politics had its limits and its dangers and that marxism was mistaken, but the hope for a way of life unrecognisably better than ours remained.
In seeking ways to speak of this I turned to philosophy, doing doctoral research on love as a politics of transformation, under the supervision of the philosopher Gillian Rose, During the time I worked with her she first explored her Jewish heritage and then, during her final illness and before her death at the tragically young age of 48 in 1993, converting to Christianity. She had come to see that her aspirations were best expressed through the ideas and practices of the Church.
I was not yet ready to follow her along this path but through my own work it had begun to seem a real option to me. At around the same time I met and married Pam, who was a member of Palmers Green URC and subsequently of churches in Edinburgh. I began, through her, to experience the realities of Church life and to recognise its value and its power.
I was baptised in 1998 and we became members of Morningside United Church, whose minister, John Smith, you have heard this evening. John’s ministry has been essential to my journey here and I’d like to thank you, John, for all you have done for me and with me. At Morningside United I found a living community in which all were welcome and all supported on their pilgrim path. As my involvement with the work of that church and my exploration of my faith deepened the voice that called me to proclamation and enactment of our faith and hope became louder.
Involvement in the children’s and youth work of MUC was crucial and I’d like to thank our then youth leader and my dear friend Dr. Scott Spurlock, who is also with us today, for all his support and encouragement and for his example of discipleship, as well as for the many pints of German beer and glasses of Scotch whisky we have shared as I came to discern, at last, my call to this life, this ministry.
So finally I was called to this place to serve Christ through his Church. Pam will attest that when I first met your vacancy committee I came home full of enthusiasm and excitement about working with you. I sensed that these were churches where my strengths would be put to use and my weaknesses compensated for and where communication and relationships would be made easy for me. I’m sure we have great things to do together to the glory of God and the building up of hope and joy in those who have already heard the good news and among those who have not. I feel in coming among you I have, finally, come home.