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Pastoral Letter Autumn 2013

'Is it worth the effort? '

Pastoral Letter published in September 2013

Dear Friends,

At the time of writing we are currently embroiled in noise and chaos coupled with a significant level of stress and anxiety! What I am seeking to describe here is not the response to my latest sermon or a recent meeting of the Kirk Session, but rather our children's holiday club called 'Space Academy.' This year we have been blessed with some new helpers and an increase in the number of children attending. There is something very inspiring about working with people who have willingly given up their time to give children the opportunity to have fun (and stressed out mums and dads and carers a break) during the long school holidays! This leads to an interesting question. Why are we doing this? Why do we bother going to so much time and expense and effort? What is it that we are trying to achieve turning our usual peaceful church building in Mayfield and Easthouses into a place of fun and happiness, noise and chaos? It's an interesting question.

We could ask the same question about our aspirations for the future. Once the congregation and all our groups and organisations have seen our new plans for Mayfield and Easthouses Church (and consultation has taken place with other community organisations) and a final design has been agreed upon we start the daunting process of fund raising and applying for grants. In the foreseeable future we will be starting a similar process for Newtongrange (not the fundraising bit!). Then there are the plans for extending the Kirkbank Centre. In addition to this we look forward welcoming the Rev Mike Watson our new Local Ordained Minister, the appointment for an emerging church worker in Newtongrange (who should be in place by the time Focus comes out), and looking for a suitable full time families and community development worker.

All the above are going to require a great deal of effort and hard work. These things are not going to be handed to us on a plate. We are going to need resolve and tenacity. If our aspirations are going to become a reality, we are going to need everyone connected with the congregation to pull together,  work together and pray together. It is not going to be easy. We may have a lot of fun in the process, but there will no doubt discouragements and disappointments along the way. And it is going to be expensive. Over and above the challenge of maintaining congregational income to cover the substantial running costs associated with three sets of buildings and providing ministry to the parish, we will need to raise a lot of money. Some of this money will have to come from friends and members of the congregation. Then we must not forget that the recent double dip recession  has hit hard working families the most.  We live in a time of declining incomes and rising prices.

Again, the question is why? Why are we doing this? What is it that we are hoping to achieve? And the most penetrating question of all, is it worth the effort? Is it going to be worth all the hard work and the high level of commitment required? There are several answers that could be given here. I could speak about the sense of vision shared by many in the congregation. Many of us believe that this vision is inspired by God. We could also speak of working for the glory of God and seeing His will fulfilled in the church and the community. Another reason is the great commission of Luke 28: 16-20, where the church is a given mandate of mission to the world. This mission is bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to the people around us in word and deed. Whilst all these are perfectly good reasons in themselves, let me share with you another source of motivation. It is to have something to pass on to the next generation.

The age in which we live is marked by a  loss of spiritual well being. Within the Christian tradition our spirituality would embrace our awareness of God. It is from this awareness of God  that we draw a sense of our self worth and personal wholeness. To be made in the image of God, to be loved by God, to be redeemed by God and to have the assurance of our eternal salvation provides a very strong foundation on which to live our lives. There is also the comfort and inner renewal we receive from the Holy Spirit, as well as the support and encouragement we receive as part of the church community. From these things and more (especially the way we were nurtured by our parents) we learn to embrace such qualities as  love, compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, responsibility, harmony, and a concern for others. To put it another way, the outworking of an informed, balanced and integrated faith produces such outcomes as morale, happiness, life satisfaction and most important of all hope. Hope that God is with us. Hope that with God's help we can overcome our troubles and difficulties. Hope that we can achieve our hearts desires and that change is a real possibility.

This is the spiritual heritage we have to pass on. Not our buildings or traditions but a message of hope and a message of love. And so let me again ask the question, is it worth the effort?  It is worth all the expense and all the hard work? Is it worth the high level of personal commitment and financial sacrifice that is required? If we genuinely love the Lord and care about our communities, there can be only one answer.

With warmest greetings,

Rev Sean Swindells.