‘Disorientating’ is one word for the change of era, and era of change, we are experiencing in these days. Yesterday our united church ‘prayer walk’ took us ‘up the Munt’ (Dreghorn) for a glorious view over Irvine & Ayrshire. Noticeable was ‘no high flats’ on the horizon looking towards Arran, though the Trinity and Old Parish Church spires & Townhouse’s circular top still stand tall to orientate the eye.  For 5 Irvine churches 1st October saw a seismic shift, officially becoming ‘Irvine Parish Church of Scotland’, with 5 branches: Dreghorn & Springside, Fullarton, Girdle Toll, Mure Relief, & St Andrews, plus ‘Crossing Together’ a church plant based in Bourtreehill.

It is a huge logistical challenge to bring 5 kirk sessions (trustees), rolls, accounts, pastoral care, ministries, mission, and strategies, etc, together under one leadership, but as Jesus’ first beatitude says, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” (MSG) IE. It’s a chance to let God prove His Loving presence in and through our humility, human weakness, skills, and caring strengths.

The new congregation will be led by a Team Ministry of Rev Jamie Milliken (minister of Dreghorn and Springside Parish Church) a (to be recruited) halftime minister, and myself. Proposals to the first Kirk session meeting on 11th October are to continue weekly services at existing venues and times, with the help of a large (and growing) team of worship leaders (starting in November). Effectively Rev Jamie & myself will be involved at each centre’s morning service once a month, and use evening services to help grow the gifts and abilities of existing, and trainee, worship leaders.

While a huge challenge, our uniting is “opportunity” to pool resources in sharing God’s Love & Good News with our town and communities. At a time of disorientation, anxiety and change our town desperately needs the Peace, Purpose & Power that Jesus offers. I sincerely believe that, along with other church & community partners, our united church can become more of a channel for God’s Real Hope in Christ.

Within 2 years the new Kirk Session of Irvine Parish Church – made up of elders from the 5 legacy congregations – will decide which buildings (including manses) to retain and release in serving the vision for mission. Presbytery and National Church will assist in this, and Irvine Old will be included in these considerations. Please pray for us as we bring hearts and heads together to grow a dynamic vision for Irvine, Dreghorn, & Springside; vision that gives priority to the needs of people beyond our walls. It is important that we learn to appreciate the history and legacy of each congregation and the historical importance of each one’s buildings and traditions, so when it comes to releasing some we can all share in the grief and pain as well as the ‘Hope’. Towards this Jamie and I hope to have united praise services in all our church sanctuaries to celebrate and thank God for each heritage and history.

Already ‘Crossing Together’, our presbytery pioneer mission project in Bourtreehill & Broomlands, is planting a new worshipping community and illustrating innovation in sharing Jesus’ Love and Good News. ‘Up the Munt’ we prayed and sang ‘Jesus Love is very wonderful… God loves Dreghorn, Springside, Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland, The Whole World and so He died for Us…’ What a Joy!

So, what are the unshakeable solid values able to withstand the today’s earthquaking changes? ‘Faith, Hope, & Love, and the greatest of these is L—!