Remarkable! Recently, representative leaders from the 7 Irvine churches of Scotland ‘agreed’ a possible way to break a 4 to 5 year deadlock and forge positive ways forward for ministry and mission in Irvine. It is all still to be formalized and worked out in detail.

Due to the reduction of available ministers for churches of Scotland, Irvine & Kilmarnock Presbytery has to reduce from 7 ministers to 6 Revs for the 7 Irvine area charges. The proposal is one minister for each of 3 linkages between: Bourtreehill: Relief & Mure Parishes; Girdle Toll & St Andrew’s Parishes; and Fullarton & Irvine Old Parishes; Dreghorn & Springside Parish freed to call their own minister. This would free the Irvine churches to call 2 pioneer ministers (to assist all 7 congregations in their ministry and outreach – e.g. Workers in ‘Children & Family’, ‘Youth, 20’s & 30’s’, ‘Sport & Chaplaincy’, etc. The particular locus & focus for these ministries are still to be decided by the Irvine churches & Presbytery).

I confess to breaking out in a cold sweat as the proposal to link Fullarton with Irvine Old was agreed, not because I don’t like the good people of Irvine Old, indeed I have enjoyed being their interim moderator for the last 20 months and am fond of the flock; rather it’s because I’m already over stretched. I fear that: in becoming minister of such a linkage I’ll be diverted from what God wants me to do with Fullarton ConneXions and Sports Chaplaincy UK, and that I’ll be spread too thinly and be pressed to burn or bail out.

On spilling my guts to my monthly mentor he held up a mirror to help me see that I was spouting about ‘my’ vision and what ‘I’ felt God wanted me to do, i.e. too much about ‘Neil Urquhart’ and not enough about God. For such a linkage to work would require a team working together, with the likes of Irvine Old’s locum Rev Sandra Black and some lay folk being involved in preaching, pastoring and helping grow God’s People in Faith, Hope & Outreaching Love.

I’m torn about it all, but realise that I must lay down all that I presently hold dear and aspire to, and allow God to show me what He wants me to take up. I’m passionate about many things, but I must be ready to ‘let go and let God’, to hold lightly things that presently seem essential in my life; ready to make sacrifices and take up my cross to follow Jesus, assured by God that such sacrificial sewing in service will mean greater blessing for others, God’s Kingdom and ultimately myself. I admire my fellow Shoes Bro’ Father Willie Boyd, and others like him, who are stepping up to serve a wider parish.

“Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; 
I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?” (Matthew 16:24-26 – MSG)

Please pray for us in this whole process and all Irvine’s churches, that we’ll be able to seek and find God’s Kingdom come with fresh force in positive life and community transforming ways, learning to follow Jesus wherever he leads.

Someone, ignorant of my dilemma and fears, handed me this verse from W Cowper’s hymn ‘God works in mysterious ways’.

“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy and shall break

In blessings on your head.”