I’m quite a sociable soul and thrive on human interaction. Being a church minister can be a lonely existence and there have been periods in my 29 Irvine years when I felt quite alone. This was despite having a wonderful wife & family, football mates, Monday morning golf buddies (till Glasgow Gailes stopped the gracious opportunity for local ministers & priests to play) and lunches with fellow Rev’s.
My notorious friendship with neighbouring priest Fr Wullie Boyd has since become such a serendipitous blessing. This Saturday we’ll walk together in Irvine’s annual Marymass Festival Parade and monthly we record 2 Irvine Beat FM ‘Soul Sunday’ chat shows, aired 9.30am every second Sunday. I’m very grateful for side-kicks like ‘Jake’ (Shoes Bro’s reference).
I feel freer to socialise with folk from my flock than I used to, but am still cautious of becoming too pally, wanting to be available as a friend to all my congregation. Common interests like cycling, fitba & golf, allow me to share close friendships with some. Road cycling, my latest passion, amazes me with how much ground you can cover geographically, socially, emotionally & spiritually, while wheeching on wheel alongside a cycling buddy!
It’s the ability to be entirely honest and open with another, processing issues, crises & opportunities, and being challenged in practice and thinking, that I increasingly value. I can discuss most things with Dorothy, but there are situations I will not burden her with. Prayer with and to God, through Jesus Christ, is indispensable and opens up a world in which I know I am never alone: God above, below, within and all around me / us.
Monthly over a coffee, my mentor and friend, Gordon Reid, gives me his ear, heart, wisdom & help to reflect and look forward with hope. He’s the third retired minister (Cf. Revs George Campbell & Peter Neilson), who’s given me such ‘soul friendship’, a support, which holds me accountable and is not scared to ask difficult questions. These ‘soul friends’ have all been people who’ve walked the road I travel and offered encouraging examples. Come retirement, if God spares me, it’s something I hope to similarly offer such soul friendship to younger ministers and leaders, such is its immense value to me!
Proverbs 18:24 (NIV) – “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
George Eliot’s description of a good friend, “A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that gentle hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”