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Letter from August - September 2013

posted 9 Oct 2013, 08:26 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne

From the interim priest-in-charge, Rev Lisa Eunson

Grace and peace to you all. It is a privilege to have been asked by the Bishop to serve you in this interregnum, and to have been made so very welcome by yourselves. Thank you.

For the past seven years I have been Rector of the congregations of St Ternan’s, Banchory and Christ Church, Kincardine O’Neil, who have formed me with care, and encouraged this opportunity for our churches to get to know each other a bit better. My role with them will continue, and the next phase of our shared ministry is only possible because each congregation is so full of talent and generosity with it. My deepest thanks to all of the Deeside vestries and lay leaders, and to the valiant Upper Deeside Lay Reader team of Hugh Dawson, John Lovie, and Stuart Yarnell for all they will be teaching me, and us all.

About the schedule: You’ll know that John and Stuart are covering services in Aboyne and Ballater through August, at Bishop Bob’s request. Meanwhile I’m off to Shetland for a long-planned holiday, and otherwise clearing the deck. I’ve been meeting with various folks to learn what I can, and have set up a draft schedule beginning in September, where I will be celebrating communion with Aboyne and Ballater on the second and fourth Sundays. John and Stuart, and in Aboyne members of the Family Worship Group, will be leading on the other Sundays. I also intend to be ‘up the valley’ at least two afternoons a week, probably Tuesday and Thursday. Other visits can be arranged, so please don’t be shy about asking to see me. I am very interested in meeting you. All of this is meant to be adaptable as we learn what works, and respond to particular events in each community.

Most of you have lived through interregnums before, and in most cases enjoyed the opportunity to pull together and keep growing. My aim, therefore, is to support what you are doing here with God: in worship, in pastoral care, with children, etc etc. If that can also allow for some sharing of best practices and fun fellowship between all the Deeside congregations, so much the better.

But for how long? It is highly unlikely the incumbency would be filled before spring, and that is the minimum; I hope you will feel secure in taking the time required to find the right person to join you.

About me: I am a ‘cradle Episcopalian’ who was raised in Tokyo, New York, and San Francisco, and lived all my previous adult life in the San Francisco Bay Area, so at first the largest culture shock here was the scarcity of traffic. I am now a zealous convert to rural life. After twenty years working in the business world, where time in customer service and then senior management taught me a lot about conflict resolution and encouraging people in their own gifts, I finally accepted the call to ordained ministry. I graduated from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (the Episcopal portion of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California) in 2001 and became the Associate Rector at St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Burlingame (near San Francisco), a large congregation by Episcopal standards. With several on staff, my own focus at St Paul’s was the cluster of ministry teams involved in care, prayer, and membership and then eventually oversight of the children’s programme, too.

My Bishop at the time, knowing my background as a supervisor of a large team in that former life, finally took me aside and reminded me God might want me to be a Rector. Personal life events pushed me to go for what I had always dreamed, which was some day to see, and maybe work in, Scotland. My father’s grandparents were from Shetland, and a 2005 visit there caused me in 2006 to throw caution to the wind (apt metaphor, if you’ve ever been to Shetland) and apply for an opening I heard about there. My application was too late for St Magnus in Lerwick, but Bishop Bruce and Dean Gerald said: ‘What about Banchory?’ This phrase echoes in my heart, as I’ve found home here.

In the SEC, I’ve been actively involved in the various training programmes for clergy, lay readers, and lay people, and served on our Diocesan Mission and Ministry Board for five years, and General Synod for four. In anticipation of this interregnum phase, I’ve pared down the Diocesan and Provincial work as much as possible, to focus on you.

In the USA, with the separation of church and state that is built into the constitution, working in schools is not part of a clergy person’s training or expectation. I have learned a lot in the past seven years about how to do that, and more surprising, about how much I enjoy it. It is my hope that in the time I have with your congregations I can build our relationships in the schools near you. Sadly I have no family of my own, and it is a real privilege to serve the next generations in this way.

It is also a very important mission focus: of the very large portion of the UK population who are not members of a church, only 2% of them will ever even enter a church, but 98% of them will be involved with the local schools. In my experience, a congregation is healthy when it cares for both its own members and its wider community. Then we can truly become the blessing to our neighbours God has formed us to be. Thank you for blessing my life and vocation with this new adventure.

I look forward to all God has planned for us in the time ahead.

Rev Lisa Eunson, BA, MDiv