Parish minister profiled in popular magazine
Published on 28 November, 2016
Rev Fiona Mathieson, minister at Carrick Knowe church in Edinburgh, is interviewed in the December issue of No1 Magazine, a popular magazine for women in Scotland. Mrs Mathieson answered questions for the magazine's A Day in the Life of... feature, raising the profile of parish ministers and the work of the church.
Here's the interview:
Name: Fiona Mathieson
Job Title: Church of Scotland Minister
It is my job to serve all the people in the community whether they are members of the church or not and to lead our active busy congregation. The role is very varied: visiting the sick; being a school chaplain to our local primary school; conducting funerals, weddings and baptisms; crafting worship and delivering sermons; helping people to see ways through difficult times and hopefully enabling folk to feel and know the love of God in a real and authentic way
What I love most are the people and being at the heart of the community. There is something unique about journeying with folk at the most sensitive times of their lives. Sometimes people are in deep despair; at other times they are celebrating fantastic life-enhancing moments. To be allowed to be at the centre of that and to hopefully be a channel through which God can connect with people is humbling and awe inspiring.
I had always been very involved in the church I grew up in (Kingspark in Glasgow). I had trained as a primary teacher at Jordanhill College, but as time went by I began to lean towards being a minister. Taking that first step at 21 took me to places and gave me opportunities which I could never have dreamt of at the time.
It’s not a job it’s a way of life and it’s become who I am—in fact I have been doing this 32 years! I have had three ‘jobs’ over the years, I was the Church of Scotland’s National Youth Adviser and later Chaplain to the University of Glasgow, which made me the first female and youngest chaplain of one of the ‘ancient’ universities was amazing. This was one of my career highlights. To move into a parish I had to apply and a group elected by the congregation interviewed me. I then had to lead a service for the whole congregation on an appointed Sunday morning. Once the service was over I left the church and the congregation voted as to whether they felt I was the right ‘minister’ for them. Thankfully over 95 percent voted yes.
Some days are long as there can be unexpected things to deal with alongside what is already planned. Most mornings I get up about 8-8.30 am and I don’t need to leave the house so once I’ve hit the shower, sorted my hair, make up and a suitable outfit for the day ahead, I walk down the stairs into my study and I am at work. Mornings are for preparation as the afternoons are better for knocking on folk’s doors. So I will be in my study at the manse writing sermons and prayers for the Sunday service, arranging meetings, dealing with mail and answering e-mails and calls.
Afternoons are for visiting people in their homes or in hospital or care homes. Over the years I have been with people when those they love have taken their own lives or have been murdered or when they have been given a life-changing piece of news or diagnosis. Often the challenge is knowing when to say nothing and simply to be with them.
Evening meetings are to ensure that the congregation is governed properly. If people are working, then evenings are when they are free to come to the Manse and have a chat about whatever they are dealing with. In an ideal world I am home with my husband Angus in time for whatever is on TV at 9 pm as I am a bit of a TV addict!
Interestingly people always think December is the busiest time for me when, in fact, it’s October. That’s when we are is busy preparing and putting the Christmas services together so that people can be given readings and parts in good time. In December there are extra services and parties to attend. But often Christmas is a difficult time for people. Popular culture tells us ‘it’s the season to be jolly’, but if you’re not in that place it is just plain miserable. At Christmas I get more involved if I can. Supporting bereaved families is often challenging but it’s particularly poignant at Christmas.
I have realised that you have to leave all the emotions you have absorbed at the door. You need to have some time for yourself friends and family. It is still not easy but I can do it. I enjoy television, cooking, reading and time with friends. We have a season ticket for the Lyceum which means that Angus and I go out together for a meal and to the theatre with our friends.
My advice is don’t think that the path you begin on has to be the one you continue on. Always look for new challenges, be brave and give what might seem impossible a go. Never think you know it all because that is when the most unexpected thing will hit you hard and leave you struggling. And always, always treat people with dignity and respect. Most people are interested in what I do. A few are hostile, but I can usually win them round by just being me.
The thing I love most about Scotland is…
The People: Our honest openness is what makes our country.
My favourite staycation destination is…
Iona. Over the years I have had many holidays on the island. Its peace and spirituality are incredible.
My favourite Scottish city is…
Well as a Glaswegian that’s hard, but I would have to say Edinburgh because I have spent most of my adult life here.
I would take new visitors to Scotland to…
The Royal Mile and then over to Fife.
If I could change anything about my country it would be…
I would love people to recognise all that the church does for the social fabric of our land and to be as inclusive and fair as possible.