Former supermarket worker takes up star role in the pulpit

Louise Mackay
Rev Elspeth MacLean, Rev Maudeen MacDougall, Rev Louise Mackay, Right Rev Dr Russell Barr

A former supermarket checkout worker has become the third female minster to be inducted in churches within Lanark Presbytery in less than a year.

Louise Mackay, 27, was ordained into St Nicholas Church in Lanark as her mentor Moderator of the General Assembly, Right Rev Dr Russell Barr, proudly looked on.

Rev Elspeth MacLean, 61, a former small animal Vet, took up her post at Forth St Paul's Parish Church in September last year.

And Rev Maudeen MacDougall started work as the minister for the parishes of Carstairs and Carnwath, in March 2016.

Lanark Presbytery clerk Rev Bryan Kerr said the three women brought experience and innovation to their posts in “equal measure”.

Miss Mackay, Ms MacLean and Ms MacDougall, along with Dr Barr, are strong supporters of the Church’s Tomorrow’s Calling campaign.

It seeks to encourage people from all walks of life to consider going into the ministry and spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.

St Nicholas Church blessing
Louise Mackay is ordained and inducted as minister of St Nicholas Church

Miss Mackay, who was also mentored by Rev Dr Derek Browning, Moderator Designate for 2017-18, said: "I am delighted and blessed that I have been called to St Nicholas.

"I am excited about what the future holds for myself, for the congregation and for the local community.

"I hope that I am able to use my energy, creativity and zest to lead my new congregation and in the context of the wider work done by the Church of Scotland."

Miss Mackay was raised in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders and has a degree in Psychology from Napier University in Edinburgh.

She used to work on the checkouts at Morrisons at the city's Gyle shopping centre when she was student, securing a full-time supervisor position after she graduated.

Miss Mackay, who worked in the supermarket for nearly seven years, said the job had exposed her to human nature in all its guises and she had seen the best and worst in people.

Around 300 people, including 40 from Dr Barr’s church in Edinburgh, attended the ordination service at St Nicholas Church last Thursday evening.

The Moderator said: “As well as being a very special occasion for Louise, her family, and her new congregation, it was also a special occasion for me and the people of Cramond Kirk.

“She spent the final 15 months of her training there and it was a delight to see her grow and develop into the thoughtful, caring and highly skilled minister which she has now become.

"It was a pleasure to supervise Louise and, despite the wintry conditions, about 40 people travelled from Cramond to attend the service and show their support which is a sign of how highly she is regarded.

“She could not have been made more welcome by the people of St Nicholas and by her new colleagues in Lanark Presbytery.”

St Nicholas Parish Church
St Nicholas Church has links to the legendary Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace

Dr Barr said he was pleased Miss Mackay would have be supported by other women of “varying experience of ministry".

"As I approach the end of my ministry, it is good to see young people like Louise setting out in their first charge and it gives me confidence the church continues to be in good hands,” he added.

Miss Mackay's father David is the organist at Old Parish and St Paul's Parish Church in Galashiels.

Ms MacDougall was ordained in 1978 and in 1984 became the minister at Dundee: Meadowside St Paul's Church where she spent more than 25 years

"Speaking as a minister who remembers the days when it was quite usual to be the only woman among a multitude of men, it is good to have many women in the ministry," she added.

"We all - women and men - have our unique personalities and distinctive gifts.

"We are ever equipping ourselves afresh for the challenges of the 21st century, with the assistance of the wealth of talent within the Church’s membership.”

Edinburgh raised Ms MacLean moved to Forth after spending five years working as a minister on the Inner Hebrides island of Tiree.

She worked as a Vet in Glasgow then Aberdeen before she decided to change career when she was in her 50s.

Ms MacLean described the move as a culture shock but she successfully graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree from the University of Aberdeen then took up her first minister post on Tiree in 2011.

Reflecting on her time so far in Forth, Ms MacLean said: “I have been made most welcome here.

"I am enjoying working in a larger church with a great team of elders and a delightful congregation who are all ready to help and support each other, and their minister.

"The church is physically, and spiritually, in the centre of the village, and I have been amazed at how well the whole community support any church events.

"Lanark Presbytery has also welcomed me with open arms, and I am revelling in the novelty of having neighbouring ministers with whom I can meet up for a coffee and a chat without a three-day weather dependent trip by boat or plane.”

Rev Bryan Kerr
L-R Rev Elspeth MacLean, Rev Maudeen MacDougall, Rev Louise Mackay, Right Rev Dr Russell Barr, Rev Bryan Kerr

Mr Kerr, who leads Greyfriars Parish Church in Lanark, said the Presbytery was delighted that the women have taken up posts in neighbouring parishes.

"All three ministers bring a wealth of experience and being at different stages in their ministries offered experience and innovation in equal measure,” he added.

"The Presbytery is grateful to all those who have ministered in these parishes in the past.

""We are especially grateful for the long ministry of Rev Bev Gauld who served the parish of Carnwath for many years and we wish him a long and happy retirement.

"We hope and pray that the residents of the parishes will find comfort hope and inspiration from the ministry our new ministers bring and encourage people to make use of them when the need the services of the church."