Bittersweet departure for Highland minister

A Highland minister who allowed her manse to be turned into a makeshift medical centre after the local GP surgery burned down is returning to her home country of Germany.

Rev Tabea Baader
Rev Tabea Baader. (Photo courtesy of the Press and Journal)

Rev Tabea Baader, who decided to act to prevent poorly residents in Fort Augustus near Loch Ness being forced to travel more than an hour to Inverness or Fort William for treatment following a fire last year, is taking up a new chaplain role at the University of Augsburg.

The 34-year-old has led Fort Augustus and Glengarry congregations since March 2012 as part of an exchange programme for a limited time which has come to an end by agreement.

She said saying goodbye to a parish where people were “pure and honest” was “bittersweet”.

Pure and honest hearts

Ms Baader, who belongs to the Evangelical LutheranChurch inBavaria, said: “Many Scottish ministers would dread going to a rural place but I have not regretted a single day and stayed on for longer than originally planned.

“I think the beauty of Fort Augustus and Glengarry is not only one of overwhelming scenery – the air is clean and the hearts of the people are pure and honest.

“They are the perfect places to get some rest, reflect on one’s life and then return refreshed into the ‘real world’.

“Leaving will be a bittersweet goodbye and I will miss my two congregations a lot.”

Ms Baader said one of her first insights as a minister in the Highlands was a lot of her work would be considered by some people to be social work.

“Liaising with the food bank in Fort William, helping people locally to apply for accommodation and even from time to time letting people stay with me in the manse,” she added.

“I know that previous ministers have done similar work.

“It does not seem sensible trying to pray with people and preach at them on a Sunday if very simple needs are not served, such as the need for food, accommodation or trying to guide them through a time of crisis in their lives.”

Meaningful lives

Ms Baader said it was a "great privilege" to be able to help her communityafter Cill Chuimein GP practice in Fort Augustus was destroyed by fire in October last year.

She described practice staff as "angels in disguise."

Ms Baader, who is leaving Scotland after this weekend, said she would encourage people to consider going into the Church of Scotland ministry.

“In any place the church offers support when people are trying to live meaningful lives,” she added.

“It gives space to talk, to listen, and to ask questions.

“There is help in times of trouble, when a loved one dies, in sickness, when suffering from depression, or when just passing out food boxes.

“There is always great company for people of all ages at different events.

“There are many offers of inspiring music and most importantly the Church offers highly qualified preachers and spiritual leaders.”

New challenges

The congregations of Fort Augustus and Glengarry are now looking for a new minister.

Lochaber Presbytery Clerk, Rev Donald McCorkindale, said "Tabea will be missed not only by those in the congregations and communities of Glengarry and Fort August but by colleagues around the Presbytery.

“We wish her well, as this exchange from Germany sadly comes to its end and she takes up newchallenges"