Nepal missionary takes on new minister role in Edinburgh

A former solicitor who worked in Nepal helping survivors of the devastating earthquake in 2015 has been introduced as the first minister of a newly formed congregation in Edinburgh.

Malcolm Ramsay
Rev Malcolm Ramsay

Rev Malcolm Ramsay (60) was recently introduced as the ‘transition minister’ of Willowbrae Parish Church, a Kirk formed by uniting the two congregations of New Restalrig, and Craigentinny St Christopher’s. He will help build the church community at Willowbrae over the next five years.

His appointment comes following a turbulent period in local church life. New Restalrig lost its minister and some of its members in 2014 following their disagreement with the Church of Scotland’s decisions regarding ministers in same-sex relationships.

Craigentinny St Christopher’s had been in ‘guardianship’ since then due to its unsustainable size. After a long period of discussions it was decided to merge the two congregations to re-build community-based church life.

Nepal changed me

Mr Ramsay and his community nurse wife, Cati, spent four years based in Kathmandu working as a Mission Partner of the Church of Scotland with the Christian development agency the United Mission to Nepal.

During that time the earthquake which struck in April 2015 claimed the lives of nearly 9,000 people and injured a further 22,000.

Mr Ramsay, who was born in Zambia to Scottish parents, helped console traumatised survivors who had lost families, homes and workplaces. He was working at a retreat when the earthquake struck.

“I came back to Scotland a changed man,” he said.

“The experiences of these earthquakes are way beyond what we experience in the West.

“More earthquakes will happen because of Nepal’s geological position. There is no stability there really. Life is Nepal is very precarious on many different fronts. To live and work there made me much more conscious of my need for God’s help, and much more aware of the varying ways in which God answers that need.”

Open to new ideas

The father of two, who was ordained in Edinburgh 31 years ago, said:

“Willowbrae may be a long way from Kathmandu, but human beings are much the same everywhere.

"I imagine the wear and tear brought on by long-term transition and constant change will be similar in both places. So although the two situations are utterly different, I suspect the effects of relentless change will be comparable in some respects.”

The former minister of churches in Pitlochry and Newton Stewart emphasised the importance of “listening to the needs of his congregation” and said he was “open to new ideas”.

He added: “The people have been very welcoming and are glad to have a settled situation now. I’m not arrogant enough to think I have all the answers. There has already been very good Christian work going on in this parish before me.

"My first task is to get to know the people, and listen to them. I believe that God is present everywhere, so once I have begun to know the folk, our task together is to find out what God is doing in our lives and our church, and then to follow that lead.”