Advent Day 19: Minister "revs" up mobile manse

A minister has clocked up thousands of miles travelling around her rural parish in a "mobile manse".

Rev Fiona Ogg, who looks after an area that spans 131 square miles of Lochaber in the Highlands, said her trusty white Fiat Ducatto campervan is an "excellent conversation starter".

She regularly stays overnight at Kilchoan when visiting her flock at Ardnamurchan Parish Church because travel times between there and her home in Archaracle can be lengthy.

Fiona Ogg campervan
Rev Fiona Ogg and Maisie chew the fat with parishioner, Lynne McLuckie, in the back of her campervan

Mrs Ogg, who regularly journeys with her Border Terrier, Maisie, said the single track roads are often snarled up by rural "traffic jams" - sheep, cattle and slow moving tourists.

The minister, who leads the linked Parishes of Acharacle and Ardnamurchan, said the campervan is "great fun" to drive and she invites people on board for tea/coffee and a chat.

Mrs Ogg said: "I bought it second-hand in 2016 because I think it is important to be a visible presence in Kilchoan given that the church building closed in October 2018 for health and safety reasons and the congregation meets in a community centre.

"If there is an evening event followed by a morning event in Kilchoan, going back to the manse in Acharacle to sleep then returning is tiring, time consuming and pushes up travel costs.

"Having the van frees up the travel time for pastoral work and desk time."

Maisie and Rev Fiona Ogg
Rev Fiona Ogg is a minister in a large rural parish and has driven thousands of miles in her campervan

Mrs Ogg travels between her churches most Sundays and once a week and has driven around 4,000 miles to date.

She said the "mobile manse", registered in 2008, has gone down well with parishioners.

All rev'd up

The minister said: "Using it as a base is often an opening into conversation, but also means parishioners can stop me, or pop in, maybe just for a look around.

"They also stop for a chat when I'm walking the dog.

"One of the best days was going for a walk with someone, on a rare hot, summer day, on a beach and returning to the van to eat ice-creams that we'd bought earlier and left in the freezer.

"The van is snug and cosy in the winter."

Fiona Ogg behind the wheel
Behind the wheel - Rev Fiona Ogg says driving a campervan is a great fun and a brilliant conversation starter.

Ardnamurchan Parish Church is the most westerly parish on the UK mainland.

Mrs Ogg, who also uses her car for work, said that while her congregations were small in worshipping numbers, they are active in the communities they serve.

"At Kilchoan, where I use the van most, the congregation has a group that offers hospitality to locals and visitors alike," she added.

"During Advent there will be two mince pie mornings when, for a couple of hours, guests will be welcomed at the manse / meeting room for coffees, teas, mince pies and a blether. "This has proved to be very popular and provides a space and time for those who would like company.

"Over the summer, there are weekly scone teas with the same purpose of hospitality and these draw a goodly number of locals and visitors alike."

Carols in a distillery

Looking ahead to Advent, Mrs Ogg said the congregation was holding a breakfast with cafe style worship event in the local hotel in Kilchoan, an ecumenical carol service in the neighbouring parish and carols in Ardnamurchan Distillery.

She added: "In each parish, a Posada – a display featuring figures from the nativity story - will be journeying round the homes of primary children, and sometimes a few of the elderly."

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