Delight as three friends ordained into ministry on same day

Three friends who carved out successful careers in caring professions are today being ordained as Church of Scotland ministers.

Dr Sonia Blakesley, a former GP, is being inducted into St Mark’s Oldhall Parish Church in Ralston, Paisley.

Louise Purden, a former family support, youth and community worker, is the new spiritual leader at Bonnyrigg Parish Church in Midlothian.

Betsi Thane, an ex-school teacher and social worker, is being ordained at West Kilbride Parish Church in Ayrshire.

The 51-year-old will soon be inducted as the new minister of St Andrew's Scots Church in Valletta, Malta.

Louise Purden
Betsi Thane, Dr Sonia Blakesley and Louise Purden.

The women became firm friends while training for the ministry with Dr Blakesley and Mrs Thane studying together at Trinity College at the University of Glasgow.

Mrs Purden, whose father Rev John McPake is a retired Church of Scotland minister, attended New College at the University of Edinburgh.

The women said they were “excited” and “looking forward” to embarking on their new journey .

But their joy is tinged with bittersweet sadness because they are unable to attend each other’s special ordination services this evening.

Sharing God's love

Dr Blakesley, who spent 23 years working as a GP in Moffat in Dumfries and Galloway, said: “I am excited to be starting my new role as minister.

“I have been training for this for a long time and am keen to get into my new position.

“This is an opportunity for my life and faith to dovetail in a way greater than before as I devote most of my time to God's work.

“I am prepared for the challenge of working with the Kirk Session and wider membership to discern how we best do God's work in this community, serving the people of Ralston and sharing God's love with them.

“I have good experience from my training placements, but I don't have all the answers.

“We will seek God's leading together.”

Dr Sonia Blakesley
Dr Sonia Blakesley

Dr Blakesley, 52, a mother of two grown up daughters, said she “really enjoyed” being a GP.

“But I became aware of God calling me into another vocation for the later part of my working life,” she added.

“I have good people skills and I am used to dealing with people in all kinds of life situations which stands me in good stead for my time as a minister.

“I have learnt to be efficient with routine administration and have good time management skills and have learnt to care for myself whilst also caring for others.

“However, what excites me about ministry is being able to talk openly about the spiritual side of people’s lives which was not really encouraged in medicine.”

Dr Blakesley, who enjoys walking her Border Collie/Spaniel Cross, Mylo, cross stitch, knitting and meeting friends in her spare time, is a member of St Andrew's Church in Moffat and served as session clerk for five years.

She did placements at Burnside Blairbeth Church in Rutherglen, the Tinto parishes in South Lanarkshire and Cranhill Parish Church in Glasgow.

Dr Blakesley spent her probationary period at Springfield Cambridge Church in Bishopbriggs.

Betsi Thane
Betsi Thane

Mrs Thane was born in Poland but has lived away from her home country for nearly 30 years.

She said: “I am excited, hopeful and trusting that the Lord will keep guiding me in my new role as a minister.

“I studied pedagogy ( a method of teaching) and my degree has been translated in Scotland as Master of Education.

“I have worked as a primary school teacher but also as social worker and carer in care homes.

“It gave me an experience of working with all age people - from new born babies to the very elderly.

“Having this experience means it seems to be easier to connect with people in church.”

Hopefulness

Mrs Thane, who loves to paint using acrylic or watercolours, preferably outside on sunny days, is the widow of the late Rev Marcus Thane, and has a daughter.

She did placements at Ayshire churches – Beith, Kilwinning, and Ardrossan Park Parish – and spent her 15-month probation at West Kilbride Parish Church,

Mrs Purden, 43, is married to Richard, a journalist and author, and they have two young children, Ryan and Christina.

Louise Purden and family
Louise Purden with husband Richard and children Ryan and Christina

Looking ahead to her new role, she said: “I am excited.

“I have spent all this time preparing and getting as equipped for the challenges that lie ahead as possible.

“But the reality is that you have just no idea what challenges are going to be thrown at you - you have no idea what life will really look like.

“It feels a bit like having children for the first time.

“There is a sense of expectancy and hopefulness – for me and my whole family.”

Mrs Purden was a probationer under Rev Keith Mack at St John’s and King’s Park Church in Dalkeith.

She said her previous job experience had put her on the right footing.

Connecting with communities

Mrs Purden said she was adamant for a long time that she was not going to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a minister.

He served full-time at Edinburgh's Liberton Northfield Church before taking up part-time roles in city churches.

Mrs Purden said: “I suppose my original reluctance was simply because I am not a fan of institutions.

“I wrestled with the feeling that I would become part of this massive institution and perhaps, along the way, lose sight of the grassroots stuff of engaging with people that I love so much.

“But my sense is that the Church of Scotland is at a point where it is ready for change and is recognising that it is all about engaging in that face-to-face, ground level ministry of connecting with communities and building relationships.

“There are very few other places where you can have that sort of intergenerational contact, where people can really truly care for each other and stand with each other and celebrate different achievements within their community.