November Talking Ministry: an interview with Paul Goode

Paul Goode, elder at Earlston spoke to us about his call to ministry and how music, family and faith are central to his calling.

Paul Goode

How did you become a Christian?

That's a hard one but I think I'd have to say my love of music played a big part in it. My mother had a Christian faith and had been involved in the Church of England. So, at age six when I was singing loudly at 6am, she decided what I needed was to join a Church of England choir.

I went on to sing at two cathedrals: St Albans and St Pauls in London, thoroughly enjoyed it and became semi-professional, continuing to sing with various choirs in London as a tenor for many years as well as in St Paul's. Being in the choir developed my Christianity and I think being part of a choir is a wonderful way for young people to learn about faith, God, the psalms and the Bible. I just love music, church music and in fact any good music, and that I think has drawn me deeper into my faith.

Tell us about your journey into ministry?

My professional work was in a completely different field. It took me into the world of banking and finance. At that time, I hadn't thought of ministry as such, although I always felt God's calling and became a committed volunteer for the Church.

My life changed dramatically after marrying my wife Katriona, a former BBC radio producer and a Scot. We approached Rev Marion Dodd, who was then the minister at Kelso, and she married us in Floors Castle. Then, a year later we had our son Matthew, who is a real joy but has serious disabilities and communicates with us all in a very different way.

We are very fortunate that Matthew does not want for anything. My wife and I have been able to retire early, which allows us to care for him at home. So, 15 years ago, we moved to Earlston, a small village near Melrose. Rev Marion Dodds encouraged me to start taking services and preach the Gospel and I found that I enjoyed it, and I very much enjoyed leading people to God. That's where my Church of Scotland ministry journey really began.

Tell us how you came to be an elder

I'd have to say my faith journey has been rocky at times, not because of God's calling – because over time I have become more and more sure of where I want to go – but because it has been challenging at times to discern where I fit in.

Being an ordained elder allows me to do almost everything I have wanted to do in ministry. I deliver services, write and say prayers and read the Gospel. I give pastoral care and I'm happy when I am out in my community speaking to people and sharing faith with them.

I've taken funerals, including that of my own father, and I've even married a couple in our own home under a special license. The only thing I have not been able to do is a baptism but everything else is part of the role.

I like the Presbyterian way of seeing things. I like that in the Church we are all equal, we just have different talents. There is no doubt that the Church will increasingly need its elders and that the Church will look to elders to use their talents, whatever those talents may be.

My faith has grown deeper as I've grown older. I want to be out there preaching my faith, but also telling people about God and leading people to God. So, if someone asks me about taking on an elder's role in their congregation I'd say go for it!

What important moments have shaped your faith journey?

My father was a scientist and an agnostic so for many years we did not talk about faith. But as he grew older and closer to the end of his life he shared with me his worries about death. When he opened that door, I was able to say to him that so long as you have faith you can rest knowing that. And funnily enough he became quite rested and quite content.

So even though I feel that I didn't talk to my father enough about faith during his life, I did have a year where we could talk about faith and that was very important to me.

A very important moment for me was when my son Matthew took his affirmation of faith. He does not speak but he communicated through pressing a switch to affirm his faith. He pressed it three times in exactly the right place so everyone in the room knew he was making that affirmation and we were all really moved.

What advice has sustained you in your faith journey?

The best advice I've ever had was to, ‘Be yourself and explore your calling.'

And, in fact, I am still exploring my calling and I can't thank that person enough for their encouragement to me, which has strengthened my resolve to carry on doing my ministry.

Who has inspired you on your journey?

Rev Marion Dodd. She is now retired but she is still very much involved as an interim moderator here at Earlston. Since our marriage she's been very much part of our life. She has been a great support for the family and also a great support for me.

Rev Nigel Robb who I met when I was volunteering on the CARTA committee and found we had interests in common, and Rev Ian Miller in Balloch and Luss, whose services we enjoy very much.

Where is your calling taking you now?

During the pandemic, Katriona and I decided we would do a Sunday Service live from our home through our Facebook page every week. That was new to me and I'm training on the job. We do it at 10:15am every single Sunday for our friends and people who they share with, so it's not public but it goes to an average of 77 people.

I'm very proud of my wife and I that we have not missed a Sunday for 88 weeks. That and my horses have kept me going for the last two years.

Because of my experience with my son, I care a lot about people who are dealing with learning disabilities and I am vice chair of the Churches Disabilities Group, an ecumenical group. For me, disability is not about disabled access and toilets, it's about including people in the whole life of the Church. We want to build a Church where everyone is welcome and included and can take part in worship.

With Jesus beside you, you can move mountains!

Each month throughout 2021, the Talking Ministry series will share a personal story from those serving in Christian ministry, as well as discernment resources filled with questions, prayers and reflections to help encourage your own reflection on how God might be calling you.

This is a shortened version of Paul's interview and you can read his full story as well as access the resources for November on our Talking Ministry page.