New locum minister for Edinburgh kirk is loving her second career
Published on 24 January 2024 4 minutes read
As locum minister for Juniper Green Parish Church in Edinburgh, Rev Susan Galloway is on familiar territory.
Juniper Green was one of the churches where Mrs Galloway was on a placement as part of her training as an Ordained Local Minister (OLM) in the Church of Scotland.
Following her ordination at the kirk just before Christmas, she will now be looking after services at Juniper Green until its union with Colinton Parish Church is complete.
"It's wonderful to be in a congregation that you already know, rather than being thrown in at the deep end somewhere completely new," she said.
"But having said that, being ordained in December was like being thrown in the deep end because there were so many services! I think I did six services over four days, plus a full school assembly, as well as making 50 Christingles. By Boxing Day, I was ready to lie down in a darkened room!"
Mrs Galloway, who spent her previous working life in science, including the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and diagnostic manufacturing industry, has no complaints about her new career.
Church has always been an important part of her life, serving as a Sunday school teacher, member of the deacon's court and an elder, while her husband Tom was a church organist.
Then, when her minister mentioned that it was becoming very difficult to get ministers for pulpit supply and asked for volunteers to lead services, she decided to put her name forward.
She found that she really enjoyed getting involved in leading worship.
"I love the musical aspect as well because music has always been a huge part of my life," she added.
"I sing with an amateur operatic society and a musical society that raises funds for Macmillan Cancer Support. So, bringing all that together – the prayers, the scripture, your reflection on the scripture, the music – gives me so much pleasure."
It was a fellow churchgoer who suggested Mrs Galloway take it further, and she began looking into training for Ordained Local Ministry.
She was still thinking about this path when she met a lady at a family silver wedding anniversary reception who was training for Ordained Local Ministry, and the pair spent the entire evening talking about what was involved in being an OLM.
Another sign that she was doing the right thing came when she attended a conference in Manchester.
Mrs Galloway revealed that one of her earliest memories of church was sitting with her grandmother, and being fascinated with picture that she kept in her Bible.
This was the famous Victorian painting The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt, which depicts Christ knocking on an overgrown door.
She had not thought about it for years, but then went to a regulatory conference in Manchester.
"The dinner was held in Manchester City Art Gallery, so I wandered around, looking at all the exhibits and turning things over in my head and wondering if God could really be calling me to ministry," she recalled.
"Then I turned around a corner in the gallery into another room and the Holman Hunt painting was on the wall facing me. I actually felt as of God had slapped me in the face and said: ‘Wake up!'"
Confident she was doing the right thing, Mrs Galloway applied for OLM training and was accepted.
"I have had such a wonderful time doing this," the Bo'ness resident said.
"My discernment and placement supervisors were all wonderful. They were completely different in terms of personality and the way they approached ministry and teaching, but I learned so much from all of them and it didn't feel like it was work."
Ministry of dog walking
Mrs Galloway also paid tribute to her fellow ministry candidates for their continued support, after several members of the "Purple Hoodie Gang" – named after the matching hoodies worn by the candidates – made the journey to Edinburgh for her ordination.
"The group who have stayed in touch have travelled far and wide to get to as many of the ordinations as possible," she added.
"If you need to talk about anything, there is always someone on the end of our WhatsApp group. It's lovely that we all support each other."
Fellow Purple Hoodie member, Moray minister Rev Anne-Marie Simpson, talks of having a "ministry of transport" where travelling by bus or train enables her to start talking to people, opening up an opportunity to share her faith. Mrs Galloway revealed she has a similar experience, thanks to her pair of rescue dogs.
She explained: "Mine is more a ministry of dog walking because I meet so many people when I'm out walking the dogs.
"I have some amazing chats with people you would never get to know if you didn't have a dog. You never know what's going on with people's lives and you have some incredible conversations.
"To go out into the community and try to spread God's word and a little bit of love is such a privilege. Everybody is so lovely and you find you have something in common with almost everyone you meet. And if you think you haven't, you will soon find something."