June 2023: Laura Digan
Each month, the Church of Scotland's 'Talking Ministry' series shares a personal story from those serving in Christian ministry, along with resources filled with questions, prayers and reflections to help encourage reflection on how God might be calling you at this time.
For June, Laura Digan speaks about how pretending to be a minister as a child led to her becoming the real thing.
My ministry: Laura Digan, Minister of Word and Sacrament at Whiteinch Parish Church in Glasgow
- Laura Digan worked in corporate communications before putting her skills to use in a ministry career.
- She is now in her first charge at Whiteinch Parish Church in Glasgow.
- She has a grown-up son, Mikael, who has two children, Alfie (5) and 20-month old Teddi, with his fiancée Alix.
What are your early memories of church?
I grew up in what was then Gartsherrie Parish Church in Coatbridge, and is now New St Andrew's. That was a wonderful church where you felt everybody was cared for. The adults were really involved in the youth organisations and shared their time and talents. I'm a Bake-Off fan and I know how to make royal icing and butter icing because I was taught in the Girls' Brigade.
That is what I want to bring to my ministry, the feeling that we belong to a family and to give people a chance to be themselves and feel loved.
My parents were very involved in the church and would help clean it but I was too busy sneaking into the pulpit and pretending to be the minister to help.
What led you to ministry?
As I grew older, I moved away and worked at weekends so I wasn't able to attend so much, but my mum would take my son to church.
After I began working Monday to Friday, I started going with them.
The minister must have seen something in me and asked if I would take part in some services. I started to feel that sense of call that I had as a wee child. But I really enjoyed my job and I didn't think I was ministry material or the kind of person the Church would want – too flawed and too exuberant.
But I told my Mum that I was thinking of going to the enquirers' conference and she said to go for it. My minister and others in the church were encouraging too. Then the department that I worked for was centralised to London and my post was going. It felt like God was saying: "You are cutting ties – it's full on now, Laura."
I had been accepted for the diaconate because I thought it would suit me better and I was volunteering with the homeless because I liked the idea of being a bridge between the community and church, but really, I just couldn't see myself as a minister.
People kept telling me though that my call was wrong, that I should be a Minister of Word and Sacrament. First colleagues at my first conference, then people in church and then my placement supervisor.
Then I had a dream where I was at my church and it was really busy with all these people in the car park waiting for communion and the minister first called me by the wrong name then said: "I need you to go outside and give communion." As a deacon, you can't do that, but he told me that I had to and gave me The Book of Common Order and said: "You'll get the words that you need there. Stop faffing about and do it." I felt that was the voice of God telling me what I had to do. The next day I phoned up the Church of Scotland head office and asked how to apply to be a full-time Minister of Word and Sacrament.
Was there anything you found daunting about becoming a minister?
I was daunted about the responsibility. I didn't think I had the knowledge or authority to teach people about God's word.
I didn't like the idea of wearing a collar. I felt it would collar me, that wearing it would take away my individuality, diminish who I am as a person. I also don't like the way people elevate a minister. I feel the collar is part of that, it separates you. We are all equal, all brothers and sisters following Christ together, encouraging and supporting each other.
I don't call myself Reverend and I try and discourage others from using the title when referring to me. What I like is that when people find out I'm a minister, it takes them aback a bit and they go: "She's just like me!"
I think it's important that people see you as an equal. That's when the conversations start.
What did your training involve?
I went back to Glasgow University to study and my first placement was at New Wellwynd Church with Rev Robbie Hamilton in Airdrie. That was wonderful because the congregation took me to their hearts and I had that sense of family that I'd had when I was a wee girl. Robbie was an excellent teacher and gave me a perfect grounding in church life.
Then I went to Viewpark Church in Uddingston with Rev Michael Lyall, who encouraged me to find my own voice and be myself. I was using gifts I knew I had, but at Viewpark they really started to flourish.
Then I decided I wanted to work with the Church's online community, Sanctuary First, because I used to work in digital communications.
But I had to have parish experience as well, so I joined Larbert East Church with Rev Melville Crosthwaite, who was just the most wonderful mentor. He saw where I had gaps and really focussed in on them.
I still had a year of university, but Sanctuary First asked me to stay on and New Wellwynd asked me back to be their pastoral assistant. I did family work and visited the sick and spent time with people with dementia and in care homes. It was a real privilege to journey with people and see how the Lord was touching their lives and connecting with them, even in their confusion.
Then Covid hit. That was difficult because I get my energy from other people, but it also allowed me to be creative and enabled me to see how a community is made and grown in different settings online.
When I went into probation with Rev Robert Allan at Falkirk Trinity, we were still in Covid, but again Robert gave me a lot of freedom to be creative and I was able to see that some things would work in one church, but they wouldn't work in another.
What is your current role?
After probation, I went to Whiteinch Church. I'd had a heart for Whiteinch since I was a student and always knew I wanted to be connected with them in some way.
We don't have a church building and we meet in Whiteinch Community Centre. That means we are easily accessible – it's easy for anyone to come into the community centre where it can be difficult for some people to go into a church. It also means we have to make partnerships. We have a youth club with West Glasgow Youth Church and we started a Muddy Church in Victoria Park with Scotstoun and Partick Victoria Park churches. We sometimes use Scotstoun Church for midweek worship and we have our Messy Church within the community centre.
It's really good to be a part of the community because we really do love it.
What are your plans for the future?
I recently attended a course in Wales to become a facilitator on a project called Flourish, encouraging young people to develop a growth mindset for their wellbeing and mental health. We will be going into schools to deliver it, so I am really excited about that.
I feel that in the future I will go into a pioneering ministry and I have an idea for an Equine/Canine Therapy Centre where people in need of spiritual healing can work with horses and dogs who also need healing. I have called it my Horsey/Human Rescue Centre.
I hope my ministry will go further into working alongside people who have mental health issues and into equine healing and spiritual healing.
Do you have any advice for someone entering ministry?
Full time Ministry of Word and Sacrament is changing and people have to be aware that it is maybe not as secure as it was in the past. You have to trust that God has got you, but also that God has been preparing you. All the experience you have gathered in your life, He will use, but perhaps in a way you have not imagined.
Anyone coming into ministry also has to seriously think about whether they are really willing to give everything up to serve the Lord and go on a really thrilling adventure, because that is what it will be. Full time Ministry will be very fluid and organic and spirit-filled and isn't steady and safe. God is really shaking the institution to prepare for something fantastical and we just have to go with Him.
If people need safety and security, and people do for so many reasons, I would encourage them to explore other opportunities such as being an OLM (Ordained Local Minister), Reader or within Pioneering Ministry. There are still ways to serve without being a full-time Minister of Word and Sacrament.
Full-time ministry can be all consuming so it's important that you make time for yourself and for friends and family. Especially in the first couple of years, it is easy to lose touch because you are so busy, and that's not good for your own mental health because you can end up feeling very isolated and alone. Keep connected to the people who knew you before and love you.
And really think about what God is asking you to do because he might not be asking you to do something where you are so it's important to know when to say no.
June Discernment Resources: The God of Surprises
Could God call someone like me?
I couldn't do that, I'm too young, I'm not smart enough, I can't speak in public, surely God couldn't be wanting to use me? Those may be just some of the thoughts that go through you mind when you start to feel that prompting by God to serve him more. Those negative comments that someone may have said to you when you were younger, that you wouldn't achieve much in your life, "Stick to your day job you can't do much else." Those are not God's words, they are not from the one who created you and knows exactly what you are capable of and knows that if you are willing to ‘walk on the water you just need to get out of the boat'.
And Jesus himself said, to encourage his disciples before he left them,
I am telling you the truth: those who believe in me will do what I do - yes, they will do even greater things, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask for in my name, so that the Father's glory will be shown through the Son. If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:12-14
It can be so daunting to want to take a step of faith and in some respects put your faith out there and say yes to God's calling, but sometimes you don't have to do anything at all. If God is calling you then there is often no escape. We read in scripture of many people who were just getting on with their everyday lives and then God surprises them, takes them unawares so to speak. Young Mary, the mother of God, engage to be married, excited about her future life with Joseph, then one night she is visited by an angel and before you know it she is going to be the mother of God. Moses, out minding his sheep, and before his eyes there is a burning bush in front of him, he realises he is standing on holy ground for God speaks to him through the bush, and has a job for him to do; to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and lead them to their promised land. David a young handsome boy looking after his father's flock out on the fields. He may have been looking forward to a nice quiet night, when all of a sudden he is called home, and before he can sit down and put his feet up he is anointed to become the next King of Judah.
Samuel 16:1 & 8-13
The Lord said to Samuel, "How long will you go on grieving over Saul? I have rejected him as king of Israel. But now get some olive oil and go to Bethlehem, to a man named Jesse, because I have chosen one of his sons to be king."…….. Then Jesse called his son Abinadab and brought him to Samuel. But Samuel said, "No, the Lord hasn't chosen him either." Jesse then brought Shammah. "No, the Lord hasn't chosen him either," Samuel said. In this way Jesse brought seven of his sons to Samuel. And Samuel said to him, "No, the Lord hasn't chosen any of these." Then he asked him, "Do you have any more sons?"
Jesse answered, "There is still the youngest, but he is out taking care of the sheep."
"Tell him to come here," Samuel said. "We won't offer the sacrifice until he comes." So Jesse sent for him. He was a handsome, healthy young man, and his eyes sparkled. The Lord said to Samuel, "This is the one—anoint him!" Samuel took the olive oil and anointed David in front of his brothers. Immediately the spirit of the Lord took control of David and was with him from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.
- Do I bring myself down and believe my own negative thoughts that I am not good enough for God to use me?
- Could God have gifted me with the ability to do what I feel called to do?
- If I just get on with my life and ignore God would he surprise me?
- Should I test God and ignore his calling? Or should I get out of the boat and look to Jesus and trust that he will lead me?
God to be at this stage in my life, and to be at this stage in my relationship with you, is a surprise in itself, but to know that you can use me in your service is a huge surprise as well as being extremely humbling and affirming. Thank you that I am open to your calling and Lord I want to have faith like Peter, Jesus' disciple, had to call out to you and ‘walk on the water.' To trust that you will lead and guide me in the right direction. Thank you that you have used the most ordinary people in the past to do the most extraordinary things like becoming the mother of God, leading people to freedom and becoming a leader of a nation. Help me to trust in you and to know that you will use the gifts you created in me to bring glory to your name and to serve your people. AMEN
"The treasure lies in what you may consider a most unlikely field – yourself." - Gerard W. Hughes
If you would like to consider how God might be calling you to serve at this time, you may want to discuss further with your minister or be in touch with your Presbytery to explore local opportunities.
If you are interested in exploring a call to the recognised ministries of the Church, you can find more information on our vocations page and can contact email@example.com for a Discernment Conversation with one of the Recruitment Team.