Mustard Seeds Stories

The Church of Scotland aims to help you, your church, and your community engage with the wider church around the world. Our Mustard Seed stories share people’s encounters with the World Church.

These experiences, which began as seeds, have inspired further action and engagement with local and global communities. Select each icon to see how these initial seeds have grown and flourished into projects that benefit communities throughout the world.

Learning Together

Steve Flower, The Hradec Králové Seniorate and the Wigtown and Stranraer Presbytery Twinning.

The seed was planted in 2012 when I attended a World Mission event and learnt about the possibilities of developing a Twinning. This seemed to me to add an extra dimension to church life and to be a positive feature amongst all the gloom of dwindling congregations, fabric expenses and ministerial vacancies. Over the next years we spent time learning of the different options. It took time for the right direction to become clear but by April 2016 we established contact with the Czech Presbytery of Hradec Králové.

There were a number of visits back and forth and there was then no doubt that we wanted this partnership to work. Even at this early stage of our journey together we now have firm friends in another country, we are aware that the Church of Scotland and the ECCB have many challenges in common and the whole project has brought our own presbytery closer together. It is refreshing to lift our eyes away from presbytery administration and focus on friendship, communication and worship. The one link has spread throughout the presbytery and it’s encouraging to see a wide variety of individuals engaging in different ways. One example of this was on the recent visit of our Czech friends to Scotland; at one of the barbecues, Pavla was talking to me about a summer school that she is organising for 2020 and how she needs a non-Czech speaking tutor to work with the children on improving their English. One of our ministers’ wives is an author and storyteller and she volunteered immediately!

Going forward we are excited about learning some basic Czech, we have plans for reciprocal cooking classes on our next visit and there’s already interest from new people in being involved in the next visit. Through all this we hope friendships continue to grow as we look for ways to explore issues of common interest together. The small seed planted at the WM event has had a profoundly positive effect on our small presbytery.

Tuli Umo Muli Christu" (We are One in Christ")

Alison Boyes, Dunscore linked with Glencairn and Moniaive

Alison with host family

We were a varied group, ranging in age a from 9 to 70. None of us had set foot on the African continent before and we were unsure what to expect as we set off to visit our potential twinning partner in Zambia. (The journey really started a few months before when our church hosted one of the Faith Impact Forum's international students, a minister from Zambia. This encounter got us excited about the possibility of a twinning.) Unsure of what we might offer, and uncertain about what we might gain, we learned a lot in that visit. Both churches quickly decided that a twinning was the right way forward for our congregations and we signed our first twinning agreement a year later in 2008.

Alison at Bible study with Men's Christian Fellowship

Over the last 10 years, the relationship has been through both flourishing and fallow periods. We've had a number of visits each way; one of these was a group of 7 young men from the church youth group, with two of their leaders. For a few years communication stalled due to changing leadership and in 2018 we had a meeting to decide whether to renew the twinning. There was unanimous support for this, despite the difficulties, as we felt that there had been such benefit to our congregation. It was an opportune time as there was another new minister in Zambia who was very keen to learn about the Twinning and to be involved. A visit from Scotland revived the twinning.

The service to renew our twinning after 10 years

The recent visit re-established relationships and good communication between the congregations. The hospitality we received was truly humbling. We agreed wholeheartedly with the wish to change the twinning motto from “TuliPamo” (“We are Together”) to “Tuli Umo Muli Christu” (We are One in Christ”). We enjoyed participating in a style of worship which was different from our own – the music and dancing were wonderful. The charismatic prayers were a new experience which took us out of our comfort zone and led us to pray from our hearts. We re-examined our faith and our relationship with God and the church. Our visit brought home to us that despite all our differences, we are truly One in Christ. We worship and serve One God, who loves us all and this is the message we are striving to spread in our communities.

Heart and Soul

Rev Dr Robin Hill, Minister at Gladsmuir with Longniddry

Heart and Soul swing band

I was delighted when I was invited to become the Convener of the Church of Scotland HIV Programme and a member of the World MIssion Council (now the Faith Impact Forum). I was keen to support fundraising for the Programme and to raise awareness of and increase knowledge about HIV for people here in Scotland. This is where the idea of Souper Sunday came from. I am also passionate about music and hearing some big band gospel music inspired me to gather a group of 20 vocalists and instrumentalists together, and so the 'Heart & Soul Swing Band' was born. It seemed an easy choice to become the house band of the Church of Scotland HIV Programme and we agreed that all our concerts would be free with all donations going to them.

Heart and Soul swing band drummer

Thanks to the Church of Scotland's Study Leave Programme I was able to spend a month learning big band arranging techniques with an internationally renowned jazz educator. Over the next six years we developed our technique together, performing all over Scotland's central belt in venues ranging from parish churches to Dundee's Caird Hall. There was also an appearance on BBC Songs of Praise. And so far we have raised awareness of HIV wherever we have played, with almost £30,000 going to the HIV Programme from audience donations.

Heart and Soul swing band before concert

As a band, we love showing congregations how simple it can be to enliven church music through big band swing, and we are keen to share our musical resources far and wide. In addition, we are now getting under way with building a network of Heart and Soul Community Gospel Choirs to encourage singers as well as players.

And in all of our work, we are delighted to use the opportunity to allow our music to educate folks in Scotland and also to support HIV initiatives of the Church of Scotland’s partners - a big, big reason for being and a joy for us all.

A New Direction in Life

Lorna Tunstall, Member of the Faith Impact Forum

Lorna Tunstall

My mustard seed story began when my Minister asked for help to lead worship within our parish. After a while, she suggested I enrol on a Vocations Conference to explore the potential of training for ministry. At the conference, I attended a session led by the Faith Impact Forum which, for me, was the first time I fully appreciated the amount of work, outside of Scotland, that the Church supports alongside its world partners. On my return I advised my minister that I was not ready for the challenge of training for ministry but remarked that World Mission looked "fun" and thought nothing more of it. Soon after, I received a call from WMC asking if I would consider becoming a Council member which I duly accepted. Little did I know that joining WMC would completely change my direction in life.

Lorna Tunstall

As a member of the WMC I become more informed of all the work, global initiatives and partnerships that the Church of Scotland shares. I was also introduced to the other council members, many of which are Church of Scotland ministers. It was through my exposure to the wider picture of the Church of Scotland and the fellowship of the council members that my calling to become a minister became so much stronger and I felt I could no longer ignore it. Two years after I had attended the initial Vocations Conference, I decided to apply to become a candidate in training for Full Time Ministry and was delighted when I was accepted. I have continued to serve on the WMC throughout my ministry training and the Council has been a great support to me.

Lorna Tunstall

From the initial small step of helping with worship in my local church I am now serving as Probationary Minister and, all being well, will be ordained as a Full Time Minister of Word and Sacrament next year. I have never felt more sure that this is the path on which God has called me to travel. The prospect of becoming a minister is both daunting and humbling and I still cannot quite believe I am where I am; it is also the most exciting journey I have ever embarked upon. The work supported by WMC gives the Church of Scotland so much breadth and depth as we share and learn in partnership with our fellow Christians world-wide. I am excited about the prospect of supporting future endeavours from within my own Parish and local community.

From Hearing Stories to Embracing Friends

Rev Barbara Ann Sweetin, Parish minister at Forfar East and Old

Arrival at Budapest airport

I was first attracted to discovering more about people of faith from other countries through the enthusiasm and stories shared by the Faith Impact Forum. It was these stories that sparked a real interest - real human stories, with real people, real situations and both good and bad situations that people from other lands were involved in. It was not all about what we could do for our brothers or sisters abroad but more importantly what we could learn from them.

Planning next meet-up

I broached the idea of twinning with the Kirk Session and through discussion and prayer we decided to take it further and explore a European twinning. We learned of a church in Hungary that had a few similar aspects to our own church-  small town, refurbished organ and new minister. World Mission made the introductions and after eight months of communicating, 12 of our members travelled to Hungary for a meet and greet! Following on from the visit, praying for each other and sharing stories of church life helped to involve the whole congregation in the twinning.

Twinning Scotland Hungary Switzerland ministers

The Church'ss Faithshare Visitor Programme supports us to arrange a visit each year alternating between Scotland and Hungary. Each year we focus on a different aspect of church/faith life and are currently looking at environmental issues and refugee concerns. Young people from Scotland have attended summer camps in Hungary and a Hungarian choir has visited us in Scotland.

Through meeting a minister from Switzerland a few years ago there has now been a three-way link with Scotland, Hungary and Switzerland. Now the Swiss who are friendly with a church in Germany have involved them and we are now a four way link –  many people in the church have taken short language classes in German and Hungarian! Pen friends have been made and extra visits have been taken by our members and their families to Hungary and Switzerland.

Having visitors from abroad has helped us to open the church to the community and the community in turn has welcomed these international visitors in a variety of ways.

As a Faith Impact Forum member, I have had the opportunity to host many overseas visitors in our church. Hearing their stories and learning of situations within their home countries has expanded the knowledge and enriched the lives out church members and the community.

Faith Impact Forum planted the seed which helped bring the world church to our doorstep. The fruits from this continue to bless our church and community in numerous and unexpected ways.