Incredibly the last time we actually met together for a Congregational AGM was at end of June 2019 – three years ago. During the intervening time we had to improvise with online meetings or simply making information available most often via the website.
So just to remind you that you can relax … the days of twisting arms to become a Congregational Board member are long gone but that does not mean you are not needed or wanted because you are and I will explain why and how in just a minute.
It is stating the obvious to say that things have changed since June of 2019. Some changes are very visible, others less so.
Let me jump forward to August of 2021 when we welcomed a new out of School care facility to our church halls. FAB OSC is run by Susan Taylor who is doing a marvellous job. We knew Susan from her previous role in Happy Days OSC and also her role as church cleaner sharing those tasks with the late Margaret McEwen. Everything runs so much more smoothly now than it did with the previous OSC, (some of you will know the background there), we are glad that church halls are providing a facility for the community, a source of employment for Susan, Chloe, Niamh and Jessica and a much needed source of income to our church. (around £1200 pcm). In October ’21 we welcomed Education in Retirement and in October this year Probus Club will be meeting within the Sanctuary on 1st & 3rdWednesdays of the month. While each of these provide us with an income stream it is not always the income that is the important thing. A church integrated into its community and finding places of contact with those who do not associate with church is a vital part of our reason for being here.
Susan Taylor continues to develop the facilities on offer to children and parents through FAB OSC and we benefit from those facilities too. Across the summer and autumn months the smaller Belmont hall will acquire soft furnishings to be more accommodating of Primary 1 children and children with learning difficulties. The hall will still be accessible to and useable by other groups and meetings.
Thankfully, we were able to clear out our loft and dunny to be able to store excess seating from the Belmont Hall in the dunny. There are now about 140 chairs stored below you. Let me record a very big thank you to everyone who made that clear out happen. It was genuinely a big task and the wonderful thing is we discovered we are still able to gather the people to make that happen. We are not out of the game yet!!!
The aftermath of Covid left many gaps in church life. We wondered how on earth we were going to fill those gaps. Cleaning was a case in point especially around the Sanctuary which now undergoes much more use. Susan Taylor was obliging enough to extend her cleaning duties into the Sanctuary when halls were not being used but now, just in the natural course of things the sanctuary is being hoovered and swept twice a week. This space is being better kept than it ever was! The lesson to learn is that we don’t always need a plan or a rota, or a list of volunteers. Here in Westwood Church, we still have the capacity just to see what needs done and do it. Every coffee morning we’ve held, each Brunch or Jubilee celebration, each event, concert or project however large or small has only served to reinforce the fact that we are still a strong church able to adapt, re-build ourselves and embrace the changes.
There is still the capacity in our church to seize opportunities that arise. The Mini-Library on Wednesday morning is just that. Maureen and Kay saw the opportunity for an activity on Wednesday mornings, saw an under-used library in the church corridor and decided to give a Mini- library a whirl. Attendance continues to grow and a meeting place between church and community has grown up.
Currently we have around 280 members on the Communion Roll from 216 households. This may go down in the coming weeks as we catch up with our Data Protection obligations. There will be members whom we have lost touch with in the last two or three years and if we cannot re-establish that contact we will be legally obliged to remove names and addresses from the Communion Roll.
While the average Church of Scotland church has around 40 to 50 people attending on a Sunday morning we are in the wonderful position of having 80 to 90, but we still have around another 200 members who are not participating in church life. Clearly some will just not be able to participate while others could be encouraged to re-connect with their church. (I put it that way as not to limit that to Sunday morning attendance).
The task of keeping in touch with church members has always fallen to the Kirk Session through the traditional pattern of elders visiting districts. Now the Kirk Session needs your help because that traditional pattern simply no longer works. Indeed, it stopped working some time back when each elder was having to take on two or three districts. Westwood has at least one district that has no elder, no one to visit or help sustain regular contact with the church. We simply do not have the number of elders sufficient to visit all households and by the time we factor in who has a car and who doesn’t, who is able to do the stairs in our many blocks of flats, we genuinely struggle to offer the kind of contact and support church members deserve.
During the Pandemic we learned that better conversations took place by phone then ever did by knocking on doors. Phone calls are the future! Some of you here may remember the late Diane Watson who was an elder of our church; Diane was quite disabled. Diane had to do all her pastoral care by phone and she did so very successfully and was regarded as a very good elder. We are not seeking to Ordain more elders as that also creates more charity trustees but we are wishing to plant a seed with YOU… Might you be a person who could keep in touch with other church members through a regular phone call, a listening ear, an invitation to Communion, the next coffee morning or event, or Wednesday afternoon service? I have no doubt there are things to work out with such a scheme but if you are interested in helping provide that caring , supportive relationship I’d be delighted to hear from you. So that’s the first place where you are very much needed. Can you keep in touch with others and help strengthen the church community?
Mark Williams our Session Clerk has served in that role for seven years. Initially it was a five year appointment then he stayed on for another year to see us by the pandemic which turned into another year again. Mark needs a break from those duties and we are trying to work out a way to let that happen. It is possible for us to appoint a Clerk from out with the Kirk Session and even from out with the congregation though the latter is not a preferred option. So again, the Kirk Session is looking to you for help. We think we can split the duties of the Session Clerk into administrative work like taking minutes and handling correspondence AND the worship side like preparing for Communion services which can be more readily handled by elders. So, we are wondering if there might be someone within the congregation with good admin skills who might be the next Session Clerk. Again, they would not be ordained as an elder and would not be a member of the Kirk Session but would be fulfilling a vital role in the life of the church. If that is you and you’re willing to learn just get in touch. It would be good if we appointed someone to the role of Session Clerk in September.
It is not quite time to officially thank Mark for his service as Session Clerk, but I can say, and you will agree that Mark has served us in the most humble, kindly, obliging and gentlemanly way these last seven years. Mark even took on the role of Worship Leader which I personally am extremely grateful for. Mark Will continue to be a Worship Leader as that is quite separate from being Session Clerk.
Now as I mention people stepping back from duties… we are all aware that Seonaid is heading toward retirement as our Organist and the search for a new organist has begun. Again, it is not quite time to officially thank Seonaid for her years of service but I do ask you to continue to spread the word that we are seeking an organist. Do that by social media, word of mouth and any other creative way you can think of. It will be challenging to find an organist so it will take all of us to help make it happen. We’ve set a closing date of 31st August on applications.
Around this time last year, we brought an end to the worship videos that had helped many during the pandemic. I’m glad that we did bring them to an end and re-establish our in-person gathering. But the down side is that those who cannot be at church have been cut off from a connection to their church. There was a need to try and fill that gap again. Over the last few weeks text and audio of the Sunday service has been available on the church website. It is simpler to produce than video and has the added benefit of not needing a Facebook account or any knowledge of You Tube or other internet platforms, nor does it run into problems with copyright or licensing. Please do let those who need it know that it exists.
Across the summer months we’ll be trying to catch up on bits of maintenance around the church, nothing drastic but nonetheless important. The bits that need freshened up, cleaned up or brought up to date.
Now the other thing that will be progressing across the summer will be the Presbytery’s Planning. We have made our comments and suggestions to Presbytery, as all Kirk Sessions have, and now we wait with bated breath for the East Kilbride draft plan to be revealed. No doubt the end of summer and into the autumn months will hang heavy with the dawning reality of churches to close or unite or somehow to be brought into closer working relationships with each other.
Wherever Westwood fits into the broader picture of East Kilbride and Presbytery we will continue to work together by the Grace of God for the best future that we can envisage.
Rev K Mackenzie