A FORMER solicitor who worked in Nepal helping survivors of the devastating earthquake in 2015 has become the first minister of a newly formed congregation in the Capital.
Rev Malcolm Ramsay, 60, has taken up the role of “transition minister” of Willowbrae Parish Church, formed by the merger of two congregations – New Restalrig and Craigentinny St Christopher’s.
He will help build the church community at Willowbrae over the next five years.
New Restalrig lost its minister, the Rev David Court, and half the congregation, who quit in 2014 over the Church of Scotland’s decision to accept gay ministers.
Meanwhile, St Christopher’s had seen such a decline in numbers in its congregation that it was put in “guardianship” due to its unsustainable size.
After a long period of discussions, it was decided to unite the two congregations to re-build community-based church life in the area. They merged last September to become Willowbrae Parish Church, based in the former New Restalrig building in Willowbrae Road.
Mr Ramsay and his wife Cati, a community nurse, spent four years based in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, working for a Christian development agency.
During that time they saw the effects of the earthquake which struck in April 2015, claiming the lives of nearly 9000 people and injuring 22,000 more.
Mr Ramsay, who was born in Zambia to Scottish parents, was working at a retreat when the earthquake struck.
He helped console traumatised survivors who had lost families, homes and workplaces.
He said: “I came back to Scotland a changed man. The experiences of these earthquakes are way beyond what we experience in the West.
“More earthquakes will happen because of Nepal’s geological position. There is no stability there really.
“Life in Nepal is very precarious on many different fronts.”
The father of two, who was ordained in Edinburgh 31 years ago, said: “Willowbrae may be a long way from Kathmandu, but human beings are much the same everywhere.
“I imagine the wear and tear brought on by long-term transition and constant change will be similar in both places. So although the two situations are utterly different, I suspect the effects of relentless change will be comparable in some respects.”
Mr Ramsay, who was previously minister of churches in Pitlochry and Newton Stewart, said he was open to new ideas.
“The people have been very welcoming and are glad to have a settled situation now. I’m not arrogant enough to think I have all the answers.
“There has already been very good Christian work going on in this parish before me. My first task is to get to know the people, and listen to them.”