TWO generations of the same family could soon be preaching to Edinburgh’s congregations, as the church welcomed its largest number of trainee ministers in five years.
Louise Purden is following in the footsteps of dad Rev John McPake, who has recently come out of retirement to work part-time as an associate minister at Gorgie Dalry Parish Church.
Louise, 39, has just been accepted as a trainee minister and is one of 27 new recruits selected for Church of Scotland training this year.
And with further applicants due for assessment next month, the Kirk said this winter’s hopefuls could be the largest intake in ten years – providing a much-needed boost at a time when it anticipates hundreds of its parish ministers reaching retirement age in the next decade.
But Louise, who lives in the city with her husband, Richard and their two children, Ryan, four, and Christina, three, said she had never felt under any pressure from her father to take on the role.
She said she had “butterflies in her tummy” the more she thought about becoming a minister, adding: “I have worked for the church for many years doing various things – youth and children’s work – and people have often said to me in the past, ‘Have you ever thought about being a minister?’, to which I very quickly replied, ‘No, it is not for me’.
“I guess I have become more aware of the roles that ministers can have and how much the church has enhanced my life and my family life, and I want that for my children as well so I am looking forward to it.”
Dad John, 67, also entered the ministry later in life – at Liberton Northfield – after leaving his career with BT.
He said: “I retired officially at the end of 2013 and then I was invited by Gorgie Dalry church to come back as associate minister with them and I am really enjoying that. I cannot wait to preach every Sunday. That is one of the reasons I couldn’t retire, I didn’t want to stop talking about Jesus.”
He said he was “very encouraged and pleased” with his daughter’s decision, adding: “In a way I am not surprised, but I never asked her if she was interested in becoming a minister. I just felt that if it was right, God would lead her forward in that direction.”
The latest boost to the church’s recruitment figures comes after it launched its Tomorrow’s Calling campaign earlier this year to promote parish ministry.
Rev Neil Glover, convener of the Church of Scotland’s ministries council, said: “We’re no different to other professions facing up to retirement challenges, like GPs and teaching.
“The church has been slow to get to get to grips with the scale of the problem but now it is a top priority. We currently have just over 800 ministers, and more than 400 of them are aged 55 or over.”