Minister retires after 14 years at Liberton

Rev John McPake, retiring Church of Scotland minister from Liberton.
Rev John McPake, retiring Church of Scotland minister from Liberton.
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The Rev John McPake, minister at Liberton Northfield Parish Church for the past 14 years, has retired.

John McPake was born and brought up in Glasgow and left school at 15 to become a telegraph boy with the Post Office.

After a while he graduated from cycling around the city delivering telegrams to working as a telegraphist, typing out the messages. And later he moved to the clerical side, working on telephone accounts.

In 1984, he was promoted and moved from Glasgow to Edinburgh, where he worked in the finance department at the Gorgie Road offices of what was now British Telecom. He later went on to become a manager in personnel, recruitment and promotion.

When he and his wife, Christine, whom he had married in 1968, moved to the Capital they had become involved at St Catherine’s Argyle Church in the Grange. Mr McPake was an elder and they were both involved in the church’s work with young people, including being in charge of the Sunday School.

But now Mr McPake felt called to full-time ministry in the Church of Scotland. He duly applied and was accepted and undertook three years’ training at New College on The Mound.

After completing his course, he spent 18 months working at Gorgie Parish Church before he was asked to become minister at Liberton Northfield in 2000. “It felt an appropriate start to the millennium,” he says.

Sadly, his wife was diagnosed with cancer soon afterwards and although she came through the treatment, the disease recurred in 2005 and she died at the end of that year. “She was a big part of my ministry,” says Mr McPake. She had already been working at the New Life nursery at the Inch, part of the Edinburgh City Mission – and known to many as “Christine’s nursery” – before he became minister for the area.

After her death, the church wanted to continue work with younger children and started New Life Tots, which has up to 30 youngsters on a Friday morning – and a waiting list.

Mr McPake has also been chaplain to Liberton Primary School and Braeside House home for the blind.

“Getting out of the church and connecting with people is something I have enjoyed doing.”

Happily, Mr McPake found new love with Janice, an elder in the church, and the couple married in June 2011. She works part-time at a hostel run by Bethany Christian Trust.

Mr McPake retired officially on December 31 and was working right up to the end – the church traditionally has a ceilidh at Hogmanay before going outside to watch the fireworks light up the city.

He will remain in Edinburgh and hopes to spend more time with his family. He has two married daughters and four grandchildren, ranging in age from 18 months to 22.