Popular minister dies two days after last service

Rev Louise Duncan was suffering from a rare form of bone cancer. Picture: contributed
Rev Louise Duncan was suffering from a rare form of bone cancer. Picture: contributed
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A MUCH-LOVED minister lost her fight against cancer just two days after attending her final church service.

Hundreds of people are expected to pack out Balerno Parish Church today to pay their respects to Rev Louise Duncan, who was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer known as Chondrosarcoma in August.

Despite the disease seriously affecting her hip and pelvis – which eventually forced her to use a wheelchair – Ms Duncan was a familiar face at the church.

She had been minister at Balerno Parish Church since 2010, but the 41-year-old had to give up work after her diagnosis last summer.

The brave cleric took part in both the morning and evening service at Balerno on February 15 before moving to the Marie Curie Hospice where she died two days later.

Derek, her husband of 16 years, and their eight-year-old son Tom have been inundated with cards and visitors since her death.

Mr Duncan, an RE teacher at Currie High School, said: “The best way to sum up Louise was she cared very deeply about people, and that is evident in the huge number of cards and well-wishers who have reached out to us.”

He said it was “a great shock” for the family when she was diagnosed with cancer and she chose to spend her remaining months with her loved-ones as the prognosis was not very good.

Mr Duncan said: “She bore her illness as she lived. So many people came to see her and ended up leaving feeling like they had had the pastoral visit rather than the other way around.

“As well as being a loving wife and mother, she was also a minister not only for the church but for the community.”

The Northern Ireland-born minister was a keen runner and took on the Edinburgh Marathon in 2013 to raise funds for a community centre next to the church called the St Joseph’s Centre.

Mr Duncan said: “A friend of hers wrote to me recently to say that when she felt like giving up in those last few metres of the race, Louise grabbed her by the arm and dragged her over the finish line.

“That is a good metaphor for how she lived her life.”

The couple met while working together in Israel in 1996 and returned to Mr Duncan’s native Scotland where Ms Duncan was associate minister alongside the Rev Ian Gilmour at South Leith Kirk for five years.

The Rev George Whyte, clerk to the Church of Scotland’s Edinburgh presbytery, said: “We are deeply shocked at her passing. She was an outstanding minister and had led her congregation with energy and imagination.

“The congregation and indeed the people of Balerno are all feeling this. She was very well loved in Balerno itself as well as the church.”

Mr Whyte said Ms Duncan had been heavily involved in work with young people and families.

A celebration of her life will be held today at Balerno Church at 1pm, with a live screening in the St Joseph Centre next door.