Real Lives: Joanne says emotional farewell to congregation

Reverend Joanna Hood

Reverend Joanna Hood

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A church minister has said her emotional goodbyes to her congregation after eight-and-a-half years.

The Rev Joanne Hood will leave her post at Broughton St Mary’s Parish Church in Bellevue Crescent to become minister at St John’s Church in Hamilton.

Since late 2003, when Rev Hood took over at Broughton St Mary’s after serving a probationary period at Colinton Church, the congregation has almost doubled and she has overseen a £1.2 million refurbishment of the building.

Rev Hood, 35, who has a philosophy degree from the University of Glasgow and a divinity degree from St Andrews University, has also improved links with Broughton Primary School and seen the average age of worshippers at the church plummet.

She performed her last service in Edinburgh on Sunday, and said she would always look back fondly on her time at the city church.

“It was really emotional,” she said. “It’s hard because you share such personal moments with people when you’re their minister.

“It’s a huge privilege to have that position in people’s lives and for them to put their trust in you. You share the joys and tragedies in their lives.

“It’s very hard to walk away but in a lot of ways I think it’s important for the congregation to get somebody new in with fresh ideas.”

When she took over at Broughton St Mary’s, having been ordained as a 26-year-old, the parish had a population of 12,500, but the church had a congregation of around 60. It has since risen to 100.

“It had huge potential, but we had to try and make the church relevant within the parish,” she said. “I was in my 20s then and more people in their 20s and 30s started to come.

“On a Sunday I was trying to create something that was recognisable, but also take the more traditional people along too. It wasn’t just what I did, the whole congregation was happy to try new ideas. The whole feel is now completely different.”

The renovation of the church will also be a legacy of Rev Hood’s tenure.

It reopened in January 2010 and has become a vital facility for the whole community. The Duke of Edinburgh was one of the first visitors following its transformation.

“We were just getting the feasibility reports when I started,” she said. “The congregation pledged around £200,000, which was a huge total. We’ve now got a lovely space for everybody.”

Rev Hood, who is originally from Glasgow, revealed she would be sad to see the back of Edinburgh, as well as her former church.

“I wasn’t sure how I would take to living here, but I’ve just loved it, it’s amazing,” she said.

“All of my mates are here now. It’s one of those places that you hope life brings you back to at some point.”