Minister bows out with a ‘wow’ after 29 years

Rev John Fraser and his wife Joan
Rev John Fraser and his wife Joan
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Revered John Fraser has retired after 29 years as minister of Penicuik North Kirk.

Rev Fraser did not bow out quietly from almost three decades at the helm of the church.

His final Sunday was a hive of activity, which saw him conduct five baptisms, officiate at a wedding, present a 30-year long service certificate to elder Alan Naylor and preach at a united service attended by members of other local churches.

Rev Fraser first joined the Penicuik church in 1982, following a career which started in 1972, where he spent two years as assistant minister at St Andrew’s in Dundee, and continued at Ardeer Parish Church in Stevenston, Ayrshire, where he was ordained and inducted.

He has always seen himself as a parish minister, “reaching out in care, concern and compassion” to church-goers and non-church-goers alike.

Rev Fraser has led Penicuik North Kirk’s ambitious modernisation scheme – called the Open Doors Project – for the past three decades.

The project’s aim is to refurbish the church and halls and open them up to wider community use.

The 65-year-old admits to having a mix of emotions about his retirement, as he will be sad to leave his parish, but at the same time is excited about embarking upon a new life in the Capital, where he was brought up.

He said: “You can’t be involved in people’s lives for 29 years and then the next day switch off.

“So I will miss all the people here, but I am also excited about moving to a different house in Edinburgh.”

He added: “It has been absolutely amazing.

“It is the people who have been the most important thing.”

Rev Fraser, who grew up in Leith, attended Stirling High School and George Heriot’s School before studying for an MA in French and Latin at Edinburgh University.

He continued at the university, graduating with a degree in Divinity.

He then spent nine months “inhaling the atmosphere” at Zürich University. In 1972, he married his wife Joan and the couple had three children, Joy, Jennifer and Jonathan.

During his time in Penicuik, Rev Fraser has helped the church to celebrate its bicentenary, work closely with the Bethany Christian Trust and host a Tuesday lunchtime Cosy cafe for S2 to S4 pupils.

Penicuik North Kirk has also supported the needs of Chitambo Hospital in Zambia, a home for people with learning difficulties in Sri Lanka which was devastated by the 2004 tsunami, and a house-building project for people with leprosy in Malawi.

Rev Fraser’s congregation made sure that his final few days as minister of Penicuik North Kirk did not go by unmarked.

He and his wife were guests of honour at a “wow party”, with the “wow” recognising Rev Fraser’s well-known exclamation about God.

Rev Fraser is looking forward to spending his retirement with his wife, who recently retired as joint principal teacher of music at Beeslack Community High School, their children, and their grandchildren Gregor and Charlie.