On this page we aim to keep the friends and family of St Andrew's up to date with the future of the Church of Scotland in Corby as it develops over the coming months.
Exciting and challenging times ahead!
The way forward, leading to a united congregation in Corby.
Dear members and friends of St Andrew’s Corby and beyond,
On being informed of the bold decisions taken by the Kirk Sessions of St Andrew’s and St Ninian’s in January (both unanimous), that the two congregations in Corby should unite to form a new larger and dynamic congregation, the Presbytery of England which met on 9 February 2021 was delighted to set in motion the process leading towards a “draft basis of union”. This draft basis of union will hopefully meet the approval of both Kirk Sessions and both congregations, but more about that later in this letter.
Firstly, a brief explanation of how the Church of Scotland is organised and governed. This might help your insomnia, but I hope it may also be useful, particularly at this interesting time in the life of St Andrew’s, St Ninian’s and the Presbytery of England.
The Church of Scotland has three levels of organisation/governance.
“On the ground” there are approximately 1400 congregations, mostly in Scotland but also in England and overseas. In Scotland, each congregation has a geographical parish so that every square inch of Scotland lies within a Church of Scotland parish. Parishes are urban, suburban, rural, large, medium, small, affluent, and impoverished. Each congregation/parish has a name and is served by a Minister or (during a vacancy), an Interim Moderator. Many parishes are linked together and are served by just one minister: each parish in the linkage retains its own Kirk Session. The Church of Scotland has no parishes in England (that goes to the Church of England), but we do have congregations, buildings, and ministers. Each congregation is governed by a Kirk Session made up of elders, one of whom is the “Moderator” who chairs the meetings. The Moderator is almost always the Minister. Kirk Sessions meet quite frequently and in the main (but not exclusively) look after all things locally on a congregational and parish level with the help of various committees whose membership is open to all members of the congregation.
Secondly, the “middle level” of organisation/governance at the district or regional level is called the Presbytery. The Presbytery is formed by a group of congregations/parishes based roughly on geography. There are currently 42 presbyteries in the Church of Scotland, from the Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland in the north to the Presbytery of England in the south. We even have an international presbytery which includes congregations in Amsterdam, Paris, and Trinidad to name only a few! I am glad to say we have two congregations in the Holy Land: Jerusalem and Tiberius. Some presbyteries have many congregations such as the Presbytery of Glasgow with over 120. Some only have few, such as our own Presbytery of England with 7 congregations: Newcastle, Jersey, Guernsey, two in London and two in Corby. Three out of the seven are called St Andrew’s! I wonder why….? The Presbytery is made up of the ministers and deacons from each congregation along with at least one elder from each Kirk Session (we currently have two elders on Presbytery, John, and Angus). It meets less frequently than the Kirk Session and our own presbytery customarily meets in London (more recently via ZOOM). The Presbytery also has a Moderator who serves for one year. The current Moderator of the Presbytery of England is Dr Hilary Boyle, an elder in St Andrew’s Church, Guernsey. Like the Kirk Session, there are Presbytery committees.
The “top level”, often called the “highest court” is the General Assembly of The Church of Scotland which meets annually (usually May) in Edinburgh. It is made up of representative ministers, deacons and elders from every Presbytery and it guides the national church in matters of doctrine, practice, and procedure. The Assembly enacts laws which are binding on Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions and are for the good of the whole church. The General Assembly elects a Moderator who serves for one year. The current Moderator is The Rt Rev Martin Fair, who is Minister at Arbroath St Andrews.
But back to Corby and the exciting plan to form a new united congregation with St Ninian’s. The Presbytery of England at its most recent meeting received the proposed plan for union unanimously. The Presbytery agreed to form an ad-hoc working group comprising 5 members of Presbytery to negotiate a basis of union with both Kirk Sessions. As I write, I do not know who the members of this committee will be- but I am speaking with the Presbytery Clerk tomorrow and will be sure to update you as soon as I can. These discussions will include careful consideration of matters such as church buildings, manse, the nature of the ministry for the new congregation, financial issues, and the date of the union. Oh, not forgetting the name of the new church! These negotiations will be bilateral (or is it trilateral?) and consensus will always be sought. This will lead to the drawing up of the draft basis of union. It usually runs to one side of a page – approx. 600 words / 12 paragraphs) so it will be an easy read for all of us and it will be made available to everyone. Both Kirk Sessions (separately) will be asked to formally agree the terms of the draft basis of union. All members and adherents of each congregation will also have the chance to vote in a secret ballot. St Andrew’s and St Ninian’s will vote separately. If all goes well, the Presbytery will formally agree to the basis of union and things will start to move! I cannot tell you a time scale but am hopeful the process will not drag on unnecessarily and progress can be swift.
I am reminded of the prophet Jeremiah who, two and a half thousand years ago wrote:
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil,
to give you a future and a hope.”
And to that, here in Corby, we can all say, “Amen”.
Rev Forbes Walker,
Interim Moderator, Corby St Andrew’s
14 February 2021
PS- By all means, email me with any comments or questions on firstname.lastname@example.org
Three quotes- one from a much loved hymn, one from the Old Testament and the other from Abraham Lincoln’s Presidential inaugural address in 1865. All appropriate for the content of this letter, especially as today, Joe Biden is inaugurated as 46th President of USA, ushering in a new beginning not only for that great country, but for the world: with the emphasis on unity, collaboration, and common purpose.
“Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like to that above”. (HYMNAL John Fawcett, 1782)
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” (Psalm 133)
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” (Abraham Lincoln 1865)
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost a year ago, church life (as we knew it) has been almost shut down. Of course, thanks to technology, we have continued to be a community of prayer and worship even if physically remote from one another, but we have all missed the fellowship which comes from meeting others in person.
As you know, on top of the challenges of the pandemic, both St Andrew’s and our sister church St Ninian’s have been without a settled inducted minister: Rev Normal Nicoll having retired and Rev Kleber Machado moving to a new parish in Glasgow. Thankfully, we have been well served by two dedicated and very able locums, Elaine Milligan and Mike Binks.
The Presbytery of England saw this situation of “double vacancy” to be a fertile opportunity not to be missed- one to be grasped, a situation of promise, hope and renewal for the Church of Scotland’s presence and work in Corby. The Presbytery encouraged honest discussions within both Kirk Sessions and between nominated elders from both St Andrew’s and St Ninian’s - in the context of - what we have called the “Corby Conversation.”
The discussions, always underpinned by prayer for guidance, discernment and Christian unity have been wonderful: kindly, imaginative, bold, and full of vision and good will.
I am happy to tell you that both Kirk Sessions are unanimous in their decision that they believe the Church of Scotland in Corby is best placed to be a vibrant worshipping community, engaged in mission and service to the whole Community as a single united congregation. The prospect of a newly united congregation in 2021, invigorated by the talents and vision of both St Andrew’s and St Ninian’s people (and hopefully a load of brand new people too) is one that certainly excites me.
The Presbytery will now begin to negotiate with both Kirk Sessions about the details of the union including the question of buildings. This could take some time before what is called the “draft basis of union” is sent to the Kirk Sessions and members of both congregations for consideration and hopefully approval.
The agreed basis of union would then be ratified by Presbytery who would then also grant permission to the newly united congregation to call a minister.
Exciting times lie ahead for sure and I can see the guiding hand of God in all of this.
I am happy to hear from you if you have any questions- please do email me on email@example.com
Rev Forbes Walker, Interim Moderator