A Day In The Life Of...
Rev Fiona Mathieson, 53, from Glasgow, loves serving her Edinburgh parish after 28 years in the ministry.
It is my job to serve all the people in the community, whether they are members of the church or not, and lead our active busy congregation. The role is very varied.
What I love most are the people, and being at the heart of the community.
There is something unique about journeying with folk at the most sensitive times of their lives. Sometimes people are in deep despair; at other times they are celebrating fantastic life-enhancing moments. To be allowed to be at the centre of that and to hopefully be a channel through which God can connect with people is humbling and awe inspiring.
I had always been very involved in the church I grew up in (Kingspark in Glasgow).
I trained as a primary teacher, but as time went by I began to lean towards being a minister. Taking that first step, at 21, took me to places and gave me opportunities which I could never have dreamt of at the time.
It’s not a job, it’s a way of life and it’s become who I am – in fact I have been doing this 32 years!
I have had three ‘jobs’ over the years: Church of Scotland’s National Youth Adviser and later Chaplain to the University of Glasgow which made me the first female and youngest chaplain of one of the ‘ancient’ universities was amazing. This was one of my career highlights. To move into a parish I had to apply and a group elected by the congregation interviewed me. I then had to lead a service for the whole congregation and they voted as to whether they felt I was the ‘right minister’ for them. Thankfully, over 95 per cent voted yes!
Some days are long as there can be unexpected things to deal with alongside what is already planned.
Most mornings I get up at 8-8.30am and I don’t need to leave the house so once I’ve hit the shower, sorted my hair, make-up and a suitable outfit for the day ahead, I walk down the stairs into my study and I am at work. I use mornings for preparation, as the afternoons are better for knocking on people’s doors. So I will be in my study at the manse writing sermons and prayers for the Sunday service, arranging meetings and answering e-mails and calls.
Afternoons are for visiting people in their homes or in hospital or care homes.
Over the years I have been with people when loved ones have taken their own lives, or been murdered, or when they have been given a life-changing piece of news or diagnosis. Often the challenge is knowing when to say nothing and simply be with them.
Evening meetings are to ensure that the congregation is governed properly.
If people are working, then evenings are when they are free to come to the Manse and have a chat about whatever they are dealing with. In an ideal world I am home with my husband Angus in time for whatever is on the TV at 9pm as I am a bit of a TV addict!
Interestingly people always think December is the busiest time for me when, in fact, it’s October.
That’s when we are busy preparing and putting the Christmas services together so that people can be given readings and parts in good time. In December there are extra services and parties to attend. But often Christmas is a difficult time for people. Popular culture tells us ‘it’s the season to be jolly’, but if you’re not in that place it is just plain miserable. At Christmas I get more involved if I can. Supporting bereaved families is often challenging, but it’s particularly poignant at Christmas.
I have realised that you have to leave all the emotions you have absorbed at the door.
You need to have some time for yourself, friends and family. It is still not easy but I can do it. I enjoy television, cooking, reading and time with friends. We have a season ticket for the Lyceum which means that Angus and I go out for a meal and to the theatre with our friends.
My advice is: don’t think that the path you begin on has to be the one you continue on.
Always look for new challenges, be brave and give what might seem impossible a go. Never think you know it all because that is when the most unexpected thing will hit you hard and leave you struggling. And always treat people with dignity and respect. Most people are interested in what I do, a few are hostile, but I can usually win them round by just being me.
The thing I love most about Scotland is... Its people – our honest openness is what makes our country. My favourite staycation destination is... Iona. Its peace and spirituality are incredible. I would take visitors in Scotland to... The Royal Mile and then over to Fife. My favourite city is... Edinburgh, having spent most of my adult life here.