Warm welcome for two new Mid Argyll ministers
Poppy’s mum, the minister
‘It’s more Poppy they recognise, not me,’ jokes Lyn Peden.
Since coming to Tarbert in November 2020, Lyn and lively wee cocker spaniel Poppy have been regularly seen walking around Tarbert, Kilberry and Skipness.
‘Everybody knows Poppy. I want to be out being a community minister and having Poppy is great for that. People often speak to her before they speak to me.’
Originally from Kilmarnock, 53-year-old Lyn was parish minister in Penilee, Glasgow, for 10 years prior to her induction in Tarbert on November 22.
She and husband Gordon arrived in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, with church worship one of the restricted areas of life. Like other members of the clergy, she turned to the online option. ‘Luckily I had the skills to put out simple YouTube videos during lockdown, which were well received.’
Lyn had a career in general nursing before specialising in paediatrics.
She later moved to IT, working on the computer systems used by nursing staff, hence her aptitude online.
‘A lot of folk have come online because they had to, particularly since the second lockdown. Now we have to decide on the balance between doing it online or in person.’
Now that churches are back open under restrictions, Lyn has paused the videos.
People are pleased to get back into church and there is plenty of room for two-metre distancing in Tarbert and Skipness. But the ‘no singing’ rule has been hard.
‘Folk are really missing it,’ said Lyn. ‘We try to find recordings of choral versions of hymns, or sometimes I’ll read out the words, but it’s not the same.’
After her nursing career, Lyn was 38 when she embarked on a four-year Bachelor of Divinity at university in Glasgow.
But the call came many years before.
‘I grew up in the church and was very involved,’ she explained. ‘But my sense of call came while I was nursing in paediatrics. It was the church in Castlemilk that allowed us to get involved in worship and start leading prayers and the like, which I enjoyed.’
For those feeling the call, the church has a ‘discernment’ process involving talking through candidates’ thoughts and speaking to working ministers.
‘I got knocked back the first time. I just wasn’t ready and couldn’t articulate why I felt a sense of call. But I knew it was still there, so I waited three years. To get turned down is quite traumatic, but it was meant to be.’
After probation at Langside, which she ‘loved’ despite the fact the church was badly damaged by fire during the time, it was on to Penilee, where Lyn spent 10 years.
Covid arrived just as Lyn felt herself being drawn to rural ministry. Familiar with Cowal and having holidayed at Portavadie, she and Gordon loved Argyll - then Tarbert came up as a possibility.
Leaving Penilee was hard. ‘You’re leaving folk you’ve known for 10 years and built
up all these relationships’, explained Lyn, ‘but Tarbert just felt right.’
What the pandemic has shown is that the church needs to ‘step up its act’, says Lyn. ‘We need to find a way to engage the younger ones and find the balance between maintaining what’s there and modernising at the same time.
‘The isolation during the pandemic has been terrible, so part of my role is to walk beside people and listen.’
And she fully intends to support community initiatives such as Team Tarbert. ‘It’s a fantastic community effort,’ said Lyn, ‘and we need to be encouraging things like that - finding where the life is in a community.
‘And I am looking forward to being invited back into schools once all of this is over.
‘The local folk have been so good. We knew people would be friendly, but everyone speaks to you and everyone knows who I am - and Poppy, of course.’
Newly-installed West Lochfyneside minister Dorothy Wallace felt a niggle.
She enjoyed being a church elder and working in the Sunday school at Strone, near Dunoon. ‘But I felt there was something else I needed to be doing,’ she explained.
Working as a teaching assistant at the time, Greenock native Dorothy was studying for a degree in education with the Open University when she had ‘almost a lightbulb moment’.
‘It was a Sunday afternoon and I was writing an essay on maths - which is not my best subject - and it struck me that I’m not supposed to be doing this. I should be studying theology.
‘I realised I was always asking [well-known Dunoon minister] Reverend Joe Stewart a lot of questions. He’s a lovely man.
‘I went through the discernment process thinking that I would become a deacon but realised I was feeling a calling to be a minister of word and sacrament.’
She joked: ‘Now I’m like a Joe Stewart tribute act - only not as good.’
The mother-of-two - Lizzie, who is almost 21 and 19-yearold Ally - was widowed at the age of 42 in 2009. She and husband James had been running a hotel in the Lake District for many years.
‘James and I had always said we’d retire to Scotland and run a small B&B, so I’d have been here by now, just under different circumstances,’ said Dorothy.
It was in 2015 that she felt the niggle, the call, and began studying the following year.
‘It’s tough going back to university at that age. I was 49 at the time. There’s the kids, who were doing their school exams. My daughter was in first year when I was in third year.
‘But I don’t think I would have had the same impetus to keep going if I had been studying something else.’
In 2016 she met Alex and they married two years later.
Dorothy led her first service on Sunday April 25 as the minister of the parish of West Loch Fyneside following her ordination the week before.
She is the first minister of the newly-united parish, which previously was a linked charge and includes Cumlodden, Inveraray and Lochgair.
Locals will be able to see Dorothy out and about in the community wearing her new clerical collar.
‘I’m pastorally-minded. I love getting out and meeting people,’ she explained.
‘I love visiting, including schools and senior citizens groups. But I would really like to see more people coming to church.
‘We want to make people feel comfortable.
‘It’s also not just about Sunday mornings.
‘We want to get younger people in.
‘Even if we want people in their 40s who have children, it can be difficult as they have pony club or football going on.
‘Having something outwith a Sunday is quite important to me.
‘We’ve managed to work without our buildings but it’s lovely when we can come together as well. It’s something special.’
Dorothy sees an important role for the church in tackling issues such as the fallout from the pandemic and rural poverty. ‘As Christians we’re meant to serve,’ she said, ‘and we should be serving our communities as much as possible.
‘Rural poverty is a major problem, so we need to be there to offer support - to be a voice for people.
‘And I really feel for younger people under lockdown. The social isolation must be so difficult. And loneliness among older people has been clear.
‘I want to offer a listening ear.’
Dorothy added: ‘I feel so at home in Inveraray already. I’ve always liked coming here. It’s just lovely and the people have been so welcoming.’