Obituary: David Reid, artist in ministry

David Reid: Popular minister who gave much to religious education and broadcasting in Scotland

David Reid: Popular minister who gave much to religious education and broadcasting in Scotland

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Born: 9 November, 1926, in Glasgow. Died: 23 November, 2014, in Perth, aged 88

In the course of his remarkable ministry David Tindal Reid, who died on 23 December, 2014, contributed memorably not only to his five parishes and the wider church, but also to religious education and public broadcasting in Scotland.

Born in Glasgow in 1926, David was taken by his mother Lilias to India to join his elder brother and his father Alfred, who was minister of the Presbyterian Church in Bombay. After the family returned to Scotland in 1930, David attended Greenock and Glasgow Academies, served as an officer in the Indian Army Baluch Regiment (1944–46) and studied at Oxford (BA Hons, 1950) and St Andrew’s (BD, 1953), where he was awarded the divinity medal.

Inspired by George MacLeod, he joined the Iona Community in 1953 and laboured to the craftsmen who were rebuilding the abbey cloisters, experiencing work and worship in community, relating theology to everyday life. Later he served on the Council and as special adviser to the leader. Throughout his life Iona remained a very special place for David and his family.

For two years he was “apprenticed” to Hugh Douglas as assistant at St Mary’s, Dundee during which he was ordained. This prepared him for his appointment as first minister of the church extension charge of Castlemilk East, Glasgow in 1955.

There was no congregation or building; everyone knew that as they came together, the people were the church. Until the church building was completed they met for worship in houses, the workmen’s canteen hut, a school and later in the church hall which was largely built by volunteer tradesmen and labourers from Castlemilk.

They interrupted their labours one Saturday afternoon to form a guard of honour with their picks and shovels at David’s marriage to Pamela McGregor in Edinburgh. House groups, a vast Sunday school and youth organisations flourished.

In 1963, David was called to ministry in Erskine Church, Falkirk, an established parish and congregation. His exceptional ability as an educator led to his appointment as part-time lecturer in religious education at Callendar Park College of Education and chaplain to Falkirk High and Woodlands Secondary School.

Young people enjoyed his teasing sense of humour and searching questions.

David’s pastoral gifts were widely appreciated wherever he served. He proved particularly helpful to the bereaved. In Falkirk he had suffered the untimely death of his first wife Pamela nine years into their marriage, leaving him to bring up their three children alone.

This gave him a heightened awareness of the pain and distress of others and a sensitivity to their emotional, spiritual and practical needs. To quote one widow, they “felt comfortable and comforted in his presence”. He was a founder-member of Falkirk Telephone Samaritans.

In 1969 he became associate minister at St Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh, where his ministry included working with people in the city who were on the fringes of the church or outside it.

A friend remembers: “He seemed to occupy and invite others to share that area of open ground of thought, of spirit where doubt, uncertainty, not-knowing are welcome friends; where all that is needed is honesty, and openness of heart and mind.”

He was chaplain to two large West End stores and consultant to the Cornerstone. He also presented religious programmes for primary schools for BBC Radio Scotland. At St Cuthbert’s he met and married Isobel Durran, who brought the family her love and many gifts.

In 1973 David was called to Helensburgh Old and St Andrew’s Church. In this substantial parish with its fine tradition of music and worship he guided the successful union of two churches and turned the church cottage into a community hub. David’s willingness to climb down from the pulpit and host a party or clown in a sketch at a church social, ably assisted by Isobel, enhanced his popularity.

A member wrote: “He was quiet, reflective, gentle and caring but could be sharp. He is still spoken of with deep affection because of the strength of his ministry and his personal compassion for his flock.”

In 1976 he became chairman of STV’s Religious Advisory Committee, on which he served for ten years. Possessing a beautifully articulated and expressive voice, he appeared regularly on Late Call and other religious programmes.

In 1985 David moved to the rural linked parishes of Cleish and Fossoway in Kinross-shire. Fossoway Sunday congregations grew. One church member recollects: “David was visible and available. His conduct of worship was exceptional. He was an artist in the pulpit. He took people on a journey of faith in which he himself was involved.

“He encouraged the formation of Fossoway Men’s Breakfast Group where his contributions were often radical, provocative and mischievous.”

In 1987, Perth Presbytery decided to appoint a Presbytery Chaplain, the first Church of Scotland presbytery to do so. On a democratic vote his fellow presbyters chose David, who brought to the post his pastoral gifts and a mature understanding of contemporary ministry gained from his own experience in five very different Scottish parishes and chaplaincy in educational and commercial settings.

David’s ministry and his impact on others continued in his retirement. He conducted services regularly at Tenandry, near Pitlochry where the congregation was immensely fond of him. “This precious man had all the qualities one looked for in a preacher – wise, kindly and to the point, scholarship expressed in life.”

Throughout his life David enjoyed books, music, travel, company and conversation. With the support of Pamela and Isobel, his manses offered warm friendship and hospitality.

Influenced by an artistic mother and grandmother, he painted from an early age and developed great skill as a watercolour artist. His rural and coastal landscapes were highly prized, the artwork on his Christmas cards much admired, the personal messages memorable.

His last card to some, written not long before his death, carried the apt quotation: “Nothing remembered with joy is ever quite lost.”

One of five close brothers, David was a devoted family man. He is survived by his wife Isobel, two daughters, a son and four grandchildren.

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