Sitting behind a busy supermarket checkout till dealing with drunken customers swearing and demanding more booze or being ‘blanked’ every day by hundreds of shoppers and office workers in a hurry is not the usual training ground for potential Kirk ministers.
But Rev Louise Mackay, 27, who conducted her first Church of Scotland service yesterday, said her years on the checkout at Morrisons at the Gyle shopping centre in Edinburgh, had let her see human nature in all its colours.
Ms Mackay, based at St Nicholas Church in Lanark, worked at the supermarket for nearly seven years, starting off part-time when she was a student studying psychology at Edinburgh Napier University, before being promoted to a full-time supervisor.
“I saw the best and worst of people. There would be drunks mostly trying to buy alcohol when over the limit and I had to tell them very politely that the answer was “no”, or under-age people trying to buying drink.
“On Christmas Eve I would get sworn at if we’d run out of Brussels sprouts.
“Then there would be some who just wanted to take their stuff and go with very little human contact with me.
“All in all it was a mixed bunch of customers, I worked shifts and there would be busy office people from the business park next door or elderly people doing their weekly shopping and wanting a chat. I developed a good rapport with lots of the customers.”
Rev Mackay, who grew up in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, said she decided to aim to be a Kirk minister towards the end of her degree but kept it secret from her colleagues for a while.
“Most of then were very, very supportive and surprised that someone my age would do that.”
Rev Mackay added: “I will never underestimate the work of so-called ‘unskilled’ low-paid workers of any kind, especially in a line of work where there is such a high turnover.”
Speaking at ceremony last week where the Rev Mackay was ordained and inducted into St Nicholas Church, The Right Reverend Dr Russell Barr, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, and minister of Cramond Kirk in Edinburgh, said: “As well as being a very special occasion for Louise, her family, and her new congregation, it was also a special occasion for me and the people of Cramond Kirk
“She spent the final 15 months of her training there and it was a delight to see her grow and develop into the thoughtful, caring and highly skilled minister which she has now become.
“It was a pleasure to supervise Louise and, despite the wintry conditions, about 40 people travelled from Cramond to attend the service and show their support which is a sign of how highly she is regarded.
“She could not have been made more welcome by the people of St Nicholas and by her new colleagues in Lanark Presbytery.”
Two other female ministers have recently been appointed to neighbouring parishes. Rev Elspeth MacLean, 61, a former small animal vet took up her post at Forth Street St Paul’s Parish Church in South Lanarkshire last September, while Rev Maudeen MacDougall started work as the minister for the parishes of Carstairs and Carnwarth last March.
The Kirk’s Tomorrow’s Calling campaign aims to attract new ministers from all walks of life.