Obituary: Alan Ross, Church of Scotland minister, accountant

Rev Alan Ross
Rev Alan Ross
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Alan Ross, a retired minister of the Church of Scotland died suddenly on 3 December while on holiday with his wife Kay in Cyprus.

Born in Renfrew to Hubert and Isa Ross, he was the younger brother of Millie. On leaving school, he took up an apprenticeship with Wilson Sterling, Chartered Accountants, in Glasgow, qualifying in 1969 and moving to Australia to work with Arthur Young, Chartered Accountants, as a manager, and subsequently as a partner, in the auditing department. A wise man, with an innate sense of decency, Alan quickly established a reputation for integrity with a keen eye for detail.

As a teenager in Renfrew Old Parish Church, Alan was active with a number of contemporaries in leading the youth work. From his youth, Alan maintained an ecumenical interest in Church work. It was during a World Council of Churches work camp in the Netherlands in 1964 that he met Kay Sarll, an Australian, whom he went on to marry in Australia in 1970. Their children Morag and Callum were both born in Australia. Alan’s call to ministry meant resigning the accountancy partnership to study at St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews. Following graduation, he moved with his family to Kenya to work with Carr Stanyer Sims & Co (now Carr Stanyer Gitau & Co), an accountancy practice with many large clients handling foreign aid, where he also became a partner. Active in Church life there, he preached at weekends in an industrial area parish of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA), taking with him the children and inspiring them to respect other cultures and to follow paths of justice and peace. In 1988 the Ross family moved back to Scotland, preceded by a short spell in Australia. Soon after, Alan was ordained and inducted into the then charge of St Andrew’s Greenknowe Erskine Church, Annan.

Alan’s gently unobtrusive style masked a visionary approach to ministry. In his time in Annan, he developed an innovative and participative form of evening service called “Worship in the Round”. This relaxed way of worship in a circle enabled people of varying age-groups and giftedness to share fully in the Liturgy. People with learning difficulties found a welcome there too, also helping to lead in worship. As a pastor, nothing and no-one was ever a trouble to Alan who was painstaking in his endeavours to bring healing, resolution and hope to any situation with which he was faced. It was during Alan’s ministry in Annan that the Church praise group “New Creation” produced and published its audio cassette “Out of Eden”.

Alan led the congregation in a major project to send to Ukraine two lorries, laden with aid, including medical supplies, to help victims of the Chernobyl disaster, galvanising community fund-raising and support via a temporary community shop in the town. He accompanied the team to Ukraine to help deliver the aid. On a separate occasion, an ecumenical visit, organised in partnership with a local Episcopalian priest, Rev John Stevenson, saw Alan travel with a busload of Dumfriesshire church members to Slovakia and the Czech Republic after the collapse of the Berlin Wall; two years later Alan organised a reciprocal visit to Annan and Dumfriesshire by a Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church choir.

Alan’s heart lay in parish ministry, and so, following his (early) retirement in 1997, he established the 50 per cent charge of the churches of Hutton (Boreland) and Corrie, linked with Eskdalemuir, linked with Tundergarth, subsequently undertaking the Interim Moderatorship of Tundergarth Church. These small rural congregations were vulnerable to many pressures and often felt under threat. It is due in no small measure to Alan’s reassuring style and the way he dealt with people patiently, respectfully and compassionately that these congregations still bear witness to the Gospel in their respective communities. Beyond his parish responsibilities, Alan cared passionately for the well-being of the national Church and indeed the wider Church.

In 2002, Alan was struck down with Guillain-Barré Syndrome – an affliction borne with typical courage and faith. The medical attention he received and the prayers of many friends left him ever grateful for the miraculous recovery he made. He became Treasurer of the National Guillain-Barré Syndrome Association.

On retirement, he and Kay moved to Ettrickbridge where they naturally immersed themselves in community life. Part of this was expressed within the congregation where they became members.

Alan’s many interests: current affairs, especially the economy and the world of finance, philately, gardening, flora and fauna, and reading made him a most interesting conversationalist and gave him lots of street-cred with his parishioners. He was blessed with a keen intellect, a quiet though pointed sense of humour and a huge sense of perspective. He acknowledged with gratitude and modesty the many joys and achievements which his ministry produced - and faced with dignity and containment the sorrow and disappointment which ministry inevitably sustains. The death of a man like this is a huge loss not only to his family and many friends but to parish ministry.

Alan always appreciated the bond he shared both with his predecessor and successor at St Andrew’s Greenknowe Erskine Church, each of them often acknowledging that they built on others’ foundations. Alan’s predecessor, now in his mid-90s, had himself retired to the Borders in the 1980s. Alan and Kay looked out for him and for his late wife with great care and concern. Alan’s successor will always be grateful for the prayerful, thoughtful and unfailing kindness shown him.

In later life, Alan and Kay rejoiced in the gift of grandchildren – encouraging them, as they had done with their own children, to explore, enjoy and be responsible for nature and the environment.

Alan is survived by his wife Kay, their children Morag and Callum, four grandchildren and sister Millie.

Rev George Lind