Real lives: Deaconess plans to carry on caring in retirement

A DEACONESS who has spent 33 years working in her local community is to retire next month.

Agnes McMillan Rennie, known as Nan, was born on December 8, 1947 in Kilmarnock. After originally training in the family business of hairdressing, she “retired” from the profession at the age of 19 to follow a higher calling.

Having decided she wanted to enter the church, she then went on to study for her Higher English at Newbattle Abbey College in Midlothian, where she also studied Logic and Philosophy.

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Nan explained: “You had to have certain qualifications to enter the church, and the bar is actually set much higher now, which I find a bit concerning. You don’t have to be an academic to care for people.”

After completing her education she was placed at St Mark’s Church in Aberdeen, where she stayed for five years before coming to Bristo Memorial Church in Craigmillar in 1979 at the age of 32.

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Nan has been president of the local guild for more than 20 years, and organises a homemade lunch once a fortnight for elderly people in the area.

The deaconess has also been extremely active within the local schools, and was chair of Castleview Primary School until changes in legislation four years ago meant the position had to be filled by a parent.

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Nan, who often provided the “Morning Call” on Radio Forth, will be retiring at the 11am morning service in Bristo Memorial Church on December 9, one day after her 65th birthday. The service will be attended by her father, Tom, and her younger siblings Ivie, Jean, Elizabeth and Tom Jnr. Following her retirement she hopes to continue to help people in the community.

Church elder Bill Comb said she had used her position to reach out to those most in need.

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He said: “She helps to distribute hundreds of packages every year, and has been doing so for decades. If it hadn’t been for her a lot of children would have had a miserable Christmas, with nothing under the tree.”

Nan, who is still very involved with different clubs within schools, continues to serve as president of the South East Edinburgh Crime Prevention Panel.

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She said: “The schools have been an immensely important part of my life. I got to know children from when they began nursery school, all the way through to when they were in primary seven and I’ve been doing that long enough that some people I knew as children are now coming back with their kids.

“We try to keep people out of trouble on the streets and also help elderly people to fit alarms in their property.

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“It’s been a wonderful privilege throughout my life to do God’s work. It’s not just about what I have done for other people, it’s also about what they have done for me.”