Kirk welcomes highest number of trainees in 5 years

The Church of Scotland is welcoming its largest number of trainee ministers in five years, as it anticipates hundreds of parish ministers reaching retirement age in the next decade.

Trainee minister Louise Purden. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

The Kirk said it has so far accepted 27 new candidates for training this year and with further applicants due for assessment next month, it could even be the largest intake for ten years, officials said.

The figures were disclosed as the Church builds on its Tomorrow’s Calling campaign to promote parish ministry, with a new recruitment website and an online advent calendar carrying 24 video messages created by ministers.

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Rev Neil Glover, convener of the Church’s Ministries Council, said: “We’re no different to other professions facing up to retirement challenges, like GPs and teaching. The Church has been slow to get to get to grips with the scale of the problem but now it is a top priority.

“We currently have just over 800 ministers, and more than 400 of them are aged 55 or over.

“Ministers tend to work a bit beyond the normal pension age, but we now need to recruit 30 new trainees every year. With around 10 ministers usually returning to parish ministry or joining us each year, then we will be able to continue serving our parishes.”

Mother-of-two Louise Purden, 39, has just been accepted by the Church as a trainee. Meanwhile, her father Rev John McPake, 67, has come out of retirement to work part-time as an associate minister at Edinburgh’s Gorgie Dalry Parish Church.

Ms Purden said she had recently started feeling “butterflies in her tummy” when she thought about becoming a minister. “I guess I have become more aware of the roles that ministers can have and how much the Church has enhanced my life and my family life and I want that for my children as well so I am looking forward to it,” she said.

Her father, who entered ministry at Edinburgh’s Liberton Northfield in his mid-40s, said he was “very encouraged and pleased” with his daughter’s decision.

The Church launched its Tomorrow’s Calling recruitment campaign at May’s General Assembly in Edinburgh.