From the Manse

Dear friends 

Although it is many years since I lived in Kilmarnock, the Ayrshire town where I was born and brought up still holds a special place in my affections. When I was appointed Moderator of the General Assembly, the Kilmarnock connection provided an interesting talking point as it meant five former pupils from Kilmarnock Academy, John Miller, Andrew
McLellan, Bill Hewitt, Lorna Hood and myself, had fulfilled the role since AD 2000. However, following my mother’s death earlier this year, and the sale of what had been our family home, it felt as though my last link with the town had gone. So you can imagine my surprise to receive an invitation from the Provost of East Ayrshire Council, Jim Todd, to attend a civic lunch along with my colleague, the Very Rev Dr David Lacy. 

Although he was born in Inverness, David is another former Moderator and, until his retirement last year, he had been minister of Kilmarnock’s Kay Park Church, our family church, for over 20 years. It proved to be a very enjoyable occasion, not least the opportunity to hear from the Provost and East Ayrshire’s Chief Executive, Fiona Lees, about some of the opportunities and challenges facing the area. With the closure of large employers in the area – Massey Ferguson, Glenfield and Kennedy, BMK, Saxone, Johnnie Walkers – Kilmarnock is very different from the town of my childhood and there is no denying the sad and somewhat run down feel to the town centre.

Like many of Scotland’s west coast towns, Kilmarnock has struggled to find a new role for itself. The opening of the M77 several years ago helped transform Kilmarnock into a commuter town – it is barely a 15 minute journey to the outskirts of Glasgow including the massive Silverburn shopping complex on the south side of the city – but it has meant that although many people still live in Kilmarnock, they work, shop and play elsewhere. 

As the Provost and Chief Executive spoke of the different initiatives East Ayrshire Council is taking to promote the area and attract new investment, employment and people to live and work locally, it was encouraging to see how in such changed and changing times they were working hard to breathe new life into the town and the surrounding area.
In many respects Kilmarnock’s story these last 50 years mirrors something of the Church of Scotland’s story too.
With changing patterns in education, employment and family life, the church has not always been either willing or nimble enough to adapt its ways to meet the needs of people. 

Although Cramond Kirk continues to be well supported, its continuing health and vitality is not something anyone of us should take for granted. At the heart of the gospel is the story of the God who reaches out with care, compassion, kindness and love and as your minister for the last 25 years I am very proud of the many ways through its worship, groups, organisations and activities Cramond Kirk continues to reach out to the local community and beyond.
As I said, however, this is not something to be taken for granted and, knowing some of the challenges we face, I am delighted the Kirk Session is developing a stewardship campaign for the autumn – please see Adam Cumming’s article for more details – so that as a congregation we can make best use of our many resources in the service of Christ and his church.

Although Kilmarnock has come through some hard times, from my conversations with Jim Todd and Fiona
Lees, I left the civic reception feeling encouraged that a much brighter future lay ahead. And creating a much brighter future for Cramond Kirk is something to which I hope and pray we can all be committed.

With best wishes,

Russell Barr


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