In late July, members of Burghead Free Church (BFC), Morayshire, gathered online to witness the ordination of their new minister, Peter Turnbull.
The service was led by Revd Calum Iain Macleod who very appropriately preached from Mark 1:1-15 on beginning a new ministry.
Ordinarily, this would be celebrated by the gathered church family and would be concluded by both elders and Presbytery members laying hands on Peter, as well as with him signing the ministerial formula.
In this case, however, hands were raised rather than laid on and the signed formula was presented to the web camera by Peter for all to see. The sadness at the inability to gather physically was tempered by the joy of concluding an unusual 5-year journey.
Why unusual? Well, Peter is a native of Newcastle – Anglican by background and a musician by trade. That his wife, Morag, hails from nearby Elgin provides one clue as to why Peter felt called to a fishing village on the Moray Coast. It was Peter’s obedience to God’s calling, though, and BFC’s trust in God’s providence that complete the picture.
After the retirement of Revd Jim Abernethy in 2012, BFC’s future looked uncertain. With a dwindling congregation and a building in desperate need of repair, talk of closure or amalgamation had begun.
Providentially, Peter had met Free Church folk at conferences he’d attended. This led to a conversation with Revd David Meredith (Free Church Missions Coordinator) who pointed him to the Burghead vacancy.
In August 2015, Peter, his wife, and their three children moved north. A small support team from Christchurch Fullwood, Sheffield (Peter’s previous church), followed close behind.
A challenge was Peter’s lack of formal theological training. An agreement was reached, however, for him to study part-time at Edinburgh Theological Seminary. While studying he led the church with oversight from an interim moderator and the regional Presbytery.
BFC is now a revitalised, growing family with its largest membership since the 1980s, meeting in a refurbished church building. This has come about through relevant preaching, regular invitation services, Christianity Explored courses, and frequent engagement with the people of Burghead.
Our journey continues with a vision to become a vibrant, all-age church of 100 disciples, seeking to know Jesus and make Jesus known. We trust that, under God, this vision will be realised for the glory of God in Burghead and beyond.