Letter from the minister- Stated Annual Meeting

Stated Annual Meeting

Letter issued to the Congregation on Sunday 4th March 2018

Dear friends As I write this, much of the rest of the country is shivering and struggling to cope with ‘the Beast from the East’ as the polar vortex weather system which has hit the country hard this week has been called. Although it hasn’t been exactly warm here either, we have been spared the worst of this artic weather. At this time of year the trees may still be dormant and without leaf, but already there are signs of spring all around us, signs of the days getting longer, if not warmer and bulbs and daffodils appearing in the gardens. Spring brings signs of new life stirring. There continues to be signs of new life stirring in this congregation, and this week’s Stated Annual Meeting was an opportunity for us to take stock not only of the financial health of the congregation but to hopefully appreciate how much work is going on at many levels within the congregation.

The Stated Annual Meeting saw the trustees of the Congregation present the accounts for 2017 to the congregation last Wednesday 28th February. Despite the challenging bitterly cold night, it was heartening as always to see a good number coming along to the S.A.M, and heartening too to see how well the congregation’s finances are. Despite the challenges and pressures that everyone is facing, and despite the reality of a depressed island economy, the giving of the congregation is more than commendable. As Angus Macsween our treasurer ably took us through last year’s accounts it surely became obvious how much we have to be thankful for as a Congregation. Our income for the year 2017 of £83,606 is very pleasing to the trustees, and compares favourably with that of many congregations of a similar (or even larger) size and circumstances. Despite the fact that we had a deficit of £14,537, with an expenditure of £98,143 for the year, as Angus explained that was largely due to the extensive works being undertaken in the past year on necessary projects such as the roof repairs and rendering of the church. I should like to take this opportunity on behalf of us all as a congregation to thank Angus most sincerely for his hard work and professionalism in looking after our finances so well throughout the year.

This year the treasurer’s address was followed by three more addresses with regard to different aspects of the congregation’s work. Campbell Macrae on behalf of the Management Committee gave an overview of the extensive work that was being done by the Management committee with a special focus on the Fabric sub committee. The Fabric group have had a busy and productive year, with much work being undertaken both inside and outside the church. Campbell explained how with the advice and help of the General Trustees (who ultimately own the buildings) several other projects will be progressed over the next two years. The trustees who visited Tarbert, Roger Dodd and Brian Waller were both very impressed with the condition of the fabric of the church and manse and gave us valuable advice and support. The Trustees have offered us retrospective and future financial assistance for these works, and have given valuable advice on necessary work to do with Health and Safety such as installing a gallery rail, other projects such as renewing the heating system and painting the exterior of the church, manse and precincts with high quality weather proof paint.

Bobby Macleod spoke on behalf of the Worship Group to keep us up to speed on the progress with the band project. Much of the finances for the worship band project are now in place, and many thanks are due to all who contributed and have supported this venture. Much of the equipment has been purchased, and will hopefully enhance the worship of the church in various ways in the time ahead. Part of the project’s intentions is to improve the sound quality in the church, and in this respect new microphones , sound system and sound desk will be installed in the church in the next while. Karen Macrae then took us through an overview of the congregational website , highlighting how well used it has been , and the possibilities there are for the future development of the site. The proposals for further development may include, a history page outlining the history of not only the church but those associated with it, a giving page, where on-line visitors can give to the work of the congregation and a special project seeking to digitise and put on-line the sermons our late minister the Rev DA Macrae.

It would not be possible for me, to mention individually the great contributions that so many have made to the life and work of the congregation over the past year. Last year, as always a great deal of dedicated hard work has been carried out by office-bearers, members and adherents of the congregation. Many of you have selflessly given of your time, talents and resources to the work of this congregation, and I wish to take this opportunity to thank you all most sincerely for all you have and continue to do. The remarkable thing is that this is done exclusively on a voluntary basis and so I think it is incumbent on myself and indeed all of us to really consider this and give due appreciation and thanks for all that continues to be done by so many in the congregation. It is amazing to see how much has been achieved over the past few years and it brings to mind the words of Nehemiah regarding the enthusiastic and dedicated Israelites re-building the wall of Jerusalem. ‘So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.’ Nehemiah 4:6)

My recovery from major surgery has gone very well, and all the glory must go to God for this. I have constantly said that I could see God’s hand and purposes in this, and I certainly do. So I should like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support of us as a family and for your expressions of good wishes and offers of practical help, which have been a source of great comfort and strength to us. We are also very grateful for your prayers for me and for us as a family during this time. I am currently on a phased return to duties, but will have to go back to hospital some time in the future for a routine procedure. As previously, the Kirk Session and I will endeavour to ensure that there will be as little disruption as possible to to the life of the congregation, during this time.

All this shows us how thankful we should be in everything. We thank God for His wonderful provision for us in the Rev John Murdo Nicolson, who gave outstanding service as locum minister in my absence, over these past few months. We continue to pray that John Murdo, Debbie and Sam will be truly blessed in their new ministry in the Presbytery of Lewis and in Martin’s memorial . I should also like to thank our interim moderator, the Rev Murdo Smith a faithful friend of the congregation who made long journeys from Shader to Tarbert to chair various meetings with customary efficiency and grace. We also thank as always the Rev Donald John and members of the Kirk Session for giving leadership and guidance during this time.

A week today we will be meeting together at the Lord’s table, during our Communion services. As this is the last opportunity I will have before then, I would like to exhort anyone who is thinking of professing faith for the first time to do so. You will be warmly welcomed by all of us in the Kirk Session, and we will be delighted to see new faces sitting with us at the table. I have spoken about the service rendered by so many over the past year, but we have to remember that the greatest service we can render is to profess Jesus as our Lord and saviour .

The words of the psalmist in psalm 116 which are traditionally sung at Communion sum up this service very well.

What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,

14 I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.

With grateful thanks and every good wish to you all

In Christ

Ian Murdo Macdonald

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