Back safely from my trip to Stornoway, a trip to see the new priest in charge licensed to St Peter's and St Moluag's (Eoropaidh). It was my first time on Lewis (in fact my first time on any of the Western Isles) and a very special occasion. I now have another full-time colleague in the diocese!
Shona Boardman is the fourth of the active stipendiary clergy (the provost is still in post, but remains rather ill - and there's a bishop too!) for the Scottish Episcopalian Diocese of Argyll and The Isles. This diocese, which goes from Stornoway to Arran and from Glencoe to Barra (and includes this little corner of Cowal & Bute) is a massive geographical area.
The small numbers of paid clergy in the diocese are both a symptom of the challenges that are faced, and also, I believe, an important part of facing these challenges. Ministry in Argyll and The Isles cannot depend on a small number of 'professional' church-people. Each of the small communities that makes up the diocese (and I think there are 32 churches/places listed on the diocesan website) requires a local leader to draw the community together, to give them direction, to help them worship and to draw others in. This local leader may be lay or ordained, it may be one person or several. But in a dispersed, massively separated place like this, us stipendiary mortals cannot and should not try to be in all these places, keeping some sort of show on the road.
The SEC has done much work on this type of ministry, and I love the echoes of the early church, sowing new communities as the gospel spread. It also has resonance with Donovan's 'Christianity Rediscovered' - where communities grow and have integrity in their local context.
All very exciting: lots of hard work - but it's great to have welcomed Shona into the middle of it all!