A brief account of my discernment placement

Ross Stirling-Young shares his experience of time spent with us

As many of you are aware, I joined the congregations of Holy Trinity and St. Margaret’s at the beginning of January for a nine-week placement as part of my on-going discernment journey. On the one hand, when I first found out that I would be away from my home church (St. Finnian’s in Lochgelly) for this period, it did feel a little unsettling as I knew I’d miss my church family there. On the other hand, I was excited and joyful about coming back to two charges I’ve come to know reasonably well over the years since becoming a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church. 

I felt it essential to write this short article as a way of both thanking you all for making me so welcome and as a way of sharing with you what I gained from my time. 

I’m now in my 2nd year of studying Ignatian Spirituality and find that my way of living as a Christian has changed noticeably during this time. My discernment journey within the context of deepening my understanding of vocation I feel has enabled me to see how the Church values and validates the gifts in which I think God has blessed and equipped me. Concerning Ignatian Spirituality, I feel my everyday life has enabled me to become a “contemplative in action” type of person. To strive to live a life in growing closer to Jesus and discerning how my everyday thoughts, words, and deeds can make that a reality. 

The welcome given from both congregations was overwhelming, and I mean that in a positive sense, of course. To be welcomed and accepted just as I am made me feel part of the congregational family from day one. I tend to use the term “brothers and sisters in Christ” reasonably often, although my choice of language may sound a little evangelicalat times. One of my favourite NT verses comes from John 13:34-35 “that you love one another; as I have loved you”. For me, it’s as simple as that. No matter what our difference in views or personalities, we are all brothers and sisters bound together in the love of Christ. 

I felt humbled during several different instances where individuals entrusted me with the personal difficulties they had been enduring. Offering to listen confidentially and to “simply be” was by far one of the greatest moments during my placement. That window opportunity into someone’s else’s pain enabled me to pray for their particular situation. Of course, I may have no idea how that person is coping now or how their situation may have changed, but at least I’m still able to lift them in prayer to our God of compassion and love.  

The Triangles Coffee Shop at Rosyth can be summed up in one word – amazing! The volunteers from both Methodist & Episcopal congregations do remarkable work benefiting those living in the local community and beyond. I’m most grateful to each of the different teams for welcoming me every Friday(especially Mandy on my first day!) And for allowing me the opportunity to get to know the community a little better in which the church serves. The most enjoyable part of this time was getting to meet the customers and spend time in fellowship with them. Of course, the ability to “wind up”Dorissia regarding her home-baking didn’t go amiss ensuring plenty of laughter amongst the customers! I’m lucky that Dorissia enjoys a joke and joins in the “banter”; otherwise, I fear I would have been in severe danger! 

I guess looking back I felt most blessed by attending mid-week Eucharist every Thursday. There was something extraordinary about worship on those occasions, and perhaps Icannot even fully explain why. Maybe it had something to do with the feeling of intimacy and ability to speak one to one with individuals for more extended periods and hearing their stories. Everyone has their own story to tell. Several of the conversations led to experiences I never imagined being part of my placement. For example, being introduced to a new family recently moved from New Delhi and spending time getting to know them. Or being invited to a family lunch and made to feel extremely welcome in their home with abundant food and warm hospitality. Then there was making new friendships leading to a greater understanding of Mothers Union and the ability to share my experiences of my work with the orphaned children both Ray and I support living at the Arunima Hospice in Kolkata. 

After the first few weeks of attending mid-week worship on a Thursday, I coined this day my “Kenny Surprise Day!”. I learned very early on not to make any plans for a Thursday during placement. Simply because Kenny would happily tell me a few minutes before the service began “Oh, by the way, we’re going here after church today” or “we’re going to such and such to give home communion”. I came to enjoy the variation of each Thursday, joining with friends old and new. My Thursdays now seem a little boring that the placement has come to an end! 

I was delighted to be invited by the members of St. Margaret’s to organise and lead a Taize-inspired service as part of their Sunday@Six programme. It was great to have so many people attend the service, and beautiful that Rev Michael came along even although he recently returned from a very long journey home from Australia. I was grateful to those members who helped me in organising and preparing this service; it was so much appreciated. 

There are, of course, many other happy memories regardless of the short nature of my placement. These included being able to attend the amazingly joyful Youth Fellowship several times to having fun at the Pancake Tuesday event (even the problematic quiz!). Also doing the hoovering at St. Margaret’s each Thursday felt fulfilling! 

We are well into the current lockdown situation. Still, it has been great to maintain some friendships both old and neweven if that means following someone’s life journey on social media and gaining a glimpse into a particular part of their servanthood as a Christian in these trying times. 

Once again, thank you to all who made me feel so welcome at Holy Trinity and St. Margaret’s, for your care and most importantly, your prayers. I thought I’d leave you with one of my favourite quotes from Saint Ignatius of Loyola: 

Whatever you are doing, that which makes you feel the most alive that is where God is.

In Christian Love,

Ross Stirling-Young 

St. Finnian’s, Lochgelly