A former university lecturer was last week ordained as the first of the Church of Scotland’s new pioneering type of local ministers.
Dr Fiona Tweedie, who has taught statistics at both Edinburgh and Glasgow universities, became the Presbyterian Kirk’s first Ordained Local Minister (OLM) at a service in Barclay Viewforth Church on Friday 30 September 2011.
OLM ministry has been practiced by the Church of England (Anglican) and the Anglican Church in New Zealand for some time, having undergone several revisions - but it takes a different form in Scotland's major Presbyterian Christian denomination.
Dr Tweedie has been appointed as Edinburgh Presbytery’s mission facilitator and researcher – an unpaid post in which she will contribute to the Church’s strategy to engage with communities across the city.
The Ordained Local Ministry (OLM) was approved by the May 2011 Church of Scotland General Assembly, the Church’s decision-making body.
Unlike parish ministry, OLMs will be deployed by their Presbytery rather than being called to a specific congregation and participate in around 10-hours of work a week.
With a flexible approach to training and serving, it is hoped by the Kirk that the new scheme will be popular among congregational members feeling a call to ministry but unable to work full-time as a minister due to other work and family commitments.
Dr Tweedie commented: “Being a mother-of-two, if there wasn’t a part-time training option then there’s no way I could have ever done this."
She continued: “Five of us trained together and we will all be ordained over the next month. We’re quite a varied group, one’s a nurse, another’s a teacher, one works in a bank and another has their own business."
“It’s healthy and encouraging that such a wide variety of people are being able to fulfil their call to the ministry in the Church,” she added.
During her training, Dr Tweedie worked with five congregations in Cumbernauld, helping them to identify common issues and a positive way forward: “There were churches facing the same issues, like new housing developments or deprived areas, but they weren’t sharing ideas or initiatives because they weren’t neighbours.
“I’m sure this is true for many parts of Edinburgh, and I’m hoping as a Presbytery we will be able to work more collaboratively across the city,” she said.
Scotland's capital is somewhere the 38-year-old knows well, having been brought up in Fairmilehead. She now lives in Colinton with husband Stephen and daughters Heather, aged 10, and Susanna, aged seven.