Congregational Review 2015 paper



On October 4th after our morning service the congregation of Stonehaven South will hold its Stated Annual Meeting [S.A.M.]. This is an opportunity for anyone and everyone who is interested in the life of this congregation and the wider work of the Church to review what has been happening here in the past year or so and to discuss the way forward. This will be a time not only to listen but just as importantly to ask questions and suggest new ideas. Our focus will be on ‘Where do we go from here?’ and how to provide the people, the place, the pounds and the prayers to make our shared vision a reality.  

This year’s meeting is taking place so much later than usual as the result of the many tricky challenges we are facing in the South Church.


One major factor is our difficulty in finding people willing to take on key responsibilities within the congregation. A few long-serving elders, team committee convenors and office holders, understandably feel they have served their time. We have also lost some through serious even fatal illness but also others by them simply leaving the area for pastures new. As a result the few who remain are currently wearing several ‘hats’ despite their own pressures of work, family and ill health.

Our present SESSION CLERK John Balsillie is a clear example. John is due to resign completely from this particular office by the end of December and I fully agree that he should do so without staying in post until someone else takes over. Yet so far we have only one volunteer willing to job share to replace him. Meantime John is also Presbytery Elder with special responsibilities within Presbytery for property. He is also Roll Keeper; elder with his own district and its ongoing pastoral responsibilities plus acting Property Convenor.

The role of PROPERTY CONVENOR is a major task in itself. It involves not only responsibility for the long term planning maintenance and improvement of all our buildings inside and out but all the many day to day issues: changing light bulbs, setting the heating, ensuring flushing toilets etc.. Our plans for a major refit of our both our church and hall will also mean a lot of work for that convenor plus a lot of other folk besides. 

Another key role that is a serious challenge and requires urgent consideration is that of CONGREGATIONAL TREASURER following on from the unexpected passing of Bill Craigen last year. The former office holder Bill Wisely, with our grateful thanks, stepped once again into the breach but his own circumstances meant that he could only do this for the short term. 

In spite of requests we have had, with extreme embarrassment, to look outside the congregation for someone willing to take on the responsibility of ‘keeping the books’ and producing the annual accounts. Our sincere thanks go to Iain Coutts for doing this.  In spite of his help however the regular matters of banking monies paid in [with the exception of Sunday offerings] and making payments out have fallen primarily to myself. One person has already agreed to help out in this area but they too are already wearing several ‘hats’. 

The problem of not having an active and involved Treasurer for a lengthy period has resulted in the situation that we have not claimed Gift Aid in respect of payments made since sometime in 2013. This can be rectified but we need someone who is willing and able as GIFT AID TREASURER to make this happen.

There are three essential qualities to this post:

  • confidentiality concerning the details of who pays what and when;

  • competence with numbers but not necessarily at an formal level of qualification i.e. no one needs to be an accountant or the like;

  • computer aptitude as claims are now all made ‘on line’ .

If anyone is at all interested in any of the above roles please contact John Balsillie or myself without commitment either way.


The details of the accounts for 2014 as a whole and for 2015 so far will be available at S.A.M. but it I am able to say at this point that we are currently running in the red i.e. that we are on the whole spending more than we are taking in. For 2014 this was approximately £10k. In the broadest layman’s terms: we can meet our financial obligations this year but there will be little left in ‘the kitty’ unless significant changes are made in the future.  

 This is because:

  • we have not made any claims for Gift Aid for a lengthy period

  • we have not yet requested that any of the proceeds of the Manse Sale should be used towards property maintenance and repair of the South church and halls plus our obligations towards the shared maintenance of the Manse at Dunnottar

  • we have ensured that those employed by the church are reimbursed at the appropriate levels

  • the total income received through congregational offerings on Sundays has reduced from previous years.

The first two items will only be addressed if and when we have sufficient people in post to make these claims. [see PEOPLE above].

The third item cannot be avoided. We must legally and morally accept and adhere to our full responsibilities as employers.   

The fourth and final item is a reflection of another serious challenge in the South today.


Those who make payments through regular direct debit/standing order contribute whether they are actively involved elsewhere in the worship, work and witness of the church or not. As far as their financial contribution is concerned they need only review on a regular basis so that their contribution continues to be of realistic value in light of increasing costs and expenditure.

Those who choose to pay by the Freewill Offering envelopes or through the open plate need to be in church on a regular basis to fulfil their commitment. This does not seem to be happening as sadly such offerings made in 2014 were less than those in 2013. Furthermore those already made in 2015 continue to be smaller than those in 2014.

Those who prefer to make a one-off contribution on Giving Day are also reduced in number and in their overall donations.

Thank you to those who have in response to my earlier call have made the effort to ‘catch up’ on their agreed payments.

But nevertheless because of all the above factors we now have significantly less in our funds than we should.  


Attendance at worship week by week is however much more than what we can give financially. If I were to produce at the S.A.M. a set of figures based on congregational attendance at our joint worship services at the South, at Dunnottar and at St Bridget’s; at other congregational meetings and social events; at fund raisers and at community level as representatives of the South Church how would we fare as a congregation?

Last Sunday morning … at the South Church … I found myself strangely pleased to find that two dozen South folk were in attendance: 24 adults out of a congregational roll of a couple of hundred. What does that say about the terribly low level of congregational South ‘presence’ we have experienced in recent times?

I know that we all have other serious commitments to family, work and other worthwhile pursuits but the harsh reality we all need to face is that unless we all support the South with our pounds, our presence and our prayers, there might not continue to be a church here when we find ourselves in most need of it.


On a positive note we have so much going for us:

  • a central location in the town

  • substantial funds held by central offices on our behalf for upgradingof our property

  • a small core of deeply committed members

  • our supportive brothers and sisters at Dunnottar ready and willing to help, support, work with us in any way they can

  • a developing sense that what we should be doing is not primarily within our own membership and our own walls but out into the wider community of Stonehaven and beyond : focusing not on what we want but what others need.


If you wish to be part of Christ’s mission for the world in and through the South Church I look forward to meeting with on October 4th or anytime thereafter in the weeks and months ahead  . 

With every blessing from your sister and fellow worker in Christ, Rosslyn.

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