Formartine Churches Together

How can Tarves and Barthol Chapel, Udny & Pitmedden and Methlick work together?
A working group has been established, with representatives from each of the congregations, to establish the way forward. Read News Briefs below.

 

News Brief No 7
Working Group Meeting (Number 6)
Zoom, Tuesday 8 March 2022, 7:30 pm


Greetings from the Formartine Churches Working Group!

The Working Group met on the 8 March 2022, and two things moved our hearts and minds:

1. First and foremost, our hearts and minds were moved by the war in Ukraine. Our love and prayers are for a swift end to this war, and for the millions of Ukrainian refugees that are our pouring into the rest of Europe. Lord, help us welcome them as you welcomed us!

2. The second thing that weighed on our hearts and minds was the Draft Presbytery Plan, which was presented on Tuesday 1 March 2022, and it’s impact on all the churches, and in particular those of us in Area Group 6. There are summary statements on each of the churches’ websites, but in short, the Draft Presbytery Plan mentioned this:

Ministry Posts: Going forward, there will be 1 FTE Minister of Word and Sacrament allocated to Area Group 6, which includes the parishes of Methlick, Tarves and Barthol Chapel and Udny & Pitmedden. It should be noted that the process of reducing the current number of FTEMWS, which currently stands at 2, will take place over 5 years. In addition, the Draft Presbytery Plan acknowledges that a team ministry currently exists with an OLM and a locally funded youth worker. The fostering of this team ministry is encouraged in the Draft Presbytery Plan.

Buildings: In terms of buildings, Methlick Church, Tarves Church and Youth Hall and Pitmedden Church are all deemed to be necessary church buildings, but it is suggested that Methlick Stables, Barthol Chapel Church and Udny Green Church are to be sold, let or disposed of within the next 5 years. That said, it was acknowledged that Udny & Pitmedden had already made the difficult decision to sell Udny Green Church.

There is undoubtedly a sense of sadness and loss. Gone are the days of one minister per parish, and some of our cherished church buildings might have to close as well. And before we start a new chapter together, we will make sure to mark with thanksgiving the rich Christian heritage that has been evident in each place.

That said, the Formartine Churches Working Group has worked hard to develop what it believes to be a positive model of ministry for the future: A Single-Parish Model. Technical Groups on Structure and Governance, Ministry and Mission and Finance met over the last number of weeks and the information gathered in these meetings helped to form a proposal that will be going to each Kirk Session for prayerful consideration and approval.

Watch this space! While there are still details to worked out, it is hoped that the new model will enable ministry to take place together and with a heart for each of our respective communities.

Here are some important dates going forward:

 • March – May 2022 – Kirk Sessions to meet and discuss the Draft Presbytery Plan and the Formartine Churches Working Group’s Proposal for a United Parish.
• 3 May 2022 – Gordon Presbytery Meeting - The draft Presbtery Plan will be debated, rejected, amended or approved.
• May 2022 onwards - The Formartine Churches Working Group will take decision of the Kirk Sessions and Presbytery, and comments received from our respective communities into consideration into its work on finalising the details of our “Covenant Agreement” and how we will work together.
• December 2022 – Final Date of a “Covenant Agreement” between our churches to be written and agreed

Conclusion: Communication! Communication! Communication! Again, these updates are not ends in themselves! They are springboards for conversation. Please let us know your thoughts.
 

Tarves and Barthol Chapel
Rev. Dr. Alison Swindells - aswindells@churchofscotland.org.uk

Udny & Pitmedden
Rev. Anthony Craig - aacraig@btinternet.com
Rev. Sheila Mitchell - SMitchell@churchofscotland.org.uk

Methlick
Rev. Dr. Will Stalder - wstalder@churchofscotland.org.uk

Until we see/speak to one another again, may you know God’s love and peace. May God hear our prayers for Ukraine and for our churches and communities!

Rev. Dr. Will Stalder
Minister of Methlick Parish Church
On behalf of the Formartine Area Churches
Friday 11 March 2022

 

News Brief No 6
Working Group Meeting (Number 5)
Zoom, Tuesday 8 February 2022, 7:30pm


Summary: Greetings from the Formartine Churches Working Group. In our last Newsbrief, we mentioned that there are a number of difficult conversations we will need to have over the coming weeks and months as we explore what a ‘Single Parish Model’ might look like for our respective churches and communities. There will indeed be a sense of loss and grief for every congregation and parish as we move forward, and we must recognise this, mark it appropriately and bear with one another along the way (Romans 12:15; 1 Corinthians 12:26). However, I must say that there has also been a real sense of hope accompanying us as we’ve started these conversations. There is an excitement burgeoning with the Working Group at the thought of how much more we might be able to do together (Ecclesiastes 4:12). In this Newsbrief, I’d like to give you a glimpse of this and into some of the conversations we have been having around our Name, Vision and Purpose, the work of Technical Groups in the drafting of Key Principles and Proposals for a Single Parish Model, and the Timeframe by which these conversations will be had and when these decisions need to be made. We welcome your input, ideas, and, of course, your prayers.

1. Name: We’ve been following the Church of Scotland guidelines (‘formula’), by which new names for churches are created. In short, every congregation’s name should comprise:

  • a geographical name, i.e., that of a city, town or village;
  • an additional name identifying the congregation if there is more than one congregation at that geographical location, e.g., Auchenshoogle: St Mary’s, Auchenshoogle: St Johns, etc.
  • and the words ‘Church of Scotland’. We are leaning towards “Formartine Parish Church of Scotland,” but we would welcome your thoughts. The winning suggestion might even get a prize!  

2. Vision and Purpose: Over the last number of meetings, we have been looking at our vision and purpose. We are nearly there. Here is our fourth draft, and we’d welcome your thoughts.

Formartine Parish Church of Scotland is a family of churches that exist to love God and the people of Udny, Pitmedden, Methlick, Tarves and Barthol Chapel.

Vision: Our vision is to be a growing, worshipping community of God’s people, loving God, sharing our faith, serving where we live and learning as we go.

Purpose: We recognise the following five purposes.1 They are close to our heart and drive all that we want to be and do:

  • Worship: To love God with all our heart and mind, body and soul
  • Discipleship: To give everyone an opportunity to explore and grow in faith
  • Service: To respond to human need with loving service and by encouraging connections in our community
  • Justice: To work for justice and fairness in our communities and beyond
  • Creation: To look after our world as God’s gift to us all

1 These purposes are based upon the “Five Marks of Mission” as endorsed and advocated by the Church of Scotland. It states that the mission of the Church is the mission of Christ:
1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
2. To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
3. To respond to human need by loving service
4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

3. Key Principles and Proposals for a Single Parish Model: Over the next number of weeks, technical groups will be formed to look at the following key aspects of Single Parish Model: Ministry and Mission, Structure, Finance. The work of these groups will provide necessary feedback into the construction of the Key Principles and Proposals of a Single Parish Model, which we will be presenting to Kirk Sessions and congregations.

4. Timeframe: Here are the dates and timings of when conversations and decisions will be made.

  • 1 March 2022 – Gordon Presbytery Meeting - The new draft Presbytery Plan will be presented and we’ll hear details of how many ministers will be allocated to our area and suggestions for our respective buildings.
  • 8 March 2022 – Formartine Churches Working Group Meeting.
  • March - April 2022 – Congregational Meetings and Discussions about Draft Presbytery Plan and its impact on our Area Grouping.
  • 3 May 2022 – Gordon Presbytery Meeting - The draft Presbtery Plan will be debated, rejected, amended or approved.
  • May 2022 onwards – The Formartine Churches Working Group will take these developments into consideration into its work on drafting a “Covenant Agreement.”
  • December 2022 – Final Date of a “Covenant Agreement” between our churches to be written and agreed

Conclusion: Communication! Communication! Communication! Again, these updates are not ends in themselves! They are springboards for conversation. We hope that you will raise any questions, ideas or comments you have with your elder or Interim Moderator. These will definitely be fed back to the Working Group. At our last Working Group meeting, we spent a good amount of time looking at the feedback at that has been given to us. We are definitely taking time to consider your input. We also hope to provide opportunities for wider communication and consultation in the coming months. These might happen locally, but there also might be wider opportunity for Q&A. Watch this space! Until then, please let us know your thoughts.

Tarves and Barthol Chapel
Rev. Dr. Alison Swindells - aswindells@churchofscotland.org.uk

Udny & Pitmedden
Rev. Anthony Craig - aacraig@btinternet.com
Rev. Sheila Mitchell - SMitchell@churchofscotland.org.uk

Methlick
Rev. Dr. Will Stalder - wstalder@churchofscotland.org.uk

Until we see/speak to one another again, may you know God’s love and peace, his comfort and power! And may God build and extend his Kingdom in and through us, the Formartine Area communities and churches!

Rev. Dr. Will Stalder
Minister of Methlick Parish Church
On behalf of the Formartine Area Churches
Sunday 13 February 2022

 

News Brief No 5
Working Group Meeting (Number 4)
Zoom, Tuesday 18 January 2022, 7:30 pm

Summary: As I’m writing this Newsbrief, I’m happy to say that it looks like there is a light at the
end of the tunnel with our current wave of the Coronavirus (Omicron Variant). While cases are
high in our respective areas and we still need to be vigilant with Covid-19, some of the restrictions
we’ve had to follow since our last Newsbrief are being lifted and, with it, comes a renewed sense
of hope and relief! Similarly, while there are a number of difficult conversations that need to be
had over the coming weeks and months as we explore what a ‘Single Parish Model’ might look like
for our respective churches and communities, we are confident that there is a Light that will guide
us along the way! Jesus says, ““I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in
darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). This confidence and hope was definitely
evident at our last Formartine Churches Working Group Meeting on the 18 January 2022.

While the establishment of our vision and values is a still a work in progress, you can see the hope
evident in one of our draft vision statements: “Our vision is to be a growing, worshiping community
of God’s people, loving God, sharing our faith, serving where we live and learning as we go.”

There were three main topics of conversation at the Formartine Churches Working Group Meeting:

1. Discussion of Vision and Values
As intimated above, the establishment of our vision and values (purposes) is still a work in
progress, but we are getting really close to adopting a common vision and purpose, which
we will then present to the churches and communities. It’s a vision of hope. It is mindful of
each of our respective churches and communities, and at its heart, has the things that
matter most: worship, discipleship, community, service, justice and creation.

2. Discussion of Key Principles and Proposals for a Single Parish Model
As was mentioned in the last Newsbrief (14 December 2021), we are working on the details
of what a ‘Single Parish Model’ might look like for our respective churches. Over the
coming weeks and for our next meeting on the 8 February 2022, we will be working out
what our key principles and proposals will be. We will present these principles and
proposals to each Kirk Session for discussion and approval (in principal). We will also do
our best to communicate these principles and proposals to the wider church and community
(see point three on communication below and watch this space). It should be said at the
outset that our hope and prayer and plan is that no single church or community will be lost
under the Single Parish Model. The development of the model and the provision of ministry
will be carried out with each worshipping community and village in our heart and mind.

In short the document will include the following elements:

• Vision and Purpose
• Situation of the current Presbytery Plan and the churches included in our grouping
• Background to why we’re having these discussions, namely the reduction of centrally
funded ministry posts across the whole of the Church of Scotland
• Assessment which describes the current role of the Working Group
• Recommendation which intimates that we believe the ‘Single Parish Model’ is the most
positive, equitable and constructive model for the Formartine Churches
• Structure which will detail the ins and outs of what it will mean for 4 congregations
uniting to become one Church of Scotland Charge for: membership, eldership, Oscar
regulations, ministry, pastoral care, buildings and finance, etc.
• Ministry will suggest how the united congregation and communities will be served by
the ministers (and Ministry Team) in our given area
• Finance will explore how and what finances will be transferred and held on behalf on
the new united congregation and what finances might be restricted for particular
churches or areas.
• Fabric will take the recommendations made by the new Presbytery Plan (to be
presented to Presbytery in March 2022) to establish which buildings are best suited for
mission and ministry for our respective areas and which buildings will continue to be
used, sold or let, in line with the new Presbytery Plan.
• Technology will be a key tool for worship, mission and discipleship going forward, and
a team of people will be looking at how best to utilise technology in our churches.

3. Communication
Communication! Communication! Communication! These Newsbriefs are not ends in
themselves! They are springboards for conversation. We hope that you will raise any
questions, ideas or comments you have with your minister or Interim Moderator. These will
definitely be fed back to the Working Group. We also hope to provide opportunities for
wider communication and consultation in the coming months. These might happen locally,
but there also might be wider opportunity for Q&A. Watch this space!

Until we see/speak to one another again, may the Light of Life be our comfort and guide!

Rev. Dr. Will Stalder
Minister of Methlick Parish Church

Rev. Dr. Alison Swindells
Minister of Tarves and Barthol Chapel

Ministers of the Formartine Area Churches
Thursday 20 January 2022

 

News Brief No 4 Working Group Meeting (Number 3) 
Zoom, Tuesday 14 December 2021, 7:30pm

Summary: Here we go again! There’s an ‘old’ 1993 cult classic called, “Groundhog Day,” where
actor Bill Murray wakes up one morning to realise that he is living the same day, the 2 February
over and over again. The Working Group were due to meet in Methlick Parish Church on Tuesday
14 December 2021, but because of the rise of Covid-19 cases (Omicron variant) and the First
Minister’s announcement earlier that day, we decided to meet online. There is this uncomfortable
feeling that we’re starting all over again: a rise in cases, new regulations and for some a move
back online. Will we ever break the cycle? Will we ever see the 3 February and the end of Covid-
19? Yes – but maybe not in the manner we initially hoped.

Bill Murray’s character slowly matured over the course of this film so that he saw the eternal loop
as a blessing and not a curse. It was an opportunity to do good and an occasion to grow in love
for God (my addition) and neighbour. Eventually, he got to the point that no matter what
happened, even if he was doomed to relive the same course of events again and again, he was
content, because he had found love. And at the moment he found love, he woke up and found
that it was the 3 February.

I don’t know how many waves of the Coronavirus we’re going to go through, how many times
we’re going to wake up thinking, “Here we go again,” but I do know that the Formartine Area
Churches and the Working Group in particular have got to the point where we are more open to
one another and willing to work together than ever before. And, I believe, this fraternité, this love
for one another, will be our saving grace. We will see the 3 February, even if we have to endure a
few more waves of this wretched virus.

How will this be made manifest in practical terms?
Well, over the last two meetings of the Working Group, we have been deliberating over various
models of working together. We have looked at the pros and cons of Unions, Linkages,
Guardianship, New Charge Developments, Dissolution and Hub Ministry. We have come to the
conclusion that, in principle, the best way of working together will be under a Single Parish Model.

What is a Single Parish Model?
In short, the idea is that all four congregations would unite to become one Church of Scotland
Parish. That said, there would be a commitment to maintaining a missional presence and
opportunities for worship in each of our respective communities. The administrative edifice would
be simplified. There would be one Kirk Session as opposed to four Kirk Sessions and One Board.
The new Kirk Session would be comprised of a representation of elders from each of the
respective churches. Duplication would be reduced and members and elders would be freed
focus their energies on aspects of worship, mission and service that would build up the church and
communities. The ministers would work across whole of the new Formartine Parish according to
an agreed ‘portfolio’ and would have a specific remit and specific area/s of responsibility. Local
leadership teams would be established in each church and the whole people of God would be
encouraged, empowered, trained up to have an active role in the life of the church.

What’s next? - The Working Group are aware that the Single Parish Model will have to be
approved by all the Kirk Sessions and in due course the congregations. However, there is a lot of
work to be done still before we are at that stage. Over the coming months (January – March
2022), we will be looking at aspects of structure, ministry, fabric and finance, but as we said
before: We would like to hear from you! We believe communication is really important and
that it’s a two-way street.
We will communicate often and clearly throughout this process, but
we also want to listen, hear any questions or ideas you might have about the churches working
together. The details of the Single Parish Model for the Formartine Churches is far from complete,
so we would welcome your input. Please free to contact your minister or Interim Moderator and
we’ll be happy to feed your thoughts back to the Working Group. The more input we have from
church and community the better.

Tarves and Barthol Chapel
Rev. Dr. Alison Swindells - aswindells@churchofscotland.org.uk
Udny & Pitmedden
Rev. Anthony Craig - aacraig@btinternet.com
Rev. Sheila Mitchell - SMitchell@churchofscotland.org.uk
Methlick
Rev. Dr. Will Stalder - wstalder@churchofscotland.org.uk

I’m not sure if this is the final wave of the Coronavirus we’re going to face. I hope so. What I do
know is that whatever happens with Covid-19, with God’s help and with hearts open to one
another in our respective churches and communities and a willingness to work together, we will be
the stronger for it, and hopefully, we will wake up one morning soon and find that’s it’s 3 February.

We wish you a Merry Christmas a Happy New Year! Stay safe and well and until we see or speak
to one another again, may God bless each and every one of you!

Rev. Dr. Will Stalder
Minister of Methlick Parish Church

Rev. Dr. Alison Swindells
Minister of Tarves and Barthol Chapel

Ministers of the Formartine Area Churches
Friday 15 December 2021

 

News Brief No 3 Working Group Meeting (Number 2)
Tarves Church, Tuesday 9 November 2021, 7:30pm

Summary: At our second meeting in Tarves Parish Church on 9 November we began to formulate our vision and purpose and we explored one possible model of future ministry for the area. Again there was a sense of excitement and enthusiasm and God’s leading as we looked at the challenges together. We will continue to look at these items and their implications at our next meeting on Tuesday 14 December 2021, 7:30pm at Methlick Parish Church. In the meantime, we have agreed that from the beginning of next year, Will Stalder and Alison Swindells will preach at Udny & Pitmedden once a month so that we can begin to get to know the people of this part of our area and they can get to know us.

Again: We would like to hear from you! We believe communication is really important, but we also believe that communication is a two-way street. While we hope to communicate often and clearly throughout this process, we also want to listen, hear any questions or ideas you might have about the churches working together. Please free to contact your minister or Interim Moderator and we will be happy to feed your thoughts back to the Working Group. The more input we have from church and community the better.

Tarves and Barthol Chapel
Rev. Dr. Alison Swindells - aswindells@churchofscotland.org.uk

Udny & Pitmedden
Rev. Anthony Craig - aacraig@btinternet.com
Rev. Sheila Mitchell - SMitchell@churchofscotland.org.uk

Methlick
Rev. Dr. Will Stalder - wstalder@churchofscotland.org.uk

Until we speak again, please pray, and we will do our best to communicate with everybody at each stage in the process. God’s richest blessings to you and your church and community!

Rev. Dr. Will Stalder
Minister of Methlick Parish Church

Rev. Dr. Alison Swindells
Minister of Tarves and Barthol Chapel

Ministers of the Formartine Area Churches Friday 12 November 2021

 

News Brief No 2 Working Group Meeting (Number 1)
Pitmedden Church, Tuesday 12 October 2021, 7:30pm

In the first news brief about the Joint Session Meeting that took place on Sunday 19
September 2021, I opened with this question, “How can Tarves and Barthol Chapel, Udny
& Pitmedden and Methlick work together?” I am proud to say that I can now answer the
following question, “How are we working together?”

Since the initial Joint Session Meeting, a working group has been established, with
representatives from each of the respective congregations and with the remit of addressing
the questions, concerns and suggested priorities raised on the 19 September 2021. A
summary document of the day came to seven pages and covered upwards of 15 topics:
communication, Covenant Agreement, discipleship/training, fabric, finance, youth, general
comments/feelings, ministry/ministers/pastoral care, mission, Presbytery and the General
Assembly, relationships and fellowship, structure, technology and vision.

For our first Working Group meeting, we met at Pitmedden Church on Tuesday 12 October
2021, 7:30pm. Rev. Valerie Mitchell opened the time with a devotional looking at Psalm
127. During the first part of the meeting, we started looking at our vision and purpose, that
is, what will (should) be the guiding principles of our working together. We then reviewed
the Joint Session Meeting Summary Document (19 September 2021), acknowledged the
difficult points raised by the fact that there will need to be a further reduction of 4.75 FTE
(Full-Time Equivalent Posts) across Gordon Presbytery in the New 5-Year Presbytery
Mission Plan and then set out exploring what should be our next steps in our working
together. We had a really good, open and honest conversation about the issues affecting
us all. There actually was a genuine excitement about what God could do. We looked at
the following questions:

• What are the key issues that we need to address first?
• Who should address them?
• How should we address them?
• When should we address them?

It was amazing! We could have been all over the map with these questions, but there was
a remarkable consensus on what should be the immediate focus of our attention. It was
decided that three things will (should) be the focus of our energies in the lead up to our
next Working Group meeting in November 2021:

1. Communication
2. Vision and Purpose
3. Exploration of Ministry Models

Action Points were assigned, and we then spent time praying for our respective churches and communities and then closed with Grace. We finished before midnight too!

The dates of our next meetings will be as follows:

Tuesday 9 November 2021, 7:30pm (Tarves Parish Church)
Tuesday 14 December 2021, 7:30pm (Methlick Parish Church)

We would like to hear from you! We believe communication is really important, but we
also believe that communication is a two-way street. While we hope to communicate often
and clearly throughout this process, we also want to listen, hear any questions or ideas
you might have about the churches working together. Please free to contact your minister
or Interim Moderator and we will be happy to feed your thoughts back to the Working
Group. The more input we have from church and community the better.

Tarves and Barthol Chapel
Rev. Dr. Alison Swindells - aswindells@churchofscotland.org.uk

Udny & Pitmedden
Rev. Anthony Craig - aacraig@btinternet.com
Rev. Sheila Mitchell - SMitchell@churchofscotland.org.uk

Methlick
Rev. Dr. Will Stalder - wstalder@churchofscotland.org.uk

Until we speak again, please pray, and we will do our best to communicate with everybody
at each stage in the process. God’s richest blessings to you and your church and
community!

Rev. Dr. Will Stalder
Minister of Methlick Parish Church
Minister of Formartine Area Churches (w/ Rev. Dr. Alison Swindells)
Thursday 13 October 2021

 

News Brief from Joint Session Meeting
19 September 2021

How can Tarves and Barthol Chapel, Udny & Pitmedden and Methlick work together?
The sessions of Tarves and Barthol Chapel (TBC), Udny & Pitmedden (UPC) and Methlick met at Haddo Main Hall on the 19 September 2021 to begin the process of discussing how this might/should look like in practice. There were 30 people in attendance: 25 representatives from the four churches, including the ministers of Methlick (Rev. Dr. Will Stalder) and TBC (Rev. Dr. Alison Swindells), the Interim Moderators of UPC (Rev. Sheila Mitchell and Rev. Anthony Craig) and the Probationer from TBC (Fiona Lister). It was a good and productive meeting.

Rev. Sheila Mitchell outlined the overall context, process and hoped for outcomes of the process, and included illustrations from her own context.
Rev. Dr. Alison Swindells gave a brief overview of the wider national and regional context that has influenced our present state of affairs (i.e. General Assembly and Presbytery).

We then spent time discussing with one another and sharing questions and concerns about the Presbytery Plan and working together. Time was also spent detailing what people thought should be the priorities going forward.

Going forward, a working group will be established from members of the respective churches in order to look at the proposed questions, concerns and suggested priorities. Based on the above consultation and on going communication with the respective sessions, this group will meet on a monthly basis in order to draw up a way of working together that will be positive, sustainable and agreeable by all the respective churches.

If there are any additional questions or concerns about the process or future of working together, please feel free to e-mail Will Stalder in the first instance:

Rev. Dr. Will Stalder
Minister of Methlick Parish Church
Minister of Formartine Area Churches (w/ Rev. Dr. Alison Swindells)
wstalder@churchofscotland.org

Until we speak again, please pray, and we will do our best to communicate with everybody at each stage in the process. God’s richest blessings to you and your church and community!