Church Life

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“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:9)

THE GUILD

It may be supposed that Ferintosh Guild (formerly known as The Woman’s Guild) dates at least from 1930 since an account in the Ross-shire Journal of 22 November 1929 reads:

“Woman’s Guild conference in Dingwall: The first meeting of the Presbyterial Council now includes the Woman’s Guild of the old Established Church and the Ladies’ Work Parties of the old United Free Church. Mrs Sellar elected to the chair.”

With her enthusiasm for the Guild, there is no doubt that Mrs Sellar would have encouraged ladies from Ferintosh Church to join with the members of the Parish Church to form what became known as Urquhart and Ferintosh Woman’s Guild.

We move on some 30 years and to a description of the Guild by the late Mrs Priscilla Macleod:

“We were a very happy group (about 30, I think) meeting very cosily in what is now the annexe to the church. The roasting heat from the glorious open coal fire scorched our legs, and rosied our cheeks, but the draughts from the windows persisted to keep us cool.”

Throughout the years the Guild has proved to be a “Mary and Martha” in service to their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, and to the practical needs of the Church at home and abroad. Each meeting begins with an act of worship and is followed by a speaker from organisations within and outwith the sphere of the Church. Meetings may sound prosaic but a great deal of laughter abounds. In past years the annual outing was something of an event but in recent times this has been supplanted by a fellowship meal at Christmas and at the end of each session.

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 Guild outing to Rosemarkie, 1983

On the practical side, over many years the Guild has given considerable financial support to Ferintosh Church through the many and varied fund-raising events undertaken – sales of work and coffee mornings being what most folk associate with the organisation. However, members are not lacking in imagination and, in 1957, produced a recipe book, featuring recipes gathered from within the parish and further afield, for the princely sum of 2/6d. (12½p) which proved to be a great success in financial terms and benefited Church Extension in Scotland. It is perhaps appropriate that this account should include the recipe for “Urquhart Chutney” :

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3 lbs cooking apples
1 lb onions
½ lb sultanas
¾ lbs brown sugar
1 teaspoonful mustard
1 teaspoonful ginger
1 teaspoonful pepper
1 teaspoonful salt
1 teaspoonful pickling spices (if desired)

Peel apples and onions; clean sultanas. Chop up and
mix all ingredients thoroughly. Cover with brown
vinegar and boil for one hour.

In this day and age when “inclusive” and “equality” are keywords, the Guild has marched with the times and is no longer exclusive to women – but, so far, no man has attended regular meetings, although one or two have braved the occasional semi-social event!

SUNDAY SCHOOL/SUNDAY CLUB

Currently, after attending the first part of morning worship in the Church, the children of Sunday Club have the luxury of going to a hall which has the benefit of modern technology in the proclamation of the Gospel message. Not so the “120 quite regularly attending Sunday School” in 1970 who were dispersed in groups around the Church after it had emptied of the adult congregation!

Things improved with the opening of the new hall in 1980 but a need emerged for additional accommodation and a caravan was purchased as a temporary classroom in 1980. Subsequent extensions to the hall have allowed Sunday Club leaders the space to use drama and music in Bible teaching.

Through the latter the children have brought the Gospel to life in many memorable nativity plays over the years, using modern praise and fresh outlook on the Christmas Story, and led always by men and women dedicated to bringing the love of Jesus Christ into young lives.

As with the Guild, THE event of the Sunday School year was the annual outing, which took the form of a picnic, games and sports in many and varied locations – Strathconon, Dornoch, Rosemarkie, etc – transport being provided by whichever bus operator could provide the most reasonable quotation. The Christmas party came a close second in popularity and, in the absence of a hall, was held for many years in Conon Village Hall, which is now a house. There the young folk were treated to the baking skills of the ladies of the congregation (no requirement for a safe food handling course!).

An earlier example of an annual outing comes from the Ross-shire Journal of July 1922 when it reported on a picnic held on Peterkin’s island at Dunglass. First of all the children were given “milk, cakes and buns” and, prior to two fires being lit, they had games. Water boiled on the fires allowed the serving of tea (and, presumably, more cakes and buns), after which there were additional races, with a prize to each of the winners and 6d (2½p) to all the less successful. Pupils and friends were conveyed home by Mr Peterkin (local farmer) and Mr Tuach (Conon grocer) after giving thanks to Messrs W & J Peterkin “for a splendid treat”.

Nowadays, children are used to more sophisticated entertainment and so the barbecues and trips to places such as Roller Bowl have become the norm. But children remain children and their cheerfulness and enthusiasm in all they do in Ferintosh Church give us great hope for their, and the Church’s, future.

XTRA-TIME

Xtra Time is the Church’s youth group open to P6/7 pupils in the area and began in September 2006. The last three years have been very successful and a new youth group for S1/S2 pupils is to be introduced this year (2009). The programme includes pool, table tennis, air hockey and football tables, along with different board games, crafts and, of course, a tuck shop. There is A Thought For The Week based around a Bible passage or story, and youngsters have been encouraged to participate in these. Over the last two years donations have been given by different community groups towards expenditure and the Church is extremely grateful for this financial support.

FYF

Ferintosh Youth Fellowship is the Bible-based youth group open to young people in S1-S4. Meeting in the Church Hall on Sunday evenings between 7.30 pm – 8.30 pm, the atmosphere is informal and very relaxed as the group looks at the Bible together and discusses about how it affects their everyday lives. Games, music, DVDs and, of course, a snack also feature.

THE CRECHE

The Creche was established in 1990 by Rev Clifford Kelly and continues to provide a secure environment for babies, toddlers and the pre-5s whose parents wish to attend worship having the confidence that their children are in a safe location and in the care of competent adults.

Annette McKee lent her artistic skills to the original decoration of the room and the Creche has always been supplied with toys, furniture and heating to comply with health and safety requirements.

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RIVER CAFE

Since it opened in April 2003 in the Church Hall, the River Café has proved to be a popular “drop-in” for home baking and a chat for residents of the Parish, not necessarily attached to Ferintosh Church – and quite often attracting passing tourists! Taking place from 2.00 to 3.30 pm on the second Wednesday of each month during term-time, the event has enjoyed the baking skills of Janet Murray and Nettie Roy since its inception. No charge is made but donations are gratefully received for local charities and since 2003 a total of £1,865.45 has been disbursed to the following:

Blythswood; Cale House, Inverness; Child Survival in Malawi; Christian Aid; CrossReach; Crossroads Care; Hearing Impaired Unit of Dingwall Primary School; Highland Hospice; Highland Society for the Blind; Highlands & Islands Support Group for Grieving Families; MacMillan Nurses; Maggie’s Highland; Oxfam ‘Recycle a Goat Programme’; Sunflower Project (Board of Social Responsibility). For Ferintosh Church – Friday Youth Club; Holiday Club; Meeting Point (trip to Teen Ranch); Sunday Club; play equipment; equipment for hall and kitchen; two barbecues.

PRAYER GROUP

Aware of the power of prayer, a group has met in the church hall each Wednesday morning from 10.00 to 10.30, beginning in November 2000, to give thanks to God for all blessings received and to bring to Him the needs of the Church at home and in the wider world. Aware that not everyone has the confidence to participate in open prayer, but nevertheless wishes intercession on their behalf, there is a prayer requests box in the vestibule of the Church to meet this need. In addition, a prayer page is included in each Sunday’s intimation sheet.

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BIBLE STUDY

From the time of D R Macleod Bible study has been part of Ferintosh congregation and continues to be held fortnightly on Wednesday evenings during winter months, from 7.30 to 8.30 pm – or longer, if participants get carried away by discussion! Each minister has given much time and thought to explaining chapters from the Bible and encouraging debate, and Andy Graham is no exception.

SOCIAL COMMITTEE

Formed in 1996 with the aim of encouraging and expanding the social life of the congregation , the Social Committee has gone from strength to strength with original and imaginative functions that have appealed to all ages within the community.

Such as ….

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HOLIDAY CLUBS

From 1996 onwards several hundred children of primary school age have participated in holiday clubs which have been held during the last week of summer holidays. A team of volunteers has led the children in crafts, aerobics, music, drama, games and the all-important Bible teaching, mainly through programmes devised by Scripture Union.

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 Drama ……. and Games

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 Bible Story

Prior planning being vital, over the years the congregation has responded magnificently to requests for all types of resources, costumes, snack food, etc, and many have devoted time and effort to laborious cutting-out and pasting in the preparation of craft materials, while others have given of their artistic skills in the preparation of the Hall.

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 Part of decoration for ‘Going Bananas’ …. and Fred McCreadie doing his death-defying act when positioning a banner.

The holiday club themes have been many and varied –

1996 – Bodybuilders 1997 – Chattabox 1998 – Going Bananas 1999 – The Big Top  2000 – Go for Gold 2001 – Shipshapes 2002 – Desert Detectives 2003 – Seaside Rock  2004 – Expedition Force 2005 – 2006 – Pyramid Rock  2007 – Junior Heroes  2008 – Champion’s Challenge      

In the Spring of 2006 and in subsequent years a ‘Fun Day’ was held for the same age group, with a programme similar to the following holiday club, and aimed as an introduction to that event.

From the highpoint of 80 children per day in the early days of the holiday club, numbers have dwindled to 20-30 per day, mainly in the 5-8 age range, and from this it may appear that the format has less appeal to those in Upper Primary. Has the holiday club had its day?

PASTORAL CARE

The Pastoral Care Team was formed in 2001 when a group within the Church saw the need for a service of practical help to meet certain needs in the community. Volunteers give freely and willingly of their time to those who require transporting to doctor, dentist or hospital appointments; visit the housebound and those in residential homes; and have a range of small tasks they can undertake in the realms of domestic practical assistance.

MUSIC

During the past century praise has resounded within the walls of Ferintosh Church with people of all ages contributing through vocal or instrumental talents.

As early as 1908 Mr William Mackenzie, of Ben View, Conon, was precentor in Ferintosh and Maryburgh UF Church and was still carrying out that function in 1910. He was aided by a choir. Choral singing featured prominently in the life of the Church and the local press contains many reports of the choir’s participation in church services and in more secular functions. Perhaps the thought of the annual outing contributed to their enthusiasm? Beginning in 1928, this consisted of a coach trip and high tea, financed entirely through a bequest from the ever-generous John Peterkin, and ceased only early in the 1960s when income did not meet costs.

By 1920 a Mrs Mackenzie, Somerby, was organist, as was a Miss Macrae, so perhaps the Church had acquired the harmonium which languished in the hall (annexe) for many years and required strong calf muscles to propel air through its reeds. Mrs Johnstone, wife of the minister, was organist and leader of the choir from 1920 to 1927, and was succeeded by Miss Muriel Mackenzie, Dingwall, although a Mr T Mackenzie was “leader of praise”.

The intervening years have proved difficult to research, so we must move to the late 1950s/early 1960s when Robert S Weir, principal teacher of music at Dingwall Academy was organist. Robert Weir having left the area, James Curr, approaching retirement as county music organiser, was appointed in 1962 at a salary of £50 per annum (mornings only), with a Mrs Munro playing each evening for 75p ! James Curr retired in 1985, at the age of 85 and with seventy years’ service as organist in various parishes, and was honoured with a long service certificate from the Church of Scotland.

img696 James Curr with Long Service Certificate

Mrs Priscilla Macleod helped out until Mr Paul Raymond was appointed in 1986 and on his retiral in 1995 became “temporary organist” – a post which she held for five years until her own retiral when Miss Margaret Buchanan took over until her untimely death in 2002.

The shortage of organists led the Kirk Session to purchase a digital organ (or karaoke machine as some irreverently called it!) for use at morning services, although the Church enjoyed the musicianship of Angus Bethune and the late Ken Cumming each Sunday evening. This was not an ideal solution but at least there was musical accompaniment in the absence of securing the services of a permanent organist.

In 2003 Doreen Suckling came as organist on a once-per-month basis but was adopted quickly by Ferintosh and now plays not only for morning worship but for weddings and funerals. About the same time, Miranda Neall, then a fourth year pupil in Dingwall Academy, came to play at some evening services and has grown in confidence and ability to the extent that she is to study music at Aberdeen University, with the organ as her preferred instrument, beginning in September 2009. Miranda has composed a Centenary Hymn for Ferintosh Church.

VOLUNTEERS

Where would the Church be without the volunteers who, over the past century, have given of their time and talents, freely and often anonymously, to all areas of church life?

It would be difficult to attempt to list individuals and circumstances where work has been done and continues to be carried out – in many cases unobtrusively – but Ferintosh Church has been greatly blessed in having men and women of faith who adhere to the words of 1 Corinthians 9:31:

“….. whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

And as long as we have these men and women of faith with a commitment to uphold the Christian way of life, the Church in Ferintosh can move with confidence into a second century.

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