Farewell to Phil, Clare, Anna, Ben and Beth Gunn
This coming Sunday we say ‘farewell’ to the Gunns. Phil’s 15 months as a Probationary Minister comes to an end. I had a wee chat with Phil about his time with us. You can read about his experiences before coming to Hilton here, and there’s more about the lessons Phil learned while he was with us here.
Phil and Clare’s time at Hilton Church
‘Go away and pray about the future and where you think Hilton’s mission and focus should be.’ This was Duncan’s challenge the morning Phil and Clare Gunn and the children came to Hilton when Phil was exploring Probation options. And for Phil. Duncan’s words were ‘a very powerful thing’ because prayer is ‘really important.’
The Gunns leave us on Sunday at the end of Phil’s 15 months as a Probationary Minister at Hilton. Soon he will be ordained and begin parish ministry at Roskeen Parish Church in Alness.
I had a chat with Phil about his experiences as a probationer. Unlike some of his fellow-candidates for ministry, Phil already had considerable experience working in churches dating back to 2007 – he’d been a Youth Worker in one church for six years, and a parish assistant at another. So he ‘knew the inner workings of a church’, and feels that his time at Hilton has been a time of ‘reinforcement, fine-tuning, a strengthening of feeling for things rather than a brand new revelation.’
During his time with us he’s begun to understand how to act as a facilitator, enabling other people to use their distinctive gifts rather than doing everything himself; he has had a sense of what it is to be ultimately responsible for delivering ministry; and his own confidence has grown, as has his acceptance of and confidence in the gifts [he has] been given to use.’
There have been two distinct parts to Phil’s time at Hilton – 9 months under the ‘old normal’ conditions, and 6 in very different conditions under lockdown. Interesting the major challenge Phil felt in both these periods was that of distance from the community. Initially, this was because he lives in Alness rather than in or near Hilton, and wasn’t able to mingle with people from our parish as he went about his daily life. This he found ‘very hard in some ways,’ and he’s looking forward to living in the Roskeen manse at heart of the community he will be serving.
This sense of distance was heightened during lockdown. His major streams of work in the last six months have been learning the skills of video production and editing to deliver the on-line services he has been responsible for, and pastoral work – keeping in touch regularly with about fifty people by phone. Initially this deepened his sense of remoteness from Hilton. It seemed so far from the front line where Simeon, and Hannah and Joe were working with volunteers to make a practical difference in the parish. But Phil came to see that what he was doing was ‘very valuable’; it was ‘a different way of being on the front line.’
An other important element of his work was with Nitelife, the young people’s group. ‘I think it’s always amazing seeing what young people can do,’ he says. As an example of the giftedness of Hilton young people, he points to the Cala Ceilidh band . ‘They set this up, and it’s a wonderful testimony to their initiative and skill as musicians.’
We will miss Phil, Clare and the children Anna, Ben and Beth, and pray for them as Phil begins work as Roskeen’s minister. Phil is grateful for how as a church we have welcomed the children, and cared for them, and helped them begin to glimpse what it means to be ministers’ children. And he says to the church as a whole ‘Both of us would say a massive thankyou to everyone for just looking after us.’
And we too, as a church thank Phil, Clare and the kids for what they have brought to Hilton by their gifts, their ministry and simply by their presence in these difficult months.