27th April 2021

Fresh and green

They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock…’
Psalm 92: 14-15 (NIVUK)

Due to a combination of factors, I became a Befriender in late 2018 with a local voluntary organisation that provided companionship to older people who otherwise may have been isolated. Whilst completing training, I was matched with somebody living in the next village, ten miles away. I agreed to the match, and that was how I met and got to know Bert…an 86 year old, retired Church of Scotland minister!

This made for an interesting ‘Befriendship’ and as so often in life, one is left wondering who was helping whom. He was a jovial man, larger than life (and large), who had developed an affinity with Catholicism since his retirement. In the social fabric of Scotland this is unusual.

Born and raised in Aberdeen, in a close community, Bert recalled the local tram driver stopping the tram – and passengers – outside the fishmongers for the fish for Bert’s family dinner, and again outside Bert’s house as he ran up to hand the fish to the young Bert! He later joined the Navy, met his wife in Portsmouth and returned to Aberdeenshire. He often told me how he enjoyed his years up there, ministering three remote regions from his Manse HQ with his wife Betty and in Bert’s words, ‘doing the more important ministering via the back door, with tea and baking.’

We got along fine and unavoidably tackled matters of faith and theology as I strove in the beginning to keep up. I grew attuned to noticing the empty glass and red wine bottle on the table in another room, knowing that he had faithfully taken communion. We often spoke of the new bruise on him from any recent mishap, and he would do so with humour. The Befriending went so well that Bert and I were chosen to showcase the organisation to the Trust that was the main sponsor – an odd, interesting experience!

Bert once told me: ‘Don’t go looking for the perfect church Andrew – they’ll not have you!!!’

Wisdom and friendship move across boundaries of faith, health, background…and age, prompted by the Holy Spirit in divine and sometimes humorous ways. I like to imagine the Spirit with a divine sort of crinkle at the corners of imaginary eyes. Bert moved on early this year, secure and joyful in faith, leaving the example of a life given over to the Trinity relationship, fresh and green all the way.

Prayer
Heavenly Father, let us celebrate the strength in spirit of our older people, and the fruits they continue to bear for Your pleasure. Amen

Study by Andrew Montgomery

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About the writer:
Andrew Montgomery is a Deacon in the Edinburgh Congregation of Grace Communion International.

Local congregation:
GCI Edinburgh
Gilmerton New Church
Ravenscroft Street
Edinburgh
EH17 8QJ

Meeting time:
11:00am

Local congregational contact:
Peter Mill
Email: edinburgh@gracecom.church 

Word of Life contact:
Email: wordoflife@gracecom.church