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Members of Fort William, Kilmallie and Kilmonivaig congregations gathered for a shared service on Sunday to bid farewell to one of Lochaber’s most popular clergymen.
It has been six years since the Reverend Richard Baxter took up his post at what was then known as Duncansburgh MacIntosh Church of Scotland in Fort William.
Reverend Baxter preached his last service at what is now Fort William Kilmallie Church of Scotland, which was also attended by members of the congregation of Kilmonivaig, before he and wife Sheryl moved to take up a new role at Wellington Church in Glasgow this week.
Reverend Baxter, who grew up in Northern Ireland and studied at Edinburgh and
Oxford before working as a tax inspector and a tax consultant prior to entering
ministry, came to Lochaber from a previous charge in Fife.
During his time here, the former Duncansburgh MacIntosh congregation united
with Kilmallie Church of Scotland to become Fort William Kilmallie, a
congregation with three places of worship.
The long-established link with Kilmonivaig continued through this period. Over the period since last May, he has also served as Interim Moderator for Duror and Glencoe: St Munda’s.
Asked about the highlights of his time in Lochaber, Reverend Baxter said it had been a pleasure and a privilege to work alongside the congregations here.
‘They are friendly, welcoming and hard-working, responsive to opportunities
and willing to adapt and develop together,’ he told the Lochaber Times.
‘I have been well-supported by ministry team members, elders, presbytery colleagues and congregations and all my memories of my time here will be positive.
‘Building a new union across Fort William, Caol and Corpach has been a challenge that the congregations have embraced, even when we were working under the limitations of Covid restrictions.
‘We have built a new ministry team to share the role and have constantly had to adapt to changing circumstances. I didn’t come expecting to find myself becoming a video editor for our online services which have run for 100 weeks, or to need to develop
paper and email worship resources when we couldn’t meet at all.
‘But many of the highlights are about the times when people in the community
have been willing to allow me to be part of special moments in their lives –
marriages and baptisms, funeral services for loved ones or moments of crisis.
It’s always a privilege to be allowed to share in such moments.’
Asked about changes he saw in the local churches over his time here, Reverend Baxter said all churches face pressures around active membership and the difficulties caused by Covid highlighted those.
‘We know that only congregations whose members support them actively will survive current reviews, but I have never known a time when so many church members were
ready and willing to find the changes to make things work for the future and
that’s really heartening,’ he said.
‘Having said that, wider communities also need to know that churches will only be there when they are needed if they actively support them.’
Reverend Baxter’s wider community involvements have also been important, from
leading Remembrance services on the Parade and at the Commando Memorial, to his work with Lochaber Rotary, of which he is a past president, the opportunity to share in Thought for the Day on Nevis Radio and the Lochaber Times’ Reflections column, sharing assemblies in primary schools, as a fan and chaplain at Claggan Park and in building links with community groups.
Asked what he will miss most, he replied: ‘People. Good, kind, caring supportive people who try to live out their faith in practical ways and who are so often helpful and supportive. That’s the first thing.
‘The second is the Lochaber landscape, which we so easily take for granted but which is variously inspiring, challenging and glorious.’
Asked for a final thought to share, Reverend Baxter said: ‘The words of Psalm 37 in our final service sum it up for me. ‘Trust in the Lord and do good.’ Christianity isn’t
complicated. A living faith in a loving Lord, put into practice in the way we live
our lives. That’s what makes a real difference to congregations and communities.’
Reverend Richard Baxter after his final service in Fort William Kilmallie Church. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos NO F08 Richard Baxter leaves 03
Rev Richard Baxter and his wife Sheryl were presented with a number of gifts at the end of his final service in Fort William Kilmallie Church on Sunday. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos
NO F08 Richard Baxter leaves 02