New challenges await Rev Derek Lamont and his wife Catriona in 2024 as they move on from ministry at Edinburgh’s St Columba’s Free Church of Scotland to start a church plant in nearby Leith.
After more than 30 years in ministry and being the minister of a ‘mother church’ to four church plants, Derek is becoming a church planter himself to reach the Leith community. It follows the closure of Leith Elder Memorial Church, in the city, last year.
Derek has reflected on his unconventional time in ministry and for God’s faithfulness in the past, in the present and for the future.
He says: “I’ve been treading the ministry sidewalk for over 33 years, and in that time, I’ve tried my best to do things that fit the ecclesiastical mould, but it’s never quite worked out that way. I’m not an innovator by any means, but I’ve just found that quite often I seem to do things back to front or upside down – and in ways that the men who make the rules have not legislated for. It’s a weakness. And I am sorry, but I sometimes think that life is too short to stick with the status quo.
“In the last decade or more, I have had the privilege of seeing God call and send out four great church planters to begin new Gospel communities in and around Edinburgh – taking with them some wonderful core people from St Columba’s as they went. The mother church has borne quite a cost in doing so, but that has been far outweighed by the incredible blessing of seeing Kingdom growth. There were around 25 people in St Columba’s in 2001. Since then, God has blessed us with hundreds of people passing through, a current congregation of around 200, and if we add the church plants, well over 700 people, and growing. It is a cause for great rejoicing, but how much more need there is in Edinburgh and throughout Scotland. It is a drop in the ocean.
“I also realise the fantastic work being done by believers and their church leaders throughout Scotland – often in difficult circumstances. I am increasingly grateful for the denomination to which I belong, and the way they have embraced the drive for healthy churches in every community and 30 new churches by 2030. I honour the people who have worshipped, served and witnessed for Jesus Christ as members and office bearers of Elder Memorial Free Church, Leith. God knows the legacy. I am also humbled by the willingness, enthusiasm and support of the small number who were left in the congregation prior to its closure, to see a new work begin even as they mourned the end of an era.
“So here I am, just about at my three score years, and God has called me and Catriona to start again – in Leith. In January 2024! It’s not in the manual, and they do say that there is no fool like an old fool…but it is both exciting and terrifying. God will be with us, and that is everything. Even if it goes belly up – Jesus still loves us, and he will have something to teach us through it.
“Leaving St C’s is a wrench for sure. It’s been our happy place a long time – The Manse, an amazing home for our family (and many others!), and the church family just an extension of our own. Together, we’ve loved, served, failed, made things up, learned, lost, gained, laughed, cried, doubted, and celebrated with Christ right in the middle of it all. I, and our family, will remember the St C’s adventure as one of God’s greatest gifts to us. The partnership is changing, but not being dissolved, and we know we leave the church in really good hands.
“In Leith, we have a building, and part funding to buy a Manse in Leith – which is more than many young couples have when they start off on the church planting journey. But like all church planters, we need to raise our own salary, living and ministry costs because there is no initial congregation to fund the work. That is a new and challenging experience for me! Deacons’ Courts do a great job when planters apply to them for support – and it is an amazing blessing, but I just wonder how many members of our churches are aware of what their Deacons Courts give, and all the background fundraising and support that has to be done by young church planters especially – it’s not an easy task. We are also deeply indebted to individuals with financial resources and many sister churches in the US (many who form part of the UK Partnership) – all of whom are deeply committed to Gospel growth through resourcing the planting of new churches. God has been good.
“In Leith, our vision is to renovate the building, so that it is better suited to serve the community: To purchase a Manse within walking distance of the church that can be a hospitality hub for mission: To walk the streets and get to know its people: To build a core team who love Jesus, love the people of Leith and are committed to learning how best to serve them and share the Good news with them: A team who will, where possible, live locally and make Leith their community and home: To have a focus on reaching the marginalised through the work of ‘Sparkle Sisters’ and other Christian mercy ministries. To daily recognise the impossibility of seeing people saved unless there is a deep and lasting work of the Holy Spirit, and a humble dependence on God’s grace in our lives through prayer. To see many people coming to faith. I hope the rest will be history! These are our prayers.
“If you want to know anything more about our plans, or want to consider financial support, (we are talking £250,000 minimum for the building and manse projects alone!) then send me an email and I will pass on more details. ([email protected]) Or maybe even better, if there is a struggling ministry with a visionary plan, or a new church plant nearer to where you live, maybe it would be worth contacting them to offer some support. Either way, as we trust God, we will all get there together!”
- A service will be taking place at St Columba’s Free Church on Sunday 28th January 2024 at 10.30am where Derek will be formally inducted as church planter for Hope Church Leith.