The Boss – Kenny MacDonald
Personal reflections from the Moderator Rev. Derek Lamont
There have been – and will be – more tributes to Kenny Macdonald, and rightly so, for indeed a ‘prince and a great man has fallen’ (2 Sam 3 v 38). It is good to honour a life well lived and to give Glory to God for such lives, with thanksgiving.
Kenny, for me, was always ‘the Boss’. I first got to know him as one of the main leaders at the Dornoch camp. That was in 1981– the summer when Alison went missing. He went on to be my leader, along with Rev Alex Macdonald, at numerous football camps, and then my senior minister when I was the Assistant in Rosskeen.
I could fill pages with brilliant stories - but that will need a relaxing fireside and old friends – so I will focus on what influenced me most about Kenny.
At the football camps, we all loved his pedigree in the sport, his tough tackling, terrible refereeing (it needed to be life-threatening before he blew for a foul), great fun and strong leadership. He had an instant rapport with all the boys, but what stands out for me – still – was the silence and rapt attention of 40 or so young lads when Kenny talked about Jesus at the evening meetings. The hard man of football pleading for them to consider Christ, brimming with emotion, and talking to them so simply and yet so profoundly. It was always a short but powerful message – no waster words. Here was a man of God who was real, and for whom the message was more real than life itself.
Then, he became my boss again when in 1990 I came to Rosskeen as a newly ordained, inexperienced preacher. What I mentor I got in Kenny! What training I received outside of the hallowed walls of the Free Church College! This was where it got real.
Kenny was a great example to me. He was fierce and relentless for Christ. If the establishment, or the institution of the church, or stuffy, boring, critical ministers or elders tried to stop him focusing on reaching the lost for Christ – however unorthodox they thought his methods – he gave then short shrift. The lack of common sense and pastoral care in the Church Courts baffled him. He hated hypocrisy, false piety, laziness and pride – and he certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly.(among those who should have been wise). Any Committee with more than one member had one too many! He had sympathy for the concept of benign dictatorship!
He prioritised his time for the Gospel and for people. And how! He was a true shepherd. You could take anyone into his company, and indeed it was something you wanted to do. He was interested in everyone; practical, loving, and above all, able to share Christ with them before their feet were over the threshold. It was a gift.
He didn’t care about outward convention or the visual trimmings of Christian orthodoxy. He was his own stylist. Traditional ministerial collar on a Sunday, with the infamous purple desert boots hidden by the pulpit, and jeans and a Dennis the Menace style jumper during the week. That matched his traditional beliefs which were married to the radical way he reached out and evangelised to anyone, anywhere.
He was the toughest man I ever met. I never messed with him – who would? Yet, he was the most tender-hearted colleague you could imagine. Loving, generous with his time, money and home, always willing to cover for others, letting me make all my mistakes without once appearing judgmental, and sensitive to my young family and their needs.
His standards were high, and for him, the pain didn’t hurt – in all his own emotional pain with Alison, with the huge burdens of leading Rosskeen through a period of revival, and latterly his own debilitating illness – I don’t ever recall him complaining. He was Christ-centred and self-forgetful.
And behind every great man, is a greater woman. Reta and Kenny were always a remarkable team. He simply would not have been able to have the kind of ministry he did have without her. She was, and remains, an Orcadian jewel of the most precious kind. It is hard to imagine them apart.
In my life, I have had the privilege of seeing at very close range two men whose examples have helped to shape my understanding and practice of Gospel ministry – my dad, and Kenny. I realise that with great privilege comes great responsibility, and so, in my many failures, I am driven to the great Shepherd of the sheep, the Lord Jesus Christ, for forgiveness. And as I pray, I give thanks for the great men, now of the past, who God has used to shape me, and the church to which we all belong.