Five Falkirk women are taking their final steps towards the pulpit before being ordained as Church of Scotland ministers.
The candidates, aged between 69 and 34, have all begun their probation year together –an event so rare that it was marked by a special church service at Larbert Old on Sunday.
This week, the occasion was warmly welcomed by members of the local presbytery.
Marjory Williamson, moderator of the Presbytery of Falkirk said: “Everyone I tell about this is absolutely astonished that we have five candidates.
“Very few candidates come through each year to fill the vacancies.
“It’s a wonderful day for the presbytery. We are so over the moon. This is such a boost for everyone.
“Just last week, the moderator of the general assembly was speaking about how women can still struggle in the church, but we have no such problem here, we are very forward-looking in Falkirk.”
The five women – Monica MacDonald, Sandra Mathers, Kay Brown, Amanda MacQuarrie and Rhona McDonald – are all from different backgrounds, with three of them having ministers as husbands.
With all five now on their final placements, two will become full-time ministers by next year, while three will be ordained locum ministers.
Rev Louise McClements, minister of Blackbraes and Shieldhill Parish Church and Muiravonside Parish Church said: “This has never happened in Falkirk before, it’s unique.
“We usually have just one candidate during the year, and we had two a few years ago but five is just incredible.”
Monica MacDonald (60) lives in Bonybridge with husband Rev George MacDonald.
They have three grown-up children and 10 grandchildren.
She said: “There have been new challenges for me, with further study and further training.
“Being one of five is wonderful, it’s amazing. Jesus always had women around him, and I think that women add a different dimension.”
Mum-of-four Amanda MacQuarrie (40) is from Denny. Married to Scott, she previously worked as an RE teacher in Fife, but had always felt drawn to the church. Amanda, who will serve her probation in Shieldhill for 15 months, said: “I am enjoying it so far and I’m so privileged to be welcomed into people’s lives.
”Sandra Mathers from Brightons, has been a reader for many years and is married to Rev. Daniel Mathers.
Similarly, Kay Brown has been a reader for over 20 years, and is married to Rev. John Brown of Larbert Old.
Kay (69) said: “I think this is something I should have done a long time ago. I’m sure a lot of people will think I’m crazy, but I really think that this is the right time for me.
“To be one of five, I think it’s absolutely stunning, and it’s not just because it’s all women, it’s because there are five people coming forward to do this and no-one has heard of it for years in the presbytery.”
Maddiston’s Rhona McDonald (34) previously worked for Tesco, but will now be doing her probation year for the Church in Camelon.
She said: “I’m privileged to be part of the new magnificent five for Falkirk presbytery, and no matter what anyone says, five women doing something in a common purpose is pretty special. It’ll be interesting to see where our journey leads us and where we’ll end up.”