The work of the Church of Scotland in the community was highlighted during the recent visit by the Moderator.
The Right Rev. Lorna Hood heard firsthand how valued – and necessary – the efforts of church members were to their fellow men and women.
Meeting mums and toddlers who attend Home Start, held in Denny Old Parish Church, she was told how the support organisation for families with young children was a lifeline for many.
She said: “These women really appreciate the church being there and what the church is doing for them.”
The Moderator was at Falkirk Foodbank, set up last year by a group of churches from across the district, and met many of the volunteers who regularly attend the Tamfourhill premises. As well as learning more about where the donations of food come from and who it is distributed to, Mrs Hood gave a helping hand packing the parcels.
She added: “The tragedy is that there is a need for organisations such as foodbanks.”
Mrs Hood also paid tribute to the many church members who regularly volunteer, whether it is at lunch clubs, charity shops or in a variety of other ways to help their communities.
The Moderator added: “Without the efforts of church members many charitable organisations would not be able to operate.”
Her visit to Falkirk Presbytery was one of four she will make during her year in office. Only the third woman to be Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, she is the first female parish minister to take on the role having spent the last 33 years at Renfrew North Parish Church.
On learning of her nomination, Mrs Hood admitted she had mixed reactions: “There was a feeling was I up to this but also great humility, particularly to those who had gone before me. And, of course, there is always the worry that you will let people down.
“But all I have known is 100 per cent support from everyone for which I am grateful.”
During her 10-day visit, Mrs Hood was at Ineos in Grangemouth. She said: “We had a really good meeting with them, There was honesty about what had happened and a desire to build bridges. They also talked about the future development of the plant which we hope that the church can be involved in. There has been a workplace chaplaincy there in the past and hopefully there can be again.”
In a meeting with ministers and deacons working in the Presbytery, the Moderator heard of the pressures brought by the large number of vacant charges.
She said: “Some ministers are looking after two parishes which puts a huge strain on them. Years ago, a long vacancy was no more than nine months, but now it can be over two years.”
To tackle the issue, she believes the Church must look at how ministers are trained and the length of time it takes.
“After the war when there was a great shortage, they were able to fast-track and from that we got some of our finest ministers.
“There has to be an academic approach but we need to look at options, perhaps distance learning or part-time learning. We also need to encourage more young people to enter the ministry and provide the necessary support. Young ministers have proved themselves within the Church.”
Reflecting on her visit, the Moderator said: “I have had a great welcome from warm friendly people.”