Major Brian Slinn and Major Liv Raegivik-Slinn, Divisional Leaders of North Scotalnd
Having been a corps officer for 33 out of my 37 years, only interrupted by an appointment at William Booth College for 4 years, taking responsibility for a Division and North Scotland Division particularly, present quite a change in ministry and ministry besides a completely different work life pattern. From a congregation of 300+ people in Bromley, who lived within a very few miles of each other, our constituency now consists of something over double that number scattered over 56% of Scotland’s land mass and including three islands. That involves a lot of travelling and also means we are out of the office and frequently staying overnight in those places distanced from our base in Aberdeen.
North Scotland Division presents with predominantly small corps and the majority of officers relatively new to ministry supported by Territorial Envoys. Having served on the Training College it is good to see the ‘finished product’ and how well our Lieutenants engage with the challenges of ministry and mission today, equally having helped train TE’s it is good to see how effective they are in their leadership. It is also remarkable to see the impact the Army makes in the local community far beyond the numerical strength of each corps or centre. It seems a cliché I know, but it becomes obvious that with more officers and more resources the possibilities are there to do so much more. The static view from previous corps leadership gave no real insight to all this but has come with this appointment and the opportunity to see and participate in the lives of the officers and corps as they engage with mission where they are.
For us there is something of a return to our earlier days in ministry when leading worship did not have the support of musical sections or local officers. We have been spoiled for many years in having resources which have enhanced worship for us. Now Major Liv and I sometimes have to be the North Scotland Staff Songsters and Liv’s guitar proves to be invaluable. Communication becomes different. Preaching in the grand style has to adapt to the conversational or invite more participation. Not everywhere of course, but in many places. Leadership itself becomes different. Encouraging and helping the corps leaders in their leadership replaces the hands on leadership of being the corps officer, and allowing them to make their decisions and work things out is important. I confess to a little paternalism and wanting things to be easier and better for them when I see the obstacles that sometimes come their way. It is not always the best thing to ‘make it better,’ leaders have to be grown and part of that is the learning which comes from experience. It is not always easy to allow that process. Equally for the corps and centres, transitioning ministry and mission into a Post Modern and Post Christian world is not always easy and the very concepts are not always understood, water from the old wells always seems sweeter.
For us, the comfortable and familiar have given way to new challenges and our skills have to be applied in different ways. There are frustrations. The mechanics of the job are not always easily understood and information not always easily available. It has been hard to find a Sabbath and distance from family limits our contact, especially since I do not fly – not in this life at least. We are sorry about that.
Transition and change always bring their challenges. The constant is of course an unchanging God. This part of the journey in North Scotland is part of a rich experience in ministry thus far. We embrace it all in a spirit of privilege and opportunity.