ALMOST exactly 200 years after the beginnings of the Methodist Church in Shetland, local minister Andrew Fox is in the middle of a pilgrimage across the isles to mark the occasion and spread the word that his church is active in many communities.
He said early day Methodists went out into the community to connect and meet people – an approach that has not changed.
He is walking around 160 miles, connecting all the Methodist places of worship from Fair Isle in the south to Haroldswick in the north.
Arriving on a drizzly afternoon at the Methodist chapel in Vidlin after a 12-mile trek from South Nesting, the minister said the church was “not just trying to get people to come to our building on a Sunday – we are actively reaching out to help people in their day to day lives”.
While there is a lot of talk about churches across Shetland closing and being put on the market, Methodists appear not to be affected to the same extent.
“We are not immune from that, and have some of our places not reopening after the pandemic,” he said. “Nevertheless we still are an active community of Christians through the Methodist Church; we are still here and we’ve got a number of places where worshipping is going on.”
Generally, the 15 buildings the Methodist Church owns in Shetland are smaller and more modest in size than those of the Church of Scotland, and thus easier to maintain.
Fox added that through the Food for the Way initiative they are supporting a number of people with food parcels, but were also engaging with people affected by alcohol and drug addiction.
To that end he said the church was exploring the possibility of creating a residential base in which people could spend several months in rehabilitation.
“We have been working with drugs and alcohol partnership to explore that, so that’s a side of what we are about as a church that I find particularly exciting,” he said.
“We are wanting to be a people who are making a difference not just to those who are already signed up as believers, but to others who need help in their lives.”
Another initiative the minister is keen to highlight is the gardening in the Lerwick lanes project, something that has enabled members and volunteers to safely re-engage with people following the pandemic.
The minister is due to set off from Vidlin in the morning, heading for Brae before continuing to North Roe to visit the most northerly Methodist church on the Shetland mainland.
At the weekend he hopes to make it to Yell and Unst where the church has congregations in East Yell and at Haroldswick.
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