Last night found me in Oban for my Commissioning Service as a mission partner to serve as a theological educator in Africa. It is a longstanding tradition in the Church of Scotland to hold such a service when someone is setting out on service overseas. This one was held by the Presbytery of Argyll in Oban Parish Church, very much home from home for me.
It was marvellous to be surrounded by many good friends and to hear great words of faith, including the charge first received by Joshua: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
A poignant moment came when we stood to remember Johnny Paton, my age-mate, classmate, inspirational neighbouring minister and trusty hill companion who lost his life in a climbing accident last month. Had he lived, Johnny would have been the preacher at the service. Instead his memory serves as inspiration to give of ourselves unreservedly to others.
John Taylor, the great Anglican missionary to Uganda, understood this as something that takes us close to the meaning of mission: “Every opening of one’s whole self towards another, every taking upon oneself the burden and the gift of another, contributes a little to that quiet tide which is flowing back and forth, carrying us with it into the very being of God, sweeping us back with God into the life of the world.”