Who We Are

Introducing St John's

An Inclusive Church

At St John's we welcome everyone to our worship and common life. We make no distinctions in attendance, participation, membership or leadership on grounds of race, gender, age, sexual orientation or social background. We welcome visitors from other faiths, or from none, from other countries and from other Christian communities. Membership is open to anyone who wishes to identify themselves with us.

All who worship with us, including the very youngest, are encouraged to share bread and wine at the Eucharist (we have unfermented grape juice for those who prefer it). We have done what we can within the limitations of a small, nineteenth-century building to make our church and our worship accessible to those with physical or mental disabilities. We have an induction loop, sound reinforcement and large-print service booklets.

We don't claim to be perfect, but we do our best to be inclusive.

 

A Family Church

We are a small church: we have about 70 communicant members and our regular congregation numbers between 30 and 40 (though not all the same people every week). Visitors almost always remark on how friendly and welcoming they find us. Like the wider community of the Scottish Borders, we are predominantly grannies and grandpas, but we have several younger families and teenagers too.
The picture is of our 2010 Pentecost Party.

 

A Collaborative-Ministry Church

For several years St John's has not had its own Rector or any other paid clergy. Leadership of our life and mission is the responsibility of a Ministry Leadership Team authorised by the Bishop. Recently, however, as a result of an initiative of the Bishop, we have become a 'linked charge' with another neighboring collaborative ministry congregation, St Peter's, Galashiels, with a view to the appointment of a half-time 'Area Rector', whose role will be to support the leadership team in each congregation.

Our Ministry Leadership Team currently comprises several lay people and one retired priest and it reports to the Vestry. Its role is to nurture and support the ministries of all the members of St John's - in the wider world as well as in the church - and to discern the vision for our common life.

This is an unusual and pioneering arrangement in the Scottish Episcopal Church. We hope it may offer an example of how church can be 'done' differently within the Anglican tradition.

You can find out more about it by reading a brief account of our story.
Download A Collaborative-Ministry Church in Adobe Reader format.

 

An Open-Minded Church

We're not very keen on labels at St John's: we're not a particularly tribal community. Our congregation includes a spectrum of Anglican styles; our worship is neither ritualistic nor 'happy-clappy'; we value the liturgical tradition of the Episcopal Church and the encounter with mystery that goes with it, and we strive for the sort of informality that allows us to make meaningful connections between our Monday-to-Saturday lives and what goes on in church on Sundays.

For us, being a faith-community means being on a journey of discovery with God - a work in progress. Few of us feel we have arrived. Many of us have more questions than answers; some of us are less sure about some things than we once were. We don't regard doubt as reprehensible and we tend to be suspicious of certainty. We're aware that we don't know what we don't know, and we're conscious that there is a provisional quality to the things we're sure about.

Opportunities for learning together play an important part in our common life. We take the Bible seriously as a record of humankind's encounter with God and a testimony to human experience of God's self-disclosure.  We see ourselves as part of God's project for solving the human problem through people committed to living by the goals and values of God's rule (or kingdom) - but we know that God's rule has to be worked out in the context of our own changing circumstances.

Our aspirations are well-expressed in Bishop Wesley Frensdorff's poem, The Dream, written in the 1980s. Some of us feel this could have been written for us!

 

A Scottish Episcopal Church

St John's is part of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC), a small but lively part of the world-wide Anglican Communion. It has 7 dioceses, with a total of 310 charges (parishes) and about 54,000 members. Influenced by the Oxford Movement in the nineteenth century, it approaches the twenty-first with an open-minded, inclusive and creative style. 

Although often known locally as 'the English Church', the SEC is in fact one of a handful of provinces of the Anglican Communion that do not trace their origins back to the Church of England. Instead it looks back to the Scottish church of the middle ages and the Celtic saints who brought the Christian faith from Ireland. When the Church of Scotland became Presbyterian in the Scottish Reformation, it continued to include bishops as well as presbyteries for over a century, until the SEC became a separate denomination in the 1690s because of its Jacobite loyalties.

The SEC played an important part in sustaining the protestant episcopal succession in the USA. Before the War of Independence the American Episcopal Church had no bishops: all its clergy were ordained in England. In 1783 the clergy of Connecticut sent one of their number, Samuel Seabury, to England to be consecrated as the first American bishop. Seabury could not take the oath of loyalty to George III so arrangements were made for the consecration to take place in Aberdeen where neither he nor the bishops who consecrated him had to take the oath (since the SEC was not the legally Established Church in Scotland). To this day there is a saltire (St Andrew's cross) in the shield of the Episcopal Church in the USA.