Former US pastor living dream as Kirk minister in Highlands
Published on12 June, 2017
A former pastor from Florida is fulfilling a lifelong dream by becoming a minister in rural highland Scotland.
38-year love affair
Rev Dr Beverly White Cushman, who was the first woman ordained in the state of Louisiana in the US back in 1977, has taken up her new charge as a Kirk minister in the Parish of Altnaharra and Farr in Sutherland on the north coast.
The appointment is the culmination of a 38-year love affair with Scotland for the mother of two and her retired economics professor husband David after they toured Caledonia in an original mini in 1978.
Mrs Cushman said: “When we visited Scotland on that trip I immediately felt ‘at home’. Since then we have visited Scotland a number of times, spending a week on Loch Fyne every summer for the past eight years.
“The idea of serving a church in Scotland came to mind and I inquired if there was any need for ministers.I received a ‘Yes’ and we began the Visa process.
“God planted a seed 38 years ago, and it has borne fruit.”
The post involves ministering for three churches – Farr Church in Bettyhill, Strathnaver Mission Church and Altnaharra – in a region over 200 square miles in size. But she won’t have to do it alone. Husband David helps out with musical accompaniment during worship on his oboe.
Revitalise the Church of Scotland
The parish is a land made up of white sand beaches, moorland and mountain. Christianity can be traced there back to the 8th Century.
“I appreciate the slower life-style of rural communities,” Mrs Cushman said.
“I also appreciate how very close-knit they are and how what happens in one place affects other aspects of village life.
“I love the physical beauty of the area and I am enjoying learning about the plants, creatures and birds of this place.
“I look forward to learning more about sheep farming. It is the perfect place in which to use all my ministerial and teaching experience to revitalise the Church of Scotland here in this place and time.”
It wasn’t the ideal start for Mrs Cushman’s ministry there though.
Mrs Cushman explained: “The Friday after my induction in February, I went to Fort William for an orthopaedic consultation.
“I had not been feeling well since Sunday, and while at the consultation realised that I was having difficulty breathing.We went to the emergency room and I was hospitalised for four days with double pneumonia.”
But the former Orlando Bureau of Traffic Fines worker has now fully recovered.
“I have really enjoyed getting back into the parish,” she said.
“I like preaching and developing worship services. I am enjoying getting to know people in the parish, and settling into village life.
“It is exciting to begin planning for activities to begin in the Fall.
“I have loved spring with the lambing, and now the calving, the astonishing brightness of the gorse blossoms.”
As part of her work in one of the remotest parishes in the Kirk, Mrs Cushman has plans to bring her knowledge from years teaching students ‘Christian education’ in the States to the crofters and villagers sprinkled over the area.
She added: “I see a lot of possibilities: ‘The Good Book’ reading club; developing an inter-denominational Guild chapter; possibly developing a family service at 8:30 or 9:00am on Sunday mornings and developing a ‘Prayer Shawl’ ministry along with creating an intentional prayer ministry.”