Lesson #6 – don’t let first impressions last.
In 1711 Thomas Boston moved 30 miles east from his first parish in Berwickshire to the village of Ettrick (pop @200) in Selkirkshire. His first impressions of the village were not great but 21 years later, when he died in the harness, the community had been transformed. Here’s how Andrew Thomson summarises Boston’s journal notes:
Mr Boston’s first impressions of the poeple of Ettrick as he found them were not encouraging, but the reverse. Nothing indeed but the sense of his divine call to this new sphere and his faith in him who could “make his strength equal to his day” could have kept him from fearing and even fainting at the prospect which opened before him. The discouraging causes came from more than one quarter. …He notes in his diary that “he did not find the people’s appetite for ordinances to have been sharpened by the long fast whcih they had got for about the space of four years; on the contrary, they were cold and indifferent about divine things, but keen about worldly gains to a proverb.”
The parish of Holy Trinity, by which I mean the area around our church not the church family itself, is probably much like many parishes in our secular nation and much like Ettrick when Thomas Boston first saw it, “indifferent about divine things, but keen about worldy gains.” This first impression can easily be the shaping factor for the ministry. We can secretly say to ourselves, “things are bad”, “this will never change”, “I can’t be expected to make much imopact here.” and tend to give up. But, given time, 21 years in Boston’s case, love and the gospel of Christ, people have their appetite for God awakened and their hunger for worldy gain reduced. Depth of conviction or calling and an unwavering faith in Christ are the defining factors for this sort of change.