The History of a Historian - A.R. MacEwen. VIII
When we last saw MacEwen, he was faced with the choice between a pastorate in London, in Glasgow, or in the rural spa town of Moffat in the Borders. MacEwen took the sensible route and accepted the call from the smaller, rural town, deciding that it would be best to get a start in the ministry in Moffat, where the pace of life was slower, rather than in the bustling idustrial city of Glasgow, or the Imperial capital of London.
Moffat is a beautiful little town even today, located at the foot of the great rampart of hills in which the river Tweed rises. When A.R. MacEwen came to the little United Presbyterian Church in the town, the permanent population of Moffat was about two thousand, although in the summer, then as now, tourists swelled the population! The Spa, which had operated for nearly 200 years, meant that the town was well supplied with hotels and boarding-houses. With the growth of tourism, the various denominations made every effort to supply places of worship that could accommodate the tourists in the summer - often leading to buildings that were half-empty the rest of the year.
The Moffat United Presbyterian Church had an attractive building, and one of the attractions for MacEwen as a young pastor must have been what the history of the United Presbterians calls the "stately manse." Better still, though, was the friendly rural congregation who welcomed their new pastor enthusiastically and pulled wholeheartedly behind him.
The ordination took place on a misty December day, when there were no visitors to the town, and the moors high above seemed particularly bleak and gloomy. A large company of those who knew the young ordinand gathered to ask God's blessing on his ministry. But as we all know, an ordination is only a beginning. The real test was just starting - and MacEwen must have known that when he decided that Moffat was the place where his ministry ought to begin.
Despite the huge difference between the city in which he had been brought up and the town in which he now found himself, MacEwen threw himself into the work of a country pastor with all his thoroughness. He was a devoted visitor of his people, as he sought to understand the people among whom God had placed him. There was nothing stuffy or stand-offish about him. On the other hand his family connections and university reputation attracted visitors in the summer. In those days when Sunday-School and Bible-Class did not take place at the same time as the services, he surprised people by actually taking an active share in these parts of the Church's work! He was an athletic young man, and like the stereotypical 19th century 'varsity man, a good all-rounder, even a good boxer, a skill that had been of great help when he was attacked by a gang of thugs in Berlin and been forced to fight his way out - leaving two of the thugs stunned on the gound.
As the manse was too large for a batchelor living alone, MacEwen invited his youngest sister - who was unmarried at the time - to live with him. They would often be seen riding together among the hills around Moffat. While he kept up interests outside the Church, his main focus was the small country congregation - small in Glasgow terms, anyhow, for there were Church buildings in Glasgow that could have easily accommodated the entire population of Moffat!
God willing, next time we shall continue to see MacEwen in his first pastorate at Moffat.
Labels: Alexander Robertson MacEwen