An Interview with the Rev Dr Roderick Campbell
On Saturday, August 30th 2008 the Rev. Dr. Roderick D.M. Campbell was inducted at a service in Lismore Parish Church. The post had been vacant for two years and there was much rejoicing.
Roderick and his wife Sue had previously lived in Edinburgh where Roderick had been the Minister of the Parish of St Andrew and St George since 2003. After he decided he would like to move on, their choice was retirement or one more parish before he reaches the official retiring age in 5 years time. Together they decided on one more and, although he successfully applied for four, ultimately it was Lismore and Appin that ticked all the boxes for them both. Sue works for Quarriers in Renfrewshire and, until she retires next year, they live half their week apart. So it was important to them both that they be where she could easily get to her job.
Roderick Campbell was born in Glasgow, although his family’s roots, on both sides, are in Scotland’s north west. He has one sister and described his childhood as happy. Despite being a son of the Manse, The Church of Scotland Ministry was not Roderick’s first career choice. He trained as a technical teacher in Glasgow and taught in Glasgow, London and with VSO in Tanzania. He was also a keen member of the Territorial Army.
“I like the company of men as well as the opportunities and challenges that army life offers,” he told me, “ and after Tanzania, I knew I would have to decide on the Army or the Church.” As he opted for the church it was back to Scotland, and three years at Edinburgh University, doing his Bachelor of Divinity.
But Africa still called and Roderick’s first parish was Nairobi’s St Andrews Church of Scotland where he met Sue who was a loss adjuster at the time and a third generation Kenyan. Together they have two daughters, Catriona and Sheona.
The girls were born in Scotland after he and Sue moved to Mearne Parish Kirk in 1979 and where he stayed until 1997. In 1989, while still in the ministry, he was invited to become a lay member of the Glasgow Health Board and, from 1993-97, he was convenor of the Misuse of Drugs and HIV Aids committees where he worked with some very talented people. Roderick thoroughly enjoyed and is proud of this work in particular the clean needles for drug users’ scheme introduced to try and stop the spread of HIV Aids. In 1997 he was asked by the secretary of state to be chair of the Victoria NHS Trust in Glasgow and at that point he left the ministry as the two could not be done together effectively. It was a huge job and many positive changes followed including the opening of the new Mearne Kirk Hospital to care for the elderly.
All this came to an abrupt end with the appointment of a new Secretary of State for Scotland by the new labour administration, and he found himself once again changing direction. This time he went to Sudan with the Church of Scotland Missionary Society to train people to rebuild their lives and communities. He went to Sudan alone – Sue was busy with her position with Quarriers and Sudan was not an easy posting.
It was after this, in 2003, that he returned to Edinburgh
and the Parish of St Andrew and St George where, among other things, he
instigated the restoration of the Compleat Chymes to full working order for,
although bell ringing is not a Church of Scotland pursuit, this had been the
first ring of eight bells in Scotland when it was installed in 1798.
Since moving west he has discovered that Lismore and Appin
and Port Appin are three very distinctive communities and between them they
offer plenty of interesting work. As the essence of his ministry is to serve
people, he is interested in the lives of all who fall within his parish. He is
not so interested in what people believe or in how they express these beliefs,
but in what spiritual values they share with the community. Spirituality is not
the province of the church alone, the gospel of Christ can be lived out without
the belief system the church has codified over the centuries.
Spending time with Roderick it is soon clear that both his personality and his view of Ministry are not conventional; he described himself as questioning, inclusive, sceptical and ready to relate to his entire parish whether or not they attend his services. Communion is not just for Sundays. Ministry is about relating. “I am available if people need me,” he said.
Exploring matters spiritual and material with Roderick was a lot of fun. He doesn’t take himself or his role too seriously but his parishioners, that is another matter. A serious matter.
Before I finished hearing the Dr Roderick Campbell story, I asked him what his passions were. Shooting, he said, I love to shoot.
As I realised right from the start there is nothing predictable about our new Minister.
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