An inspirational 80-year-old Church of Scotland minister has taken up a new job — his 12th since he officially retired in 2002.
Although convention would suggest he should be winding down in later life, Reverend Ray Gaston says he will stay in his new post as locum minister at Clackmannan Parish Church for as long as he is needed.
His latest job involves taking the service each Sunday plus around another 16 hours work each week attending to church affairs and making pastoral visits to people in their homes, as well as those in hospital and residential care.
Mr Gaston, who has been a Church of Scotland minister since 1969, said: “Life is for living and I’m extremely pleased to be still able to do what I love, despite my age.
“Ministry is a very satisfying and fulfilling role and I hope to continue supporting the Church for as long as I am able.
“This is my 12th post since officially retiring and doing locum work keeps me sharp mentally.
“I am sure there is a connection between mental agility and the onset of conditions like dementia so I think people should be able to work in certain types of jobs for as long as they are able to, if they want to.
“Personal satisfaction has a lot to do with maintaining mental alertness.”
Mr Gaston, whose last full-time ministry post was in Leuchars, said he was pleased that his new role allowed him take on tasks that particularly interested him.
“I do the parts of the job that I love, preaching, teaching and dealing with people at all stages of life — births, marriages and deaths,” he added.
“That is the role of Parish ministry — it is a real privilege and the most demanding and satisfying part of what it means to be a minister.”
Mr Gaston, who lives in Dollar, described being a minister as the “best job in the world” and urged people with a sense of calling who wanted to make a real difference to society to strongly consider taking up the challenge.
The majority of the locum posts Mr Gaston has held over the last 14 years were in churches in the Perth and Stirling presbytery areas but he has served Kirk congregations in Turin, Italy and Coll and Tiree.
Mr Gaston said he only officially retired after a four-year stint at St Athernase Church in Leuchars in 2002 because it felt like the right thing to do at the time because he was 66.
Married to Evelyn with whom he has three children, Malcolm, Gillian and Gail, he added that he has never felt discouraged in his job throughout his 53 year career, since he was first ordained into the Congregational Church in 1963.
Mr Gaston, who spent 14 years as minister of Dollar linked with Muckhart and Glendevon churches, continued: “The Church is evolving and I have a real sense of optimism about its future.
“If I can encourage at least one person to go into the ministry, I will be very pleased.
“But times have changed and it is no longer a solo job where the minister does everything – it is a role for team builders.”
Mr Gaston, whose wife is very supportive of his decision to keep on working despite being a minister for 53 years, said the opportunities for would-be Church of Scotland ministers to flourish were immense.
“There is such variety in the job, it is not monolithic at all and every parish is different,” concluded the grandfather-of-four who is a member of the Guild.
“They throw up different problems to solve and different opportunities to develop.”