These are hard times for Ministry in the Gaelic language. In honesty I have to say that my first love, linguistically speaking, is the Doric of my native north-east Scotland. As my friends know, I have been collaborating in the production of a Doric translation of the Bible in my spare time, and this project is now well advanced. However my wife is a native Gaelic speaker from the Isle of Skye, and my fondness for one minority language gives me an understanding of the importance of all minority languages. BBC Alba is a commonly watched channel in the Manse, and I never fail to wonder at the investment being made in the preservation and nurturing of Gaelic. If the same commitment could be made to the Scots language, we would be fortunate indeed.
However, I fear the investment in Scots through broadcasting and in Gaelic medium education has come too late for the Kirk. Once the bastion of Gaelic language and culture in the face of fierce establishment opposition, the tables are now well and truly turned. Gaelic worship is now an endangered species. Those proficient in delivering it are literally dying out, and they are not being replaced. Among the small number of men and women with a call to the ministry of the Church of Scotland who may have some knowledge of Gaelic, none to my knowledge has sensed a call to ministry in the Gaelic language.
There will be a variety of reasons for this no doubt, and therefore a range of possible responses. I am hopeful that the Genaral Assembly's Gaelic Group will presently come up with some. Members of St Columba at a recent meeting were questioning if some bursary or similar financial incentive might not stir some into seeing the Spiorad Naomh at work in their hearts. I can only trust that the Holy Spirit is indeed at work in various ways and will inspire us yet to build a new ministry in the Gaelic language in a way appropriate to the present times.
In the meanwhile, we struggle on with the default arrangement of a joint service every Sunday, with at least a Bible reading in Gaelic, and a Gaelic service as often as we can organise it, with the few preachers that are able to help us out on an ad hoc basis. I am grateful to them, and to the cohort of mainly retired ministers who are bringing their much appreciated skills and experience to St Columba Gaelic Church Sunday by Sunday.