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First woman in Scotland to be ordained as a pastor in Apostolic Church says coronavirus pandemic has knocked people

By Val Sweeney

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Karen Halkett.
Karen Halkett.

As a new year dawns, an Inverness woman is looking forward to her role as the first woman in Scotland to be ordained as a pastor in the Apostolic Church.

Mother-of-three Karen Halkett is now a co-pastor alongside her husband, Robbie, of Inverness Christian Fellowship which holds its services at Merkinch Community Centre where she also works an administrator.

The 43-year-old, of Balloch, was able to be ordained after the Apostolic Church in the UK – part of the mainstream Pentecostal movement worldwide – announced in 2019 it was shifting its position on the ordination of women.

She acknowledged the change had come later than in many other denominations.

"I like to think they have not rushed into it but have taken their time over it," she said.

She also pointed out that she and her husband work very much as a team and she was already part of the church’s "great" leadership team in Inverness.

Her ordination comes at a time when society as well as churches face huge challenges caused by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

But it also comes as many church leaders are reporting rising attendances at online services as more people re-evaluate their lives and seek spiritual answers.

"I think 2020 has shaken up the church," Mrs Halkett said.

"People may think of church as a Sunday morning meeting. But it is a lifestyle and how you connect with people.

"Church is the people, not a building.

"It is looking afresh at that."

Mrs Halkett grew up in Dores where she attended the Free Church until the family started going to the Inverness Christian Fellowship soon after it was established in 1988 by Samuel McKibben.

She also joined the Girls’ Brigade and is still involved as an officer at the Inverness East Church company.

She and her husband, a part-time IT project manager, met through a church band in which she was a singer and he was a drummer.

They married when she was 20 and have three sons, Fraser (21), Ross (19) and Scott (16).

Karen Halkett and her husband, Robbie, work as a team.
Karen Halkett and her husband, Robbie, work as a team.

For 10 years, she battled chronic pain due to complications during pregnancy and was on strong medication, but with the help of her GP and support of others has overcome it. She felt the experience has helped with pastoral work as it has given her an understanding of what others go through.

Faith is integral to the couple’s lives and when her husband was asked if he would like to train to be a pastor, they were interviewed together.

"It was accepted that although I would not be ordained we would be doing the job together," she said.

"We work better together as a team, standing shoulder to shoulder."

Subsequently, when the church agreed on the ordination of women, she was approached to go forward.

“I think it was recognition of the role I was already doing,” she said.

She also stressed that as they are bi-vocational, the couple also have the support of the rest of the team.

Her ordination took place at King’s Fellowship in Smithton where, due to coronavirus regulations, the numbers attending were limited to 50 though it was filmed and messages came in from far and wide.

Inverness Christian Fellowship, which describes itself as a growing, vibrant and contemporary church, attracts average attendances of about 90 at its Sunday services in ordinary times and is also involved in community events.

Like many churches, it has broadcast services online during the pandemic so people can continue their worship.

"It is like church on demand," she reflected.

"People are tuning in for live streaming, or catching up the next day.

"Part of the congregation has changed. You can join from anywhere – we have people from different parts of the UK tuning at 10.30am.

"There are pluses and minuses."

In putting together the services, she and her husband have tried to make the services meaningful so people at home feel it is not like simply watching another TV programme.

It has also forged strong links with other churches in the city and was involved with 12 churches to broadcast messages of hope in the run-up to Christmas as well as putting together two online Christmas carol services.

"At the end of the day, there is one church," she said.

"We are working together."

Looking ahead to 2021, she reflected: "For me health and wellbeing is so high on the social agenda.

"For a healthy wellbeing, you have to have a healthy foundation.

"I think this year has knocked people’s foundations.

"We build our lives on jobs, careers, holidays.

"When that is shaken sometimes it can be unstable for folk. For me, God is my foundation."

Related story: Carols go online as churches in Inverness join forces

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