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JOHN DEMPSTER: Faith has brought hope through the hard times

By John Dempster

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Dot Getliffe.
Dot Getliffe.

When I first met Dot Getliffe she was in the heart of a piece of street theatre outside the Old High Church in Inverness. A burgundy cape around her shoulders, she was re-enacting King Brude’s response to the arrival of St Columba at his Inverness stronghold.

Dot, a Deacon in the Church of Scotland, has just published a book about her life, called Deacon Pink. She describes the chain of events which led to her birth. Her dad was a Polish Jew who fled from the Nazis and eventually reached the UK: many of his family perished in the concentration camps. He became a believer in Jesus, married Dot’s mum, and became a Church of Scotland minister.

There’s a blunt, loving honesty about Dot.

She wants to be remembered as ‘a mum, wife, friend, sister, colleague, daughter-in-law’ who was ‘a unique, feisty, creative and colourful, effervescent Deacon.’ And these are not roles worn like King Brude’s cape, but expressions of her self-discovery.

‘This is me!’ she recognised 20 years ago when she first explored the work of the Deacon, equally qualified to ministers but with a different role.

Her journey also included drama training at what is now the Conservatoire in Glasgow, teaching, working with Christian youth organisation Scripture Union, wrestling with singleness, finding a husband, becoming a mum.

As a Deacon, she has worked in various churches in partnership with the minister: she’s conducted services, weddings and funerals, and has been involved in the community with love and compassion. She is upfront about the frequent failures of Christians and churches but emphasises that what matters is ‘what do you think of Jesus?’

Jesus has been central to Dot’s life ever since, inspired at the age of 19 by a film dramatising the true story of an actor’s coming to faith, she entrusted herself to Christ. It’s “amazing to think,” she says, “that Jesus has sustained me for almost 50 years”.

Her faith has brought hope through the hard times: depression, struggles with work/life balance, experiences of loss and pain, days when Jesus has seemed far distant. She speaks of occasional miraculous interventions reminding her of God’s compassion.

It is through this connection with Jesus that she has come to realise who she truly is – the effervescent daughter of an effervescent God.

Dot is aware of the power of drama to speak in ways which words alone can’t. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her on the streets of Inverness again soon, leading an inter-church drama team, seeking to engage hearts and minds.

And I’m reminded of this quote from a recent book: “Our identity is a mystery whose full beauty is yet to be revealed.”

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