YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Ventura County Religion

Pulpit Exchange Brings Scottish Family to Area

Presbyterians: For the summer swap, the minister from the land of bagpipes preaches in Newbury Park church, lives in the pastor's home and drives his car.


In Scotland earlier this year, the Rev. David Clark read this ad: "Presbyterian minister in Southern California seeks pulpit exchange for the summer."

The blurb in the Church of Scotland Magazine got results. Newbury Park Presbyterian minister Steve Davis, his wife, Cindy, and their four children are spending the summer in the Helensburgh, Scotland, home of Clark and his wife, Kate.

Meanwhile, David and Kate Clark and their four children are spending the summer in the Davis family's Newbury Park home.

Davis and Clark are preaching Sunday sermons in each other's churches, which are 5,000 miles apart, until the middle of August.

But pulpits aren't the only thing the ministers and their families have traded.

"We've swapped houses, cars and pets, too," Clark said this week. "Well, actually, the dog is a one-way swap. Steve is taking care of our dog in Scotland, but I'm afraid the coyotes got to his cat here before we could become cat sitters.

"We also have similar families, of similar ages, which made the swap ideal," Clark said.

The Newbury Park Davises took their four boys to Scotland, and the Clarks brought Lyndsay, 14, Lucy, 13, Michael, 11, and 6-year-old Ruth to Newbury Park.

Although the Davises have told the Clarks that the exchange is going well at their end, Kate Clark thinks her family is probably experiencing less culture shock in California than the Davis family is in Helensburgh, which lies 25 miles north of Glasgow on the River Clyde.

"We've been exposed to American culture through the media much more than you are to ours," Kate Clark said.

There are many similarities in the U.S. and Scottish churches, but many small differences, too, David Clark said.

His Presbyterian church building in Scotland, actually called the West Kirk of Helensburgh, is a couple of hundred years old. Monte Vista Presbyterian Church is a couple of decades old.

Clark said a Presbyterian Church service in Scotland is more formal, with more liturgy, than the laid-back California service. But the California lifestyle translates into a more intimate, family centered church, Clark said.

The Scottish church also puts more emphasis on music, he said, with a robed choir at most services.

In the United States, the Presbyterian Church is one of several mainstream Protestant churches, but in Scotland, said Clark, Presbyterianism is the established church of the country.

"I'd say the only other significant faith in Scotland is Roman Catholicism," Clark said.

Historically, Scotland has been the center of the Presbyterian faith, once known as Calvinism after John Calvin, who first espoused it.

Calvinism combines a strong emphasis on rational processes of mind with a deep, almost mystical emphasis on direct communion with God.

Clark's summer sermons will focus on the theme "Dining with the Divine."

"It's a series on mealtimes in the New Testament," Clark said, "such as Jesus sharing a meal with two disciples after the resurrection, or the Last Supper."

This Sunday's sermon will be about Jesus sharing breakfast on the beach with disciples.

Monte Vista member Bob Slater is looking forward to the sermon, not least, he said, "because it's really interesting to hear his Scottish brogue."

A brogue that none of the Clarks think they have, of course.

Soon after Sunday's sermon, the family will visit Disneyland, to the great pleasure of the four Clark children.

Los Angeles Times Articles