The Salvation Army has a new officer in Lerwick – eager to take on the challenges of the post.
With eight and a half years with the organiation, whose motto is “Blood and Fire”, Rachel Baker is no stranger to island life as she was previously based in Kirkwall.
Originally from Derbyshire, she hopes to bring a new approach to the post by putting an emphasis on the use of the substantial hall.
Including a flat, the premises are in need of renovation, and that would be a mark of success at the North Road site.
Rachel is no stranger to challenges, being a single mother of eight. Six of them are with her in Shetland: Leuis, 14, Max, 13, Frankie, 12, Tilly, 11, Bruce, 10, and Lilith, five.
She would consider herself moving away from the rather fuddy duddy image it has to some people.
Rachel wants the community to be involved and hopefully put their ideas into practice. She wants to provide a “church and community service through God’s love”.
The Salvation Army is sometimes known as the “fourth emergency service”. Obviously it is ultimately a Christian organisation with a religious ethos, and there would be an elements of Christian teaching but not “too heavy”. For example, at the pre-school “tots” meeting on Mondays between 10.30am and 11.45am.
Wednesday sees another meeting time planned with Friday’s orientated towards faith talks for people thinking about a religious path.
Rachel would also like to see some kind of type of cafe set up in the building as well. The previous person in the post, Angela Nunn, left the post to concentrate on the local food bank. Based at St Magnus Street in Lerwick, the Trussell Trust project provides a frontline service
Rachel has been in post a month and has found the Shetland people very welcoming and helpful; in Orkney she thought they were a bit more “reserved”.
Although Shetland is an affluent community the Salvation Army is aware of a lot social deprivation, much of of it hidden. There are plenty of struggling families with substance issues and different family structures.
She says: “Life is not simple. There is stress and stuff.” She would particularly like to help single and working mothers and “provide a little hope, friendship and fun in the building”.
Whereas her predecessor had the help of a community worker, Rachel is a single appointment but is hoping to recruit volunteers, especially at the weekends when adults with practical and musical skills could share them with children and young adults. She sees young folk as the future of the church if it is to survive.
She thinks that Shetland compared with a city environment is a great place to bring up children, but that can lead to them having a no-fear attitude, whereas in an urban setting children can grow up “streetwise”.
And of course you have the anonymity of the city compared with the scrutiny of a small community. As ever there are pros and cons on both sides.
Rachel comes across as if she will bring energy and commitment to the post. She wants to help others, based fundamentally as she says, on “God’s love to share”.