A Joyful, Welcoming, Inclusive Community of Faith

International Pulpit Exchange

Pastor Steve to Participate in International Pulpit Exchange

For two Sundays in July — the 8th and the 15th — Steve Runholt will exchange pulpits with the Rev. R. Fraser Penny, the Minister of the Cathedral of Dunkeld, Scotland.  The cathedral parish is part of the Church of Scotland, which traces its roots back to John Knox and the Scottish Reformation, which in turn gave rise to the Presbyterian Church. Fraser has served the cathedral parish in Dunkeld since January, 2001.

The pulpit swap is part of a broader cultural and economic exchange that is expected to arise following the signing of a formal Sister City partnership (known as Twining in Scotland) between Asheville and the joint community of Dunkeld-Birnam.  The partnership was made official with signing ceremonies last August in Dunkeld-Birnam and September in Asheville.

Dunkeld and Birnham are located on the River Tay, roughly an hour north of Edinburgh.  The joint community is the seventh municipality to enter a formal Sister City relationship with Asheville, joining towns and cities in France, Greece, Mexico (site of two Sister Cities), Nigeria and Russia.  It is the goal of the Sister City program to promote peace, understanding, cooperation and sustainable partnerships through formalized agreements between international cities and the City of Asheville.  

The pulpit exchange is the brainchild of Doug Orr, member-at-large of the Asheville Sister City board and member of Warren Wilson Presbyterian, and Fiona Ritchey, a resident of Birnam and co-author, with Doug, of the New York Times bestseller, Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia.

As to the inspiration for the idea, Doug described it this way:

“It seems very fitting that an early initiative in our new Asheville – Dunkeld/Birnam partnership is a Presbyterian Church pulpit exchange, given the historic roots of the church in both areas. We anticipate that this significant people- to-people program, so critical to a divided world, will allow many others to follow in the footsteps of Steve and Fraser. Darcy and I enthusiastically recommend the hospitality and stunningly beautiful villages of Dunkeld and Birnam, straddling the banks of the scenic River Tay.”

Rev. R. Fraser Penny and wife SusanPlans to welcome Fraser and his wife, Susan, include special music on the first Sunday they are here (July 8th).   The service will be immediately followed by a “Fourth of July” picnic in and around the fellowship hall.

Doug and Darcy have also made plans to take the Pennys to visit the Biltmore Estate and to welcome them to several concerts at the Swannanoa Gathering, where it just so happens that Celtic Week will kick off on the first Sunday they’re here.

For his part, Steve has been filled with a growing sense of gratitude and excitement as the date of the exchange draws nearer.  “I’m grateful to Doug and Fiona for first suggesting the idea of a pulpit swap as part of the larger Sister City exchanges between Asheville and Dunkeld-Birnam,” he said.  “I’m also grateful to the Session here at WWPC for supporting the idea. Having Fraser fill this pulpit for two weeks in July will greatly enrich the congregation’s summertime worship experience.  His visit is also likely to attract a number of visitors to our church.  As for myself, I’m really excited to be part of this exchange with Dunkeld-Birnam, and to visit Scotland, a country that has played such a formative role in the life of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.”