18: Helen Cuthbert

Reverend Helen Cuthbert MA BSc BD (1954-

  • Minister of the parish of New Cumnock (2009-2021)
    • Current Parish Church
Reverend Helen Cuthbert

Helen hails from Kilmarnock, growing up mainly in an area in the south of the town called Bellfield where she attended Sunday School, youth organisations and Sunday worship. In her mid-teens she made a commitment to the Lord and continued involvement in Church life and work including as organist and choir leader, youth leader and elder.

On leaving Kilmarnock Academy, she gained an MA in French, English and Sociology at Glasgow University and, after a year teaching in Bagnols-sur-Ceze, France, became a French teacher at Loudoun Academy in Galston helping also to run lunchtime Scripture Union Groups. During this time she did a teaching exchange to Owensboro, Kentucky where she attended and took part in a Southern Baptist Church in Maceo, Kentucky.

After eight years at Loudoun Academy, she went to Sudan to work as a trainer of Sudanese teachers of English, working at different times for Voluntary Service Overseas, the British Government’s Overseas Education Department and the University of Khartoum. (In order to take up these last two appointments, she studied for and gained an MSc in Applied Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh in 1989.)

In Khartoum she was a member of the International Church and took part in the worship team while also attending various Sudanese Churches, though most of her friends, students and colleagues were Muslims.

Helen returned to Kilmarnock to live with her widowed mother (also Helen) in 1998 and set up a business as a self-employed piano and keyboard teacher and again took part in Church and community life, leading the Bible Study and becoming a member of Bellfield Community Council.

In 2002, she became a Reader of the Church of Scotland enabling her to conduct worship including funerals. After some persuasion from her fellow Church members, she explored a call to ministry which led to her becoming a candidate for Ministry in the Church of Scotland and doing a Bachelor of Divinity Degree at the University of Glasgow, graduating in June 2008.

Her training included a summer placement in the chaplaincy team at Ailsa Hospital, Ayr, which cares for people with various forms and severities of mental illness. This was followed by an 18 month probationary period of assistant ministry at Kingcase Parish Church in Prestwick in the Presbytery of Ayr.

New Cumnock Years

Helen sensed God’s call for her was to a community church in either a housing scheme or a small town/village and responded to a call from the congregation of New Cumnock Parish Church, being ordained and inducted there on Tuesday, November 17, 2009.

During her time in New Cumnock, as well as ministry in the Church, she was involved in community life and with community organisations and events providing services to mark the opening of various buildings and enterprises, including the reopening of the swimming pool and of New Cumnock Heritage Trail; commemorating national and local events such as the Knockshinnoch Disaster, the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible, the 450th anniversary of the Reformation, the unveiling of a plaque to John McCrae, writer of ‘On Flanders field’ whose family hailed from New Cumnock.

2010: Reformation 450

2012: Swimming Pool

2012/13: Village Heritage Trail

2015: Remembering the Arthur Memorial

2018: World War I Centenary

Along with the elders and congregation she introduced modern technology – screens, powerpoint, recording facilities which enhanced worship, allowed the services to be recorded, placed online and distributed to housebound members, as well as being used for school services.

Helen has written a number of songs both Christian, for worship in Church and secular, often humorous songs which she sings accompanied by her guitar. She has also published three books: a reprint of the ‘Years of the Great War’ Chapter of George Sanderson’s ‘New Cumnock Far and Away’, the publication coinciding with the centenary in 2014 of the start of World War I, and two books of poems – ‘In Loving Memory’ and ‘New Cumnock Pictured in Words’.

Her retirement, planned for April19, 2020 was postponed due to the outbreak of COVID-19. During that year Helen helped to develop online worship and other resources.

She finally retired as Minister of New Cumnock Parish Church on July 12, 2021, returning to Kilmarnock, sadly without her mother who had passed away, aged 95 in 2019, but who, during her time in New Cumnock was an invaluable support to Helen and her ministry and a staunch supporter, too, of New Cumnock as a community.

Helen Cuthbert May 2021