When Salvation Army officers Barry and Helen Dickson first learned they were being posted to Peterhead they apparently jumped for joy!
The couple, originally from Belfast, took up the Blue Toon post in July this year - their first post since graduating from William Booth Training College, London - and haven’t looked back since.
Speaking to the Buchanie from their Windmill Street base, Barry said that he had grown up in the Salvation Army in his home of Belfast.
“In my late teens I left the Salvation Army for another church as I was the last of my generation and everyone else had fallen away - there was nothing to keep me there,” he said.
It was at the new church where he met wife-to-be Helen and therein lies the twist to the tale.
Helen said: “I suffered from depression and wanted to leave the church and join the Salvation Army. Barry ldidn’t stand in my way, and so the pair of us worshipped at differe nt locations for a while.”
Having recovered from her depression, Helen became a soldier in the Salvation Army in 2011 and then was approached with the idea of becoming an officer.
“I said no way, but it was enough to plant the seed and in 2012 I started thinking about it a bit more. However, Barry was adamant he wasn’t going to explore it with me. By 2014 I’d had enough and I just asked God to take this away from me as it was too much of a burden.
“Then someone asked me if I believed in visions as she had a vision of me as an officer and Barry at my side.”
Barry continued: “I had started reading the Bible in a year plan every morning but that morning I had not read it. After Helen came home and shared the vision the Bible plan for that day was Genesis chapter 13 which, in my interpretation, read Abraham took up his wife and family and headed south. So, it was decided!”
The pair headed to London in 2015. With three young children - Bethany (14), Tobias (11) and Josef (9), the couple admitted it was difficult, but also good fun. Having completed their two-year course, they found out in February this year that they were moving up to Peterhead.
“We jumped for joy when we got the email,” said Helen. “Then it was a question of where’s Peterhead?”
Arriving in the Blue Toon, Helen said that the children had settled in from day one, and they too found their feet right away.
“We’ve had a wonderful time so far,” said Barry. “Belfast has a reputation for being a very hospitable and friendly place, but the way we have been treated here is at least on a par if not better.”
As for the future, Helen says they want to see God’s kingdom grow here in Peterhead. And they have already made some changes to the local hall, turning a room predominantly used for storage into prayer space.
“It’s not necessarily just for prayer - it will provide a safe, quiet space for anyone in the community to come,” said Helen.
They also plan a messy church next month, with the theme of light, and another at Christmas. And they also hope to grow the congregation and get more families involved, with the mantra ‘fun, family worship’.