THE incoming minister at three linked parish churches in the Wee County is looking to put people first.

Congregations in Dollar, Muckhart, Glendevon have recently welcomed Rev Dr Tony Foley as their new minister, just in time for the new year.

The induction of Rev Foley follows more than three years of vacancy in the post, which period only saw an interim moderator in place.

Having spent around 15 years building churches and congregations in Taiwan, as well as having worked with other denominations previously, the area's new minister brings a wealth of experience and fresh perspectives to the town.

During his time in east Asia, the reverend developed an organic approach to spreading the gospel, building churches from scratch in communities that have not encountered Christianity before.

His goal was to give something to the people and make sure they own it before moving on "once they do the job better than you".

Rev Foley said: "I loved every single minute of it.

"I loved the people; the people made Taiwan."

He has certainly seen a fair share of different cultures with different languages and in various local contexts.

Ultimately, the reverend said the most important lesson from Taiwan was the importance of listening to people.

This is embedded in his way of working and showed when he returned to Scotland to lead a congregation in the Borders.

Rev Foley said: "The approach was: listen, sit with them, find out what god is doing and what he is saying.

"And then I found that god works in different ways in different places, wherever I am in the world, whatever context, whatever language I am working in."

He explained there is "no silver bullet" to solve all problems and he is keen to get to know the area and the folks who live in it.

Rev Foley is keen to facilitate the possibility of people having a relationship with Jesus the best he can.

His organic approach was summed up perfectly when he said: "It's church for the people, not people for the church."

Rev Foley, who has taken up residence at the manse with his wife Yvonne, was inducted at a service led by Rev Scott Brown on Thursday, December 19.

"Ultimately, I am in the people business", he added. "So the focus is people and I think we just have to look, listen and learn."

Session clerk Cathy Gladwin was delighted a permanent minister is now in place.

She said: "We have a point to move forward from with a new minister; it's a new beginning, and it's really quite positive because it's the beginning of the new year.

"Everyone is feeling very positive about having someone in post – that makes a big difference."