A MINISTER from a church in downtown Chicago has been chosen to take over at St Giles’ Cathedral, Scotland’s most prestigious Presbyterian church.
The Rev Calum MacLeod, 46, has spent the past 16 years at the 5500-member Fourth Presbyterian Church in America’s third biggest city, where he was in charge of evangelism and ministry to young adults.
Mr MacLeod was born and educated in Scotland but has not served as a minister here before.
His call to be minister of St Giles’ was approved by the cathedral’s congregation in a vote on Sunday and he is expected to take up the post in November.
Mr MacLeod succeeds the Very Rev Dr Gilleasbuig Macmillan, who retired last year after 40 years at St Giles’.
The new minister spoke of his hopes of seeing the 500-strong congregation grow despite the trend towards secularism, more advanced here than in the United States.
He said: “I recognise I am moving into a current which is further along the secularisation road, but there are still challenges for the church to be a voice for its people and the wider community.
“The church is a voice for justice and reconciliation – that is at the heart of the gospel, that is what we are called to preach and to be.
“A lot of my experience is in the recruitment of new members and I am interested in the question of church growth.
“There are challenges for St Giles’ but also opportunities. The demographic around it, the student population, more families living nearby.”
He also acknowledged the contrast between downtown Chicago and the historic heart of Edinburgh.
He said: “You can’t simply take one model and clamp it on to another context, but there are things that you can experience in one context which you can filter and see how they fit in a different place – the public cathedral downtown, an urban ministry with a big outreach and mission programme to people often living close to poverty – these are things I have a heart for.
“This historic and important church in the heart of Edinburgh has a vital role to play in the life of the city and the nation at this critical time for our country and on into the future.”
He said St Giles’ had a creative music programme. “Building on that is a good way of getting people in to see the cathedral.”
Born and educated in Glasgow, he studied economics and industrial relations at Strathclyde University and worked in healthcare management in the NHS before taking a divinity degree at Glasgow University.
He was ordained in 1996 and served as assistant minister at St Columba’s Church of Scotland in London.
The following year he moved to Chicago and the Fourth Presbyterian Church to become one of seven ministers. He became head of staff three years ago. His wife, Missy, is a lawyer working in Wisconsin and the couple have a daughter, Maddy, who is a student in California.