A MINISTER from the Capital who founded a charity to help the homeless has been named as the next Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly.
The Rev Dr Russell Barr, minister at the city’s Cramond Kirk, is chairman of Edinburgh-based Fresh Start which has helped 2000 people get back on their feet in the past year.
He set up the charity more than 15 years ago to help homeless people get established in their new home. Now it is supported by more than 80 congregations in Edinburgh and employs 18 people. It provides food and offers cookery classes and lessons on budgeting and growing fruit and vegetables.
Dr Barr, 62, said he was “excited, honoured and overwhelmed” to have been appointed Moderator.
He will take up the year-long role at the Assembly in May, succeeding the Right Rev Dr Angus Morrison.
Dr Barr, who has been minister at Cramond since 1993, said: “It is not a role that I ever imagined being asked to do. It is humbling to be elected by your peers to serve the Church in this way.
“I will seek to use the role to raise moral and ethical issues and publicise the important part the Church plays in public life.”
Dr Barr – who enjoys golf, rugby, opera and reading in his spare time – said that he also hoped to raise greater awareness of homelessness and food poverty.
He is a strong supporter of the Church of Scotland’s Tomorrow’s Calling campaign which is seeking to recruit a new generation of ministers to lead nearly 1400 congregations across the country. He described the job of ministry as the “best in the world”.
Dr Barr is married to Margaret, a retired secondary school biology teacher.
The couple have a son, Robert, daughter, Lindsey and two grandchildren.
Dr Barr, who has a doctorate of ministry from Princeton Theological Seminary in the USA, served as moderator of Edinburgh presbytery in 2011-12 and was chaplain to the Lord High Commissioner, the Queen’s representative to the General Assembly, in 2012-13.
He has also served as convener of the Africa and Caribbean committee of the Kirk’s World Mission Council.
Fresh Start’s work includes giving “starter packs” to homeless people moving into a new home, giving them the essentials they need to settle in, such as bedding, curtains and crockery. The charity also runs an annual Cookers for Christmas appeal to ensure people can make themselves a hot meal.
Fresh Start is currently Lothian Buses’ charity of the year with adverts appearing on its 650-strong fleet.