Reverend appointed Chaplain to Queen

Rev John Chalmers.  Picture: Neil Hanna

Rev John Chalmers. Picture: Neil Hanna

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The Reverend John Chalmers, principal clerk to the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, has been appointed as a new Chaplain to the Queen in Scotland.

John Pearson Chalmers was born in Bothwell, Lanarkshire, on June 5, 1952, and brought up in Troon, Ayrshire. He went to Strathclyde and Glasgow universities and became minister of Renton Trinity Church, Dunbartonshire, in 1979.

He was there for seven years and for the last four he combined his parish duties with the role of clerk to the Dumbarton presbytery.

In 1986, Mr Chalmers moved to become minister at Palmerston Place Church at Edinburgh’s West End. He became a prominent figure in church affairs in the Capital and as well as having to be involved in planning major refurbishment of the building, he served as convener of the presbytery’s deployment of resources committee, overseeing mergers and closures of churches across the city.

In 1995, he left Palmerston Place for a job at Church of Scotland headquarters in George Street, looking after his fellow ministers.

He served as senior pastoral adviser and associate secretary with the Kirk’s ministry department for 14 years before being chosen to take over the most senior permanent post in the Church of Scotland as principal clerk to the General Assembly.

The role puts him at the centre of the Kirk’s work. As well as ensuring the smooth running of the annual Assembly he must give advice throughout the year to local presbyteries on how to handle difficult cases; draft new church legislation; and support Moderators.

It was just after the close of the 2011 Assembly that Mr Chalmers learned the devastating news that his youngest son, John James, a 23-year-old Lance Corporal with 42 Commando serving in Afghanistan, had been severely injured in a bomb blast which killed two of his colleagues.

JJ, as he is known to friends and family, was eventually transferred back to the UK and has undergone many operations in hospital in Birmingham. But it didn’t stop him delivering the best man’s speech at his brother David’s wedding by videolink from his hospital bed.

Mr Chalmers was chairman of the board of governors at Donaldson’s college for the deaf from 1999 until 2008. Rising maintenance costs for the 150-year-old building were crippling the budget and Mr Chalmers encouraged the board to close the old college to make way for the eventual move to a new purpose-built college in Linlithgow.

Mr Chalmers, who lives in Dunfermline, said he was “honoured and delighted” at being appointed a Queen’s chaplain.

The Queen has ten appointed chaplains in Scotland and two domestic chaplains – the ministers of Canongate Kirk, the parish church for the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and Crathie Kirk, near Balmoral.