THE latest Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is far from a traditionalist. He blogs, makes ‘Godcasts’, plays in his own band, is appearing on the Fringe, and is off to T in the Park. Not bad for a 63-year-old minister.
You can sense the history of the building everywhere. From the mural bordering the top of the dining room wall, to the large fireplace in the sitting room, surrounded by beautifully upholstered furniture, the house seems every inch what you would expect from the official residence of the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
But then you spy something a little out of place – something over the mantelpiece which doesn’t quite fit with the more conventional prints on the walls.
“It probably cost me about two or three dollars,” admits Right Reverend Albert Bogle, the newest tenant of the Moderator’s official residence, looking at the colourful painting of three tropical birds signed ‘The Bora Indians’.
“It’s a favourite of mine though. It was painted using entirely natural ingredients – even the paper is handmade.”
Rev Bogle’s choice of interior decoration may raise a few eyebrows among traditionalists but then that is just scratching the surface. He really doesn’t do traditional, after all.
Instead of spending his Friday evening relaxing in his plush rooms, the 63-year-old will be roughing it at T in the Park with 85,000 others.
Fresh from playing guitar with his very own Bogle Band at The Solas Festival in Biggar at the end of last month, he will also soon be promoting his book of prayers ‘Sanctuary’ at the Wigton Book Festival.
A self-confessed early adopter of new technology, he blogs, tweets, streams his Sunday services (“Godcasts”) from St Andrews Parish, Bo’ness and counts congregation members around the globe.
Oh, and he’s also appearing in a Fringe show, performing with “fifth member” of Wet Wet Wet, Graeme Duffin.
Not exactly your traditional church minister then.
“My kids aren’t worried about me going to T in the Park,” the father of two says, smiling.
“They don’t think I’ll see anything that’ll shock me because I’ve probably seen it all already.”
They might be right. As the founder of the Vine Trust charity, Rev Bogle has worked in some of the planet’s most poverty-stricken, and dangerous locations.
Places where “you could get your throat cut just because someone needs to make a couple of bob”, he tells us.
But this hasn’t put him off his mission to spread hope throughout the darkest of places, both at home and abroad.
“That’s the message of Jesus,” he says. “Jesus went to the edges of society, and found some of the most precious people there.
“The church is not about buildings. The church should be where the people are, and wherever the people are, that’s the church.
“It’s good for the church to connect with music, to see where the young people in our society are and how they enjoy themselves.
“Why can’t the church be there to learn, to listen and to share?”
At T in the Park this weekend, Rev Bogle will be working with the Street Pastors, a group which has a presence in most city centres.
“You might say they act as volunteer carers. Some young people out at night end up getting separated from their mates, or they lose all their money and are stranded.
“It’s about being there just in case anyone needs help and them having someone around who they know they can trust.
“It’s most certainly not about do-gooders telling people off. And anyway, often when people do behave badly, they already feel bad about themselves. The last thing they need is someone pointing the finger.
“I’ve been to other festivals recently, so I have an idea of what to expect.
“I played at the Solas Festival in Biggar, which was started up three or four years ago. It’s in a similar vein to The Green Belt Festival, which launched in 1974 and was one of the first Christian music festivals. I actually played it back in the 70s.
“My band at the moment is called, quite simply, The Bogle Band. I co-write songs with a guy called Iain Jamieson. We’ve been working together since about 1987 and have recorded five albums.”
Soon our time is up, as the Moderator has to get to another outdoor event, albeit one almost as far removed from T in the Park as it’s possible to get – the Queen’s garden party.
“There’s certainly an interesting contrast,” he admits.
“It’s such a varied job being Moderator. You can be a rock star one week, and speaking in front of Her Majesty the next.”