A minister who helped establish the Church of Scotland’s biggest annual open-air festival has been named as the next Moderator of the General Assembly.
The Rev Dr Derek Browning will take over the 12-month role in May 2017, succeeding the Right Rev Dr Russell Barr as the Church of Scotland’s ambassador at home and abroad.
Dr Browning, who has served Morningside Parish Church in Edinburgh since 2001, played a key role in establishing the Heart and Soul festival which draws 5,000 people to Edinburgh’s Princes St Gardens each May.
The 54-year-old said he is honoured to be named the next Moderator.
He said: “Being nominated as Moderator is the greatest honour the Church of Scotland can bestow. It is a huge privilege.”
Dr Browning read history at Corpus Christi College in Oxford, and opted to train for the ministry ahead of pursuing other graduate career options working for the BBC in London and the oil giant Shell.
He is a graduate of St Mary’s College in St Andrews and was ordained at Cupar Old Parish Church in Fife in 1987.
In 1997 he graduated with the degree of Doctor of Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary in the United States.
Dr Browning says the Church is facing challenging times but is evolving.
He said: “Structures and organisations around us continue to change, but the big questions about who we are, why we are here, and what must we do and be are the ones people continue to ask.
“These are challenging times for people of faith and for the Church.
“An American colleague said recently ‘The Church isn’t dying, it’s re-forming’.
“Re-forming is a costly and unsettling process but a fit-for-purpose 21st-century Church must have the resilience and the flexibility to be unashamed of its faith in Jesus Christ, and practical in its living out of that faith.”
Dr Browning, who enjoys cooking, the performing arts and cinema in his spare time, has served in the Church in several capacities in St Andrews and Edinburgh Presbyteries and also at a national level.
He is currently the convener of the General Assembly’s Business Committee, which also has responsibility for the Heart and Soul event, first held in 2011.
Dr Browning, a former pupil of North Berwick High School, hopes to use his time as Moderator to highlight ongoing work carried out by churches that support people on the margins of society.
He said: “People find themselves excluded for all sorts of reasons and the Church must play a role in bridging the gaps between individuals, communities and nations.”