Former Midlothian schoolgirl to be next church Moderator

Rev Susan Brown. Picture: Paul Campbell
Rev Susan Brown. Picture: Paul Campbell
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THE daughter of a Midlothian miner who officiated at the wedding of Madonna and Guy Ritchie will become the next Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly.

Rev Susan Brown, minister of Dornoch Cathedral in the Highlands, will take on her new role in May, holding the title for 12 months.

The 58-year-old said she is “deeply moved and honoured” to be chosen as the Church of Scotland’s figurehead for 2018-19.

She said: “Being Moderator will not be about what I can do, but also about what God wants to do.

“I am conscious that it is both a great privilege and a great responsibility – one I can only undertake at God’s prompting.”

Ms Brown grew up in Penicuik where her father was a miner at the Bilston Glen colliery. Along with her twin sister, she attended Penicuik High School. Although her family was not particularly religious, she and her sisters were encouraged to attend Sunday school at Penicuik North Kirk.

When she was a teenager, when other young people stopped going to church, she said that she persisted and when she was just 15 years old, she felt the call to ministry. She said she still feels proud to be a parish minister.

She said: “It’s a great privilege and also a great responsibility to be a minister.

“You see people at their most vulnerable and at their most ecstatic.”

She added: “When people come to church to be married or to have their babies baptised, they are so joyful and it is a real pleasure to be part of their celebration.

“At the same time, just a few days ago, I was sitting with a young mum who had just lost her 64-year-old father to a sudden illness.

“Her aunts and uncles were sitting with her and they were talking about him, telling stories that really showed his character. To be included in those family memories at such an intimate moment is a unique privilege.”

It was at Sunday School, aged ten, that Ms Brown met her husband of 36 years, Derek Brown, who is chaplain at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, and lead chaplain for NHS Highland.

She said: “He was a swot and I was more sporty.

“We married just before I graduated.

“I thought I was marrying a banker but he changed his mind and started studying for ministry.”

The couple went on to have two children – Simon, 30, and Hannah, 27.

After leaving school, Ms Brown earned a bachelor’s degree in Divinity from New College at the University of Edinburgh, followed by a post-graduate diploma in Ministry before carrying out placements in parishes across Edinburgh.

She spent two years as a probationer at St Giles Cathedral before heading north. In 2011, she became one of the select few ministers to be appointed as a Chaplain in Ordinary to the Queen.

A lover of the outdoors, Ms Brown will bring her love of getting out and about to her new role.

She said: “My theme during the year will be walking alongside people. When you walk alongside people, you listen and you exchange stories.

“It gives us a chance to talk more deeply than when we are facer to face.”

Ms Brown said her experience of comforting families who have lost loved ones to suicide confirmed her choice.

She said: “I want to encourage people to get out more because while it can be one of the hardest things to do when you are depressed, it is also very healing.”

She will take on her new role 50 years after the first woman was ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament.

Rev Dr George Whyte, the principal clerk of the Church of Scotland, said: “I was delighted to hear of Susan’s nomination.

“She brings great personal qualities and a wide range of ministerial, community and family experience to the post.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com