Campus Minister for Edinburgh University
Published on 19 January, 2017
A man has returned to his old university to become its first ever Church of Scotland Campus Minister.
Rev Dr Liam Fraser was ordained and inducted into the "exciting, groundbreaking" new role at the University of Edinburgh during a service at St Giles Cathedral in the capital.
The 30-year-old said he was really looking forward to challenging widespread skepticism and indifference toward the Christian faith among the 50,000 people strong university community.
Dr Fraser plans to engage with students in pubs, cafes, libraries, the chaplaincy centre and in the corridors of the hallowed institution.
The married father of two joked that he might bear a passing resemblance to actor David Tennant's Dr Who in his trademark tweed jacket, albeit with a dog collar.
Dr Fraser said his job involved supporting young Christians who, far from home, have come to doubt their faith and become estranged from the Church of Scotland.
The minister, who was temporarily paralyzed and suffered a brain haemorrage after contacting a condition called Aplastic Anemia - an illness similar to leukemia- at the age of three, said he hoped to equip people for service in God's Kingdom.
Dr Fraser, who was born and raised in Edinburgh, said the Campus Ministry will be producing apologetic resources to show the rationality of the Christian faith, offering courses on prayer, discernment and providing opportunities for worship and service to the local community.
He added that he would also be encouraging reflection on what role universities and the Church can play in creating a better world.
Dr Fraser, husband to Samantha and father to Theo, 2, and Sebastian, 6-months, started training for the ministry in 2011 and recently completed his probation at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh.
"I applied for the Campus Ministry job because I felt, for many years, that God was calling me to preach the Gospel not to a church congregation, but to those who have never heard his Word, nor have any interest in it," he said.
"I felt that I was being called to the coal-face of mission, coming face to face with the widespread indifference and skepticism toward the Christian faith that is so evident in 21st century Scotland, and trying to show that there was more love, goodness, and freedom in Christianity than many people realize."
Dr Fraser - who is based at the Greyfriars' Charteris Centre in the midst of many student flats - said that while the parish will always be the foundation of the Church, society was no longer constrained by geographical boundaries, but by confines of thought, feeling, and culture.
He added that the aims of the Campus Ministry post, which has been funded by the Kirk's Presbytery of Edinburgh for an initial three years, were simple but very significant.
Dr Fraser, whose ordination service was on Tuesday night, said: "I feel called to reach those people who yearn, and long, and strive for something more, but are not sure what that something more is, who ask themselves from time to time: "is this it?
"I hope to enlarge the imaginations of students and staff, and make the Christian faith a credible and attractive possibility once again.
"I know the university well having spent 11 years there and I taught a course on Atheism at New College for a semester."
Dr Fraser, who grew up in Mayfield Salisbury Church in Edinburgh, said he would be promoting to university staff and students the message that they have a beauty that is more than skin deep.
"I will be making the point that you have a worth that is more than your career or your bank balance; that your life has greater meaning than the unremarkable truths that you've been taught since birth," he added.
Dr Fraser has degrees in Law, Divinity, a Masters of Theology, and a Doctorate from the University of Edinburgh, and worked as a Verger (caretaker and cleaner) at the Robin Chapel in Craigmillar, Edinburgh and as a shelf stacker at Sainsbury's and the organic food chain, Earthy, while he was studying.
Rev Dr George Whyte, clerk to the Presbytery of Edinburgh, said:
"Presbytery felt that it was time for the Kirk to make a distinctive contribution to the spiritual life of the 50,000 strong student and staff community of the University of Edinburgh.
"We knew that this enormous challenge could not be left to one congregation so we have made a major commitment to employing a full-time Campus Minister."
Dr Whyte said Dr Fraser will work closely with the university's chaplaincy team but has an emphasis on drawing on the strengths of the Church of Scotland to build a worshipping, witnessing Christian community.
"He will also be part of a wider Church of Scotland team as the Campus Ministry is sponsored by six Edinburgh congregations."added the presbytery clerk.
"The Campus Minister will be breaking new ground and we look forward to exciting times ahead."
Dr Fraser is a member of the Church of Scotland's Ecumenical Relations Committee, its Theological Forum, and the Mission and Discipleship Council's 'Why Believe? Apologetics Group.
Last November Rev Dr Janet Foggie was appointed Pioneer Minister at the University of Stirling to support students and staff.