Minister makes a splash with pop singer for Songs of Praise

A Perth minister is appearing on the world’s longest running religious TV show paddling along the River Tay with a former pop star.

Rev Scott Burton of St Matthew’s Church discusses how kayaking affects his ministry with Songs of Praise presenter, Jonathan Benjamin "JB" Gill, who was a member of the boy band JLS.

Rev Scott Burton
L-R - Rev Scott Burton paddling on the River Tay with former JLS singer, JB.

The minister, whose passion for the sport led to him writing a book called Holy Whitewater, described the experience, which will be aired on BBC One on May 27, as joyful and uplifting.

Mr Burton said: “The producers of Songs of Praise contacted me as they wanted to compile reports on personalities in Perth.

“They heard about my exploits and the fact that I’d had a book published on the spirituality of kayaking.

“It has chapters on subjects like ‘our journey on the river of life’, ‘capsizing and righting ourselves’, ‘dealing with the rapids’, ‘taking risks’, ‘handling fear’, ‘rescue’ and ‘living water’.”

Scott Burton and JB
Holy Whitewater meets Songs of Praise

Mr Burton is a regular paddler on the Tay, which is opposite his church, and has tackled rivers including the Tummel, Etive, Spey and even a section of the Colorado in the USA whilst doing pulpit exchanges in Denver in 2012.

“JB from JLS is a new presenter on Songs of Praise and has a keen interest in the outdoors but hadn’t really kayaked since his teenage years as a Scout,” he said.

“He did exceptionally well coming out onto the River Tay to interview me and ask how my hobby affects my ministry and vice versa.

“It was a joy to meet JB who is a committed Christian and family man.

“My daughters were very jealous as they were big fans of the band JLS in their younger years.”

St Matthews Church
Rev Scott Burton

Mr Burton said the pair discussed the sudden loss of his best friend and kayaking partner, Dave Mackay, who had a fatal aneurism in St Matthew’s Church manse in 2014.

“I describe this as one of the treacherous rapids sections and how within such awful events, Christ the living water, can still nourish our souls amidst the trauma,” added the minister.

Mr Burton, who took up kayaking in 2007, has been immortalised in Rob Hain's colourful and quirky "birds eye view" painting of Perth.

He is depicted standing outside his church on Tay Street with a kayak and paddle.

St Matthew’s Church recently underwent a £875,000 refurbishment and Mr Burton donated £8,500 from the sale of his book to the project.