Couple become first to be married by Kirk's 'farming' minister

A young couple who grew up on farms have become the first to be married by the Church of Scotland's only dedicated minister for the agricultural community.

Jack and Rachel Malcolm said they were delighted that Rev Chris Blackshaw, who is based in a livestock mart, agreed to conduct the ceremony.

The "pioneer minister" said he was "deeply honoured" to play a key part in the couple's big day at Norrieston Church in Thornhill near Stirling.

Rev Chris Blackshaw
Rev Chris Blackshaw and the happy couple, Mr and Mrs Malcolm. Picturesque by Mr and Mrs M

Mr Blackshaw met Mr Malcolm, 28, and his 24-year-old wife at an event held at Briarlands Farm at Blair Drummond and the three of them instantly hit it off.

The couple, who run agricultural business JRM Contracting Ltd, said they were very impressed with the work of the minister, who spends a lot of his time visiting farms.

Mrs Malcolm said: "The fact that Chris is a dedicated minister to the farming community is the main reason we asked him to marry us.

"We took an instant liking to him and we thought the help that he offers people in the industry was just so admirable and the way he portrayed God and related the two subjects was lovely.

"We think the role that he plays in the community is such an important one and one that is not recognised enough."

Kind and listening ear

Mrs Malcolm, whose in-laws Iain and Sarah Malcolm run Wester Coilechat farm outside of Callander and also farm on Cromlix Estate near Dunblane, said farming can be a "tough industry" to work in.

"Sometimes people just need a kind ear to listen to their worries which is exactly what Chris provides and that can make the world of difference to people who are struggling," she added.

The couple, who live near Dunblane, got married last Friday and now consider the minister a "good friend".

Jack and Rachel Malcolm
Jack and Rachel Malcolm

Mr Blackshaw, who regularly gives talks about his work across Scotland to inspire others, said: "I felt deeply honoured to have been asked to marry Jack and Rachel and feel we have a great friendship with them and their family.

"I felt very emotional and a great love for them both during the whole day.

"It was the perfect wedding and we all agreed it was as if we have known each other all our lives."

Spreading the Gospel

Attached to the Presbytery of Ayr, Mr Blackshaw's principle role is to visit farms across Ayrshire to provide spiritual and family support, counselling and encouraging people to buy local produce.

The 59-year-old also meets with young farmer groups, National Farmers Union Scotland representatives, visits the weekly livestock mart in Ayr and attends annual agriculture shows.

Rev Chris Blackshaw
Rev Chris Blackshaw visits farms across Ayrshire to provide spiritual and family support and counselling.

Mr Blackshaw, a farmer's son himself, draws together groups of people linked to the industry like vets, government agencies, livestock mart staff, those servicing the farming industry and estate workers.

A retired police sergeant, he has experience which enables him to provide support to people dealing with a wide range of issues such as bereavement, addictions, illness, depression, stress, suicide and isolation.

Mr Blackshaw, who owns a smallholding in Cumbria and was appointed in 2017, is one of five Kirk ministers who are pioneering innovative ways of spreading the Gospel across Scotland as part of a pilot project.

Rev Dr Janet Foggie works with students at the University of Stirling and Rev Peter Gardner with the artists, galleries, workshops and studios of Glasgow.

Rev Elisabeth Spence works with people in a new build housing estate in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian and Rev Stuart Davidson connects with people who live, work and travel though Ferguslie Park and the north end of Paisley.

Pioneer ministry

Pioneer Ministry co-ordinator, Rev Liz Crumlish, said: "In a post Christendom Scotland, there is a recognition that God is calling folk to work in vastly different ways from the roles that ministers traditionally inhabited in the past.

"The Pioneer Pilot was set up to experiment with pioneering and learn what we could in a variety of contexts that might help shape and inform pioneer ministry in our particular culture.

"The learning from the pilot will influence training, deployment and resourcing of pioneer ministers for the future and will be a resource for the church at large."