Moderator praises "dedicated" CrossReach staff during visit to Shetland

The Moderator of the General Assembly has paid tribute to "dedicated" staff who work in a care home named after the man who received the fateful mayday call from RMS Titanic.

Lord Wallace spent yesterday afternoon at "The Walter and Joan Gray" in Scalloway on Shetland and expressed his appreciation to those who have faced unprecedented challenges over the last 17 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the staff embodied "Christian faith in action".

Jim Wallace care home
The Moderator chats with resident Mildred Thomson.

The care home, which offers accommodation to 16 residents and additional day care for older people, is run by CrossReach, the operating name of the Church's social care council.

It is one of the largest and most diverse voluntary sector social care organisations in Scotland.

Significant effort from tireless and selfless staff and volunteers across the country has been necessary to maintain the wide range of cradle to the grave CrossReach services operated during the pandemic.


Lord Wallace, who represented Orkney and Shetland in the House of Commons between 1983-2001, said: "I have a long-standing affinity with Shetland and one of the highlights of my official visit there as Moderator was visiting The Walter and Joan Gray care home.

"It provided a real opportunity to see the practical side of our Christian faith in action.

"As the Church of Scotland's social care arm, I've long been impressed by the scope of the work of CrossReach, and it was refreshing to be able to visit one of their facilities finally in person."

Lord Wallace
The Moderator chats to resident, Marina Gray, while deputy manager, Sue Anderson, and manager, Jennie Gunn, look on.

Mr Gray was born in Scalloway and was working as a radio operator for Marconi on the east coast of Canada when he received a mayday call from RMS Titanic, the passenger liner which sank in the north Atlantic Ocean after hitting an iceberg in 1912.

He returned to the village on 1962 after he retired and the property that he bought was turned into a care home after he and his wife, Joan, died.

Jennie Gunn, manager of The Walter and Joan Gray care home, said: "It was a lovely afternoon and our residents enjoyed the Moderator's visit.

"Everyone was in good form and he joined them for afternoon tea and asked how we had all coped during the pandemic and discussed some of the challenges.

"The Moderator praised staff for their work to keep all the residents safe and asked them if they were enjoying spending time with their families and getting out in to community again.

"We assured him that it had been a team effort and I told him that I am very proud of the staff who worked long hours during the pandemic to ensure that the needs of our residents were met."

Lord Wallace Shetland
The Moderator with care home manager, Jennie Gunn

During his whistle-stop visit to Shetland, Lord Wallace met local church members to hear more about how they are spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.

"My welcome couldn't have been warmer, and it was a real joy to meet up again with old acquaintances as well as meeting new ones," he said.

"It was also inspiring to hear how people locally are adapting the Church to better fit the needs of the 21st century, as well as being able to congratulate the ministry team in person for their hard work, just over a year since they officially became part of the Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland.

Fresh opportunities

Lord Wallace addressed an elders' and local church leaders' gathering in Brae on the mainland, chosen for its central location for those travelling from the local islands.

He also spent time with church members and ministers including Rev Dr Fran Henderson, who is the transition minister for Shetland, Rev Irene Charlton and Rev Lynn Brady.

Speaking after the meeting Lord Wallace said, "I appreciated both the opportunity to speak to the gathering as a whole, as well as talk and listen to individuals.

"No one minimised the scale of the challenge and sometimes difficult decisions involved in reaching where we are today but I was encouraged by the universal resolve to make the new arrangements work and to see this as a fresh opportunity for mission.

"One other welcome feature of the evening was hearing how pleased people were simply to be able to come together again and socially enjoy each other's company."

As of May 2020, Shetland officially became part of the new Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland, reflecting a move across the Church of Scotland towards reducing the overall number of presbyteries from 43 to around 12.