'Mon the Jags' - Moderator to attend Partick Thistle game
Published on 26 August 2022 3 minutes read
It is often said that football inspires the same level of passion and devotion in people as religion.
The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will be putting this theory to the test tomorrow when he will be yelling "Mon the Jags" at the top of his lungs along with thousands of other fans.
A lifelong Partick Thistle fan, Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields is a guest in the boardroom for their home game against Raith Rovers at Firhill Stadium in the Maryhill area of Glasgow.
"We lived in Drumchapel and almost every boy supported a football team and that almost universally meant Rangers or Celtic but I was introduced to the Jags by my father," said the Moderator.
"I have a life-time association supporting the Jags.
"For me, going to Firhill on a Saturday as a season ticket holder, getting a pie and Bovril and settling down to 90 minutes of either elation or dejection is a thoroughly enjoyable part of my life.
"Come what may, win, lose or draw, it is good to be at Firhill for Thrills as the old advert used to say."
Dr Greenshields said he has witnessed some memorable moments and watched some magical players over the last 65 years.
"George Niven who was our goalie in the 1960s stands out because that was my position in our school teams and as a wee boy I would watch him and try to imitate his excellent skills," he added.
"Then there was Denis McQuade – he was so fast and skilled and scored some fantastic goals and yet could so easily fall over his feet."
Dr Greenshields has temporarily stepped down as the minister of St Margaret's Community Church in Dunfermline, Fife to serve as Moderator – the ambassador of the Church at home and abroad - for 12 months.
A resident in the town since 2007, he is a Dunfermline Athletic season ticket holder and his youngest daughter, Susi, 11, plays for the club's girl's team.
Dr Greenshields is very supportive of chaplains playing an important role in football clubs across Scotland.
There are currently 130 chaplains serving at different levels of clubs and 22 of them belong to the Church of Scotland.
Rev Mark Fleming, national director of Sports Chaplaincy Scotland, explained: "Chaplains offer pastoral support – concern for mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing - to everybody involved in a football club, not just players.
"Our role is not performance related and we are there to support people as individuals rather than enhance the success of the club.
"It is about souls not goals because our role is more to do with what happens off the park rather than on it.
"We look past the player to support the person because it is very easy in football for supporters to dehumanise players, managers and directors and just see them as commodities."
Chaplains generally attend training sessions once a week, home games and away games if they can.
Mr Fleming has served as the chaplain to the Scottish Football Association since 2014 and prior to that he was the chaplain at Partick Thistle.
He said chaplains are highly valued by football clubs who regard them as being just as important as physiotherapists and doctors.
Mr Fleming, author of a book called Confessions of a Football Chaplain, said demand for their services is high but there is a shortage and encouraged anyone interested in the role to get in touch with Sports Chaplaincy Scotland.
Rev Louise Purden, minister of Bonnyrigg Parish Church in Midlothian, is the chaplain for Bonnyrigg Rose Community Club.
Her 10-year-old daughter Christina plays for the girls' team and her 11-year-old son, Ryan, plays for Hibernian FC in Edinburgh.
Mrs Purden said: "My role as chaplain is a little different as I'm chaplain for the community club and there is also a chaplain for the football team.
"Bonnyrigg Rose is treasured by the whole community and the work they do with hundreds of children and young people each week is amazing and we want to show that the Church really values them.
"There is a wonderful connection between football and faith because many clubs have religious roots.
"We are clear that sport on a Sunday doesn't need to be a threat to the Church but rather something we can support."