Kirk farming minister post hailed by MSPs

Moderator the Right Rev Dr Angus Morrison is interviewed about the pioneering ministry post at Ayr Livestock Mart by the BBC.

The Church of Scotland has been commended at Holyrood for launching a new pioneering ministry post to support stressed out farmers in Ayrshire.

Seventeen Conservative, SNP and Labour MSPs have backed a motion in the Scottish Parliament hailing the role which has the support of NFU Scotland and rural charity RSABI.

The two organisations say the perilous state of the ailing sector is taking a "serious" toll on the health and wellbeing of many people in the farming community who too often "suffer in silence".

The motion was lodged by the MSP for Ayr John Scott who described the farming ministry role as a "bold and timely initiative".

Pertinent and imaginative

It reads: " That the Parliament welcomes the first dedicated farming minister post created by the Church of Scotland in Ayr to support people in the agricultural industry; considers that the farming sector is undergoing serious challenges at this time, specifically regarding low produce prices and issues with common agricultural policy (CAP) payments, and that this has led to high levels of stress and mental health issues among farmers; considers that this new position will provide the church with a better understanding of modern-day farming concerns as it seeks to build relationships with people working in the industry, provide spiritual and family support and encourage consumers to buy locally, and congratulates the Church of Scotland Ayr Presbytery on responding to a local need in what it considers such a pertinent and imaginative way."

Mr Scott, a farmer by trade, said: "The appointment of a dedicated farming minister is a bold and timely initiative on the part of the Church of Scotland.

"That there is a need for a listening ear and helping hand in our rural community particularly in Ayrshire at this time is beyond doubt.

"Farming and working on farms can be a lonely and stressful occupation, at the best of times, but currently the difficulties faced by some colleagues and friends in the rural community are becoming overwhelming.

"So I congratulate the Church of Scotland on taking their ministry to where it is urgently needed."

Faith and action

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland the Right Rev Dr Angus Morrison announced the new role during a visit to Ayr Mart earlier this month.

The successful candidate, who is expected to have a keen understanding of rural affairs, will visit farms to provide spiritual and family support, counselling and champion the industry, workers' rights and encourage people to buy local produce.

They will also interact with young farmer groups, NFU representatives, visit the weekly livestock mart, annual agriculture shows and draw together groups of people linked to the industry like vets, mart staff and estate workers.

The Pioneer Minister will be based at Craig Wilson Livestock Mart in Ayr which has kindly agreed to provide office space.

The five-year pilot post could be rolled out across other parts of rural Scotland in the future if it proves successful in reconnecting rural Ayrshire with Christianity.

The Rev John Paterson, minister at Lugar, linked with Old Cumnock Church and a former Mission Convener at Ayr Presbytery, has been at the forefront of promoting the role alongside elder Isabell Montgomerie, a former Presbytery moderator.

"Not only is it a 'bold and timely' initiative as stated by Mr Scott, but it is yet another positive indication that the Church is listening and responding to the needs of those in all walks of life," said Mr Paterson.

"It is attempting to reach out to and react in accordance with need contextually, providing a listening ear with practical and spiritual support in every day life."