Chaplains provide spiritual comfort and support to people in challenging and demanding situations.

Church of Scotland ministers can serve as chaplains in non-parish settings such as prisons, hospitals, universities, armed forces, schools, and work places.

The work of a chaplain demands commitment, ability and hard work. It is an important role for bringing God's love and compassion into different communities and maintaining the Church's presence in key areas of Scottish life.


Chaplains in hospitals and healthcare settings provide spiritual care and support to patients, relatives, and staff. Chaplains act as a resource in ethical, religious, pastoral, and ecclesiastical matters. The Church has a good relationship with the NHS, which is working to promote healthcare chaplaincy.


University chaplains care for students, teachers, administrators, and ancillary staff. Chaplains need to be recognisable among the university population and be involved in a wide variety of situations, whether religious or not.

Many of the people with whom they are in touch have little or no contact with the institutional Church. Chaplains need to be infinitely resourceful and extremely sensitive and are often needed by students in times of crisis, such as illness, or if they are in financial or emotional difficulty.


The Scottish Prison Service, in co-operation with the churches in Scotland, appoints ministers, priests, and others to be chaplains in prisons, providing pastoral care for the whole of the prison population, and enabling them to practise their religion. Many chaplains come from parishes close to the prison and are regarded as a strong link between the communities outside and the community inside.

Work places

Chaplain for Edinburgh city centre Rev Tony Bryer at work in Harvey Nichols
Chaplain for Edinburgh city centre Rev Tony Bryer at work in Harvey Nichols.

The Church supports Work Place Chaplaincy Scotland, which deploys a growing team of organisers and chaplains providing spiritual support in work places across Scotland.

Work Place Chaplaincy Scotland aims to offer relevant pastoral and spiritual support to people where they are – in the setting of their daily work and individual lives. Chaplains are available to people of all denominations or none, from the managing director to the new-start apprentice.

In every situation where a chaplain is invited to serve, they enjoy a degree of independence from the management structure. This allows chaplains to exercise a conciliatory or intercessory role, when appropriate, which can be valuable both to individuals and to the organisation concerned.

This independence also allows the chaplain to help resolve problems and disputes in a swift, efficient, and confidential manner that is acceptable to all involved. This has often been seen to provide an "oiling of the cogs," promoting the smooth running of organisations involved.

The chaplain's main purpose, therefore, is to serve, quite simply, because people matter, irrespective of their status, position or beliefs.

Armed Forces Chaplaincy

Royal Navy Chaplains

The chaplain is a vital member of every Naval unit. They support the spiritual, moral, and social well-being of men and women, mostly in the 18-to-40 age group, who are often far from home.

Although chaplains are not officers, they are part of the Royal Navy command structure, and this gives them the freedom to talk to everyone on an equal, informal, and confidential basis. Chaplains are in the remarkable position of being friend and adviser to all no matter what rank, and a voice for those of any faith or none.

Chaplains preach the word, administer the sacraments, visit the sick, baptise, confirm, marry, bury, and counsel the bereaved, anxious, and lost. On a shore base, chaplains have direct contact with families and dependents. As chaplains do not have a military rank, they have the chance to become involved at the highest level on behalf of those they serve and make a real, practical difference to their lives.

Please contact the Royal Navy Chaplaincy Service for more information.

Army Chaplains

Royal Army Chaplains provide spiritual support, pastoral care, and moral guidance to soldiers and their families irrespective of religion or belief.

Chaplains minister to soldiers and their families in three key areas:

  • Spiritual support, both publicly and privately, at every level of the Army
  • Pastoral care at home and abroad
  • Moral guidance through formal teaching, counsel, and personal example.

Chaplains wear the uniforms of the British Army and accompany their soldiers wherever they go. They exercise leadership and management but do not command. They are non-combatants and do not bear arms.

For regular chaplains, assignments to units generally last between two and three years. Over time this enables chaplains to experience ministry in a wide variety of settings.

Chaplains are Professionally Qualified Officers who have been ordained in one of the recognised Sending Churches and have been selected to hold a commission in the Army. Chaplains initially receive a three-year commission. With satisfactory service this can be extended in stages to age 57 (Regular), 60 (Reservist) or 65 (Army Cadet Force).

Please contact the Army Chaplains for more information.

Royal Air Force Chaplains

Royal Air Force chaplains play an integral part in the community support system that exists within the RAF . Chaplains help with individual welfare problems, while facing the challenge of encouraging people to think about faith and its impact on everyday life.

Chaplains are with people both in joy and sorrow to help them think through the issues that confront them, whether they are abroad, on operations, or at home.

The Chaplaincy Board is responsible for the career management of Royal Air Force chaplains. It also helps the ministry of the Royal Air Force Chaplains' Branch as it continually strives to reach the aims of its mission:

"To represent the Kingdom of God and to promote its values, to meet the pastoral, spiritual and moral needs of the whole RAF community and to enable that community to practice its various faiths."

Please contact the RAF Chaplains' Branch for more information.

My ministry: Clair Herbert DCS, chaplain at the Lodging House Mission in Glasgow.

Claire Herbert has been the chaplain at the Lodging House Mission in Glasgow since July, 2019.

She is a member of the Diaconate, which enables her to live out her calling in the ministry of service to provide care and support to homeless, vulnerable and socially excluded people.

Claire, 45, has a degree in Divinity from the University of Glasgow and lives in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire with her husband, Craig, and their four children, Ewan, 19, Amy, 18, Adam, 14, and Lauren, 12.