The Church of Scotland has appointed its first dedicated farming minister.
The Reverend Chris Blackshaw has taken on the role in Ayrshire as part of a five-year pilot being carried out by the Church – a position that will be rolled out across other parts of Scotland if it is found to be successful. A farmer’s son, Rev Blackshaw will visit farms across Ayrshire to provide spiritual and family support and counselling.
As part of his role, he will also draw together groups of people linked to the industry like vets, government agencies, livestock mart staff, and those working in the farming and rural industries.
Rev Blackshaw said he would act as a “shoulder to lean upon in hard times” in his new role. “I go to the local market and call at farms to let people know I am there to provide support and share in celebrations and happy times as well,” said Rev Blackshaw.
“My job is about letting people know there is someone there who cares and wants to help them, especially when they think there isn’t anyone and showing them that church is very relevant in their day-to-day lives.” Rev Kenneth Elliott from the Presbytery of Ayr said Rev Blackshaw’s appointment had come at a time when it was greatly needed. He said: “We are aware that the farming community has been under a great deal of stress in recent times, highlighted by the poor harvest. Chris has come in at a good time.”
Rev Blackshaw’s appointment has been welcomed by NFU Scotland and rural charity RSABI. The charity says the recent fortunes of the sector are taking a serious toll on the health and wellbeing of farmers and crofters who often “suffer in silence”.