Tag Archives: Chaplaincy

Charlie Chaplain


17 years ago today, I was interviewed for the post of full-time Chaplain to the Dumfries Hospitals.

The interview was scheduled for 12 noon, so I set off from Edinburgh (in a hire car – I had flown in from Guernsey the day before) in plenty of time. No need for maps; I knew the route well – aye, that would be the A7 then? Oops! Near Selkirk, I realised that I was heading to Carlisle.

Got to Selkirk – then the lousy track, via St. Mary’s Loch and the Grey Mare’s Tail, and on to Moffat.

The clock was ticking….. and even more so when I found myself somehow on the by-pass, driving away from the Infirmary.

It got worse: after the interview, I drove up Bankend Road, missed the turn for Annan, drove in what was effectively a circle – past Caerlaverock – and back into Dumfries and St.Michael’s Street.

“Funny?” I thought, “didn’t realise Annan was as big as this….”

Back to the interview; arrived with five minutes before I was scheduled to be questioned. Hot, perspiring, crumpled.

The old boardroom at DGRI; probably nine folk round a table asking questions.

“You’ve been just a year in your present Charge; why…..”

I cut him off by making a lame joke about no longer wishing to spend by time drinking tea with old women….of both sexes!

Ha! Ha! How we laughed – not.

The replies to most of the other questions, mostly involving hypothetical situations, were “I don’t know”, “It would depend on circumstances/ situation / patient in question / whether I had a hangover…” (I’ve just made up the last of these)

Finally, after an apparently unproductive hour of inquisition, the last question: “What do you think is your main strength?”

Answer, “I don’t take myself too seriously”


I got to the car park, and phoned Helen. “Don’t bother packing up – that was grim”

And then the scenic route back – as outlined above.

Back in the Channel Islands, a phone call a couple of days later. I was out at the time. On my return, Helen said that I’d been offered the post.

“Should I take it?”

Her answer was in the affirmative, accompanied by threats that, if I didn’t……well, if you have a vivid imagination, you can perhaps guess how horrendous the consequences for my marital life would be!

On the 11th June 1999 we left on the 1 o’clock ferry from St Peter Port to Poole, and I began what was to be 13 happy and fulfilling years as the Dumfries Healthcare Chaplain on the 14th at 8.30 am.

ps I no longer get lost – thank the good Lord for those clever folk who invented the GPS sat-nav.

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Spiritual Care – Charlie Chaplain’s Tales

Spiritual care is usually given in a one to one relationship, is completely person centred and makes no assumptions about personal conviction or life orientation .

Religious care is given in the context of shared religious beliefs, values, liturgies and lifestyle of a faith community.

Spiritual care is not necessarily religious. Religious care should always be spiritual.



Some years ago – self to patient, “Hello, I’m Sandy – the Hospital Chaplain”. reply: “I’m not religious”. me: “oh no, it’s more about giving you spiritual support”. her: “Oh, I’m into spiritualism – have ye got wan o’ they weegie boards with you?” 

(was tempted to reply that I only had an Embra one! But refrained)


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April 24, 2014 · 10:44

Charlie Chaplain’s Tales again


When I was Parish Minister in Perthshire some years ago, part of my work was giving spiritual care to the patients at Murthly “Mental Hospital” ( as was its designation in these rather politically incorrect days)

I had never been this kind of Chaplain before – and some stupid folk said to me, before I started there, “watch your back!” and other such nonsense.

On day one, I turned up at this large Victorian “asylum” set in beautiful grounds – it was summertime and, if memory serves me well, a gloriously sunny Friday afternoon.

Into the darkness and coolness (or did I imagine a chill about the air) of the main building.

No training; no orientation – unbelievable in today’s NHS climate of people centred care and holistic consideration.

Just up to the reception desk to introduce myself and to be given a large set of old-fashioned keys and the instruction: “turn left and that’s your first ward; lock the door after you’ve finished and the next unit in just down from it” and so on.

Having never encountered before folk with such an illness, it was with a degree of trepidation and apprehension that I turned the handle on the door of that first ward.

What and who would be behind that door? It creaked open and do you know what I found?

………PEOPLE. people just like you and me!



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November 18, 2013 · 09:08

More from East Kilbride

Daily Record

News Scottish News East Kilbride
By Mark McGivern
Unholy row as parents at primary school infiltrated by hard-line religious sect discover new chaplain has the same beliefs

5 Oct 2013 08:07
KIRKTONHOLME PRIMARY in East Kilbride has brought in another chaplain who does not believe in evolution across species to preach to children.

Kirktonholme Primary
Tony Nicoletti/Daily Record
A SCOTS school which allowed a sect to teach children that evolution is a myth has a new chaplain – whose church shares the same beliefs.

Kirktonholme Primary in East Kilbride was forced to boot out members of the Church of Christ after chaplain Alex Gear handed out books which reject the widely accepted science on evolution.

But it has now emerged their new chaplain, Lenny Prentice, is from a church with the same beliefs.

And Prentice admitted yesterday he does not believe in evolution across species, despite that being accepted scientific teaching.

He said: “I don’t believe that man originated from monkeys or sheep came from fish.”

Two head teachers were removed from their posts at Kirktonholme after an outcry from parents.

Now they have been further enraged to discover that Prentice has been taken on.

He is an elder at the same church – Westwoodhill Evangelical – as Dr Nagy Iskander, widely described as one of Europe’s top creationists.

One parent who contacted the Record said: “It beggars belief that we boot out one bunch of religious extremists and we get in someone else whose church believes the same stuff.”

Prentice sought to play down the row last night.

He said: “There is as much evidence for evolution as there is for creation. There is no conclusive proof one way or the other. People need to get off their high horses about this issue.”

East Kilbride’s head of education, Anne Rooney, said Westwoodhill had been represented on the school chaplaincy team for two years and their representative worked with those from other churches.

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Creationist row: Headteachers removed from school

Kiktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride, where two headteachers were removed after allowing US sect members access to their classes. Picture: Andy Buchanan

Kiktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride, where two headteachers were removed after allowing US sect members access to their classes. Picture: Andy Buchanan

  • by SHÂN ROSS  Published on the 13 September 2013 11:00

                  TWO head teachers at a Scottish primary school who allowed members of a US creationist Christian religious sect into classrooms have been removed from their posts, it emerged last night.

Headteacher Alexandra MacKenzie and her deputy Elizabeth Mockus – who job-share at Kirktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride – are to be “redeployed” to backroom duties while South Lanarkshire Council carries out an investigation,

Education chiefs want to determine why the Church of Christ sect had been allowed into the school to work as classroom assistants for the last eight years.

South Lanarkshire Council last night issued a statement confirming both 
senior teachers had been removed from their posts and temporary headteachers put in their place.

Both Mrs MacKenzie and Mrs Mockus continue to work for the council in an education role, but the council did not say where they were working or what they were doing.

Jim Gilhooly, the council’s director of education, said: “A full investigation into the management practices within the school has been instigated.

“In order to assist with this, the current headteachers have been moved from the school and redeployed to other duties within education resources, with immediate effect.  A temporary senior management team has been put in place.

“The council will continue to work with the parents to ensure that Kirktonholme Primary School now moves forward with educating and caring for the community’s children.”

The Alabama-based sect’s presence at the 400-pupil school came to light when pupils took home creationist books they had been given at assembly, as reported in Saturday’s Scotsman.

The creationist books given to pupils were How Do You Know God is Real? and Exposing the Myth of Evolution, 
denouncing the theory of evolution and warning about a world without God.

The sect does not believe in evolution and denounces homosexuality as sinful.

Alex Gear, from the Church of Christ, had been invited into the school by Mrs Mackenzie to take on the role as one of the school’s chaplains. He regularly spoke to pupils about beliefs as part of their religious education lessons.

After details about the sect came to light a number of parents complained to the council, while others threatened to take their children away from the school. Parents at the school were yesterday given a letter from Mr Gilhooly outlining why the teachers had been removed.

In it he said: “I have instructed that an investigation into aspects of the management practices within the school takes place. In order to assist with this process, I have decided to redeploy Mrs MacKenzie and Mrs Mockus to other duties elsewhere within education resources.”

He added that alternative arrangements would be made for the management of the school for the duration of the investigation and that Andrea Reid, who worked as a quality information officer, would take over for the “interim period.”

The director also told parents the East Kilbride school would no longer be used to hold a youth club which was run by Mr Gear on Monday evenings

A source close to the school said: “The majority of parents think Mrs Mackenzie and Mrs Mockus do great work, but have been naive about this business.

“The parents all knew there was an American or two in the school helping out, there was a constant stream of them, but most just thought they were teaching assistants undergoing training. The current ones are a young man and woman.

“They went on trips with the kids to things like cinemas and worked for a couple of days a week or just half days.”

Last night, Linda Fabiani, MSP for East Kilbride, revealed she had been contacted by parents whose children attend other schools in the area alarmed that their children may be exposed to a similar situation.

She added: “They (parents) should always be aware of who is dealing with their children on a regular basis, and of course what materials are being used in class and given as gifts.”

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: “I very much welcome an investigation. But I hope it doesn’t just focus on one school, but take in other schools so that pupils aren’t exposed to this sort of extremism.”

Mr Gear also worked as chaplain at Greenburn Primary School, a special-needs school, also in South Lanarkshire.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Officials have been contacted by concerned parents in the school and have indicated their support for the actions being taken by the director of education.”

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