New moderator inspired by singer's mental health plight

Rev Dr Martin Fair Image copyright Church of Scotland
Image caption Rev Dr Martin Fair is the moderator designate of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland

A minister who founded a mental health support service following the death of Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison has taken one of Scotland's top jobs in the church.

The new moderator of the Church of Scotland's general assembly is Arbroath's Rev Dr Martin Fair.

Dr Fair felt "so devastated" after the musician took his own life in May 2018 that he felt he had to "do something".

He set up three social action projects for his congregation in Angus.

'Endemic problem'

The 55-year-old will make mental health issues a priority when he takes up his new position next May.

Dr Fair said: "Suicide is a horrendous endemic problem and we decided, as a church, that we had to do something.

"I have buried too many people who have taken their own lives over the years because they felt alone and helpless in the darkness which many think is their only friend.

Image caption Scott Hutchison died in May 2018

"I am a big fan of Frightened Rabbit and was absolutely devastated by Scott's death.

"When his body was found something snapped within me and I decided that I could not go on merely saying 'isn't it terrible' every time someone took their own life."

The singer's body was found at Port Edgar near South Queensferry on 10 May 2018 after he was reported missing.

Dr Fair led the creation of three services by Havilah, the social action project of his congregation at St Andrews Parish Church, which has run since 2006.

Open five days a week, Havilah offers a drop-in service, community choir and a therapeutic garden in addition to addiction support.

The new services were designed by congregation members - three mental health professionals and three people who have struggled with their own mental health.

Havilah has helped about 1,000 people since it began.

'A bit daunted'

Announcing his new position, Dr Fair called for more investment in mental health services.

"The statutory provision to support people with drug additions and mental health is desperately short in terms of what is needed to address the epidemic," he said.

"Churches and the wider voluntary sector have an obligation to step in and fill the gaps until they are able to access the appropriate services."

Dr Fair was ordained and inducted into St Andrew's Parish Church in 1992.

Image caption Rev Colin Sinclair was Dr Martin Fair's predecessor

He will take over from the current moderator the Right Rev Colin Sinclair and will be the first moderator from Arbroath to serve as the Kirk's ambassador at home and abroad during what will be the 700th anniversary year of the Declaration of Arbroath.

Dr Fair was brought up in Spiersbridge Church, now called Thornliebank Parish Church, in Glasgow, and says claims that the Kirk is in its "death throes are well wide of the mark".

"As I travel round the country even now, I see green shoots of growth and live in hope for what is going to come," he added.

Dr Fair said he is excited and a bit daunted about becoming moderator and his one regret is that his parents, Ena and Bill who were born and bred in the Church, did not live long enough to see him take up the post.

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