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The Rev Dr David Coulter, president of the Church of Scotland Military Chaplains Association
The Rev Dr David Coulter, president of the Church of Scotland Military Chaplains Association

75 Years of the Church of Scotland Military Chaplains Association

Monday May 23

The Rev Stephen Blakey celebrates an association maintaining the bonds of comradeship among military chaplains


The bonds of shared experience and comradeship generated by military service have, over the years, led to the creation of a wide variety of veterans’ clubs and organisations.

These provide much more than just the opportunity to meet up with mates. The support and friendship and sharing of memories has been shown to bring much benefit and is strongly encouraged across our nation.  We have learnt that it is important to care for our veterans, as well as our currently serving, military community.

The Committee on Chaplains to HM Forces displayed an awareness of this, way back in October 1946, when it invited all ex-chaplains to a conference to discuss the proposal to form an association of retired chaplains ‘so that contact may be maintained between ministers who have been on service and are now in parishes throughout Scotland.’ A committee was formed and in February 1947 the constitution of The Church of Scotland Chaplains’ Association was adopted.

The Association held its 75th AGM in The Royal Scots Club on Shrove Tuesday 2022. Throughout these 75 years the aims of the Association have remained constant:  Primarily to continue the spirit of comradeship. The name was changed this year to acknowledge that there are many other ministries entitled to use the term ‘Chaplain’ and that it would be better to identify ourselves as ‘Military Chaplains.’

Membership has always been open to all ministers of the Kirk who, in the words of the  1947 Constitution, ‘served, or are serving, on the strength of any ship, unit or formation of His Majesty’s Armed Forces.’  

Membership numbers peaked in the early 1950’s with about 250 members. Branch meetings were held in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness. Activities and numbers have varied with time and the current membership sits at almost 100. 

Over the years several ministers of other denominations have been granted associate membership. At the 75th AGM it was agreed firstly, to invite all veteran chaplains from other denominations who settle in Scotland to join, and secondly to recognise the importance of the veteran element of the military community by inviting Church of Scotland clergy serving as volunteer chaplains with Veterans Chaplaincy Scotland to become members.

From the outset the Annual Service of Remembrance has been the most important part of the Association’s life.  Until Covid 19 disrupted the routine, this service was held annually during the General Assembly, though not always in the same church. The first service was held in St Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh. Since 1958 the service has been held in St Giles.

It may be only members of the Association who refer to the day of this service as ‘Chaplains’ Day’.  This is the day that the Chaplains’ Committee present their report to the General Assembly, and includes coffee in the Signet Library, and the Remembrance Service in St Giles followed by luncheon.  In the ‘good old days’ when I was a very new chaplain it also included a wonderful afternoon tea at the Roxburghe!

It seems that the arrangement of holding the AGM in The Royal Scots Club on Shrove Tuesday has become ‘set in stone’ but perhaps even that will change in due course.  What will not change is the value of the comradeship and shared experiences, and the support given to each other. 

The current officer bearers are:
President:  Rev Dr David Coulter CB OStJ, Clerk to the Presbytery of Fife
Honorary Secretary: Rev Stephen A Blakey OStJ, Minister of The Isla Parishes
Honorary Treasurer: Rev Jonny Wylie, Chaplain Strathallan School

If anyone is interested in joining, contact the Rev Stephen Blakey on SBlakey@churchofscotland.org.uk 


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