Highland minister awarded honorary doctorate

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A minister who completed a year as Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly and who has married high profile couples has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of the Highlands and Islands.

The Very Reverend Susan Brown was presented with the title at the Highland Theological College UHI graduation ceremony in Dingwall on Tuesday July 2, alongside 40 graduating students. The award recognises her contribution to the church and to the communities of the Highlands and Islands.

Very Reverend Brown has been a minister in the Highlands for more than 30 years. Originally from Penicuik near Edinburgh, she moved to the Highlands in 1985 to serve at Killearnan Church on the Black Isle. After 13 years, she moved to Dornoch, where she became the first woman to take charge of a cathedral in the UK.

In her role at Dornoch Cathedral, Very Reverend Brown conducted marriage ceremonies for Madonna and Guy Ritchie as well as for technology entrepreneur Elon Musk and actress Tallulah Riley.

She was appointed as a chaplain to the Queen in 2011 and completed a term as the Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly in May 2019. The post allowed her to meet people from across Scotland and to travel to Argentina, Uruguay, India and Pakistan to discuss issues including mental health, domestic abuse and interfaith relations.

Very Reverend Brown was presented with her honorary doctorate by the university’s chief operating officer and secretary, Fiona Larg.

Ms Larg explained: ‘I am delighted that the university has conferred an honorary doctorate to the Very Reverend Susan Brown. Her career has included many firsts and she is characterised by her sense of humour, approachability and her down to earth, practical ways of helping and inspiring all she meets.’

Very Reverend Brown said: ‘I am deeply touched to be considered for such an honour and humbled to receive it. For me, the University of the Highlands and Islands does what the Highlands does best, in offering creative, imaginative, welcoming ways for people to grow and flourish.’

The Reverend Hector Morrison, principal of Highland Theological College UHI, added: ‘It’s appropriate that Susan’s local university should recognise and honour her distinguished achievements as well as her decades of service to her Highland parishioners in this way and we are delighted that our graduation provides the context of a “community of faith and scholarship” in which the university can do that.

‘It is particularly appropriate on a day in which we see so many of our graduates moving into ministry in a variety of denominations, not least in the Church of Scotland.’

Highland Theological College UHI, established 25 years ago, trains students for Christian work, including pastoral ministry, across a variety of denominations. Within the Church of Scotland, the college has become the foremost academic training provider, being responsible for training more Church of Scotland ministers than other Scottish universities.