A minister from a small village who was told there was ‘no point’ in continuing his studies has been confirmed in a new senior role in the Church of Scotland.

Rev Dr Shaw James Paterson will be the next Moderator of the General Assembly for a year as of May 18, 2024.

It comes after decades of hard work by Dr Paterson who went on to achieve four university degrees despite being discouraged from going to university and told his accent would hinder his prospects.

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Teachers said he shouldn’t bother going on to further study and he was expected to follow in the footsteps of his family and become a bricklayer.

The father-of-three, originally from Holytown, said: “My father recognised something in me, and I got in to study biology at Glasgow University.

“He pushed me in a gentle and encouraging way.

“That moment when they shout Moderator – it will be for my dad.”

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After completing his undergraduate degree and marrying his wife Christine at the university chapel, Dr Paterson began studying divinity which led to his desire to become a man of God.

Serving as a minister at the Strathaven Trinity Parish Church since 1991, Dr Paterson has a strong will to support people which led to him obtaining a doctorate in practical theology, with an emphasis on helping those who have experienced early miscarriage.

Other people-focused projects he has undertaken in his long career include supporting the charity Loaves and Fishes which distributes food, toiletries, and clothing to people in East Kilbride.

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Almost two decades ago he began using the church as a warm space for secondary school children to visit at lunchtime for a hot chocolate and toasties, and he also set up Strathaven Memory Group to help those with memory issues and their carers.

“If you asked me for three words to describe what’s important to me as a minister – and indeed as a Moderator – it would be people, people, people,” he said.

“People in the pews, in the parish.

“People of all ages from pupils to pensioners and every stage in between.

“I love connecting with people, hearing their stories and reminding them that I care, the Church cares, God cares.”

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Despite these achievements, Dr Paterson says he has aimed to serve the church most of all and has hopes for its future despite ‘upset’ due to the planned closure of Kirk buildings.

He said: “I have sought to be a faithful and loyal parish minister, which has been a tremendous privilege and honour.

“As a Church, we have strong foundations and it might not be my building or your building that’s kept, but our foundations are in Christ.

“We need to build together and we need to come together – we need to realise almost everyone is losing something.

“We have to try and get over any sense of animosity.

“We’re a Church together and we need to go forward together to build on the foundations of all our forebears.”