Army chaplain takes the spiritual reins in Back

Reverend Colin MacLeod has accepted the call to Back Free Church on Lewis, completing a family circle of preaching in the district.

Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 11:47 am
Reverend Colin MacLeod and wife, Aileen
Reverend Colin MacLeod and wife, Aileen

Rev Macleod, currently the Free Church Minister in Leith, served as an Army chaplain for 12 years before returning to church Ministry.

The 53-year-old Lewisman is the son of the late Rev Murdo Alex MacLeod, a former minister of the Stornoway Free Church congregation. His grandfather, Rev Alexander Macleod was minister at Back from 1947-1954.

Speaking to the Gazette, Rev MacLeod said he was very much looking forward coming to one of the largest congregations in the islands.

"Ministering in a big congregation will undoubtedly present a big challenge, but God is good, and I believe He will guide,” he said.

"It will take time to find my feet and get a sense of where people are at. We are still emerging from lockdown, social distancing, and the deep impact that Covid-19 has had on everyone.

"This has presented a unique and unprecedented challenge for every congregation and moving forward will no doubt require patience and courage as well as tact and tenacity. There is a large leadership team in Back – it is certainly not all about the minister!”

He added: “Leadership for me starts with getting to know people and from there we will find our way. These are challenging and uncertain times and we will rely on our unchanging God as we serve the community of Back in His name.”

When he was 17, Rev MacLeod joined the army as, he says himself, “I didn’t exactly set the heather on fire in school, so college and university held no attraction for me”.

After leaving the army 10 years later, he enrolled at Aberdeen University with a view to entering the teaching profession and then, a year after his father, the Rev Murdo Alex MacLeod, passed away, his life began to change direction.

"I began to experience a sense that was new to me at this point, and it was to serve the Lord Jesus in the ministry of the Free Church,” he said.

"I wanted to study God’s Word to be best placed to communicate His message to the people I would meet in life. I eventually applied for the ministry and was accepted which brought us to Edinburgh in 1997 to begin theological studies in the Free Church college. I have been very fortunate to serve as pastor in the congregations of Muir of Ord and Leith.”

Married to Aileen – who is from Lewis herself – they have a family of three; Lauren who has just graduated, Michael, an apprentice mechanic and Jennifer, a student.

Rev MacLeod re-joined the army back in 2005 as chaplain and, he says, it was “very different to the one I left in 1992”. He went on to serve four tours in Afghanistan.

"I can only summarise here but my time in the army has left me with a sense of having experienced an awesome privilege that has left me with a massive admiration for the men and women in our Armed Forces,” he said.

"I cannot speak highly enough about them as they continue to put themselves in harm way for the sake of others. Afghanistan was deeply moving; there were hard days as well as good days.

"Sometimes there were tears because we lost good people and walking beside the troops at these times was one of life’s great honours.”