A Glaswegian reverend in Newcastle has been appointed the Church of Scotland’s first ever dedicated minister for the veterinary community.
Rev Allan Wright is a working vet himself and has run a practice with his wife, Sharon, in Birtley, County Durham for the past 18 months.
The 33-year-old was ordained at the Parish Church of St Andrew in Newcastle on Saturday and inducted as the Presbytery of England’s Pioneer Minister to the Veterinary Community.
On top of his plan to visit all vet practices within 30 minutes of Newcastle, Rev Wright will also carry out pastoral support duties with the Kirk north of the border – all while keeping his own job as a vet.
He said: “I am excited and daunted about taking up this new role, a calling which enables me to combine both my passions.
“The profession needs a supportive ear, pastoral support, a wholistic approach to the welfare of staff and a real anchor in someone.
“I understand the struggles and the pressure because I am a vet and I will be there for all those who work in practices without judgement and agenda.
“Veterinary medicine is a stressful, time consuming and mentally-draining occupation and is often an overlooked industry in society.
“There is so much in the Bible about caring for creation which is what we do on a daily basis – vets follow God’s command to look after nature.”
Rev Wright grew up in Jordanhill Parish Church and studied at the University of Glasgow, and has now been a vet for 10 years as well as a father of two children.
He added: “It is a disjointed network of people and every practice works independently with very little collaboration, communication and support between businesses.
“Due to the increased expectation to work on Sundays those vets who previously attended church find it difficult to become part of a new worshipping community.
“This results in the veterinary community becoming a very isolated, disparate, group of people.
“Mental health is a major issue, made worse by Covid-19, and veterinary surgeons are four times more likely to commit suicide compared to the general population.
“It can be an emotional rollercoaster because they make life or death decisions against a backdrop of increased expectations from clients and increased risk of litigation.
“Many feel isolated and undervalued because they are often underpaid in comparison to their medical counterparts.”
Rev Alistair Cumming, the Kirk’s clerk to the Presbytery of England, said members appreciated vets faces different pressures to other occupations, hence why Rev Wright’s role was created.
He said: “The presbytery felt that there was a need for a ministry to get alongside that community, to offer an ear to listen and to provide spiritual support if they wanted it.
“The appointment of the pioneer ministry is very much an ecumenical one, working with vets from many different denominations.
“We hope that through this ministry we will reach out to the community in the north-east of England and develop the mission of the Church of Scotland.”