University appoints first LGBTQ+ chaplain

Published: 20 January 2020

The Reverend Linda Haggerstone will support staff and students in the University's LGBTQ+ community

The University has appointed the Reverend Linda Haggerstone as its first LGBTQ+ Chaplain.

She believes she is the first person to hold such a post in a Scottish university and possibly the first in the UK.Linda Haggerstone 650

Her appointment was instigated by the University Chaplain, the Reverend Stuart MacQuarrie.

“This was the result of working with the LGBTQ+ Students’ Society and individual students who identified as LGBTQ+ to me in pastoral situations. There was a recognition that some LGBTQ+ people may have themselves experienced difficulties or known people who had done so in relation to their identity and faith or belief,” he said.

The proposal was discussed by various groups and approved by senior management through its Equality and Diversity Committee.

Linda is no stranger to the University, having worked as an administrative professional in both the College of Medicine, Veterinary and Life Sciences and the College of Science and Engineering. Her current “day” job is working for the Scottish Government in the data monitoring field.

She was ordained by Manchester-based Refreshing Ministry (part of the Progressive Christian Alliance UK), whose leader is the Rev David Gray.

Linda set out on the Interfaith Studies Programme at the University of Glasgow where she was tutored by Dr Rose Drew and Sister Isobel Smyth, gaining a Postgraduate Diploma in Interfaith Studies. Through Dr Drew she became involved in Interfaith Glasgow – a Scottish charity specialising in promoting and facilitating engagement between different faith and belief communities in Glasgow.

She was already a member of the LGBTQ+ community and knew a number people of different faiths – Muslim, Quaker, Hindu, Unitarian, Pagan, to name but a few. So when the Reverend Jane Clarke, a leader in the Metropolitan Community Church in London, came to Glasgow to found a branch of the MCC here, Linda was one of the first to support a church which has become known for its inclusiveness towards people who are LGBTQ+. The MCC was founded in the USA where it has drawn much of its membership from the LGBTQ+ community who felt rejected by more traditional churches.

Linda describes herself as “Christo-Pagan” – “Jesus is pretty cool and alright in my book,” she says. She is also a Druid.

She believes that as climate change concerns and environmental awareness have grown, so have more and more people become drawn to Paganism and similar beliefs which have close roots in Nature. She argues that people are increasingly embracing the concept of dual- or multiple-belonging in terms of religious faith, and cites examples of people who are Jewish and Buddhist, or Christian and Buddhist. At a recent Pride event, she posted that “Christo-Pagans rock” and was amazed at how many young people between the ages of 18 and 25 came up to her, saying that they too were Christo-Pagan or dual-belongers and hadn’t known there were any others.

She was key in organizing LGBTQ+ interfaith events in 2017 and has been active in the Glasgow LGBTQ+ Interfaith Network since 2018 – experience which will help in her new role at the University.

Her message to the LGBTQ+ community at the University is simple: “I want LGBTQ+ students and staff to know there is someone there to listen, whether they are coming out or experiencing difficulty at work, with their studies, relationships or finding social activities. I want them to know that someone cares about them and will point them in the right direction. I am connected with a lot of different communities so we will find ways to help. I’d like to offer them hope that they will find a little more joy in their lives at least. Because I identify with the community and am not an outsider, I believe I understand the issues.”

First published: 20 January 2020