THE next Moderator of the General Assembly has been named as the Reverend Dr Derek Browning, a former North Berwick High School pupil.

Dr Browning, 54, will take over the post in May, next year, from the Right Reverend Russell Barr.

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He described the appointment as "a huge privilege".

Dr Browning, has served Morningside Parish Church, Edinburgh, for 15 years and is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, in the United States.

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He is currently convenor of the General Assembly's Business Committee and helped established the Church of Scotland's biggest annual open-air festival Heart And Soul, which attracts 5,000 people each year.

Dr Browning said: "Being nominated as Moderator is the greatest honour the Church of Scotland can bestow. It is a huge privilege.”

A keen fan of cooking, the performing arts, cinema and theatre in his spare time, Dr Browning has served in the Church in several capacities in St Andrews and Edinburgh Presbyteries and also at a national level.

He has also contributed to BBC Radio Two’s ‘Pause for Thought’ programme.

Speaking about plans for next year's Heart and Soul Festival he said: "The theme for Heart and Soul 2017 is ‘Word of Life’ and this rich and layered theme speaks to me about many things but ‘inclusion’ is one of those words of life.

“The issue of social inclusion is a key one in society and the church."

Dr Browning said he believes social inclusion is clearly a “gospel issue” and hopes to use his time as Moderator to highlight ongoing work carried out by churches that support people on the margins of society.

He said: "People find themselves excluded for all sorts of reasons and the Church must play a role in bridging the gaps between individuals, communities and nations.

"The challenge facing the Church is bound up to going to where there is vulnerability and need and offering welcome, hope and acceptance.

"I believe in a ministry of presence and chaplaincies in hospitals and the armed forces, universities and schools, work-place chaplaincies and chaplaincies to groups on the fringes of society, take the work of the Church outwards to where people are."