Bishop Gregor MacGregor

Gregor MacGregor, minister

Born: 1933

Died: 29 June, 2003, in Edinburgh

GREGOR MacGregor, the retired Bishop of Moray, was a person of passionate convictions which lent great strength to his leadership both as a parish priest and a bishop. The cost of this was that he found it difficult to compromise or accommodate contrary opinions and therefore faced some painful situations in which he felt integrity demanded his resignation. He had no hesitation in making such decisions.

Educated at Hutcheson Boys Grammar School in Glasgow, where he became Dux, he went on to serve in the Royal Navy, gaining a commission as a sub-lieutenant in the RNVR.

Later, after a brief period in industry, he read an MA in social science at St Andrews University, before progressing to a BD course at St Mary’s College as a minister in training for the Church of Scotland.

He was attached to the parish of St Mary’s, Dundee, and was called to a charge in Stromness, Orkney, with the most difficult task of amalgamating two congregations. While there, he experienced a warmth of pastoral care from the Scottish Episcopal Church, which drew him and his family into its communion.

Having found that he had considerable gifts with young people, he decided to follow a career in teaching, and trained at Aberdeen. His first job took him to Dumfries and Galloway, where he began training for the non-stipendiary ministry of the Episcopal Church.

He moved to Fife as a specialist in religious education at Glenrothes High School and continued with his ministerial training in the Diocese of St Andrews. He was ordained deacon in 1977 and priest in the same year, taking charge of the little congregation at Elie and Earlsferry in the East Neuk of Fife.

When a vacancy occurred at Glenrothes, the congregation were eager to have him as their full-time rector and he responded to that call, becoming the incumbent in 1981. At this point, a number of important things happened.

On a personal level, he discovered the Third Order of the Society of St Francis. From then, the friary at Alnmouth became a great spiritual resource to him. In Glenrothes, he believed that the congregation should accept a specific ministry to one impoverished area of the town, rather than be a rallying point for the Episcopalians of the area. In particular, he began to work with an organisation, Impasse, which had grown up in the Durham Diocese to help unemployed young people.

By 1986, MacGregor felt ready for a new challenge and he became Provost of the Cathedral of the Isles and warden of its Retreat House on the Isle of Cumbrae.

This proved a disappointment and he returned to the Diocese of St Andrews as rector of the small town of Dollar. Here, he exercised an energetic ministry for three years and founded a strong group of fellow Franciscan Tertiaries.

A more socially demanding setting called him and he moved to Wester Hailes in the Edinburgh Diocese. In that sprawling housing estate, he built up a worshipping congregation based on the ground-floor flat below the first-floor one where his family lived.

In 1994 he was elected Bishop of the Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness. Faced with a tough task, he sought both lay and clerical help to reshape structures that he felt no longer served the mission of the church. Again, he looked to the support of a group of Tertiaries that he had founded, but the greatest support of all came from his wife, Elizabeth, who shared her husband’s ideals and his vision.

In spite of the friendship and hospitality of the diocese, when MacGregor reached his 65th birthday he felt that his stint as bishop was done and he looked forward to his retirement in Edinburgh, where he had offered to provide pastoral care for the deprived area of Pilton. Friars from the First Order of the Society of St Francis had worked there shortly before.

On the night when he was due to be licensed to his new charge, he suffered a stroke which led to other medical complications that so sadly disabled him for his last five years.

He died in Ferryfield Nursing Home in Edinburgh, and the reaction of the nursing staff to his death showed how much they had appreciated his friendliness, sense of humour and pastoral care while they looked after him.

He is survived by his wife, their three daughters, Lizanne, Lorna and Mary, and their son, Andrew, all of whom contributed in no small way to his ministry.

MICHAEL HARE DUKE