University professor appointed as a Chaplain to The Queen

University professor appointed as a Chaplain to The Queen

The University of Aberdeen's Professor John Swinton has been appointed as a Chaplain to Her Majesty The Queen.

A Chaplain to The Queen is a member of the ministry of the Church of Scotland who, after distinguished service, is appointed a member of The Queen’s Ecclesiastical Household.

Professor Swinton, Professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care, will take on the role alongside his Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen.

He will succeed Rev Alistair Bennett, who is retiring, as one of 10 chaplains to The Queen in Scotland.

All chaplains are personally approved by The Queen and are people in whom she has placed her trust.

Professor Swinton is a minister of the Church of Scotland who for more than a decade worked as a registered nurse specialising in psychiatry and learning disabilities. He also worked for a number of years as a hospital and community chaplain. 

In 2004, he founded the University of Aberdeen’s Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability and in 2014 he founded the University’s Centre for Ministry Studies.

His work has a dual focus on the relationship between spirituality and health and the theology of disability and he has published widely within the area of practical theology, disability theology, qualitative research and pastoral care.

In 2016 he was awarded the Michael Ramsey Prize - the ‘Man Booker of theology’ which celebrates the most promising contemporary theological writing - for his book Dementia: Living in the Memories of God.

His theological research has succeeded in the re-framing of dementia as part of the spiritual life of the community, leading to significant changes in local government, caring agencies, third sector organisations, dementia care providers and religious communities in both the United Kingdom and internationally.

In 2017, his most recent book Becoming Friends of Time: Time, Disability and the Art of Gentle Discipleship won the award of merit for theology and ethics in the Christianity Today book awards for 2017.  The book was named as “one of the books most likely to shape evangelical life, thought, and culture.”

Professor Tom Greggs, DLitt, FRSE, Head of Divinity, said of the appointment: “This is an extraordinary and richly deserved honour that Her Majesty has bestowed on Professor Swinton, and it crowns his distinguished service in both church and academy. We are very proud to list Professor Swinton as a key member of Divinity in Aberdeen.”

Dr Paula Sweeny, Head of the School of Divinity, History, Philosophy & Art History, said: “I am delighted to hear that Professor Swinton is being honoured in this way. His contributions to the department of Divinity, the School and the University are stellar in every way. In addition, Professor Swinton brings incredible warmth and a genuine sense of care for the wider community through his projects and his professional interactions.  Given these qualities, it is very fitting that he has been chosen to be a Chaplain to Her Majesty.”

Professor Iain Torrance, former Dean of the Chapel Royal and Pro-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, added: “John has spent his working life helping people with dementia and this great honour recognises his outstanding care of others and his deep human compassion.”