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Tributes Paid to Rev George CowiePublished 06 Jan 2022

Tributes Paid to Rev George Cowie Click to enlarge

Tributes have been paid to a much-loved Church of Scotland minister who has died after a long illness. Rev George Cowie, clerk to the Presbytery of Glasgow and a Chaplain-in-Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen, was 58.

Friends and colleagues described him as a man of deep compassion, wisdom, integrity, humour and said the Church has lost a "true servant" of Christ.

Born in Dundee and raised in the Hyndland and Jordanhill areas of Glasgow, Mr Cowie was educated at the University of Glasgow and trained as a civil engineer. He worked with Tayside Regional Council in Dundee before entering the ministry. His father Gordon was also a minister.

Mr Cowie was licensed by the Presbytery of Glasgow in 1990 and ordained and inducted to the charge of Auchtertool linked with Kirkcaldy: Linktown in Fife in 1991.

In 1999, Mr Cowie moved to Aberdeen, the city of his father's birth, to be the minister of Holburn Central Church. The congregation united with Ruthrieston South Church in 2006 and became South Holburn Church.

Mr Cowie, who is survived by his wife Marian, a fellow minister, son Graeme, daughter Kay and grandson Logan, served the congregation until 2017 when he took up the Presbytery of Glasgow role. The minister was also the convener of the Church's Legal Questions Committee and served as acting Depute Clerk to the General Assembly in 2014-15.

Rev Dr Grant Barclay said Mr Cowie, who died peacefully on the 21st of December, was "ideally suited" for the role of clerk to the Presbytery of Glasgow.

"He had a wide experience of church life as a parish minister in Fife and then in Aberdeen and possessed a deep knowledge of Church law," added Dr Barclay who took over the position when Mr Cowie's health declined.

"Many ministers and staff members in congregations across the presbytery and beyond found George's principled commitment, genuine care and sense of humour immensely supportive and encouraging.

"Members of the presbytery office remember him as a committed clerk, a compassionate colleague and a man of great faith and integrity. George was everything we could have wanted in a boss – he was one of a kind and will be missed."

While serving the congregation of South Holburn, Mr Cowie shared clerking duties at the former Presbytery of Aberdeen with Rev Dr John Ferguson who said he was privileged to call him a friend for 30 years.

"George was an outstanding parish minister who cared deeply for his people," said Dr Ferguson, who is now clerk to the Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland.

"He was a superb presbytery clerk and brought wisdom and clear thinking to the role. George had a very sharp mind, a brilliant sense of humour and he showed deep compassion to others in so many ways.

"He was a very good friend and I always knew that I could turn to him for sound advice and could rely on his strong support. The Church has lost a true servant of Christ and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this very sad time."

Mr Cowie played a pivotal role in establishing a partnership between the Presbytery of Aberdeen, the University of Aberdeen and Zomba Theological College in Malawi to provide additional training to ministers from the African country. It ensured that students no longer had to travel to the UK to study Masters degrees.

Very Rev Dr Derek Browning first got to know Mr Cowie through their work on General Assembly committees. He described him as a man who was quick on his feet without being flappable and in possession of a "very dry and pawky sense of humour".

Dr Browning, who served as Moderator of the General Assembly 2017-18, said: "George was the noblest of colleagues, the finest of friends, the aficionado of good malt whisky and amongst the safest pair of hands the General Assembly has known in the handling of many challenging issues. How I miss him."

Mr Cowie was appointed a Chaplain-in-Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen in 2017 during a service at South Holburn Church.

Very Rev Professor David Fergusson, Dean of the Chapel Royal, described him as a "distinguished servant of the Kirk".

"His was a welcome appointment to the Chapel Royal in 2017 and I was privileged to preach at the installation service in Aberdeen," he said.

"We have lost a wise and trusted colleague who had much still to offer. While George's absence will be keenly felt, especially by Marian, Kay and Graeme, we offer thanks to God for his years of service and friendship."

Very Rev Professor Iain Torrance who was Dean of the Chapel Royal at the time of Mr Cowie's installation said he was "one of the people I most trusted and admired in the Church".

"When I was convening the Theological Forum and we were trying to think how best, pastorally and legally, to draft the proposals about same-sex marriage, I could not have had a better colleague than George who was then convening the Legal Questions Committee," he added.

"I could always count on his common sense, thoroughness and kindness. His untimely death is a great loss to the Church, to his many friends and to his family."

During his time in Aberdeen, Mr Cowie was a strong supporter of chaplaincy within the UK oil and gas industry. He provided invaluable assistance to the trustees of the Oil Chaplaincy Trust after former chaplain, Rev Andrew Jolly, fell ill. Following his death in 2010, Mr Cowie helped them appoint his successor who is Rev Gordon Craig.

Mr Craig said: "George was a man who touched the lives of so many with his compassion and humour and I consider it an honour to have known him. I can think of no other who epitomised the word ‘gentleman' better."

Mr Cowie's funeral is being held at New Kilpatrick Parish Church in Bearsden near Glasgow on the 12th of January at midday. People are encouraged to watch the service online. at https://www.westreamitfunerals.co.uk/cowieg. 

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