A Church of Scotland minister has been recognised in the Scottish Parliament for his award winning community work.
The Rev Jonathan Fleming of Erskine Parish Church was described as a “great asset to the town” by 14 Labour and SNP MSPs after he was named Citizen of the Year 2015.
The 33-year-old’s achievement was marked by a motion lodged by Labour MSP Mary Fee who applauded his “outstanding community work”, which includes encouraging greater interaction with other churches.
The politician, who represents the west of Scotland region, said the minister’s contribution to life in the town was “terrific” and he had brought people together.
Mr Fleming, who is married to Karyn with whom he has two daughters, Rachel, 7, and Hollie, 2, said he was “shocked and surprised” when he learned he had won the Erskine Community Council award.
The minister, who was one of 22 nominees in the annual competition, said the accolade highlighted that the Church was a “valued part” of the community.
Mr Fleming and members of his 342 member congregation have organised a wide variety of community initiatives like film nights and lunch clubs since 2012 when he took up what is his first charge.
They include providing free child care when local primary schools were used as polling stations on the day of the independence referendum last September and the General Election in May.
The church runs regular holiday clubs for children and screened the opening ceremony of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games in addition to holding a community barbecue.
Last Christmas Mr Fleming held two singalong screenings of the Disney animated film Frozen and handed out free hotdogs and popcorn, while dressed up as the snowman character, Olaf, as a “gift to the community”
Ms Fee said: “I have heard from many constituents in Erskine about the terrific work of the Rev Jonathan Fleming in the local community.
“He has brought together the people of Erskine and they have rightly thanked him for his community work by awarding him 2015 Erskine Citizen of the Year.”
Reflecting on winning the award, the University of Glasgow graduate who grew up in Milngavie and Bearsden, said: “I was shocked and very surprised and the more I thought about it I felt so grateful.
“I genuinely felt I was just doing my job but decided to accept it because it is important that the church is recognised for what we are doing and is still valued as an important part of community life.
“Receiving the award was affirming for me that my vision for the church to be a beacon and signpost in Erskine is becoming a reality.
“I think it is very important that we undertake community activities because one of the biggest misconceptions of Church is that we are only interested in those who are interested in Sunday morning.
“That is far from the reality of it all – we do anything we can to help everybody in the community.”
Mr Fleming, who attended Bearsden Primary School and Glasgow Academy and worked for his family’s food wholesale business before becoming a minister, said he was delighted to have been recognised in the Scottish Parliament.
“It was wonderful to see that there is cross-party support for the motion,” he added.
“MSPs obviously see the validity of the parish church and its involvement in the community so to get recognition means an incredible amount.”
The award presentation took place during the Erskine Festival on August 15.