The Very Reverend Dr Isaac Poobalan, Provost and Rector
Isaac, hails from Vellore in South India, youngest of 6 children (4 living) to Christian parents. His father was an Evangelist in the Chaplaincy of the Christian Medical College (CMC) Hospital in Vellore and his mother, a home maker. The family lived in a quasi-monastic community where daily prayers, systematic reading of the Scriptures, evangelistic outreach, pastoral care were the core activities. Development and upkeep of the ‘House of Worship, Vellore’, (buildings and 40 acres of land – a prominent remnant of the Empire) shaped the community life and Isaac had his role cut out from birth until his journey overseas.
Isaac grew up, studied and served in CMC Vellore, prior to moving to Abu Dhabi to serve as a Psychiatric Nurse in the Armed Forces of the United Arab Emirates. He was part of the Allied Forces in the Desert Storm, the First Gulf War, deployed in the war front during the liberation of Kuwait. During his time in Abu Dhabi, Isaac came under the pastoral care and guidance of the Venerable Michael Mansbridge, who directed him towards vocation in the Anglican Church in the Middle East. During his time in Abu Dhabi, Isaac was influenced heavily by the Scottish Bible Scholar, William Barclay.
On completion of the Desert Storm assignment, Isaac came to Coates Hall in Edinburgh to train for ministry in the Scottish Episcopal Church with a view to returning to the Diocese of Cypress and the Gulf. He served his title at St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh. During this period, he married Amu, a medical doctor from CMC Vellore. Amu is a public health academic and they have two children, Michael and Elizabeth. At the end of his title in Edinburgh, Isaac was invited to serve as Priest in Charge of St Clement’s Episcopal Church in Mastrick, Aberdeen. Life in Mastrick was formative in his ministry and the local community became and remains an extended family.
In 2001, Isaac was invited to serve as Rector at St John’s Episcopal Church in Aberdeen, and remained there for two cycles of 7 years. In the first seven, the congregation of St John’s completed the restoration of the church and associated buildings to a high standard and in the second seven it became known as a place of hospitality. (St John’s was recognised for its hospitality by the South Bank Centre as a ‘Change Maker’, one out of 67 in the UK, the 67 representing 67 years of Nelson Mandela’s years of service to humanity.) Isaac’s second “phase” at St John’s has also been marked by establishing strong relationships with both the local Jewish & Muslin communities, and his participation in Aberdeen’s developing Interfaith activities.
Isaac is delighted to be invited to serve God at St Andrew’s Cathedral, a home of hospitality with a global significance, as the consecration of the first Bishop for the Episcopal Church in the USA occurred here. He loves Choral liturgical worship and the proclamation of the gospel through all means. He believes the world is yet to see the full force of the Cross of Christ and rejoices that the Church is at a current high point, and as such he is keen to invite all to prayer, a thoughtful action for the transformation of our world.
‘Change Maker’ Isaac does not like change! However, he is happy to be an active instrument in the hands of the ‘Miracle Maker’ from Galilee. Isaac’s theology is primarily influenced by his close reading of the gospels. He believes in being a ‘Testimony’ or a ‘Testament’ between the Text of the Scriptures and the Traditions of the Church. Like his companions in thought and prayer, he loves the company of the apostles, the Fathers of the Church, and above all, Mary, the Mother of our Lord.
Icons, candles and the ambience of a gentle light with incense and chants is his natural habitat. He is a trained Spiritual Director, following the Jesuit tradition, and delights in the company of living legends like Stanley Hauerwas and Bob and Hugh (Aberdeen’s current bishops).
 Canon Isaac Poobalan offered part of his church to the Muslim community whose mosque was so busy at times that members had to pray outside in the wind and rain. His actions have helped to unite the local community and greatly helped interfaith relations in the City.