A CHURCH of Scotland minister is set to 'take to the heavens' in a bid to fund an Ayrshire choir's trip to the USA.

The Reverend Jill Clancy is hoping she will feel closer to God when she jumps out of a plane at 10,000 feet to raise money for the 'Songs for All' group, which is hoping to participate in New York City Tartan Week.

They wear pink tartan scarves made by Prickly Thistle, a weavers' company based in Evanton, Easter Ross.

The sponsored tandem skydive jump over the skies of Fife will see her experience approximately 30 seconds of free-fall at speeds up to 120mph before her parachute is activated.

The hair-raising jump is just one element of an action-packed weekend (May 10-12) that the choir conductor has lined up to raise money.

The minister plans to go wild swimming off the coast of Irvine and walk round the island of Great Cumbrae, a 10-mile loop, on top of the incredible leap of faith.

Based in Galston, the choir is made up of members of local towns and villages in Ayrshire, congregations from Mauchline, Tarbolton, Annbank and Galston.

Ms Clancy, the facilitator of the multi-faith chaplaincy team at HMP Barlinnie in Glasgow, said she was excited and looking forward to the trio of challenges.

She said she hoped to heavily contribute to the goal of raising enough money to take all 40 choir members to New York City to represent Ayrshire in April, 2025.

The group was established in 2014 and has gone from strength to strength since, welcoming members of all ages from the youngest 11 right up to 82-years-old.

They have a broad repertoire of Scottish Music for Tartan Week which ranges from A Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns, Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi and Caledonia by Dougie MacLean.

Ayr Advertiser: Reverend Jill Clancy will be completing three tasks in a bid to help fund a trip to the USA for the

Ms Clancy said: "The choir is an extremely positive thing and the older members love being with the younger members and vice-versa.

"Coming together and singing has many benefits, it helps with our mental wellbeing and tackles loneliness and isolation.

"We're an intergenerational group that sings together, encourages each other, supports, learns and enjoys each other's company every week."

The Ayrshire minister says the group has been transformative for many members.

She continued: "You are a different person when you come out, you're energised and you're happy.

"One of our members lives with dementia and she is supported every week by one of our youngest members and they both get so much out of it.

"You do not need to audition to be a member, it provides great team building and the friendships are meaningful and real, we call ourselves a wee family.

"It is a fantastic experience and a joy, in fact it is one of the proudest things that I've ever done in my life."

The choir also has much pedigree having won the top prize at the Ayrshire Music Festival last year. They also plan to release and album later this year to mark their tenth anniversary.

Ms Clancy said it is estimated that it will cost members around £1,000 each to make the trip across the Atlantic.

All of them are keen to make the trip to New York next year so they can sing with other choirs on the streets of Manhattan and in a local church.

Ayr Advertiser: Reverend Jill Clancy will be completing three tasks in a bid to help fund a trip to the USA for the

It is hoped that Ms Clancy's efforts can go a long way in supporting their trip, though the skydive will mean a lot more than just working towards this goal for the 53-year-old, who has long dreamed of being able to do such a thing but has been held back in the past by her weight.

But she has since turned her life around after one particular incident led to her joining a Slimming World group in her home area of Galston.

Ms Clancy explained: "I've always wanted to jump out of a plane but I was too heavy to qualify under the regulations.

"My life changed in 2020 when my knee gave way and I sought medical treatment and was told I would have to have an operation.

"I couldn't work and I looked in the mirror and saw an old, crippled 50-year-old and I did not want to be that person and lose my job which I love.

"I joined Slimming World in Galston and started an eating plan and the weight started to fall off.

"It was a marathon rather than a sprint but I feel so much happier and healthier now and I didn't need an operation in the end.

"When we were thinking of all the different ways that we could fundraise for Tartan Week, I realised that I would able to go skydiving now because I lost seven stones in under three years."

And despite the monumental task ahead of her, Ms Clancy, known as DJ Jolly Jilly on account of running HMP Barlinnie's radio station during the early months of the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, said she is showing no fear.

She added: "I'm really looking forward to it because I love flying but I am pleased that it is a tandem jump because I need someone with me to give me that wee nudge to get out of the plane."

The Galston woman, who was 18st 6lbs at her heaviest, said she marvels about God's creation when she is looking out of the window while soaring above the clouds.

"I just love looking down and seeing the beauty below us, it fascinates me," she continued.

"The fields are all squared off, the communities of houses and the roadways - everything is so structured and planned.

"When I look around, whether it is on land or in the sky, I thank God for his perfect creation and it fills me with awe for who he is and the beauty that he has provided for us.

"We take so much for granted, we have so much but many of us spend too much time inside looking at phones and tablets and should be outside more and marvel at the beauty of creation – the landscape and all God's creatures.

"Losing weight has given me more energy and a different perspective on life and I just thank God for it, I thank God for life."

Ms Clancy, who enjoys wild swimming as a hobby, added that the other aspects of her fundraising are far less unknown.

She said: "I am looking forward to the swim and I will stay out for as long as my insides tell me it is time to get back on dry land.

"I love walking with my black Labrador Freddie in hail, rain or snow and I have walked round Great Cumbrae before in aid of Ayrshire Hospice, so I am looking forward to doing it again."

For more information on the fundraising efforts or to make a donation, a fundraising page is available online at tinyurl.com/Ministerskydive.