Singer devoutly seeking Susan's service

 

The Church of Scotland minister who is officiating at tomorrow's wedding of Madonna and the British film director Guy Ritchie has performed many wedding ceremonies in the small Scottish Highlands town of Dornoch. Cheerful, outgoing and pragmatic, the Rev Susan Brown (41), is reputed to be a charismatic preacher. Barely 5 ft tall, she has to stand on a box in the pulpit when delivering her Sunday-morning sermon in Dornoch Cathedral.

The red-headed Ms Brown, a coal-miner's daughter, is married to the chaplain at the local hospital and has two children aged 13 and nine. She says she did not realise just how fascinated the world's media were with Madonna's marriage until "everybody started camping outside my door, and the television said the press were `desperately seeking Susan' ".

Ms Brown is not a typical Church of Scotland minister. Dubbed "Holy Spice" by her parishioners in an echo of nicknames given to the Spice Girls, she is the perfect "larger-than-life" choice for the high-profile role. The first woman ever to take charge of a British cathedral, she has roller-skated down the aisle in services to keep the attention of young churchgoers.

Another time she overturned a table full of coins, sending it crashing to the ground in the middle of a sermon, to show how Jesus chased the merchants from the temple.

It was revealed yesterday that Sting is to sing at the christening of Madonna's and Ritchie's son, Rocco. The rock legend, his wife, Trudi Styler, and a pianist arrived at the 13th-century cathedral yesterday afternoon to rehearse for today's ceremony.

Sting checked the acoustics by singing Ave Maria, the hymn sung by Madonna when she first visited the cathedral while deciding where to hold her wedding.

Sting's wife introduced Madonna and Ritchie at a dinner party two years ago. The couple were among the first of the guests to arrive in the Highlands and are staying at the nearby town of Tain.

It is believed Sting, who has had hits such as Englishman In New York and Message In A Bottle, will also sing at the wedding tomorrow.

Guests continued to arrive yesterday at Inverness Airport in preparation for the big day.

Madonna's sister, Melanie, and her husband, Joe Henry, flew in on a scheduled flight from Gatwick Airport.

Meanwhile, hundreds of photographers, cameramen and reporters began to claim their pitches outside the cathedral.

Some cameramen, fighting for space in order to get the best views, even chained their equipment to barriers placed there by police.