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'It's the strangest one I've ever been to': Coronavirus pandemic forces minister to be inducted into church online

by Tola Mbakwe

A Church of Scotland minister was inducted into a new role at a Glasgow church as more than 100 people watched online from the comfort of their own homes.

Rev Alastair Duncan was installed as the parish minister of St George's Tron during a service conducted on the video conferencing platform, Zoom.

The unusual induction was carried out by Rev Dan Carmichael, Moderator of Glasgow Presbytery, due to restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Rev Duncan, 58, who was at home with his wife Ruth and son Stuart told Premier Christian News the experience of 'virtual induction' was a strange one.

"Normally when you're inducted into church service, you're facing the front and there may just be a handful of people in front of you at the front of the church and everybody else that's there is behind you, and you can't see them. 

"Whereas obviously, in this case, I'm looking at a screen which was full of faces. So it just kind of reminded me a little bit of that verse at the beginning of Hebrews chapter 12, where it talks about a great cloud of witnesses, which is not a bad thing, but it did feel like I was being watched as I was taking my induction vows."

Mr Duncan has been a Kirk minister for 31 years and for the last seven years he has served as transition minister at St George's Tron, re-planting a congregation in the landmark city centre church.

There were 100 participants in the online ceremony- the maximum the system would permit.

Rev Duncan said although the induction was out of the norm, there are fundamentals that remained the same. 

"At the end of the day, an ordination or an induction is a moment where you affirm promises," he told Premier. 

"Once you get past the mechanics or the technology, the reality of it is it's a service of worship, whether that's an online thing or whether that's a face to face encounter. 

"What's the same about it is that you're aware of the presence of God and of the body of Christ and of the fact that you're making promises with witnesses there. That's the moment of which I take up my responsibilities as minister of George's Tron and so I think I need to treat that with the same seriousness, whatever the vehicle for doing it is."

Rev Duncan admits he's starting church leadership at a crucial time for the Church. He said there will be challenges that lie ahead but he's determined to overcome. 

"It's odd situation, embarking on a ministry where you can't engage personally. Ministry is about personal interaction. It's about the human connection. It's about looking in people's faces in their eyes. It's about being an actual presence, not a remote or virtual one. 

"We all have to make the best of this situation because no one welcomes these limitations. I think it is a particular frustration to be starting out on a ministry under these kind of limitations, but at the same time learning how to overcome them. The Church has weathered all sorts of storms in its history. Churches in other parts of the world were forced underground for decades, and flourished.

"So we have to learn how to flourish in less than ideal circumstances, and find new ways of being, which is good for all of us."

Listen to the interview with Rev Alistair Duncan here:

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