The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has announced the installation of its new moderator. Rev Dr David Bruce was officially instated as the 175th moderator after a livestreamed ceremony earlier this week in Belfast.
Usually, such a celebration would be held with some 900 people in attendance. However, owing to the corovirus pandemic, just four people were actually present for the occasion - the Clerk of the General Assembly and General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rev Trevor Gribben, the outgoing and incoming Moderators, Rt Rev Dr William Henry and Rev Dr David Bruce and the Deputy Clerk of the General Assembly, Rev Jim Stothers.
Gribben explained: “As I have said before, our General Assembly has been part of the rhythm of our Church life since 1840. It is the Presbyterian family coming together, and as far as I am aware a meeting has never been cancelled, only postponed, due to a different kind of national emergency in 1940.
“Yet, unprecedented times often call for unprecedented responses, and like many organisations, we have found it necessary to find different ways of working to do what needs to be done, and this includes the installation of our new Moderator.”
In an interview ahead of his installation, Rev Bruce talked about the challenges churches have faced while under covid-19 restrictions.
"These restrictions are so painful to the Church,” he explained, “because they are a denial of the incarnation which pushes us to enter each other’s suffering. We have been un-pastored by this virus. We long that we can reclaim this spiritual calling.”
He added: “We can expect that the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will be different in some ways when this is over. We should seek this, and welcome it.
"I am consciously asking God to show us as a Church what he wants us to be and do. Perhaps Samuel’s prayer is apt: ‘Speak Lord. Your servant is listening."