In his address to the Opening Night of this year’s General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in Assembly Buildings, Belfast, the denomination’s newly elected, Moderator, Right Reverend Dr William Henry, has challenged the Church not to simply admire God from a distance, but to get up close and make a connection with him - and ‘enjoy God’.
The 50-year-old minister of Maze Presbyterian Church is the youngest Moderator to be elected since 1931.
He was addressing 800 church members, overseas guests and civic dignitaries during the opening service ahead of four days of debate by ministers and elders from the Church’s 500-plus congregations across Ireland.
During his address, Dr Henry unveiled his theme for his year in office - ‘Enjoying God’. Exploring his theme he said that for many Christians, because of the pressures and busyness of life and the daily routine of sameness, there was a tendency to simply admire God from a distance without “getting up close and really making a connection with him. It was exactly for that reason that I want to take as my theme for the year ‘Enjoying God’,” he said.
With many young people in his growing Maze congregation, the Moderator has a passion for youth ministry. Quoting an essay by the American pastor, Dr Kevin DeYoung on reaching the next generation for God, the Moderator said that Dr DeYoung pointed out that you didn’t need to be ‘cool and trendy’ – “It’s to live like Jesus, To show them Jesus. To give them hope for the future.
“We need to grab them with passion, we need to win them with Love, we need to hold them with holiness and we need to challenge them with Truth. That must be a challenge to us to embody and to show the love of Jesus demonstrated in normal living. People will not give Christianity a second thought if it seems lifeless, rote and uninspiring. You cannot pass on what you do not feel yourself. That is why I feel so strongly about my theme for the year – ‘Enjoying God’.”
The Moderator said that it was a message of hope for everyone. “Inside the church. Outside the church. We are all the same flesh and blood. We face the same health uncertainties. Every one of us is on the same daily treadmill. We need hope to transform our present experience, and I believe this passage is telling us that this hope is found in enjoying God. I do believe the Gospel can transform life and our experiences.”
Married to Nora, the father of three is the denomination’s 174th Moderator since 1840, and the fifth to come from a congregation in the Lisburn area.