Presbyterian Moderator begins his second term
The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Right Rev Dr David Bruce, who worships at Elmwood Presbyterian Church in Lisburn, began his second term of office this week at the Opening Service of Worship at the denomination’s General Assembly in Belfast.
Cancelled last year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Bruce is only the seventh Moderator to serve two terms in office since 1840, and the first to do so in the last 127 years.
Opening on a Monday morning, and not the traditional Monday evening, with no procession of former Moderator’s, or civic guests in attendance, only voting members of the General Assembly were present to hear Dr Bruce’s address. In another break with tradition, PCI’s longest serving Moderator, Very Rev Dr Godfrey Brown, who was Moderator in 1988, took the chair briefly for Dr Bruce’s election and appointment as Moderator. He then prayed for him.
During worship, members of the New Irish Choir and Orchestra, including a string quartet, provided the music to accompany the three hymns sung at the service. Led by Creative Director Jonathan Rea, Sylvia Burnside performed the song ‘There is hope’. The organist was the Rev Mark Spratt, Minister of Kilmore Presbyterian Church. Following the Opening Service and address by the Moderator, three days of debate and decision making began that will focus upon the life and mission of the Church and also touch upon some of the challenging issues facing society across the island.
Reflecting on the year that has passed, Dr Bruce told ministers and elders from PCI’s 500-plus congregations from across Ireland that he could simply list “all the struggles we have faced, and speak of Covid, furlough, vaccinations, social distancing, face-coverings, Brexit, the Northern Ireland Protocol…Lockdowns, container ships grounded in the Suez Canal, interrupted supply chains [and] shortages…and Zoom. Small wonder perhaps that Time magazine labelled 2020 as ‘one of the worst years to be alive in modern history.’
Dr Bruce continued, “Yet 2020 was the year our grandson was born – and his smile lights up the room. It was the year I was privileged to celebrate 100th birthdays with 17 centenarians around the church, and was deeply moved by their stories. During this year, I heard stories of congregations growing while in lockdown – of the curious and afraid, finding hope and forgiveness in Christ online while watching our ministers explain the gospel.
“This was the year when moulds were broken and new ways of doing and being church were conceived. Yes it’s been hard, but as I often quote from Frederick Faber’s great old hymn, ‘Thrice blessed is he to who is given, the instinct that can tell, that God is on the field when he is most invisible.’”
Dr Bruce unveiled his theme for his remaining year in office. By simply substituting one letter from ‘Home’, his theme for 2020-2021, its successor will be ‘Hope’.