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Home  >  Features  >  Looking Back - Moderator's Tour 1938

Looking Back

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Friday October 8 2021


An article from October 1938 by the Rev D. Findlay Clark of Banff, headed 'Does a Moderator's Tour Serve a Useful Purpose?'.


IT is quite a common idea to-day that, when the Moderator of the General Assembly has delivered his closing address, his work is over. Far from that; it is, in a sense only beginning.

Within comparatively recent years the Home Board has arranged a series of Presbyterial tours for the Moderator in the belief that it is good for ministers and memebrs of the Church to be visited by him. The question, however, has been raised, Have these tours been justified? Do they serve any useful purpose?

In the light of a fourteen day’s tour of the Presbytery of Fordyce in the month of July by the present Moderator, the Right Rev. Dr. James Black, I venture to suggest at least three useful purposes such visits serve.

1. They bind the local congregations more closely to the Church as a whole. A visit from the Moderator is a safeguard against parochialism. It is not uncommon to find flourishing congregations, where neither ministers nor office-bearers have financial worries of any kind. They manage to get along very comfortably, but, somehow, the needs of the Church in its wider aspects have not been forcibly brought home to them. It isn’t that they are consciously apathetic; they just have not thought seriously of the Church in its manifold activities, at home and abroad. A visit from the Moderator and a timely word may change their whole outlook and enable them to realise, as they never did before, that no congregation is really strong until all are strong, and that we are members one of another.

2. They are a source of encouragement. Not a few congregations are making a brave fight to keep the flag flying. Circumstances may have radically changed. The staple industry, once flourishing, may have fallen on evil days. And yet, despite all difficulties, they cling to the old building, willing to do anything rather than see it go under. All the while they look to the future with trembling hearts. Here again a visit from an understanding and sympathetic Moderator can work wonders. For a congregation to realise that although they are poor they still count, and that they are not forgotten, is like a tonic to a sick man.

3. They bear witness to the quickening power of the personal touch. The best letter ever penned can never take the place of a call from a friend whether he comes to congratulate or to condole. The power of the gospel is the power that resides in the Incarnation. A visit from the Moderator is simply the application by the Church of a universal principle – that the personality of a good man is invaluable.

It has been said that when a Moderator visited the Presbytery of Fordyce some fifteen years ago, he called at the manses, he kindly inquired for the minister, his wife and family, and quietly retired. On one occasion he called so early at a manse that, when he asked for the children, he got the reply that they were still in bed. A tour of a Presbytery, even the Presbytery of Fordyce, is no small undertaking. Briefly outlined, it involved civic receptions by the Burghs of Banff and Buckie, followed by public meetings there; also at Whitehills, Findochty, Portsoy, where the Moderator addressed a well-attended meeting of the Presbyterial Council of the Woman’s Guild; a conference with the Presbytery followed by supper with the Moderator as guest; divine services at Banff, Cullen, Buckie and Ordiquhill, and a Sale of Work at Cornhill.

Everywhere Dr. Black went he was received with all the honour and respect due this high office and to the man, who endeared himself to all by his words of wisdom illumined with the saving grace of humour, his winsome manner and the power of his preaching. As a guest the Moderator is delightful, and those who may have the privilege of being his hostess need have no worries. Dr. Black is earnest, but he is no faddist; he is intensely human, without any embarrassing peculiarities. If there have been any doubts regarding the value to the Church of a Moderator’s visits they may be dismissed forthwith.

If one may venture to say it, the secret of any permanent spiritual gain lies in the preparation for the visit. Dr. Black, busy as he is, PREPARES. Let the Presbyteries do likewise, and in time the fields will be rich with golden grain.


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