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Home  >  News  >  'The Call to Serve is as it Was' - New Moderator


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'The Call to Serve is as it Was' - New Moderator

Saturday May 16 2020


The new Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has reminded the Church that its call to serve is unchanging, even in the extraordinary circumstances of the Coronavirus Covid-19 epidemic.

The Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair (right) added that, like the first disciples of Jesus, the Church finds itself in uncharted territory, but that Jesus ‘calls us to Him and sends us out for Him – asking only that we trust Him’.

This is the first time in over 300 years that a General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has not been held. Instead, Dr Fair was installed as Moderator at a socially-distanced ceremony in the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh this morning.

During the ceremony, watched by thousands of people online, the Moderator’s ring and cross were placed in a box by the outgoing Moderator, the Very Rev Colin Sinclair, before Dr Fair was invited to take them. Only Dr Fair and Mr Sinclair, their wives Elaine and Ruth, Principal Clerk the Rev Dr George Whyte, Procurator Laura Dunlop QC, British Sign Language interpreter the Rev Rosie Addis and the technical crew were in the hall.

Dr Fair said: “Regarding my own situation, many folks have said to me, ‘We’re so sorry it’s worked out like this, in your year.’ I appreciate the kindness - and yes there are disappointments. Then again, it’s ‘life’ It comes at you. Not all of it you’d choose. Sometimes, life sucks.

“But let me say this today: it sucks a whole lot more for those at the bottom of the pile - those who need to bear the humiliation of food banks and soup kitchens and those around the world for whom food banks and soup kitchens are but the stuff of dreams. And those who struggle with poor mental health. And those who live in fear of the fist because of the pressure of confinement.

“For some, this is much more than inconvenience and disrupted plans.

“Yes, much has changed, much is horribly uncertain.

“And yet much remains. Primarily, our Lord, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. The apostle James assures us, ‘He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.’

“For my own part, I signed up to serve this ‘same as always God’ so nothing has changed. The circumstances have. What my year as Moderator is going to involve has, yes, but the call to serve is as it was.

“And I hear it today, in this place, loudly and clearly.”

Mr Sinclair (right), in his speech as outgoing Moderator, said it had been ‘a rich experience’ for himself and Mrs Sinclair, both in the parts of the year that went as planned and the Covid-19-disrupted last two months.

He said: “Back at the beginning when asked what I hoped for that might happen during the year I said ‘A quiet year in which nothing happens and I can simply share with people the importance of Jesus.’  Well it didn’t quite work out like that! Brexit dominated the first half of my year, Coronavirus, Covid 19, the second. Add in the resignation of the PM, the election of her successor, a General Election, the resignation of the leader of the opposition and then the election of his successor, floods in February, a Prime Minister in intensive care and that prayer was answered differently from what I imagined! But I did get the chance to tell the story of Jesus.

“The General Election affected our week in London in November and overnight Coronavirus wiped out completely our last two months diary, including Presbytery visits planned for Inverness and Dundee and a lot more besides, including of course this year’s General Assembly. Following Jesus is indeed an adventure of faith.

“However, unexpectedly, a new door opened up. I was asked to record something for the Church website for the first Sunday when church buildings were closed, and such was the response that I then posted a message every Sunday for my last eight weeks. Ruth and I started a daily reflection on Facebook Live in which we built up a strong virtual community. Most of those people we have never met, but their daily comments made us feel we knew each other.

“It wasn’t the ending we expected and for which we had planned. However we are grateful to God that when one door closed another one opened.

He said to Dr Fair: “the whole Church welcomes you and blesses you, and believes you will be a blessing.   We commit to pray for you in this unique and extraordinary time we are living through, and for the forthcoming year. God bless you in the year ahead.

“There is no map to guide you but Jesus will be your guide. So you are in safe hands.”

Dr Fair paid tribute to the work of Mr and Mrs Sinclair, saying: “Little did you know when you started last May how things were going to finish, and yet you never flinched. Instead you rose to the challenge of ministering to us and leading us in these recent days as if you’d been preparing for it your whole life. And who knows that in God’s providence, you hadn’t been?

“With Ruth your constant companion, you have become such a recognisable team - and as a quick glance at your social media make clear - a team that has been appreciated and loved by countless thousands across this country and far beyond.”

The service concluded with messages of support and congratulations, including one from the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, who said: “At this incredibly difficult time the Church continues to provide support and guidance to people across our country through virtual services, pastoral duties and charitable work in your communities. I am hugely grateful, to all of you for that and very much look forward to working with you in tackling the challenges and also seizing opportunities that lie ahead.

There were also messages from the senior ministers in the Church of Scotland, the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church, colleagues of Dr Fair from Arbroath St Andrew’s, and his three sons Andrew, Fraser and Callum. Dr Fair said the messages were ‘a complete surprise to me and have moved and humbled me enormously’.

Dr Fair also received a letter expressing best wishes from the Duke of Cambridge, known as the Earl of Strathearn in Scotland, who was meant to be his grandmother's representative, Lord High Commissioner, to this year's General Assembly.

The entire ceremony is available to watch on the Church of Scotland Facebook page

'God's Not Finished With Scotland': interview with the new Moderator


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