Special service to install next Moderator of General Assembly streamed live online
The Rev Dr Martin Fair (left) will officially succeed the Rt Rev Colin Sinclair.
By Cameron Brooks
A special service is being held to formally install the next Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The Rev Dr Martin Fair will officially succeed the Rt Rev Colin Sinclair as the Kirk’s ambassador at home and abroad on May 16 with proceedings broadcast live on the Church’s website and Facebook page from 11am.
The service at the General Assembly Hall in Edinburgh is being held on the day that the annual seven day gathering should have opened but was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
It will include hymns, prayers, readings, a Benediction and follow strict social distancing guidelines to prevent the potential spread of Covid-19.
The outgoing Moderator, the Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, will open the service and will reflect on his year and offer some words of advice to the new Moderator.
The Moderator’s cross and ring will be placed in a box on a table and Dr Fair will be invited to put them on.
He will then address the Church and nation as he looks forward to the year ahead.
The only other participant in the hall will be the Principal Clerk, the Rev Dr George Whyte, who as well as ensuring correct process is followed, will read a passage from the Bible as he would have done at the opening of the General Assembly.
Dr Whyte said: “This is not how we planned things but we are thrilled that the service can go ahead and be shared widely through the website.
“Martin Fair is just the right person to offer us leadership and inspiration in these challenging times.”
Dr Fair’s wife Elaine and Mr Sinclair’s wife Ruth will be in attendance along with a skeleton media crew to manage the live broadcast which will have British Sign Language translation.
The Moderator Designate’s chaplains, the Rev Gregor McIntyre, minister at Faifley Parish Church in Clydebank and the Rev Catherine Beattie of Giffnock South Parish Church, will lead a prayer via video conferencing.
The Rev Andrew Anderson and the Rev Tim Sinclair, who served as chaplains to the current Moderator, will also be taking part online.
Speaking ahead of the service which comes at a time when church buildings are closed and spiritual nourishment is catching fire online, the Moderator Designate said: “Taking on the role was always going to be a challenge.
“But at least I had many others to follow and there was an established pattern.
“But no one has been this way before so I’m going to have to step out into new territory without a map.
“So for me, trusting in God to lead is where I’m at personally.
“And that perfectly mirrors the place of the Church as it looks toward a yet unknown future.
“I guess that’s what my year is going to be about, not what was planned.
“But I’m ready to embrace it and go forward in faith.”
Mr Fair, who will have the title “the Rt Rev Dr”, will continue in his role as minister of St Andrew’s Parish Church in Arbroath for now and carry out Moderatorial duties when appropriate.
Mr Sinclair said: “I am delighted that Rev Dr Martin Fair is my successor and am conscious that he will take office at a demanding and unusual time and wish him every blessing in the year ahead.
“It has been an immense privilege and honour to serve as the Moderator of the General Assembly.
“As ambassador for the Church, I have enjoyed working with Church leaders from other denominations and leaders of other faith groups, and made some lasting friendships.
“I have appreciated contact with politicians, in Holyrood and Westminster, and also with Provosts and Lord Provosts around the country.
The Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Duke of Buccleuch.
“At the General Assembly in which I was Moderator, the Radical Action Plan was approved.
“None of us knew then that Covid-19 would hasten the implementation of radical change.
“The Church has responded in creative and innovative ways, both in providing worship on-line and developing new models of pastoral care.”
The final two months of Mr Sinclair’s diary was practically wiped out and he only managed to undertake two of the Moderator’s visits to four presbyteries.
He rose to the challenge of Coronavirus restrictions and has spent many hours recording online Sunday sermons, prayers and producing daily Facebook Live reflections with his wife which have been watched by tens of thousands of people around the world.
Mr Sinclair, who will adopt the title “the Very Rev” after he stands down as Moderator, will soon return to his role as the minister of Palmerston Place Church in Edinburgh.