Kirk Moderator installed in empty hall on day intended to start Assembly

A special service under lockdown restrictions is to be held to install the next Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the Church of Scotland with his wife Ruth at home in Edinburgh.

Rev Dr Martin Fair will officially succeed Rt Rev Colin Sinclair as the Kirk’s ambassador at home and abroad today 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.

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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, 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, 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, Rev Gregor McIntyre, minister at Faifley Parish Church in Clydebank and Rev Catherine Beattie of Giffnock South Parish Church, will lead a prayer via video conferencing.

Rev Andrew Anderson and 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 people are seeking spiritual nourishment 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 “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.