New Moderator to be installed on 1 June

21.5.2020 | General Assembly, Moderator, Church Life

The Moderator-Designate, Rev David Bruce, will be installed as the denomination’s new Moderator on the evening of Monday, 1 June, in a special event which will be livestreamed from Assembly Buildings in Belfast, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland announced today.

The installation will take place on what would have been the Opening Night of this year’s General Assembly. The annual meeting was cancelled last month due to the current Coronavirus emergency and a small 25 person Standing Commission of the General Assembly has been appointed to transact necessary business, including the installation of the new Moderator for the year 2020 / 2021. Traditionally, the service from the historic Assembly Hall, would have been attended by upwards of 900 people from across Ireland, including past moderators, civic dignitaries, and representatives from other churches across Europe, Africa and Asia.

This year, apart from technical support, only four people will be physically present – the outgoing Moderator, Rt Rev Dr William Henry, Moderator-Designate, Rev David Bruce and the Clerk and Deputy Clerk of the General Assembly, the Revs Trevor Gribben and Jim Stothers. Other people will be participating remotely in the livestream from the Assembly Hall, leading in prayer and praise and reading from the Scriptures. Also taking part, but remotely via a video conferencing platform, will be the members of the 2020 Standing Commission, which has been set up to conduct all necessary business of this year’s Assembly. Monday evening will be one of their main tasks – electing the incoming Moderator, PCI’s most senior office-bearer and principal public representative.

Speaking about the installation, Rev Trevor Gribben, Clerk of the General Assembly and General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland said, “If we think back to that cold winter’s evening of 4 February, when our Church’s 19 regional Presbyteries met and nominated David Bruce as our next Moderator, who would have thought that so many of the things that we have taken for granted, would have changed so much in such a short space of time?

“As I have said before, our General Assembly has been part of the rhythm of our Church life since 1840. It is the Presbyterian family coming together, and as far as I am aware a meeting has never been cancelled, only postponed, due to a different kind of national emergency in 1940.”

Mr Gribben continued, “Yet, unprecedented times often call for unprecedented responses, and like many organisations, we have found it necessary to find different ways of working to do what needs to be done, and this includes the installation of our new Moderator.”

Outlining the service of installation, Mr Gribben explained that the four people present, along with the couple of technicians in the Assembly Hall, would follow all appropriate health and safety precautions, including observing government guidance on social distancing in the large hall, which normally holds over 900 people.

The Installation, which is being livestreamed and can be watched via this website, will start at 7pm with an introduction and call to worship from the outgoing Moderator, Dr Henry. He will give a short address about his year in office and his theme, ‘Enjoying God’. Following a worship song from members of Dr Henry’s home congregation, Maze Presbyterian near Lisburn, the Clerk of the General Assembly will then formally propose David Bruce as Moderator, with the Deputy Clerk seconding the nomination. The members of the 2020 Standing Commission will then be asked to elect PCI’s new Moderator for 2020 / 2021.

Following the election, Dr Henry will then pray for David Bruce, installing him as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. He will then take the Moderator’s Chair for the first time and give his address. During the evening, Scripture readings and prayers will be led remotely by the Chaplains of both the outgoing and incoming Moderators. The installation will close with a final hymn and the Benediction, which will be pronounced by the new Moderator, by then, the Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, the 175th person to hold the office.

Trevor Gribben concluded by saying, “This is always a special moment in the life of our Church and for our new moderators and their family. This year, by necessity, it will also be a different kind of ceremony for a particularly unique time in our history. We very much hope that many will join us by watching the livestream on the night.”

Photos (1) Moderator-Designate, Rev David Bruce, (2) Rev Trevor Gribben, Clerk of the General Assembly and General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (left) with the Moderator-Designate and Press Officer, Mark Smith, at the Assembly Buildings news conference the day after Mr Bruce’s nomination in February.

Missing the show

14.5.2020 | Prayer, Mission in Ireland, Mission, Farming and Rural Life, Presbytery News, COVID-19 Emergency

For many years on Ireland’s rural calendar, the second week in May would see thousands of people attend the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society’s annual show. Like all public events, this year’s show at the Maze Showgrounds in County Antrim has been cancelled due to the Coronavirus emergency. Along with many people across the farming and agri community, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Dromore Presbytery will miss this staple part of the farming year.

While the Show has been cancelled, Presbytery Moderator, Rev Andrew Faulkner, minister of Sloan Street Presbyterian in Lisburn, said members will be keeping farmers and their families in their prayers, and are looking forward to the day when they will all be able to meet again at the Showgrounds.

“Normally, over the past week, we would have been welcoming you onto our stand, renewing old friendships and making new ones. We would have been serving you with tea, coffee and biscuits galore, enjoying the craic and praying with you, if you asked. But, these are not normal times,” Andrew Faulkner said.

“It is fair to say that we have really missed you this week. Yes, really! We also felt that we wanted to take time to say ‘thank you’ to the many people who have supported and encouraged us on our stand, over these past five years.”

Speaking directly to the farming community, he continued, “We realise that while you continue to provide us with exceptional quality, fresh and traceable food, you have been doing so without the thanks and appreciation that you are due. And so we want to say ‘thank you’ to our farmers, for work that you do so faithfully season by season.”

Mr Faulkner acknowledged that at a time when Coronavirus has made life for everyone in every sector extremely difficult, farmers have also faced specific challenges with the closure of livestock markets, significant reductions in milk and beef prices, coupled with rising costs.

“As a Church our strength is, without doubt, in our rural areas. We are part of the local community and we want to assure our farmers and those in the agri-sector, and indeed everyone who is experiencing uncertainty and difficulty at this challenging time, that we in the Presbytery of Dromore are praying for you, and want to support you in any way that we can,” he said.

Rev Kenny Hanna of Second Dromara Presbyterian Church, one of the stand’s organisers and a contributor to the fortnightly ‘Good News for the Countryside’ column in Farming Life added, “While we don’t have a Balmoral Show this year, we do have the Farming Life each week and I would like to express our thanks to everyone for getting the paper out each Saturday, which I am sure, is no mean feat. When so much has changed, I think we are all genuinely grateful for its comforting presence on the kitchen table and its familiar feel, especially at this time.”

Kenny Hanna’s phone number appears at the end of each column and he is happy to speak to anyone who needs a listening pastoral ear. His number is 028 9753 1234. For more formal support and advice:

  • Rural Support:                           0800 138 1678
  • Ulster Farmers’ Union:            028 90 370222

Prayer for Farmers

Heavenly Father

Every day I see and hear something of Your beauty, in the wonderful world I work in.

I rise to the birdsong and see the new life You give as lambs sport in the fields.

I realise that I am an under-farmer to You, the Creator and Sustainer of all things and that my job is to pass on my little part of Your creation to the next generations.

Father I know that You are just and fair, but I have seen milk and beef prices falling, while costs rise, and so I pray that You, the just God, will step in and restore fairness for farmers.

I also pray for rain, to help the grass, and other crops, grow.

I pray for those who are really struggling, who feel isolated, or even hopeless.

Please draw especially close to those who have lost loved ones, through the virus, or in other ways.

Thank You for everyone who is playing their part in helping our country through these difficult days, from government to our NHS.

Help me to know that as I help to feed the world, what I do is important and valuable too.

Thank You that I am so precious to You, that Your Son Jesus has died to bring me into a living relationship with You, for every day and forever.

Help me to trust in Jesus and experience His strength, wisdom, encouragement and peace, knowing that Jesus is in charge of my life, my family and His world.

In Jesus’ name I pray,


Remembering VE Day 75 years on

8.5.2020 | Social Witness, Church Life, Commemorations, COVID-19 Emergency

As the UK and other nations commemorate the 75th anniversary of ‘Victory in Europe Day’ today, and the ending of the Second World War on the continent, residents across the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s (PCI) care homes are also commemorating the anniversary – including Margaret McKeague, who turns 100 next week and served in the Voluntary Aid Detachment, or the ‘VADs’, throughout the war.

While some of the 300-plus residents across PCI’s homes were children during the war, or born after it, Margaret McKeague, who lives in PCI’s newest home, Trinity House in Garvagh, was 19 when at the outbreak of hostilities in September 1939. That month she volunteered for the VADs, female civilians who worked alongside military nurses in hospitals caring for injured servicemen.

Born in May 1920, in the village of Culdaff in County Donegal, a year before partition, Margaret lived with her parents and 7 brothers and sisters on the Inishowen peninsula, before moving to London in her late teens to work for HM Customs & Revenue. Recalling why she volunteered she said, “I felt I had to do something. I would never have been ‘called up’ as I was in a reserved occupation, so I volunteered.”

Working in hospitals around Bristol, South Wales and Liverpool, she was given basic nursing training and looked after naval personal, “I felt I was doing something useful for the servicemen. They weren’t officers and they appreciated the comfortable conditions in the hospitals. They were very respectful to us and used to call me ‘Nurse Paddy’. I remember the Nursing Commandant told me not to let them be so familiar, telling the men my first name, but I explained it was only because they knew I was from Ireland. I managed quite well with the nursing duties, with only very basic training, and managed not to kill anyone!”

When it comes to VE Day itself, Margaret remembers it well, “I was in a hotel in Princes Street in Edinburgh for a short break with a friend who was also VAD. We heard a commotion and looked out of the hotel window and saw that the streets were lined with people, all jammed in, and on top of the cars. We got dressed quickly in our uniforms and joined the revellers outside.  We danced the whole night up and down Princes Street. It was unforgettable.”

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Council for Social Witness has responsibility for the running of the denomination’s care homes. As part of the VE Day 75th anniversary commemorations many of the homes have been decorated, by the residents and staff, with different activities taking place.

“It goes without saying, that these are exceptionally difficult days for care homes, their residents and staff,” said Lindsay Conway, Director of PCI’s Council for Social Witness. “I can’t praise our teams enough for all that they are doing during this Coronavirus emergency, which has seen our staff go the extra mile in so many different ways to save lives and to keep everyone we care for safe.

“While our homes have been in lockdown for nearly eight weeks now, I hope that these celebrations, activities and parties for folk, who like Margaret and others served during the war, will provide a timely lift in these days. For everyone who has baked, put up bunting, organised tea parties and remembrance services, all within the current regulations, it is just another example of staff going that extra mile,” Mr Conway said.

In Trinity House, the home has been decorated with flags and memorabilia with a special focus on the Royal Air Force, in memory of a resident who passed away earlier this this year and had fought in the Battle of Britain in 1940. A ‘street party’ has been planned with a special menu, along with a short memorial service at which Margaret will read a prayer.

Residents in Aaron House, PCI’s residential home for people with profound learning and physical disability in Dundonald, have drawn pictures of doves of peace and will have a BBQ. Lawnfield House, a respite home in Newcastle, have already been treated to a piper who played outside in the garden. They also have other activities lined up including a special game of ‘pinning the cigar on Churchill’. Residents in Adelaide House in south Belfast and Sunnyside House in Bangor have written about their memories. Residents of Willow Brook, PCI’s supported housing scheme in Coleraine for people with a learning disability took the opportunity to bake.

Photos (1) Donegal born Margaret McKeague, who turns 100 next week, holds a picture of herself in the uniform of the Voluntary Aid Detachment, which she volunteered for in 1939, serving throughout the war until 1945 (2) Jen, one of the residents of Aaron House in Dundonald with the dove of peace that she made to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the ending of the Second World War in Europe.

To mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, Presbyterian Moderator, Rt Rev Dr William Henry, joined the leaders of the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Roman Catholic Church, and the Irish Council of Churches, in issuing a joint statement that reflects on how peace was won and how it ‘is still a costly, precious and fragile commodity…’

The Leaders of Ireland’s main churches concluded by saying ‘With God’s help may we together work to create and shape a better and more peaceful world where love and respect is at the centre of all our thinking.’ 

Church Leaders discuss church re-openings

4.5.2020 | Moderator, Church in Society, Statements, Church leaders, COVID-19 Emergency

Following their latest video conference meeting, which took place on Friday, the leaders of Ireland’s main Churches discussed the re-opening of churches and church buildings for collective worship and the possibility of their re-opening for private personal prayer.

In thier Joint Statement, Presbyterian Moderator, Rt Rev Dr William Henry, joined the leaders of the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Roman Catholic Church, and the Irish Council of Churches, who said that while they looked forward to the day when collective worship could take place, “we accept that at this time it would not be appropriate to consider a full return to such gatherings.” The Church Leaders did, however, call on the Northern Ireland Executive to keep the issue under regular review.

With regards to individual visits to church buildings for private prayer, they said that where this is desired locally, and can be done safely, “we would urge government to consider easing this particular restriction sooner rather than later.”

Church Leaders’ joint statement in full

As leaders of main Churches in Ireland, we recognise that Christians across our land long for the day when we can all gather again inside our church buildings for fellowship and collective worship.

We want to commend our ministers and clergy for their prayerful and creative use of various online platforms and other means that have brought encouragement, through God’s word and through prayer, to His scattered people. At the same time, we lament the fact that our congregations are unable to gather together in person for worship. We recognise, however, as we have said previously, that to be a community in the real sense of the word, means that as individuals we acknowledge our interdependence. In loving our neighbours, it is important that we all look out for one another and continue to adhere to government advice on social distancing and other measures. The current restrictions are challenging, but are for the common good and the protection of everyone across our island.

While we all look forward to the day when we can again gather together for collective worship in our churches, we accept that at this time it would not be appropriate to consider a full return to such gatherings, apart from the limited number of people who are able to meet for funeral services. At this time, we are not calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to remove the current general restrictions on gathering together for church services, but we are asking that the issue is kept under regular review, so that when it is safe to do so there can be an easing of these restrictions.

The issue of church buildings being permitted to open for individual visits and private prayer, where this is desired locally and can be done so safely with appropriate social distancing in place, is however a different and a separate matter. Where the medical and scientific advice indicates that this limited step is possible, we would urge the Executive to consider easing this particular restriction sooner rather than later.

Over the past number of weeks, we have seen the vast majority of the people embracing these challenging, but very necessary, restrictions – working together for the benefit and good of all. We give thanks for this demonstration of love and concern for all in our community. As we enter into the second full month of this emergency on our island, we urge everyone to remain resolute and vigilant, encouraging one another on, so that we can come through this together.

Rt Rev Dr William Henry

Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Most Rev Eamon Martin

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of all Ireland

Most Rev Dr John McDowell

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of all Ireland

Rev Sam McGuffin

President of the Methodist Church in Ireland

Very Rev Dr Ivan Patterson

President of the Irish Council of Churches

Herald update

1.5.2020 | Presbyterian Herald, Church Life, Mission, Congregational News, COVID-19 Emergency

Despite the printed version of the Presbyterian Herald being on hold for now, as a result of current restrictions relating to the COVID-19 emergency, the April edition of the magazine is available free online.

The publication of the Presbyterian Herald has been suspended temporarily as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. Although there will be no more printed versions in the near future, April’s edition did make it through the production process before work and travel restrictions came into force prohibiting its distribution by Herald agents across Ireland.

Head of PCI’s Creative Production Department, James McCormick, which produces the magazine said, “The Presbyterian Herald relies on the hard work and dedication of hundreds of volunteer agents throughout Ireland to distribute the magazine. The agents, along with the goodwill and cooperation of many depots, ensures the smooth delivery of the magazine to all our subscribers.

“Due to these unprecedented times, many depots and collection points have been closed, so not all agents received the April edition prior to the lockdown. Delivery of the remaining magazines should not be attempted and only be completed when government health and safety guidance allows. As a result of these difficulties the April edition of the magazine is currently available for free.”

Click here to download a free PDF copy of April’s edition.

You can also download and subscribe to the digital interactive version of the Presbyterian Herald via issuu. For more details click here.

Herald Extra podcast

Herald Extra podcasts are still available. Starting with the November 2019 edition, this monthly podcast delves deeper into some of the articles in each edition. with special guests, background stories and news. Although currently on hold, you can listen to past episodes and subscribe to the podcast here.

Last month, at the beginning of this pandemic, Sarah Harding, the editor of the Presbyterian Herald, wrote to all agents explaining that, “In the midst of what is a very worrying and upsetting time, I would like to thank you for your ongoing support of the Presbyterian Herald. We will miss providing this important communication tool for our denomination, but we look forward to starting up again as soon as we can. In the meantime, we hope and pray that you stay safe and continue to trust and rely on our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ during this anxious time.”

Agents will be kept informed of any changes to the current arrangements.

NI Executive’s burial ground decision welcomed

24.4.2020 | Moderator, Church in Society, Statements, Public Affairs, COVID-19 Emergency

Presbyterian Moderator, Rt Rev Dr William Henry, has welcomed today’s decision by the Northern Ireland Executive, to reopen Northern Ireland’s burial grounds.

Speaking on behalf of the denomination, Dr Henry said, “Yesterday, along with my fellow Church Leaders, I had a productive video conference call with the First Minister, deputy First Minister, and both Junior Ministers, during which this important pastoral issue was discussed. I welcome today’s announcement that the Executive will reopen Northern Ireland’s burial grounds.

“For many reasons this is a sensible and compassionate response to an important pastoral and human need, especially when not everyone who mourns a loved one has been able to attend their funeral as a result of current government restrictions. Visiting afterwards, therefore, may be the first occasion they are able to make a personal response at a time of bereavement. Opening graveyards makes this possible.

“Today’s decision will bring much comfort to many, not just those who are grieving the loss of a loved one who passed away recently, but also those who find comfort in being close to those they miss.

“We recognise that appropriate access to burial grounds must be done in a way that ensures appropriate social distancing, and which safeguards those who work there, along with those who have come to visit. As we continue to pray for those in authority who have to make these important decisions, we also pray for those who mourn that they will know the Lord’s comfort.”

Church Leaders ‘thank you’ to those on frontline

17.4.2020 | Moderator, Church in Society, Prayer, Statements, Church leaders, COVID-19 Emergency.

Following their weekly video conference today, the leaders of Ireland’s main Churches have expressed their deep appreciation and thanks for those working on the frontline during the current Coronavirus pandemic, commending them for “their work, courage and compassion.”

Presbyterian Moderator, Rt Rev Dr William Henry, joined the leaders of the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Roman Catholic Church, and the Irish Council of Churches, as they looked forward to a time when the pandemic abates and is over saying that, “we will also have a renewed and strengthened sense of community on this island and a new understanding and deeper appreciation of one another.”

The Church Leaders also encouraged those taking part in the Thursday evening appreciation of the UK’s health care workers to pray for them when the applause has ended and people go back into their homes.

Church Leaders’ joint statement in full

To be a community, in the real sense of the word, means that as individuals we acknowledge our interdependence and work together to achieve something for the greater good, which will benefit us all. In the last number of weeks we have witnessed the vast majority of people on this island working together, in a way that has perhaps never been seen before, protecting one another from this terrible unseen enemy which is attacking our community. Deserted streets and roads are not signs of abandonment, but of love.

We have the greatest admiration for our healthcare workers who are literally serving on the frontline in caring for the sick and dying. We offer our deepest thanks, commending them for their work, courage and compassion as we continue to remember them in our prayers. We also remember the countless others who are serving the community in ways, which in other circumstances, we would consider everyday – those involved in providing and selling food and essential items, pharmacists, and everyone working with the public for our wellbeing. We owe them a huge debt of thanks and gratitude – thanks, which in many ways is also due to everyone, as we play our part in following the challenging, but necessary, restrictions on normal life, as we have come to know it. These are difficult times, but if we all work together for the common good, better days lie ahead.

As we look forward to those days, we continue to show our collective appreciation as a grateful community for those who work in our health service across the UK, and for all who care for the community in various ways, by sharing in a round of applause at 8pm on Thursday evenings. This coming together is a wonderfully uplifting and meaningful act, which is greatly appreciated by those who serve on the frontline.

When you go back into your homes each Thursday evening, may we encourage you to join with us in offering a prayer of thanksgiving to God for all those whom we have acknowledged in our round of applause. Please pray that they may know God’s strength and courage, safety, and blessing in their work. Pray too for those for whom they are caring – the sick, vulnerable, dying and all in distress.

God willing, once the pandemic is past, we will also have a renewed and strengthened sense of community on this island and a new understanding and deeper appreciation of one another.

Rt Rev Dr William Henry

Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Rt Rev Dr John McDowell

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh-elect

Rev Sam McGuffin

President of the Methodist Church in Ireland

Most Rev Eamon Martin

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of all Ireland

Very Rev Dr Ivan Patterson

President of the Irish Council of Churches