Former Moderator ‘was a man of insight, determination and grace’

Eloquent tributes have been paid to former Irish Presbyterian moderator and General Assembly clerk the Rev Dr Samuel Hutchinson as being “a man of precision, determination, insight and grace”.

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 8:34 am
Updated Thursday, 25th November 2021, 8:36 am
The Rev Dr Samuel Hutchinson

The Rev Dr David Bruce, present moderator, led in the tributes to 84-year-old Dr Hutchinson at a service of thanksgiving in Railway Street Presbyterian Church, Lisburn yesterday.

Belfast-born Dr Hutchinson, who died last Friday in hospital after a short illness, was regarded as one of the most efficient and highly respected Presbyterian churchmen of his generation and Dr Bruce passed on the condolences of the entire Church to his sorrowing wife Margaret and sister May.

“On this sad occasion, we look back on the distinguished career of a close colleague who served both as a parish minister in Gilford with Clare in Iveagh presbytery, and latterly as deputy clerk, then clerk of the General Assembly, including in 1997/98, a year as its Moderator,” Dr Bruce told the packed congregation.

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“These bare facts conceal the humanity of a man who under Christ’s Lordship, carried these significant responsibilities.

“Like all of you gathered here today, I enjoyed being with Sam and always came away from our encounters with answers to the questions I had sought, and with some new information that I had not previously known.

“The Presbyterian family across this island will miss him, as will I personally.”

In the funeral address, another former Presbyterian moderator the Rev Dr John Dunlop said that in planning the simple service, Dr Hutchinson let his wife Margaret know that “he wished that I would give this address”.

“I feel greatly honoured to be nominated on such a day when we meet to mourn Sam’s death and give thanks for his life; on this day marked by burial and loss, when grief and thanksgiving, shake hands,” said Dr Dunlop, adding that Dr Hutchinson’s family roots lay in the hills adjacent to Belfast.

Educationally, Sam Hutchinson attended Forth River primary school, Belfast Inst and Queen’s University Belfast, where Sam and Dr Dunlop said their paths crossed as students for the Presbyterian ministry. Sam graduated from Queen’s University with an honours degree in classics.

He was ordained as assistant to the Rev James Dunlop in Oldpark Church.

Dr Dunlop said Dr Hutchinson was Presbyterian moderator in the year of the Belfast Agreement in 1998, a year of complexity and hope when politicians needed encouragement to reach a political accommodation across fractures of bitterness, misunderstanding and hurt.