Looking ahead to Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly at which Moderator David Bruce will break 127 year tradition

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s General Assembly next week will see Moderator Right Reverend Dr David Bruce returned for a second term – the first time that has happened in 127 years.

Since PCI’s General Assembly came into being in 1840, this has only happened on six previous occasions, the last time being in 1894.

Rev Trevor Gribben, clerk of the general assembly and general secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, said: “I think there were two reasons. There was a strong feeling David didn’t get to do lots of the things he would have done as a moderator. A moderator is elected to be a pastor, enthuser and encourager to the church and an ambassador for the church. I think there was a feeling that role was greatly hindered.

“There was also a strong feeling that as we are coming out of the pandemic, continuity is good.”

With social distancing rules next week’s general assembly can accomodate 350 people on the ground floor and 100 in the gallery

He added: “The outcome of this year’s nomination process is a further demonstration not only of the unprecedented times that we are living through, but also of leading of the Lord, as we have prayerfully sought his guidance for the days ahead.”

The socially distanced three-day meeting which begins on Monday is the first opportunity the church has had to come together in general assembly in over two years.

Business before it will focus upon the life and mission of the Church and also touch upon some of the challenging issues facing society across the island.

These include climate change and human identity to the UK government’s proposals on legacy and PCI’s support for the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland.

Looking ahead to next week, Rev Gribben, said: “As a result of the pandemic, along with other organisations, businesses and society as a whole, the church has witnessed extraordinary times over the past 19 months that have required unprecedented adjustment in how we do church and how we do our business. Because of this, our autumn meeting, as I said recently, will be an exceptional meeting that reflects the exceptional times we are living through.”

Another significant change is that the general assembly will open on Monday morning, not Monday evening. The moderator’s address will kick start the three days of debate and decision on upwards of 70 resolutions.

There will be three worship services led by Dr Bruce, including the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper on Tuesday morning. This service will include the reading of the names on the Memorial Roll, honouring the memory and ministry of ministers who have passed away since the general assembly last held an in person meeting in 2019.