Presbyterian leaders to meet in person again

The leaders of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will meet for their annual general assembly next month.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 8:42 pm
Rev Trevor Gribben.
Rev Trevor Gribben.

The event was cancelled last year due to Covid - the first time in the denomination 180 year history the assembly did not take place.

The assembly will take place from Monday morning, 4 October, to Wednesday afternoon, 6 October, at Assembly Buildings in Belfast.

Rev Trevor Gribben, Clerk of the General Assembly, described the autumn coming together as “an exceptional meeting that reflects the exceptional times we are living through”.

Covid mitigations will mean that only ‘full voting members’ of the assembly will be present, to ensure social distancing.

“There can be absolutely no doubt that the life and rhythm of our church, since the first lockdowns of March last year, along with other organisations, businesses and society a whole, has witnessed extraordinary change that has required unprecedented adjustment as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Mr Gribben said. “As a result, one of the casualties was our June 2020 General Assembly, which had to be cancelled.”

The cancellation, the first time in PCI’s 180 year history, was agreed by ministers and elders meeting in a unique virtual Special Meeting of the General Assembly during April 2020. They also agreed that all necessary business last year be conducted through a special ‘2020 Standing Commission of the General Assembly’ which met online.

The main change this year is that the denomination’s General Council, with delegated authority from the General Assembly, agreed that only full voting members would be present in person this year.

These will mainly be clergy, active retired ministers and a representative elder from each of the church’s 532 congregations across the island.

Rev Gibben said that restrictions this year mean that civic dignitaries and senior representatives from overseas and partner churches won’t be in attendance this year, nor will those other PCI members who usually are invited to ‘sit and deliberate’. While all sessions will be livestreamed, there will be no public access. The attendance of the media, however, will still be facilitated.

The church has over 190,000 members in 532 congregations throughout the island of Ireland.