From 3rd-6th June this year our General Assembly convened beneath blue skies in the wonderful venue of the Millennium Forum, Derry. The Assembly usually meets in Church House in Belfast but because Derry is this year’s UK city of Culture it was decided to move us all there instead. The move was even more appropriate since Rev Dr Rob Craig, minister of Kilfennan congregation in Derry (and Keith’s home church) had been elected Moderator for this coming year.
As always it was a packed few days with meetings morning, afternoon and evening but it was a great Assembly with lots of great discussion and debate covering a whole range of issues including worship, mission, education, overseas development, social witness, urban renewal, youth and children’s work and responding to poverty and injustice. Our worship times and the Wednesday evening event on the Assembly’s theme of ‘Transformation’ in particular were especially encouraging.
In case you know don’t already know, our wider church operates on three basic levels. The first and most important, of course, is the level of our local congregations, some 540 of them around Ireland. The second level is that of our Presbyteries (19 of them) which are regional gatherings of our congregations that meet for support, encouragement and accountability. Ours is the Dublin & Munster Presbytery and there are some 32 churches involved in it. The Minister and one elder from each congregation represent their churches at Presbytery’s bi-monthly meetings. The General Assembly is the third level of how our church operates and this is the highest ‘court’ of our church and is the place where all our most significant and difficult decisions have to take place. As with Presbyteries, the General Assembly is made up of one Minister and one Elder from each congregation around the Island – together with other representatives from other aspects of our church’s work such as youth and children, women, education, overseas etc. Each year, reports are gathered from all the presbyteries and boards of our church along with resolutions concerning our work and witness. These are sent out to all the delegates in advance of the General Assembly and then when we meet together they are presented for debate and decision by what is referred to as ‘the floor of the house.’ In hearing and interacting with one another our hope, of course, is that God will lead and guide our church in making these important decisions. At every Assembly, there are always representatives from the other major churches on the Island along with representatives from our partner churches overseas. These guests are also encouraged to join in our discussions and debates and vey often bring great perspective to our deliberations.
Here are some photos from this year’s meeting to give you a feel for the event.
Me with our new Moderator. (Just to prove I was there!)