South Asia born minister takes up Presbytery Moderator role

A Church of Scotland minister will tonight become the first person born and raised in South Asia to be installed as a Presbytery Moderator.

Rev Aftab Gohar, who is originally from Pakistan, said he was "honoured and humbled" to have been chosen to be the Kirk's figurehead in Falkirk and district for the next 12 months.

The 52-year-old minister has served Abbotsgrange Parish Church in Grangemouth since 2008 and he and his wife Samina and their two sons, Shahan, 24, and Zeeshan, 22, are now British citizens.

Rev Aftab Gohar
Rev Aftab Gohar

The installation service is being conducted on video conferencing platform, Zoom, from 7.10pm and will be shown on Falkirk Presbytery's website and Facebook page.

The Church of Scotland is divided into presbyteries which have oversight of congregations in their areas.

Led by the Moderator, ministers, deacons, and elders gather together for fellowship, worship, discussion, and decision-making on matters that affect the local parish and communities.

Mr Gohar said: "It is a great opportunity and I am feeling very honoured and humbled."

Online worship

The minister grew up in Peshawar and was ordained into the Church of Pakistan in 1995.

He first came to Scotland to study at the University of Edinburgh for a year in 1998-99 and returned again to work as a full-time Kirk minister in 2008.

Mr Gohar suffered heartache in 2013 when his 79-year-old mother, nephew, niece, two uncles and other friends and relatives were among 122 people killed in a terrorist attack at their Christian church in Peshawar.

Speaking shortly after the atrocity, he said what the terrorists did was wrong but he forgave them and prayed that they would learn that it was not right to kill innocent people.

Mr Gohar said he was taking up the role of Presbytery Moderator at an interesting time for the church amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to the temporary closure of buildings.

"Almost all churches in Falkirk Presbytery are providing online worship for their congregations and the three churches in Grangemouth have provided a united service for the last 12 weeks," he added.

"We are all doing daily reflections and Bible studies and reaching out to people who did not go to church before or had stopped going.

"The online engagement has been good and shows that people are very invested in what we are providing during these uncertain times.

"Once lockdown has eased, we will be a different church but we know that different denominations of churches around the world are in the same position – we are all in it together.

"In the Bible, God says ‘do not be afraid, I will be with you' so every day we have assurance he is there for us."

Mr Gohar is succeeding Rev Dr Mary Henderson who is also retiring as the minister of Lauriston with Redding and Westquarter Churches.

Rev William Wilson
Rev William Wilson

Meanwhile, Rev William Wilson is being installed as the new Moderator of the Presbytery of Glasgow in an online service tonight.

The minister is from near Coleraine in Northern Ireland and has served Burnside Blairbeth Church for 13 years.

Reacting to being nominated to serve as Moderator, Mr Wilson, 54, said: "I feel honoured as well as humbled.

"I am looking forward to it, having seen how my predecessor Rev Dan Carmichael ministered to the Presbytery during the last phases of the lockdown.

"I am looking to pick up that baton and it is quite interesting and exciting to venture into something new."

The installation service is being streamed on the Presbytery of Glasgow's website from 7pm.