Watch the installation service for the new Moderator

This Saturday, 16 May, you are invited to watch the special service to install the next Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

The 2020 General Assembly was cancelled because of the COVID-19 health crisis, but a unique service of installation will be streamed live here on the Church of Scotland website and also on the Church Facebook page, starting at 11am. Watch the service of installation here

Rev Dr Martin Fair will officially succeed Rt Rev Colin Sinclair as the Kirk's ambassador at home and abroad, taking up his new role in the General Assembly Hall in the traditional ceremony.

Rev Dr Martin Fair standing in front of the Church of Scotland emblem
Rev Dr Martin Fair, the minister of St Andrews Parish Church in Arbroath, is the Moderator-Designate for 2020-21

Challenging times

The familiar service will include hymns, prayers, readings and a Benediction. What is different this year is that instead of taking place before an audience of around 800 commissioners and spectators, the service will include only five people, a BSL interpreter and a skeleton camera crew, all of them following strict social distancing guidelines to prevent the potential spread of Covid-19.

The outgoing Moderator, Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, will open the service and will reflect on his year and offer some words of advice to the new Moderator.

The Principal Clerk, Rev Dr George Whyte will ensure correct process is followed, and will read a passage from the Bible as he would have done at the opening of the General Assembly.

Dr Fair's wife Elaine and Mr Sinclair's wife Ruth will be in attendance.

The Moderator's cross and ring will be placed in a box on a table and Dr Fair will be invited to put them on.

He will then address the Church and nation as he looks forward to the year ahead.

Rev Rosie Addis will offer British Sign Language interpretation. Those who tune in to the event on the church website can choose the stream that includes her interpretation.

Church elder Susan Pym will introduce the event with a pre-recorded introduction in her role as vice convener of the Assembly Business committee. Other guests will take part from a distance through pre-recorded videos.

Dr Whyte said: "This is not how we planned things but we are thrilled that the service can go ahead and be shared widely through the website.

"Martin Fair is just the right person to offer us leadership and inspiration in these challenging times."

General Assembly
The General Assembly

New territory without a map

The Moderator Designate's chaplains, Rev Gregor McIntyre, minister at Faifley Parish Church in Clydebank and Rev Catherine Beattie of Giffnock South Parish Church, will lead a prayer via video conferencing.

Rev Andrew Anderson and Rev Tim Sinclair, who served as chaplains to the current Moderator, will also be taking part online.

Speaking ahead of the service which comes at a time when church buildings are closed and spiritual nourishment is catching fire online, the Moderator Designate said: "Taking on the role was always going to be a challenge.

"But at least I had many others to follow and there was an established pattern.

"But no one has been this way before so I'm going to have to step out into new territory without a map.

"So for me, trusting in God to lead is where I'm at personally.

"And that perfectly mirrors the place of the Church as it looks toward a yet unknown future.

"I guess that's what my year is going to be about, not what was planned.

"But I'm ready to embrace it and go forward in faith."

Mr Fair will adopt the title "Rt Rev Dr" and continue in his role as minister of St Andrew's Parish Church in Arbroath for now and carry out Moderatorial duties when appropriate.

Colin Sinclair Very
Rt Rev Colin Sinclair

Mr Sinclair said: "I am delighted that Rev Dr Martin Fair is my successor and am conscious that he will take office at a demanding and unusual time and wish him every blessing in the year ahead.

"It has been an immense privilege and honour to serve as the Moderator of the General Assembly.

"As ambassador for the Church, I have enjoyed working with Church leaders from other denominations and leaders of other faith groups, and made some lasting friendships.

"I have appreciated contact with politicians, in Holyrood and Westminster, and also with Provosts and Lord Provosts around the country.

"At the General Assembly in which I was Moderator, the Radical Action Plan was approved.

"None of us knew then that Covid-19 would hasten the implementation of radical change.

"The Church has responded in creative and innovative ways, both in providing worship on-line and developing new models of pastoral care."

Online worship

The final two months of Mr Sinclair's diary was practically wiped out and he only managed to undertake two of the Moderator's visits to four presbyteries.

He rose to the challenge of Coronavirus restrictions and has spent many hours recording online Sunday sermons, prayers and producing daily Facebook Live reflections with his wife which have been watched by tens of thousands of people around the world.

Mr Sinclair, who will be known as Very Rev Colin Sinclair after he stands down, will soon return to his role as the minister of Palmerston Place Church in Edinburgh.