Moderator preaches for a congregation of 16,000 people
Published on 4 February 2023 3 minutes read
The Moderator of the General Assembly preached in front of nearly 16,000 people at a Presbyterian church in South Sudan today.
Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields was given a rapturous welcome at Nyakuron-West Church in Juba when he and the Church of Scotland delegation arrived at the large tent venue.
The First Vice President of South Sudan, Riek Machar, was in the congregation and gave an address, urging people to embrace forgiveness and reconciliation.
Dr Greenshields, Principal Clerk, Rev Fiona Smith, and Rev Ian Alexander, who leads the Church's international partnerships work, and members of the Presbyterian Church USA also met with local church leaders.
The colourful and lively service was one of three major events that the Moderator took part in today as part of an historic ecumenical Pilgrimage of Peace alongside Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The three spiritual leaders worshipped at different churches as per their faith traditions this morning but appeared together at Freedom Hall to meet and address people who have been forced to flee their homes and live in displacement camps.
Dr Greenshields, Pope Francis and Most Rev Justin Welby later led a large open-air prayer vigil for peace and an estimated 50,000 people attended.
The Moderator used all three occasions to bring greetings from the Church of Scotland and express solidarity with ordinary people who are suffering profoundly from continued armed conflict, violence, floods and famine and appealled to decision-makers to lead the way in bringing about reconciliation and lasting peace.
Speaking at the Church service, Dr Greenshields acknowledged that it is "very difficult" to be a Christian, the leader of a country and a church but encouraged people to follow Jesus's commandment to love one another deeply and build a society that is worthy of the name Christ
Dr Greenshields described the Pilgrimage of Peace as a "remarkable occasion" given the Christian Church has united in this way for the first time in more than 500 years.
"Here we are on South Sudanese soil seeking to find a way together and encourage one another to be peacemakers," he added.
The only way to do that is to love God with all our hearts and minds and love one another.
"Jesus says, ‘love Your enemy' and pray for them.'"
Dr Greenshields led the opening prayer at the Freedom Hall event and met some young people living in camps who shared their testimonies.
Addressing the vast crowd, he said: "We thank you for this space and ask that for all present it might be a space of hope
"A space where love is shared, known and experienced
"We are in Freedom Hall and may this be a place of new beginning."
Dr Greenshields told the crowds at the outdoor prayer vigil that it was a "great pleasure and privilege" to join the Archbishop and the Pope on the Pilgrimage for Peace.
"We are visiting your country to emphasise our commitment with you to peace in South Sudan and to encourage and stand in solidarity with you, the people who are still suffering profoundly from the effects of violence, floods and famine.
"In the unity of faith, we offer solidarity with the Churches, the people and leaders of this country who genuinely seek change through peace for a future that is optimistic and hopeful.
"There is a strong legacy of churches working together for peace and reconciliation in South Sudan – they played a key role in the nation achieving independence peacefully.
"We hope to encourage the continued unity of churches for the common good in South Sudan, for justice and fullness of life for all the people."
Dr Greenshields said he prayed that the Pilgrimage of Peace will enhance "the spirit of change" in all people.
"To empower us all to seek hope, reconciliation, forgiveness, justice, and unity in and through our Lord Jesus Christ," he added.
Read Pope Francis's address at Freedom Hall.
Read the Archbishop of Canterbury's address at the peace vigil.
The pilgrimage continues tomorrow morning before Dr Greenshields and the Church delegation return to Scotland aboard the Papal flight.