Moderator will review his challenging year ahead of the General Assembly

The outgoing Moderator of the General Assembly will present the highlights of his “far from normal” year in office due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moderator on kiltwalk

Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair will share his thoughts on how he successfully adapted the unique role during a special event streamed live online from the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh on Wednesday, 19 May.

In conversation with Seonaid Knox, an elder at St John’s Parish Church in Gourock, Inverclyde, he will talk about the highs and lows of acting as the Church’s ambassador during an incredibly challenging year.

People can watch the interview on the Church website and Facebook page between 8pm-9pm and a recording will be made available.

Dr Fair said: “It’s hard to get my head around the fact that ‘my year’ is almost over.

“Though, of course, it has been far from normal.

“I’ve never been idle and have had something of a bird’s eye view of the life of the Church throughout the period of the pandemic.

“I’m hoping that through this special review evening I’ll be able to share some of that and some reflections on how the role of Moderator adapted to rise to the challenges that were faced.”

The General Assembly is taking place from Saturday, 22 May to Thursday, 27 May and will be streamed live online via the Church of Scotland website for the second consecutive time.

It meets every year to discuss key issues facing the Church and to make decisions about the future activities and plans.

The gathering will be attended by His Royal Highness Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and Earl of Strathearn, who is serving as the Lord High Commissioner, Her Majesty the Queen’s representative.

Only a limited number of key participants, including technical support crew, will physically be in the Assembly Hall on The Mound.

The Earl of Strathearn will be present on the opening and closing days.

The Moderator Designate for 2021-22, Rt Hon Lord Wallace of Tankerness QC, will be installed on the first day and will chair proceedings thereafter.

An elder at St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney, he will serve as the Church’s ambassador for the next 12 months while Dr Fair is returning to his role as minister of St Andrew’s Parish Church in Arbroath, Angus.

In ordinary times, around 730 commissioners, ministers, elders and deacons of the Church meet in the General Assembly Hall along with youth representatives, delegates from partner churches and faith groups, and overseas visitors.

However, commissioners and representatives will take part in the proceedings remotely this year and will be able to contribute to the discussion and vote online.

Topics to be discussed

Against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, commissioners will look at the progress made on church reform efforts, the faith action plan, the future of ministry, how to reach zero carbon across the Church and new developments in our ecumenical work.

Under discussion during the week will be reports from the Assembly Trustees, the Faith Nurture and Faith Impact forums and the other bodies leading church work on everything from investments and pensions to theology and church law.

A special commission will report on the Presbyterian System of Church Government and the Society Religion and Technology group will deliver a report on Artificial Intelligence.

The Legal Questions Committee will propose draft legislation for solemnising same-sex marriages and explain the process for ministers and deacons who wish to conduct ceremonies.

The committee will also explain the safeguards that will be built into the legislation for those who do not wish to conduct same-sex marriages.

If passed, the legislation will go to presbyteries for consideration before returning to the 2022 General Assembly which could approve it to become Church law.

All of the reports and speeches will be posted in the General Assembly section of the Church of Scotland website by 7 May with the Order of Proceedings and supplementary reports available by 14 May. Read the reports and speeches

The Assembly will also approve budgets, set priorities for staff workstreams and decide policy on wider social and political issues.

Timetable (partial)

Saturday 22 May 10am – 3.30pm

  • Formal opening of the Assembly with processional entry of Lord High Commissioner, First Minister, Moderator and guests
  • Installation of the new Moderator
  • Reading of letter from Her Majesty the Queen
  • Address from the Lord High Commissioner
  • Address from outgoing Moderator
  • Report of the Assembly Trustees

Monday 24 May 1-3:30 pm and 4-6pm

Reports:

  • Special Commission on the Effectiveness of the Presbyterian Form of Church Government
  • Legal Questions
  • Ecumenical Relations

Tuesday 25 May 1-3:30 pm and 4-6pm

Reports:

  • Faith Nurture Forum
  • Theological Forum

Wednesday 26 May 1-3:30 pm and 4-6pm

Reports:

  • Faith Impact Forum
  • Social Care Council

Thursday 27 May 1-3:30 and 4-6 pm

(A 10-12 noon morning session may be added)

  • Chaplains to HM Forces
  • General Trustees
  • Lord High Commissioner and Moderator to address the General Assembly
  • Processional closing the Assembly