Outgoing Moderator addresses General Assembly

Moderator Rob Craig, Kilfenan Presbyterian Church. (INLS-22-28-05-GMI-100)
Moderator Rob Craig, Kilfenan Presbyterian Church. (INLS-22-28-05-GMI-100)

After an eventful year as Moderator Londonderry Minister Rev Dr Rob Craig, is preparing to hand over the mantle to his successor.

One of his final duties was to address the Opening Session of the General Assembly on Monday.

In a reflective mood, he said that last year one of the first civic events he attended as Moderator, was the visit of President Obama to the Waterfront Hall. “Before his arrival the young people present started a Mexican wave. Political, civic and religious leaders, we all joined in, and somewhere in that moment of transformation in my heart the words of Van Morrison echo about ‘days like this’.

“In April of this year I found myself as a guest at the Reception in Windsor Castle, mingling with all kinds of people from our society, North and South. The visit of President Higgins mirroring the visit of the Queen to Ireland in 2011. Again, in that moment of transformation, I hear Van Morrison singing about ‘days like this’,” he said, continuing: “But, in between and surrounding those two events we also experienced over the summer, violence erupting on the streets of North Belfast; before Christmas, many of the hopes of agreement at the Haass talks evaporating over the New Year; and as the year unfolds an increase in race related attacks and stalemate over Welfare Reform. ‘Days like this’, the generosity of spirit, the glimpses of grace and Transformation have at times been overshadowed”.

He continued: “And what we may have witnessed in our public life, I suspect, will also have been true both in our personal and congregational lives together. Moments of Transformation when, with the wind in your back, you are longing for more days like this. And then, when the goodwill disappears and you feel a gale force wind in your face.

“In such moments we are all confronted with two very real and powerful temptations. On the one hand, we can be tempted into that kind of individualism which is in the air that we breathe; the individualism which insists that life is just about me and what I can get out of it. On the other hand, in face of such intractable problems we can be tempted into a paralysing despair that nothing is ever going to change. That, in the words of the expression, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’,” he said.

“Throughout the past year I have been privileged to speak week by week on the theme of ‘transformationt and in particular on the Church as a place of transformation. For this reason, let me take you to one sentence, comprising only five words: ‘I am making everything new’. In all my years as a minister I have had the foolhardy courage to read these words and the passage of Scripture in which they are found at every funeral which I conduct; standing at an open grave, immediately prior to the words of committal, like all my colleagues I affirm to the grieving family and all who grieve with them these words: ‘I am making everything new’.

In the face of death, this word of promise and hope from the risen Lord has inspired one generation after another, transforming them, their faith and their outlook on life. As we, personally, as a church, as a society journey on through life, may these same words be our inspiration, not least in those moments when we are tempted to think only of ourselves, or when despair in face of trials would paralyse us.

Let me highlight for you briefly two facets of this word of Transformation, I am making everything new.

Quoting Scripture, he said nothing was ever out of God’s control even when people were tempted to believe that the forces of evil were winning, and people tempted to hide in our own personal worlds, or to give into despair, God is and would make everything new.

“Earlier this year, one of our daughters invested in a new car. Until she bought her car I don’t think I had ever noticed how many of the same make and model are on the road. ‘I had been blind; my eyes were closed to them’. Now I see them everywhere.

In that experience I have come to understand how it can be with God’s word of Transformation both in and through our lives. We can be blind to it and not recognise what He is doing and how He is working around us,” he said.

“In conclusion, one final image: It is that of the BBC broadcasting to the occupied peoples of Europe during the Second World War. Their broadcasts began with a drumbeat thumping out three short beats followed by a longer beat, signalling on a drum the Morse code letter ‘v’ for Victory. I offer you not four drumbeats but five words: ‘I am making everything new’ coming from the throne of heaven, words of transformation,” he said.