A Tayside minister will still take up his role as the Kirk’s new moderator despite the General Assembly being cancelled.
The Rev Dr Martin Fair, 55, admitted his schedule for the coming year is going to look very different given the restrictions currently in place to deal with coronavirus.
Mr Fair, who will become the first moderator from Arbroath to serve as the Kirk’s ambassador, said the cancellation of the General Assembly for the first time since 1689 was “the only possible course of action given present circumstances”.
He said: “Nonetheless, from a personal point of view, it’s hugely disappointing.
“For the Moderator of the General Assembly that week in May is undoubtedly the highlight of his or her tenure so for it to be cancelled is just very unfortunate.
“At the same time, we all have to be very grown up in this situation and acknowledge that our own personal concerns need to be set aside for the greater good.
“When there are people dying and when the economy is under such pressure, not to mention the NHS, there really are more serious issues to be faced than whether or not the General Assembly of the Church goes ahead or otherwise.
“I’m the first moderator ever to have been called while serving an Arbroath congreation – that’s since the founding of the Church of Scotland in 1560 – and now the first Moderator since 1689 to have seen the General Assembly cancelled.
“Even so, it remains the plan for me to be installed as the moderator on May 16 for the coming year, though the installation service will have to take a very different form, given the restrictions now in place in terms of people gathering.”
Mr Fair said ordinarily he would be involved in a hectic programme of events, services, meetings and worldwide travel but “time will tell how much of that or otherwise will be able to happen”.
“Beyond the matter of the General Assembly, these are of course unique times in terms of the life of the Church more generally,” he said.
“A historian would have to delve deeply into the annals to find another occasion when public worship services had to be cancelled in the way that we are now seeing.
“The challenge now facing congregations across the country is to work out how to maintain their worship and work when it’s largely not possible for people to come together.
“The good news is that a growing number of churches have the technical capacity to stream services straight to peoples’ homes via the internet.”
Mr Fair’s own congregation, St Andrew’s in Arbroath, has been doing this for many years now and he said they were glad to have the know-how and the experience to keep up with that service in these days.
He said: “Beyond that, as with other churches, we’ll be exploring ways in which we can continue as best as is possible to care for people, particularly the most vulnerable members of our communities.
“Many years back, someone shared with me the phrase: ‘and this too shall pass’.
“There is great wisdom in that saying and we can hold onto it even in the midst of these challenging times.”