Presbyterian Moderator begins pastoral tour of Presbytery of Iveagh

On Sunday, 27th February 2022, the Presbyterian Moderator, Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, will begin a weeklong pastoral tour of PCI’s Presbytery of Iveagh. It will be a busy day at the start of a busy week of engagements which will see him preach in a number of local Presbyterian churches, meet ministers and their spouses from across the Presbytery, visit schools and nursing homes, and meet with local business leaders.

Presbyterian Moderator begins pastoral tour of Presbytery of Iveagh

Moderators normally undertake tours of four of the denomination’s 19 regional presbyteries during their year in office and the visit to Iveagh will be Dr Bruce’s penultimate tour. Unlike his predecessors, Dr Bruce is the first Moderator in nearly 130 years to serve two terms and has already undertaken five presbytery tours.

With 20 separate engagements ahead of him, Dr Bruce, who will be accompanied by his wife Zoë, will start his tour by preaching at the morning services in Magherally Presbyterian and Katesbridge Presbyterian Churches – the first of five services where he will preach over the two Sundays. That evening he will also conduct the first of two united services from Newmills Presbyterian Church for people from the Presbytery’s western congregations.

A second united service will take place the following Sunday from Third Rathfriland Presbyterian Church, for people from congregations in the eastern part of the presbytery to come and worship together. That morning he will make a poignant return to preach in Scarva Street Presbyterian Church in Banbridge, It was here, over half a century ago, that he was baptised. On Tuesday evening, as members of Presbytery gather for their March meeting in Drumlee Presbyterian, Dr Bruce will attend and conduct the opening worship.

“Presbytery tours are a wonderful opportunity for a Moderator to get ‘out and about’ and get to know the church, seeing first-hand the work that congregations are doing in the community on the ground. Zoë and I are very much looking forward to next week’s forthcoming tour,” Dr Bruce said.

“They are very much pastoral visits and after such difficult times I very much want to encourage the local Church, and especially our ministers, who have been on the frontline, acknowledging the work that they and their congregations have done, and are doing, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Throughout the week, there will be a strong focus on education, along with farming, with the Moderator visiting Rathfriland High School on Tuesday, where he will take the assembly, followed by a visit to Drumadonnell Primary School that afternoon. On Friday he will drop in to Banbridge Academy, taking part in a Q&A session with senior RE and politics students.

On Wednesday Dr Bruce will have lunch with PCI’s new Rural Chaplain, Rev Kenny Hanna and leading figures in the local farming and agri-sectors, including the President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, Victor Chestnutt, to hear of the concerns they are facing. The Moderator will then make pastoral visits to farms in the Tandragee area. He will also meet with local business owners in Banbridge.

Named after the historic title associated with the south and west County Down area, the Presbytery of Iveagh takes in 27 congregations and some 10,000 people who have a connection with PCI within its bounds. Each presbytery is responsible for overseeing those congregations in its local area, while undertaking other important tasks, which include the ordination and installation of ministers, the ordination of elders, and the annual selection of the Moderator.

Presbyterian Moderator begins pastoral tour of Presbytery of Iveagh

As Rev Gordon Best, Clerk of the Presbytery of Iveagh, explained that it covers an area from the popular seaside town of Newcastle in the east, then runs north-westwards through the Mourne foothills and the Bann Valley, taking in the towns of Rathfriland and Banbridge. It then stretches as far as Gilford, Donacloney and Tandragee on its western border.

“We are absolutely delighted to be welcoming Dr Bruce and Zoë to the Iveagh Presbytery next week. We are a largely rural presbytery in mid-south Down, and like everywhere else, many of our congregations have had a very challenging two years navigating our way through the Covid pandemic. On top of this, several of our farming families and others working in the agri-sector are anxious about uncertainties over the Northern Ireland Protocol and the impact of border checks upon the movement of goods and livestock. Business owners and others working in the retail sector face similar concerns. Many in our congregations will no doubt be greatly encouraged by Dr Bruce’s visit,” Mr Best said.

The minister of Newmills Presbyterian continued, “It will be a busy time and a rewarding one for all concerned. During his tour of the Presbytery, Dr Bruce will visit some local schools in Rathfriland and Banbridge and spend a day in Newcastle. Here he will be calling at Lawnfield House, which provides 24-hour care for people with disabilities and another PCI home, River House, for older folk. Dr Bruce will also visit the local Lifeboat Station.

“On two separate occasions, he will spend time in fellowship with ministerial colleagues to encourage them in their ongoing pastoral ministry responsibilities. The united services from my own congregation, and Third Rathfriland, will afford the opportunity for many across the Presbytery bounds to share in welcoming Dr and Mrs Bruce to Iveagh,” Mr Best said.

This visit to the Presbytery of Iveagh will be the first to be undertaken by a Moderator since 2016. “From the Brexit referendum and Brexit itself, to the impact of the pandemic, much has changed in the last six years since my predecessor, Dr Ian McNie, toured the presbytery. It will be important for me to hear how our Presbyterian family has fared and indeed supported their local communities, particularly in the early days of the pandemic and the lockdowns,” Dr Bruce said.

“I will be thanking our ministers, elders and volunteers for their supportive work during the pandemic and indeed those also on the frontline, the teachers and care home staff who I will be meeting. Coupled with all that happens on a presbytery tour, first and foremost I will be bringing a message of hope, the hope that is found in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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