Rev Brian Moodie is minister of Dromore and Banbridge Non-Subscribing Presbyterian churches. He is married to Wendy.
Q. Can you tell us something about yourself?
A. I was born in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa in 1974 and grew up as a Methodist with my parents, Tony and Margaret, and my brothers, Wesley and Keith. Wesley was a Wimbledon men's doubles champion in 2005. My mom intuitively felt I would be a minister when she held me as a new-born baby.
Having felt a call into ministry during high school, I worked as a youth pastor before entering the Methodist ministry in 1999. For 14 years, I served in five Methodist churches until I resigned in 2013. I am grateful for my time as a Methodist minister, though towards the end it began to feel like a much-loved shoe that fitted a little too tightly.
My marriage to Wendy in December 2011 came as a wonderful gift. She is a star and provides quality control on all my sermons. We met at a church when I was ministering in the Johannesburg area. In October 2017, we moved to Northern Ireland, where I became minister of Dromore Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and, in December 2020, also Banbridge Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church.
The ethos of the Non-Subscribing Church, which I had read about in the advertisement, spoke to me. I have a Masters in Theology from the University of South Africa.
Q. How did you come to faith?
A. My parents taught me faith by their actions more than their words. As a teenager, a more conscious faith journey began when I responded to a call to give my life to Christ at a youth meeting. My faith has grown, changed and broadened over the years, but it remains central to my life.
Q. Have you ever had a crisis of faith, or a gnawing doubt about your faith?
A. Yes. In my first year of ministry, in 1999, stationed in the African township of Soweto. Leading a prayer service, I felt quite powerless when about 20 people came forward afterwards for prayer, all asking that they would find work. In the midst of high unemployment, I was left wondering what difference my prayer would make. My belief system was shaken, but I realised that I still believed in goodness, beauty and truth - qualities that I still saw and valued in the person of Jesus.
Q. Have you ever been angry with God and, if so, why?
A. No, just left wondering if our understanding of God needs to be changed.
Q. Are you ever ashamed of your own Church, or denomination?
A. I am very grateful to be a member of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. It is by no means perfect, but it offers its members space to follow their own consciences and to come to their own conclusions as to what the Scriptures teach and mean. These are enormous gifts, which I value deeply.
Q. Are you afraid to die, or can you look beyond death?
A. The greater fear has probably been the fear of truly living and taking risks.
It is this fear that I need to confront on a more regular basis than the fear of death.
Q. Are you afraid of hell?
A. No. I believe that God will eventually save us all from the hells of our own making and that all will eventually be brought home to God, no matter how far we have strayed.
Q. Do you believe in a resurrection and, if so, what will it be like?
A. "Further up and further in," as CS Lewis wrote in The Last Battle. I believe we have an eternity of exploring the infinity of life ahead of us.
Q. What about other denominations and faiths?
A. I love the Anglican liturgy of my father's and grandparents' background. Salvation Army brass bands from my mom's background continue to move me. The Quaker and Catholic contemplative tradition of valuing silence speaks deeply to me. Methodist and Lutheran emphasis on grace continue to warm the heart. We have something to learn from every denomination and faith tradition.
Q. Would you be comfortable in stepping out from your own faith and trying to learn something from other people?
A. I have been deeply enriched attending Friday night Shabbat services, mindfulness retreats and Hindu Satsangs with Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu friends.
Q. Are the Churches here fulfilling their mission?
A. To the extent that churches are places of love, they are fulfilling their mission. Churches have much work to do in protecting and caring for creation.
Q. Why are so many turning their backs on organised religion?
A. People may be tired of religions of fear and control. For many, there is also too great a disjunction between science and the Bible. The scriptures need to be read more like poetry to inspire the heart and teach us wisdom, rather than as a religious encyclopedia with absolute answers.
Q. Has religion helped or hindered the people of Northern Ireland?
A. To the extent that religion fills people with fear, it is generally a hindrance. But to the extent that it has filled hearts with love and care, it will always be healing. I sense that both have been true here in Northern Ireland.
Q. What is your favourite film, book and music, and why?
A. As for films, The Mission and Breakfast on Pluto both invite us to wrestle with what faith and love mean in the ambiguities of life. For the book, River of Fire, River of Water by Taitetsu Unno helped me understand more deeply the infinite wisdom and immeasurable compassion of God within my own faith tradition. Tears for Fears' The Seeds of Love album has brilliant songwriting, vocals and arrangements.
Q. Where do you feel closest to God?
A. In moments of stillness. My wife and I sit together in silence for at least 25 minutes every morning.
Q. What inscription would you like on your gravestone, if any?
A. To Infinity and Beyond!
Q. Finally, have you any major regrets?
A. For my many failings in love.