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'I've been busier than ever ... it's important to maintain normality' - Outgoing Presbyterian Moderator

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Rev William Henry stands down as Presbyterian Moderator next week

Rev William Henry stands down as Presbyterian Moderator next week

Rev William Henry stands down as Presbyterian Moderator next week

The outgoing Presbyterian Moderator has said he has contacted more than 400 of his church's ministers by phone or video-link since lockdown.

The Right Reverend Dr William Henry, who relinquishes his office next Monday, said he had been busier than ever, despite his full diary being "wiped" due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He revealed contacting the ministers "took much time over five or six days a week, but it was an opportunity to find out what was going on, and to hear about their struggles, and to encourage them and pray with them".

"That personal contact with each of my colleagues is not something which a Moderator usually gets to do, but it was time well spent," he said.

The Moderator explained that he was "anxious for ministers who were not able to transmit online services".

"I wanted to take the pressure off them and do something for the whole denomination, providing some normality perhaps," he said.

"Uppermost in my mind also was the sense of identity, of being a Presbyterian family who could not meet together. I wanted to give expression to that in the midst of everything."

He added: "We have all been affected by the pandemic, and my heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones across our island and those who have battled against the virus.

"They have been in my thoughts and prayers, just as those who continue to go that extra mile in providing daily care for them in our hospitals and care homes.

"It has been incredible and as a church we thank God for their selfless service and sacrifice."

The Rev Henry last preached to a church congregation on March 15.

"I have been asked if I feel that I have been 'locked-out' because of the Covid-19 emergency," he said.

"We have all had to make adjustments and to live with changed times. As a Moderator your diary is full, you know exactly what you are doing and then suddenly 12 weeks or more are wiped.

"However just as in the months before the lockdown, I have been busy and in some ways even busier, but in a different way. I have done 11 weekly pre-recorded services, with the last one going out on Sunday."

He admitted that his year in the post had "pushed me out of my comfort zone".

"I am naturally quite shy and reserved and that is not who a Moderator is. You have to get out there, speak up and do the things you are called to do," he said.

He said that since the lockdown the Irish church leaders have met more frequently, through video-conferencing, nearly every two weeks.

He has already taken part in online meetings with the First and Deputy First Ministers, UK church leaders and the Taioseach.

The Moderator's outgoing address will be streamed live on Monday night during the installation service for the new Moderator, Rev David Bruce.

Belfast Telegraph