Belfast Telegraph

Everyone needs a message of hope, new leader tells General Assembly gathering

Alf McCreary

By Alf McCreary

The new Presbyterian Moderator told the 180th General Assembly last night that everyone needs a message of hope "inside and outside the Church".

Addressing an audience of 800 church members and delegates from all over Ireland, as well as overseas guests and civic dignitaries, Rev William Henry said on last night that "we are all the same flesh and blood".

"We face the same uncertainties, and every one of us is on the same daily treadmill," he continued.

"We need hope to transform our present experience, and I believe ... that this hope is in enjoying God. I believe that the Gospel can transform our life and our experiences.

"So even when we fail personally, in our actions and in our words, when we feel that we as a Church fail and have not communicated well enough the love of Jesus as we should, when we feel our politicians fail, when we feel our institutions fail, we remind ourselves that God does not fail."

Dr Henry said that because of the pressures of life and the daily routine of sameness for many Christians, there is a tendency to simply admire God from a distance without "getting up close and really making a connection with him". "It is exactly for that reason that I want to take as my theme for the year 'Enjoying God'," he said.

Dr Henry also said that while people may not talk about enjoying God, they will talk about happiness, even though there may be a fear that what makes us happy will ultimately disappoint.

He quoted a Facebook user called Joe, who said his Liverpool supporting nine-year-old son Mark "thinks it's always been this good" for the new Champions League victors.

"If you are a Liverpool fan you will have revelled in the comments of the past couple of weeks, especially after the second Barcelona match - there is no other team like Liverpool, there is no other team that could pull a thing like that from the bag, that's the magic of Anfield.

"Sure, the 70s and 80s were great but there's been a host of disappointments between those days and now.

"And that's why a lot of smart people say that the only way to get through life is to give up on chasing happiness.

"So they say, 'Don't start following a team. Don't allow yourself to be vulnerable. Don't give your heart to anyone, it will only end in tears'.

"But that's not an answer to get us through life, as that only makes us hard and cold and dispassionate.

"This is why I want to return to my theme of Enjoying God. I believe that Christian joy gives us an entirely different way to get through life. The joy that God gives is so different, it changes your life. Isn't that what many of us have found?"

The new Moderator, who has a passion for youth ministry, added: "We need to win them with love, we need to hold them with holiness and we need to challenge them with truth."

Belfast's new Lord Mayor, Sinn Fein councillor John Finucane, said he was pleased to attend the opening night to represent the city.

He said: "I am Mayor for all, and I want that to be reflected in the engagements I attend throughout my year of office."

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