The new Presbyterian Moderator highlighted the challenging legacy of Covid-19 as he took office on Monday night.
Rev Dr David Bruce became the 175th person to hold the post during a livestreamed ceremony in Belfast.
The event in Church House replaced the scheduled opening of the General Assembly, which has been postponed to the autumn because of coronavirus.
The last time it was postponed was in 1941 after the Luftwaffe blitz on Belfast.
Dr Bruce said: "The Covid-19 emergency has refocused our attention on the need for excellent care in the community. If a weakness has been exposed here (and who could argue otherwise), it behoves us to put it right."
He commended Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann and his Dublin counterpart Simon Harris for their leadership.
Dr Bruce added: "If there is to be a new normal at some point, perhaps we might hope that some of the richest learning we have gleaned might endure as abiding features of Irish life - things like generosity, community spirit, volunteering for practical care and warm appreciation of good work well done."
Praising the key workers, he said: "We commend the incredible commitment of all on the front line, in particular those in our health services and care home staff who are working in difficult conditions, and note among them the wonderful work of the Presbyterian care teams."
He also hit out at the relaxation of abortion laws here, ahead of a debate at Stormont today.
"It has been deeply distressing to see the radical liberalisation of the law in both jurisdictions regarding abortion," he added.
"Like all ethical issues, there must surely be a point of principle upon which our decisions rest.
"And we as a Church affirm again that life is holy to God and that the most vulnerable deserve the most assiduous protection - and this includes the unborn."
He urged legislators to "listen carefully to the persuasive call" of people such as Heidi Crowter, a woman with Down's syndrome, who has said abortion in cases of non-fatal disabilities is "offensive".
Referring to his main theme about the importance of home, Dr Bruce said: "I get frustrated sometimes when migration policies describe 'pulling down the shutters on our borders', as if the motives of those wishing to come to live among us are universally corrupt. We need to be wise, but we must never lose sight of the cost involved for people in leaving behind everything a person has known and loved."
Dr Bruce (62) is the secretary of the Presbyterian Council for Mission in Ireland.
His memorable week started last Monday and included the birth of his first grandson Malek, the award of an honorary degree on Friday, and culminated in his installation as Moderator last night.
"This has been quite a week for us," he added.
"The arrival of Malek has dominated everything and my wife Zoe and I are delighted to welcome him home as the newest member of our family.
"We are so blessed that we can hold him in these times, unlike so many grandparents, as his mum and dad - who are between moving houses - are living with us, as well as his big sister Marlow, who is 21 months."
During the installation ceremony in a virtually empty Assembly main hall, outgoing Moderator the Very Reverend William Henry reflected on his eventful year of office, which saw the spread of Covid-19.
"There were many visits I couldn't make that I was looking forward to, but like many of our ministers, I found it extremely busy, and a multitude of new opportunities opened up to me, I was able to phone each of our 400-plus ministers to find how they were doing at this difficult time."