Kevin’s acceptance speech as the newly elected Minister Moderator of General Assembly 2016-2018
Please note the reference to Longcauseway Church where Kevin and Lynne are members.
It was in Cardiff, where I arrived for the 2014 Assembly to the surprise of seeing the representative of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, Revd Neil Kirkham, who had been elected their moderator. I had shared a student house at Leeds with Neil, when we decided that since we five lads were like a family, we should worship together, so we tried the local churches of each of the denominations in which we had been brought up. There wasn’t a Welsh Presbyterian Church in Leeds, so we went to this new thing called United Reformed Church, so Neil then was responsible for introducing me to the URC, and because Headingley Hill was so friendly we kept going there in our final year. I, then moved to Cardiff.
It was in Cardiff, having moved there to train as a probation officer, my landlady misdirected me to a Methodist Church which turned out to be a URC, and there I first became a member of the United Reformed Church at Grand Avenue, Ely where I was so inspired by the minister, Revd Mary Evans.
It was in Cardiff that I was accepted for training into URC ministry.
It was in Cardiff a year ago, in the Doctor Who Exhibition that a grown man had tears in his eyes as I entered the TARDIS!
Now it is Cardiff again where I have been elected as the minister assembly moderator. Cardiff has a lot to answer for!
I want to thank my mam and dad, grandparents and all the family who shaped me into the person I am; my wife, Lynne whose love lets me soar into the clouds, and our four children who soon bring me back down to earth; my friends who love me because of who I am, and despite what I am like; and all the brothers and sisters in the Church who have enriched who I am – including our synod of Yorkshire. I am sure the rest of the country know Yorkshire isn’t God’s only country – but it certainly is a synod of grace! And thank you, Assembly for putting your trust in this frail child of God.
I really, really, really didn’t expect being elected, so I don’t have any prepared speech or even some fancy words or quotes in my pocket. All I have with me was last week’s order of service, a book I’m reading and a greetings card I was going to send to someone. The order of service is from Longcauseway, Dewsbury, where Lynne and I are members. It was a service to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the church – so did they get the moderator to preach or invite a famous preacher? No! The service was led by the children of Junior Church and Pilots. That’s the kind of thing why I’m in the URC! The children reminded us that in the 1830s, Dewsbury Christians were fighting to get legislation passed to abolish slavery. Something to celebrate? Yes! But the young people then reminded us that there are today more slaves than there have ever been. There is still work to be done! We were told the story of how on Christmas morning in 1906 over 400 children had breakfast in church because of poverty. Yet today we have Food Banks with growing need. Still more work to be done! How we could be overcome by the demons of Fear, or Anger, Injustice or Prejudice! We’re only little! But last night I opened the book I have brought – Carla Grosch-Miller’s poems and prayers from the Psalms, “Psalms Redux” and read my favourite psalm –
“For I have known you. In turning to You, hearts and hands open, You have met me with grace, and released me from fear.” (Psalm 34)
That’s what I need to hear. That’s what we all need to hear as we face the future, little churches, in a little denomination, with a big heart. And the Young People at Longcauseway ended the service with this hymn:
Creep, creep, creep in the dark fear comes to blow out all your lights.
It doesn't want you telling everybody that Jesus rules, all right!
Giant fears are really small when all you see is God
Don't be afraid to stand up tall and give a great big shout:
Let your light shine Whoa! Let your light shine Whoa!
Let Your light shine and let Jesus shine through you.
I'm not scared, I'm gonna let my light shine!
You're not scared, you're gonna let your light shine!
We're not scared, we're gonna let our light shine!
Cos Jesus is Lord, and He's gonna let His light shine!
So, we’re “gonna let His light shine!”
As the greeting card I was going to send reassures us - “Blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light.” (Groucho Marx) I think I’ll send the card to you and me and we’ll let God’s light shine through us.