I am proud and humbled to announce that I have been chosen to be the next State Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in NSW. The nomination process consisted of two rounds of voting, with about ten people nominated, and was completed on 31 December 2018.

The main duty of the State Moderator is to chair the annual meeting of the General Assembly of NSW. This will take place from Monday 15 July to Friday 19 July 2019 at the Audrey Keown Theatre at the Presbyterian Ladies’ College in Croydon, Sydney. All being well, I will be installed as the Moderator on the opening night. I have chosen Rev Stephen Taylor, the minister at Charlestown in the Hunter Valley, and Rev Derek Yu, minister at Temora, to be my chaplains to help me chair the meetings. The Moderator is not allowed to enter into any of the debates of the Assembly, but simply makes sure that the debates are conducted according to the rules of the Church. It is a responsible position, but it’s not like I’m going to be the next Archbishop of Sydney. The Moderator is in no way the head of the Church, that job belongs to the Lord Jesus.

Apart from the constitutional power to call an emergency meeting of the Assembly, the role is otherwise purely ceremonial for the 12 months after the Assembly, with the Moderator functioning as a kind of figurehead with no actual power. The Assembly, for example, will ask me to visit the churches in two of the state’s regional presbyteries, one in Sydney and one in the country, and the Moderator used to visit the Governor of NSW to deliver the Assembly’s prayers for the Queen, and still does to my knowledge.

I expect that these duties will take me away from Corowa for an extra four Sundays in 2019/2020 on top of my usual annual leave. I also hope to visit the General Assembly of Victoria in early October to give them a greeting. The Assembly maintains a Moderator’s Fund from which it can reimburse the congregation for any expenses caused by my absence.

I’d like to dedicate my term as State Moderator to promote the opportunities of rural ministry to ministers and candidates, to highlight the ministries of those who often serve alone and unseen in remote areas, and to give a voice to those who are often overlooked.

Rev Richard Keith