The churches of the Durham and Gateshead Group called the Revd Marcus Hargis to be our minister towards the end of 2020. Marcus and his family moved into the Manse in Gateshead in the following February, with the expectation that a service of induction to the pastorate would follow a few weeks later. But then Covid struck.
From that point Marcus had to get to know his congregations and develop a ministry almost exclusively online. It is only in recent weeks, as we have begun to worship in our churches again, that the long delayed induction service became a possibility once more.
So there was a special sense of joy among those who gathered in Denewell Avenue United Reformed Church on Saturday July 31st – even though places were limited, and social distancing was observed in the church, while others participated at a distance via Zoom. The service was led by our synod moderator, the Revd David Herbert, and the preacher was Marcus’s friend the Revd Geoffrey Clarke, moderator of the East Midlands synod of the URC. He referred to the call of Moses as we heard in Exodus chapter 3 to remind Marcus of his own call to ministry leading to this time and place, and then referred to the reading from Mark chapter 10 to urge the congregations to be caring and imaginative in welcoming their new (or now not-so-new) minister.
We are all longing to see the “new normal”, while unsure what form it will take; but simply to meet together in the hall for tea and cake and conversation after the service seemed a fitting and special ending to what had been a memorable event.