Abbotsgrange Parish Church’s Reverend Aftab Gohar (52), who originally comes from Pakistan, will officially become the moderator at a ceremony tonight and will now be the Kirk’s figurehead in the Falkirk area for the next 12 months.
The Church of Scotland is divided into presbyteries which have oversight of congregations in their areas.
Led by the Moderator – now Reverend Gohar – ministers, deacons, and elders gather together for fellowship, worship, discussion, and decision-making on matters that affect the local parish and communities.
The installation service will be conducted on video conferencing platform Zoom and shown on Falkirk Presbytery’s website and Facebook page.Reverend Gohar said: “It is a great opportunity and I am feeling very honoured and humbled.”
The minister at Abbotsgrange since 2008, Reverend Gohar, his wife Samina and their two sons, Shahan (24) and Zeeshan (22) are all now British citizens.
He admitted he was taking up the role of Presbytery Moderator at an interesting time for the church amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to the temporary closure of buildings.
He said: “Almost all churches in Falkirk Presbytery are providing online worship for their congregations and the three churches in Grangemouth have provided a united service for the last 12 weeks.
“The online engagement has been good and shows that people are very invested in what we are providing during these uncertain times. Once lockdown has eased, we will be a different church but we know that different denominations of churches around the world are in the same position – we are all in it together.”
Reverend Gohar grew up in Peshawar and was ordained into the Church of Pakistan in 1995.
He first came to Scotland to study at the University of Edinburgh for a year in 1998 and returned again to work as a full-time Kirk minister in 2008.
His family suffered tragedy in 2013 when his 79-year-old mother, nephew, niece, two uncles and other friends and relatives were among 122 people killed in a terrorist attack at their Christian church in Peshawar.
Speaking after the atrocity, he said what the terrorists did was wrong but he forgave them and prayed that they would learn that it was not right to kill innocent people.