As posted on the News Letter website, see here for the original article.

Presbyterian Moderator Dr John Kirkpatrick attends Motor Cycle Union of Ireland Ulster Centre awards

As the principal public representative of the Presbyterian Church, the moderator of the all-Ireland denomination is most commonly seen as a man of the cloth.

However Right Reverend Dr John Kirkpatrick has also been known to trade cloth for leather, and last night in the Royal Hotel in Cookstown, the church’s current moderator became probably the first moderator to speak at a motorcycle awards night.

Motor Cycle Union of Ireland Ulster Centre’s annual season awards night saw a host of Northern Ireland’s leading road racers and newcomers attend the ceremony, which honoured their achievements in last year’s season.

Portrush minister Dr Kirkpatrick has a lifelong love of motorbikes and road racing, and a longstanding pastoral association with the sport, as he is race chaplain to the Motor Cycle Union of Ireland (MCUI) – a position that he has held since 1994.

Speaking before yesterday award’s ceremony, Dr Kirkpatrick joked that while it was a coincidence that the MCUI chaplain is also this year’s PCI Moderator, it was probably the first, and potentially the last time, a moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland would speak at the gala event.

He said: “This is always an important night for honouring the skill, dedication, courage and passion of those involved in motor cycle racing in Ulster and, of course, a time for reflection as we remember those whose passion for the sport was everything and ultimately cost them everything.

“Like any of our hard working chaplains you will find in hospitals, prisons, the armed forces or universities, their role is to come alongside people, supporting them, offering a listening and compassionate ear, being there for them, encouraging and praying for them, and not just in their hour of need. In a non-denominational way, my role is no different.

“Increasingly you will find more of our ministers, and those from other denominations, getting involved in sports chaplaincy as this ministry has expanded in recent years. In doing so, they bring their love of sport and love for Jesus together, as they offer pastoral and spiritual support to sportsmen and women, and officials, across a range of disciplines. It also underlines the fact that through sports chaplaincy, the Church wants to continue to demonstrate its care and compassion for people and its genuine desire to be there in every avenue of everyday life.”

Dr Kirkpatrick continued: “It is also about building relationships and trust on and off the pitch, or in my case on and off the track, in and outside of the paddock, with people of all faiths and none.”

The moderator also said that it had been a privilege to serve in his capacity as race chaplain for nearly 30 years: “The motorcycle racing community is a large family of people of all ages and from different walks of life who share a real love of the sport, its speed and power. People who celebrate the skill of the riders together, and at times come together to acknowledge the pain and grief that people often go through, but always appreciating that it takes every rider to make a race.”