It was two years ago today, that our dear friend the Rev Tom Sinclair was tragically killed whilst attending the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. This is my own personal tribute which was published at the time on the Cross Ness Church website. I am reprinting this now in memory of Tom and in prayerful remembrance and support of Pam and Jonathan.
In the days that follow, there will no doubt be many tributes and press releases following on from Tom Sinclair’s sad death. The following words are my own reminiscences and tribute and are in no way an official tribute from either Presbytery or any other court of the Church. They are simply the words of a mourning friend.
It was with a profound sense of shock that we learned late on Monday evening 19th May 2014 of the sudden and tragic death of the Rev Tom Sinclair, the Presbytery clerk to the Presbytery of Lewis. Tom had been a Commissioner at this years General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and had been struck by a car in the area of Waverley bridge Edinburgh.
I was informed of this shocking news by the Rev Hugh M Stewart who telephoned late on Monday night both to inform me and asking for help in preparing a statement to be read by the Moderator at the beginning of Assembly business on Tuesday 20th May.
Before leading the Assembly in prayer, the Moderator the Right Rev John Chalmers informed the Assembly of the sudden loss of Mr Sinclair. “The news of Tom’s death in such tragic circumstances came as a terrible shock to the General Assembly. Tom Sinclair loved the Church of Scotland and loved General Assembly, we mourn his loss and we commend his wife and family to the care of the community of faith and to the grace God.
“Tom’s death is a painful tragedy for his wife and family and will come as real blow to the Presbytery of Lewis which he was still serving as Presbytery Clerk.”
Tom came to living faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour as a young man in his native Glasgow in 1955 during the campaign of Billy Graham at the Kelvin Hall. And since then lived a bright and consistent Christian life until the end. These were exciting times in the great city of Glasgow, with God doing a great work through the evangelism of Graham and Tom Allan and the Tell Scotland movement. After Glasgow University and Trinity College (the Church’s training college at Glasgow university) he completed his probation at Holburn Central Aberdeen with the redoubtable Dr Knox. I remember Tom saying once that Dr Knox and himself communicated most often by notes left in Pigeon holes in the Church! He also disclosed the fact that while still only technically a licensed divinity student Dr Knox arranged to have him ordained whilst still a Probationer. So Tom was in the unique position of being a fully fledged ordained minister whilst still a probationer at the same time. And Tom continued to be unique for the rest of his ministry!
Tom was a faithful servant of the Church of Christ, and a faithful servant of the Presbytery of Lewis for over thirty years. He was minister at Martins Memorial for 28 years and before that was minister in Scourie in Sutherland where he met and married his dear wife Pam, whose mourning and loss is much more acute than any one else’s. Tom not only served as the administrative officer or clerk of the Presbytery but was also very much in demand as a visiting preacher at communions. And we were blessed to have had Tom preach here in Ness on several occasions. Tom last preached here in Ness at the March 2011 communion season. He turned up late for the first service of course! He kept myself and the elders waiting in the church vestibule at least ten minutes after seven and it was with a real sense of relief we saw his car roar up to the church, and Tom amble out to take the service. He then preached an anointed and very searching sermon on Psalm 51. Tom’s preaching ability was sometimes overlooked because of his other skills, gifts, interests and warm pastors heart. He was however an accomplished preacher and never left our congregation without all listeners feeling fed and blessed by all they had heard. Tom remained till the end a very active and enthusiastic member of the Presbytery of Lewis, and served as an interim Moderator during vacancies in several congregations,some on more than one occasion. He took a keen interest in the welfare of students, both within the church and the community. He was for many years involved with the former Lews Castle school as chaplain and the school had no more staunch a supporter. He felt keenly the pain of the closure of the school in 2001. I suppose it was typical of Tom to support the underdog. He also served the community faithfully on the Children’s panel for several years and for several years represented the Church of Scotland on the Bethesda management committee.
As the moderator said Tom did indeed love the General Assembly and attended as a representative or commissioner of the presbytery of Lewis most years. He could be found most often sitting in ‘the Highlanders corner ‘ as it is known, engrossed in the debates or reading through his daily assembly papers, or catching up with his cronies over strong assembly coffee in the Rainey Hall. It is painfully ironic that it was whilst leaving the afternoon session of the Assembly that was so much part of his life that Tom was taken away from us.
I am dreading the first Presbytery meeting without him, none of the serving ministers in presbytery now can remember life before Tom, and he will be a very difficult act to follow.
In his professional and private life Tom was an example to us in many ways, a humble servant of Jesus Christ who used his God-given gifts to His masters glory and not his own. Tom was also an example to us of a deeply committed husband and father.
The first time I personally met Tom was in 1995 as I was being interviewed as a candidate for the ministry. Little did I think that nearly twenty years later I would be writing of him in this way.
I am thankful, very thankful to God for having known him, as are so many of the rest of his brothers in presbytery. My only hope and prayer is that Tom knew how much we loved him. We will as a Presbytery greatly miss our brother Tom’s wisdom, insight and experience at our meetings, and truly our meetings both at committee level and Presbytery will never be the same again.
Our heartfelt condolences go to Pam his grieving widow and their son Jonathan in the loss of his dad. We give thanks to God that Tom is now with the Lord and Saviour he loved and served so faithfully. Tom lived as one who knew that to be with Christ is far better than anything this world affords and we believe that he is in his Masters presence to receive from Him an unfading crown ( 2 Tim 4:8).
‘ Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things : enter thou into the joy of thy lord’ (Matthew 25:23)