St Andrews Reformation Day Trip

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On Saturday, we joined with over 100 others from the RP churches of Glasgow, North Edinburgh and Airdrie (and friends from elsewhere) on a Reformation day trip to St Andrews to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

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With heavy rain the day before and the day after, we were grateful to God for a dry and sunny day for the trip. We arrived in St Andrews in time for lunch, before heading out to tour the town and hear talks on three famous Reformers who are associated with it.

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The first talk was given by Jimmy Fisher of Reformation Tours. He spoke about Patrick Hamilton, who first heard of the teachings of Martin Luther when at university in Paris. After returning home to teach at the University of St Andrews, he became convinced that Luther's teachings were Biblical. He began to preach and saw many people converted before being arrested, tried and burnt at the stake in 1528. However rather than stopping the progress of the Reformation, his death helped spread it.

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We then moved from St Salvator's to the Castle where Stephen spoke about George Wishart, whose theological ability and preaching around Scotland gave the Reformation both depth and breadth. Wishart too was martyred in St Andrews, being hanged and burnt outside the Castle in 1546.

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The final spot we visited was St Andrews' Cathedral where Peter Loughridge (North Edinburgh RP Church) spoke on the most famous Reformer of all - John Knox. Knox has many critics but Peter showed how he was just the man who God had shaped for such a time. Knox, like the other Reformers spent time abroad and had many contacts outside Scotland. Being part of this wider network benefitted the work of the gospel in their homeland.

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While at the Cathedral, we had the opportunity to visit the grave of Samuel Rutherford, someone who would be greatly used by God the century after Hamilton, Wishart and Knox.

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We then returned to our our starting point where Kenneth Stewart of Glasgow RPC gave a short talk on the benefits of the Reformation for Scotland. Overall it was a great day and we are thankful to God for safety in travel, fellowship, and the opportunity to learn more about the great heritage that Scotland has.

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Young Adults' Weekend

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Last weekend, Stephen and Carla (and Willow!) attended the RP Young Adults' Weekend in Annalong, where they were joined by brothers and sisters in Christ from Scotland, Ireland, America and Mexico.

In total, there were 75 of us (limited by space constraints), with a quarter of that being made up of friends from other denominations.

The talks from the weekend are available to download here, and the accompanying video is from the time of psalm singing on the Lord's Day afternoon.

A number of those who attended from Scotland shared their thoughts about it on the RPCS website. Here's what they had to say:

“The weekend was filled with excitement, new friends, but most importantly great talks and seminars on God’s Word. The seminars were centred around Christian friendship and the transgender movements effect on the church. We had great talks where we dissected the book of Haggai. This message was targeted to our younger generation of people and what seems to be their laid back approach. It reminded us to not say “not yet” in our approach to God’s purpose for us.” – Jordan King – Semester in Scotland Student, Airdrie RPCS

“At YAW I enjoyed getting to know other young Christians, the activities, and the seminars.  The talks were delivered by Philip Dunwoody on the book of Haggai.  It was helpful to learn about a minor prophet who had such an important role in Israel’s repentance and realisation of their priorities.” – Lydia Ross – Glasgow RPCS

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“The Young Adults Weekend was a new experience for all 4 of us who attended from Glasgow, and it turned out to be a great weekend of fun and learning. We were really encouraged by the talks Mr Dunwoody gave on the book of Haggai, where he showed the book in its context. I benefited a lot from the talk where he spoke on God’s response to Israel’s repentance. I had a lovely weekend and am thankful to have met so many nice Christians who I hope to see again soon.” – Allyson Stewart – Glasgow RPCS

“I found the talks on Haggai at YAW to be very challenging and applicable to us as young people; at a time when we are making big life decisions it is imperative that we continually consider our ways and ensure that our priorities are in order. I also valued the opportunity to spend a weekend with so many brothers and sisters in Christ; it was great to meet them all and hear about their various congregations in Ireland and further afield. I would encourage all young adults to think about applying to YAW next year for a weekend of spiritual nourishment and fellowship.” – Gemma Macdonald – Stornoway RPCS

“I really enjoyed meeting and getting to know so many young Christians, and studying and singing God’s Word together. The talks I found challenging and encouraging, and I learnt a lot about Haggai that I hadn’t picked up on before.  Also we got really good ice cream on Saturday.” – Shona MacLeod – Glasgow RPCS

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“My highlight of YAW was meeting people who have recently discovered the Reformed faith and joined (or are in the process of joining) the RP Church – it was great to hear their stories and talk through some of the questions they had. Another highlight was being able to spend time with others from the RPCS. In Stranraer, we don’t have much opportunity to spend time with others in our own denomination, so to be able to spend a weekend with some of them was something I really enjoyed.” – Rev. Stephen Steele – Stranraer RPCS

“I don’t think I’ve ever answered “the talks” when being asked what I enjoyed at a weekend before! (Talk about cheesy!) but I actually really did enjoyed Philips talks on Haggai. It’s a book I admittedly didn’t know much about before this weekend. Philip reminded us that the promises that were true in the days of Haggai are still true for Gods people today. The promises of His Word, and the power of His Spirit are still at our disposal. He urged us to live for the kingdom that cannot be shaken, to seize every opportunity we have to contribute to this kingdom and encouraged us to do what Haggai told these people to do, and even when we are tired or discouraged “in faith pick up another brick and build a little more in the corner of the kingdom where God has sent you” with the knowledge that a greater, more glorious kingdom is coming. What an encouragement to keep going with our work, where God has placed us here in Stranraer!! (It was also great to meet so many other Reformed Christians (from various denominations), many of whom I’d never met before and be able to worship and sing the psalms with them.)” – Carla Steele – Stranraer RPCS

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GO Team & Church Family Weekend 2017

The last weekend of August was an encouraging time for us as a congregation. With the help of an RP GO Team (short term mission team) we ran our first ever church family weekend!

The team arrived on the Friday afternoon and went to Belmont Care Home where the team entertained the residents and then we introduced and sang a few psalms.

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On the Friday night, we watched a new documentary on Martin Luther that's been produced to celebrate 500 years since the Reformation began.

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We invited some of the local churches to come on the Saturday and we started off the morning with coffee and scones. Ken Nelson, an elder in Trinity RP Church and part of the GO Team, shared his story of trusting God in the wake of a brain aneurysm. During his talk, the GO Team put on a programme of activities for the children, with a talk, craft etc.

In the afternoon, we were joined by some friends from Ayr Free Church Continuing for a Kids' Fun Afternoon with bouncy castle, candy floss makers, popcorn maker etc. We finished things off with a church BBQ, and then some of the GO team helped the young people in the congregation to make desserts for the church lunch the next day.

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On the Lord's Day the team worshipped with the congregation and Stephen preached on the Bible's picture of the church as a family. After worship we had lunch together, and then the team visited Dalrymple Court (sheltered housing) to sing some psalms. In the evening, Stephen began a new series on Galatians and the team joined the congregation for our usual post-service supper.

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On Monday, we visited Covenanter sites in Wigtown, where the team also had the opportunity to visit the local secondhand bookshops and coffee shops in Scotland's National Book Town.

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We are grateful to God for a great weekend and a growing sense of fellowship among the congregation!

Daily updates on the team as it happened were posted on the GO Teams website:
- Stranraer GO Team: Day 1 (Friday)
- Stranraer GO Team: Saturday and Sunday

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Girls' Discovery Camp

Hannah, from our congregation, was recently at Girls' Discovery Camp in Ballycastle. Here's what she thought of it:

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I was really nervous for camp as this was my first time going, and I was travelling over from Scotland to an Irish camp! But I was also excited! And it was a lot better than I expected it to be!

Some of the activities we did were: surfing, horse riding and messy games. My favourite activity was the surfing! The talks were really good they were all about women who met Jesus. I learned that Jesus can save you immediately no matter what your sins are. I loved my first experience of camp and I’m already planning to go back next year!

(Taken from the RP Global Alliance website)

As a congregation we are really grateful for all the leaders and cooks who serve God by helping run these summer camps. They have had a big impact in the lives of many and we're so glad that our young people can spend time with other Christians in this way!

Where is God?

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We live in a world of terrorist attacks, injustice, deceit, cancer, mental illness and death. Why doesn’t God do something about it? Many conclude that either he isn’t powerful enough to intervene, or he isn’t loving enough to care.

That was the conclusion that people came to as they witnessed the most evil event in human history. It’s striking that as we read through the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion in the Bible, it seems as if God is doing nothing. Those standing around the cross mocked Jesus because it seemed God didn’t love him enough to come to his rescue: ‘He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him’.

Yet although it seems at first glance that God isn’t doing anything, every detail of what’s happening is a fulfilment of his plan. In a series of seemingly random events, Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh to try and dull the pain, the soldiers who are crucifying him have the bright idea of casting lots for his clothes, and he’s crucified between two robbers. As these things happen, God doesn’t even get mentioned. It seems that he isn’t paying attention. And yet each of these acts is the fulfilment of centuries-old prophecies about how the Messiah would die. Although they have no thought of God, and their motives are very different from his, evil men are merely fulfilling his plan.

So just because it seems that God isn’t at work in your life, don’t conclude that he is absent. God’s activity is often hidden, but he is still very much at work.

If you’re not yet a believer in Jesus Christ, he is bringing events into your life to show you your need of him. In your disappointments, pain and bereavement he is showing you the emptiness and futility of living only for this life.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then God’s great goal for you in all that happens is to make you more like Jesus. Often, the process is not one we would choose. Just like refining gold, applying heat to something so precious seems destructive. But just as the goldsmith heats the gold until he can see his face in it, so God applies the heat to our lives that we might reflect him more clearly to a lost and dying world.

Published in Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press, 17th August 2017