A short history of Stranraer RP Church

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Following the refurbishment of our church hall, we had a look into the archives to find some information about when the hall was first built, and found this article that was published in the Free Press in January 1975

Reference was made to the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, in Stranraer, by Rev J. T. Moffett Blair, on Sunday. The congregation is, of course, much older but the present church is now 150 years old.

The first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland met in 1560, and in 1638 the Church bound itself by the National Covenant, and there followed times of severe persecution, and those who held to the Covenant were known as Covenanters or Cameronians.

When the Revolution Church of Scotland was set up in 1690 the Covenanters felt that they could not consistently be part of that Church, and for about sixty years they met as Societies in different parts of the country.

In 1743 they united to form the first Reformed Presbyterian Presbytery and places of worship were erected at suitable centres for the convenience of worshippers. The whole of Galloway formed one congregation but there were many difficulties in working such a large and widespread congregation.

Records show that about 1778 a Jane Blain, living at Kilhilt, resolved to have a R. P. minister at Stranraer. She went to Presbytery at Castle-Douglas with her plea, and ultimately Rev John Fairley came to Kilhilt and preached in the barn there. There was a splendid audience and that was the beginning of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Stranraer and in due course a small church was built where the present church stands.

It was not until Rev William Symington came to Stranraer that the church began to prosper. It is reported that he was ordained on 18th August, 1819, in the presence of an immense crowd, estimated at about four thousand who assembled in the burying ground adjoining the meeting-house.

For the next twenty years Dr Symington did excellent service for the Church. In a short time the church building proved too small for the large congregations that gathered, and in 1824 it was taken down, and another built on the same sit. This church, which is the present building, was opened for worship on 2nd January, 1825. Rev J. T. Moffett Blair, the present minister, referred to this 150th anniversary in the course of the service on Sunday.

The "Free Press" of 31st June, 1898, reports that plans were passed at the Dean of Guild Court for the erection of a hall on a piece of ground adjoining the church which had been gifted earlier by Sir James Caird for the purpose of improving the amenities of the Church. At that time the site was occupied by an old thatched house, then a smithy and a sculptor's yard. The hall was opened on 1st December 1898 at an estimated cost of £300.

Ministers' Conference

Last week, Stephen joined 41 other ministers from Ireland and Scotland at the annual RP Ministers' Conference. The main talks were given by Jeremy Walker (brother of the more famous Dan), pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church

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There were also addresses by David Whitla (David and his family are members of the RPCNA and recently joined us for our Reformation trip to St Andrews), Knox Hyndman and Norris Wilson (moderator of RPCI Synod).

It was a really encouraging few days and those who attended have gone back to their congregations encouraged and revitalised for the glorious work they've been called to do.

From Australia to Stranraer!

Over the last few years in Stranraer we have had a few developing connections to Australia. One of our ladies lived there for most of her life before moving back to Scotland. A few months ago a family from the RP Church came here as part of their holiday so they could worship with us. And last Wednesday, Graeme Hart, one of the ministers from the RP Church of Australia (currently in the UK on a pulpit exchange) came to give us an update on what's happening with the churches there.

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It was a very encouraging meeting, especially seeing the connections between McKinnon RPC (where Graeme ministers) and Stranraer. Like Stranraer, McKinnon is an older congregation being revitalised by the Presbytery. Graeme has been there for seven years, so it was interesting to here what sort of things they'd done, and the challenges and encouragements they'd seen. It also gave us a vision of where by God's grace we could be in another five years or so.

One of the things that Graeme said had been important to developing relationships in McKinnon was eating together, and afterwards some of us went out to Brambles Tearoom for lunch!

One of the things that Graeme said had been important to developing relationships in McKinnon was eating together, and afterwards some of us went out to Brambles Tearoom for lunch!

We had a great time together and we are now better equipped to pray for our brothers and sisters in Australia!

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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