Reformed reading group starts in SW Scotland

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Last week, a new ministers’ reading group started in Newton Stewart, organised by Reformation Scotland. For our first meeting, we worked through a book written by a local Galloway minister 350 years ago - Samuel Rutherford’s Conversations with a Dying Man. Even though the book was written a long time ago, it led to some very practical discussions about ministering to the sick and dying.

For more resources from Reformation Scotland, including their video series Scotland’s Forgotten History, check out their website.

Ministers' Conference 2018

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From Monday-Wednesday this week, Stephen attended the annual RP ministers' conference. The speaker this year was Kenneth Stewart, minister of our Glasgow congregation, who gave four very helpful addresses on the theme 'Trouble in the Church'. 

During the conference there were a number of prayer times and three other talks: an opening sermon from Andy Hambleton (Crumlin Evangelical Presbyterian Church), a lecture on preaching from Mark Goudy (Macosquin Presbyterian Church), and a closing sermon from Andrew Kerr (Moderator of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland and minister of Knockbracken RPC - where Stephen did an internship before coming to Stranraer).

As usual, it was a great few days, not just of teaching, but also of catching up with fellow ministers.

Wishing for a worldwide day of rest

I don't often quote Katy Perry in church, but I did recently. She told Cosmopolitan, 'I'd love if the world implemented an actual day of real rest'. What would such a day look like? 'I wish there was a thing like Shabbat...a kind of worldwide day where we're not on our phones'. In an era of hyper connectivity, there's an increasing realisation that a constant diet of beeps and notifications demanding our intention can't be healthy. In fact, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system was released on Monday with a headline feature called Screen Time, which lets you keep track on exactly how much you're using your iPhone or iPad. Many of us are probably too scared to look. The technology of which we thought we were master has quickly made us its slaves. If you don't have a phone, just apply it to TV. Could you go a day without it?

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The idea of a worldwide day when we could put aside such distractions and focus on what's truly important sounds like a pipe dream, but it's actually part of God's design for the world. Perry references 'Shabbat' - the Jewish day of rest. But the Sabbath is no merely Jewish institution. It was put in place at the creation of the world, long before there were any Jews - in fact, before sin had even entered the world. Jesus himself reminds us that 'The Sabbath was made for man' - not just for one particular group of people.

Katy Perry said she would love to have such a day. But she does - if only she would realise it. It's one of God's greatest gifts to humanity - enshrined in the 10 commandments, and observed by God’s people in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It's a reminder, both of the fact that God made us (and rested on the seventh day), and that Jesus died (and rose again on the first day) so we could be freed from the agenda of a dying world.

Removing the Lord's Day from our culture removes a weekly reminder of the reality of creation - and of the need for redemption.

Ultimately, it's a question of worship. Simon and Garfunkel sum up the choice of many: 'And the people bowed and prayed / to the neon god they made'. When you wake up on Sunday, who are you going to serve? 

Published in the Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press, 20th September 2018.

GO Team 2018

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This past weekend (24th-27th Aug) we welcomed Rachel, Ross, Eilidh, Heather, Jess, Nathan, Anah, Ken, Calvin and Sam on our annual GO Team. This year's team consisted of ten people - five from Scotland and five from Ireland! Six of them were here last year, and two were doing their very first team! We also had Jude around as an honorary team member!

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The main work of the team was to organise our Family Fun Day, but we fitted in a few other things when they were here, starting with a viewing of the movie 'Calvinist' with some of the congregation on Friday night.

The team joined the congregation for the prayer meeting and worship on the Lord's Day morning, followed by a church lunch.

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After lunch, we went round to Dalrymple Court (sheltered housing), where Stephen and Jude introduced some psalms, which we sang with the residents, before spending some time chatting with them. In the evening, the team were with the congregation for worship and supper afterwards.

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On Monday morning we had a prayer time, before heading to Glentrool in Galloway Forest Park to see the grave of six Covenanters who were shot while praying on 23 January 1685.

 The inscription reads: HERE LYES JAMES AND ROBERT DUNS, THOMAS AND JOHN STEVENSONS, JAMES McCLIVE ANDREU McCALL WHO WERE SURPRISED AT PRAYER IN THIS HOUSE BY COLONELL DOUGLAS LIEVTENANT LIVINGSTON AND JAMES DOUGLAS, AND BY THEM MOST IMPIOVSLY AND CRUELLY MURTHER'D FOR THEIR ADHERANCE TO SCOTLAND'S REFORMATION COVENANTS NATIONAL AND SOLEMN LEAGUE 1685.

The inscription reads: HERE LYES JAMES AND ROBERT DUNS, THOMAS AND JOHN STEVENSONS, JAMES McCLIVE ANDREU McCALL WHO WERE SURPRISED AT PRAYER IN THIS HOUSE BY COLONELL DOUGLAS LIEVTENANT LIVINGSTON AND JAMES DOUGLAS, AND BY THEM MOST IMPIOVSLY AND CRUELLY MURTHER'D FOR THEIR ADHERANCE TO SCOTLAND'S REFORMATION COVENANTS NATIONAL AND SOLEMN LEAGUE 1685.

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The monument surrounding the gravestone was 'erected by the voluntary contributions of a congregation who waited on the ministrations of the Rev. Gavin Rowatt of Whithorn' on 19th August 1827. Rowatt, a son of the manse, was RP minister at Whithorn from 1826 until his death in 1832 - he was only 30 years old.

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Back in Stranraer, we went to Belmont Care Home, and put on a musical performance for the residents, before finishing with a time of psalm singing.

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After that, there was just time for a Chinese takeaway before the team members departed via boat, train and car. It was a memorable weekend for the congregation and we're grateful to the GO team for coming and serving so willingly.

Family Fun Day: pictures & talks

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On Saturday, we held our second ever Church Family Fun Day, with the help of a GO Team (short term mission team).

In the morning, the team organised activities (Bible talk, craft, games etc) for children while Rev. David McCullough gave two very helpful talks to parents (and others!) on the topic 'Leading little ones to God'. The talks are available to listen to and download here.

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In the afternoon, there was a bouncy castle, face painting, and candy floss and popcorn-making for the kids, while the adults had a chance to sit around and chat.

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We finished things off with a BBQ, though no-one was in a rush home and people stayed behind chatting for a long time! We are grateful to God for the good weather, sense of fellowship. We also appreciated those from Glasgow, Airdrie and North Edinburgh who made the effort to be part of the  day - it was great to have people from all the mainland RPCS congregations!

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