Last Thursday we had our Annual General Meeting, which provided an opportunity to look back at 2017. After a brief meeting, we enjoyed some takeaway food together. The last two years the AGM has been in the manse, but this year we have outgrown it and met together in the hall.
Some of the highlights of 2017 were new members, increasing attendances at both services, the congregation being able to double how much we're contributing towards running costs and the refurbishment of the church hall.
You can read the full report below:
Stranraer RPC Session Report for 2017
We are thankful to God that 2017 was a year of continued growth and progress in the life of the congregation. We are grateful for the privilege of public worship which we enjoyed together on 106 occasions this year. There was an average attendance of 28 in the morning (up 3 from last year) and 22 in the evening (up 9 from last year). We would encourage our members to take every opportunity they can to worship God with his people, in fulfilment of their membership vows.
Rev. Stephen Steele preached 85 times in Stranraer. He also preached a total of eight times in Cloughmills, Letterkenny, Rathfriland (RPCI) and Airdrie (RPCS).
He preached on the following books and subjects: The Ten Commandments, 1st Samuel chs 8-15, God’s Big Picture, Mark chs 11-15, Pictures of the Church, Galatians, The Grace of Giving and the Lord’s Prayer.
- Rev. Gerald Milligan preached 8 times
- Revs Gavin Beers (FCC), Peter Loughridge, Andrew Quigley (RPCS), Barry Galbraith (RPCI), Archie McPhail (APC) and ministry students Benjamin Lowery (ETS) and Joey Dunlap (RPCNA) all preached twice.
- Rev. Tom McWhirter (UFC) preached once.
- Rev. Joel Loughridge (RPCI) preached at the baptism of Willow Steele.
- Communion - The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was celebrated twice (session’s aim is to increase the frequency once we are no longer reliant on interim elders). 20 people took communion on 21st May, and 26 on 5th November.
- Baptism - Willow Elisabeth Eliora Steele was baptised on Saturday 17th June.
Stephen continued to lead two Bible studies per week:
- Wednesday mornings: we discussed the passage that was preached on the previous Lord’s Day morning.
- Thursday evenings: we began the year discussing the passage covered in Let’s Worship God for the week, spent some weeks discussing the passage preached on during the previous Lord’s Day evening, and in the autumn began a study of the Shorter Catechism.
- Robert Cumming, a former elder of the congregation, passed away on 10th March.
- Sadly in September one member had to be removed from the roll for long-term non-attendance at worship.
- We were delighted to welcome three new church members on 5th November.
It is our prayer that in 2018 we would see more of those who worship with us publicly profess their faith in Jesus and come under Christ-appointed oversight by becoming church members.
Session met 5 times over the course of the year. We are grateful for the work of Rev. Andrew Quigley (who stepped down in June) and Mr George Rodger (Airdrie) for their work as interim elders. From September onwards Session meetings were held in Prestwick to reduce the travel time for our remaining interim elder. We continue to pray regularly that God would equip and call qualified men to serve as elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-16).
The local elders also met on 11 other occasions to pray for the members, friends and work of the congregation.
Up to 4 children were cared for in the crèche during the morning service each week. Bible stories were taught using Go Teach materials. Session thank the following people who cared for our covenant children in this way: Amy Bingham, Elizabeth Craig, Ruth-Anne Henderson, Lesley McIntyre, Angela Milligan, David Milligan, Gerald Milligan, Ruth Milligan and Carla Steele.
Session reminds parents of their baptismal vows to ‘train your child to worship God among his people’. To help those children sitting through church Stephen began producing two worksheets (one for older children, and a simpler one for younger children) to help them follow along with the morning sermon.
In October we began a Sunday School before the morning service for children aged 7 and up. The class, teaching an overview of the Bible using the Shorter Catechism, was taught by Mrs Carla Steele.
2017 also saw the refurbishment of our church hall, with a new kitchen, heating system, toilets, flooring and entrance way through to the church. We are grateful to God that he provided the funding for us to do this through the generosity of his people around the world.
The hall has already provided an ideal venue for evening worship (attendances had outgrown the session room), enabled us to hold church lunches, provided an ideal venue for our mission services, and enabled us to run both the Church Family Weekend and Firm Foundations. It also opens up many other possibilities going forward.
As part of his wider ministry in Stranraer, Stephen continued to serve as chaplain to Stranraer FC, helped out at the community ROC Café, and wrote regular ‘Thought for the week’ articles in the Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press.
Special Events Throughout the Year
January: In January we put up two new church signs, one on the front of the building and one on the side. These have information such as our service times and website address.
Feb-March: We ran a seven-week Christianity Explored Course, which was held in the Manse. Five people attended the course, and we had good times of discussion about some of the most important questions in life.
April: We held a ‘Pizza and Praise’ evening in April where (at that point an elder in the Airdrie congregation) gave us some tips on how to improve our psalm singing.
May: We are thankful to God that because of his financial blessings on us we were able to double the congregation’s contributions to Presbytery. This has enabled us to cover 80% of the minister’s salary. This is amazing progress, just 18 months after the original figure was agreed. As God continues to bless us our aim is to increase this figure until the congregation are paying the full minister’s salary, and then start taking over related costs which are currently being covered by Presbytery.
June: On the 11th of June we had held a thanksgiving service to mark the completion of the work to the new hall. We were delighted to have 63 people in attendance, including friends and family members who hadn’t been at church before, as well as many of our brothers and sisters from the Baptist Church.
On 14th-16th June we held a three-night mission with the theme ‘Your life has a Purpose’. We were encouraged by the number of visitors who came along, both Christian and non-Christian. Attendances were 33, 36 and 35.
We had the RP Mission Team with us from 10th – 17th June. The team gave out leaflets advertising the Mission, helped out at the recovery café, did some practical work to get the hall ready for the Thanksgiving Service and Mission, cleaned the seats at Stair Park in preparation for the new season and went on a Covenanter Tour to Anwoth and Wigtown.
July: We were delighted that Hannah Hall was able to attend Girls’ Discovery Camp in Northern Ireland. Stephen continues to serve on the Senior Camp Committee, at which he gave a seminar on the Reformation. We would strongly encourage parents to avail of the opportunities provided by these camps (for children and young people aged 10 and up).
August: During the last weekend in August, we had a GO Team made up of people from the RP Churches of Scotland and Ireland. The team helped us organise our first ever Church Family Weekend, including the showing of a film about Martin Luther, a coffee morning, a talk on suffering, a Bible story and activities for the children and a kids’ fun afternoon. The team also visited Belmont Care Home and Dalrymple Court where they put on a musical performance and also sang some psalms.
September: On 9th September, 5 from the congregation (along with 7 other friends) joined with over 100 others from the RPCS on a Reformation day trip to St Andrews to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. As part of the day, Stephen gave a short talk on George Wishart outside St Andrews’ Castle.
On 20th September, Rev. Graeme Hart (McKinnon RPCA) gave us an update on the RP Church in Australia. It was encouraging to see the similarities between Stranraer and McKinnon, which like ourselves is an older congregation currently being revitalised by Presbytery.
October: At the end of October we held a ‘Firm Foundations’ theology weekend. This was modelled on the RPCNA’s Theological Foundations for Youth programme, and we were delighted that Rev. David Whitla, who helped spearhead TFY, was able to come and speak. 7 young men from Ireland and Scotland attended, from both inside and outside the RP Church.
We see a weekend like this as an opportunity to pass on some of the blessings we have experienced to others (Psalm 67:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:2).
While David was here, we had a church lunch on the Lord’s Day, and then he gave a lecture on Covenanter history which was open to the whole congregation. It provided an important opportunity for us to hear about the rich heritage we have as Reformed Presbyterians.
November: Prior to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper on 5th November we were delighted to welcome 3 new members: Mrs Mary Keating, Miss Lesley McIntyre and Miss Karina Sisi.
December: In December we held a special collection in response to an appeal from a church plant in Mullaitivu, Sri Lanka (under the oversight of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)) to help them erect a new building. Stephen had preached at one of the first services held there in 2015, and we have a further connection with Sri Lanka as Arry is originally from there.
Looking back on a year of both spiritual and practical progress, we are grateful to see Christ continue to build his church. It is our great desire in 2018 to glorify God, and be used by him to impact this needy part of South-West Scotland.