Irish RP Synod

This past week, Stephen represented the Scottish RP Church at the Irish RP Church’s annual Synod meetings. This year Synod was held in Knockbracken RP Church, where Stephen had worked as an assistant for a year before coming to Stranraer.

The Synod began on the Monday night with a sermon by the outgoing Moderator, Rev. Andrew Kerr (Knockbracken). Rev. Mark Loughridge (Letterkenny and Milford), whose brother Peter is minister in North Edinburgh, was elected Moderator for the year ahead.

On Tuesday night, Stephen gave an update on the work of the Scottish RP Church, before preaching to begin the Wednesday morning day of prayer.

The Moderator and the American RP delegate then travelled across to Scotland for the meeting of our own Presbytery on Friday.

Stephen pictured with the Moderator and other delegates - William Macleod (FCC), Kevin Bidwell (EPCEW) and David Weir (RPCNA).

Stephen pictured with the Moderator and other delegates - William Macleod (FCC), Kevin Bidwell (EPCEW) and David Weir (RPCNA).

The Synod finished on the Wednesday night by commissioning Isaac Berrocal for mission work in Almuñécar and Nerja in Spain, a region where 90% of people have never heard the gospel.


On the weekend prior to the Synod, Stephen spoke at Knockbracken’s annual church weekend on the ‘One anothers’ of the Bible.


The most well-known name associated with Knockbracken is Thomas Houston, who was ordained there not long after William Symington began his ministry in Stranraer. Houston spent his whole ministry (1828 - 1882) in Knockbracken and Stephen spent a year studying his life for a Masters thesis in Irish history. Houston was a prolific author, whose book on prayer meetings has recently been digitised.

The current minister in Knockbracken is Andrew Kerr, who was the 2018 Moderator of Synod. Andrew writes regularly for the Gentle Reformation blog. Below is part of an interview he did for a recent documentary on the Welsh minister Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

Let Them Live


On Friday night, 3 of us from Stranraer joined people from the other four RPCS congregations at a meeting in Glasgow for a presentation by Let Them Live, a pro-life ministry under the oversight of the Irish RP Church.

The presentation was given by two of Stephen’s former classmates at Theological College - Joel Loughridge (Cloughmills RPC) and Philip Dunwoody (Dervock RPC). They explained how the ministry began and spoke about the need for the church to argue against abortion from an explicitly Christian perspective.

From a Stranraer point of view, it was encouraging to hear the work is under the oversight of the Cookstown RPC session (a recent church plant, pastored by another of Stephen’s classmates) - a reminder that even small congregations can play a significant part in something like this.

The hope is that something similar can be started in Scotland. You can read more about the evening on the RPCS website.

A New Year's Letter

The following letter was written by the minister of Stephen’s home congregation of Faughan in 1887 to the members of the church looking back on the year that was past.

131 years later, it’s still very relevant as we close out one year and begin another:

ANNUAL REPORT: Faughan Reformed Presbyterian Church, 1887

Samuel Ferguson.jpeg

To the Members of the Congregation

Dear Friends,

In the good Providence of God we have been brought to the termination of another year of our congregational life; and it may not be inappropriate for me to briefly review the past, to glance at the future, and to put present duty before your minds. As we look back to the past, we are constrained to acknowledge the goodness of God, erewhile mixing trembling with our thankfulness. Another fifty-two Sabbaths are gone for ever, and what report have they borne on high? Certainly every one of them shall meet us again. Think you shall that meeting be joyful or sorrowful? We may not recal the past, we can improve present opportunities; let us do it in the diligent and attentive use of the public and private means of grace, divinely appointed as the scene of spiritual blessing. Death, whose hand is never still, has been busy during the year, some of our oldest members have been called home; but our sorrow is not that of those who have no hope. We desire to hear the Master’s voice saying – “Be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.” Affliction, too, has cast its shadow over some homes – remember it has not come unsent; and realise that, though your tears may have washed your affections white, you have been in a Father’s hand, who, though smiting, can heal again.

The role of membership remains substantially the same as during the last year. Would that our list of members were all true members of Christ’s body; growing up to the fulness of the stature of manhood in Jesus Christ! Looking to the future, let us encourage one another, provoking to works of faith and labours of love; let us manifest the charity that suffereth long and is kind; let love unfeigned rule in your hearts, and in all things act worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, being in your walk and conversation living epistles, requiring no translation – read of all men.

The cause of Temperance demands your active sympathy. Drunkenness is slaying its thousands. Can you, as Church members, be indifferent? In the good work of Temperance, be fellow-labourers with Christ; coldness ought not to retard you, for Christ Himself was discouraged when among men; here, as everywhere else, “in due time ye shall reap if ye faint not.”

The Faughan church building as it was at the time the letter was written

The Faughan church building as it was at the time the letter was written

The young of the congregation I would earnestly urge to acquire the knowledge, which is “the best of the sciences” – the knowledge of Bible truth. If parents neglect their home duties of teaching and catechising, they are making their children pass through the fire to the Molech of ignorance and sin. The Church cannot take the place of family training; it can only assist it, and for this purpose all who are able ought to attend the Bible class on Sabbath mornings in the Church.

In conclusion, we crave anew an interest in your prayers, that the preaching of the word and administration of the ordinances in your midst may be blessed, and that journeying to the common home of the redeemed we may each one be drawn more closely together in the bonds of true sympathy – the sympathy founded upon love to God and truth – and thus in our different positions “serve our generation by the will of God.”

Commending you each one to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified,

I subscribe myself, dear Friends,

Your Minister,


(Trevor Magee, Planted By A River, p. 64.)

Related Links: Don Whitney: Questions to ask at the start of a new year