Reports

2019 AGM

Tonight we had our Annual General Meeting, where we looked back at God’s goodness to us over the past year. Those who were able then stayed on for some takeaway food.

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You can read the report of our activities during 2018 below:

Regular Events

We are thankful to be able to look back on 2018 as a year when God has clearly been at work in the congregation. We are grateful for the privilege of public worship which we enjoyed together on 104 occasions this year. There was an average attendance of 27 in the morning and 20 in the evening. We would exhort our members to make morning and evening worship central to their week.

 Preaching

Rev. Stephen Steele preached 77 times in Stranraer. He also preached three times in Faughan (as part of their annual church weekend) and once each in Gateway and Newtownards (RPCI), as well as once each in Fresno and Russell (RPCNA).

  • Rev. Gerald Milligan preached seven times

  • Mr Ian Gillies preached four times

  • Rev. Ruairidh MacLean (Free Church) preached four times

  • Mr Jude Colhoun (Irish Baptist College) preached three times as part of his placement

  • Rev. Andrew McMillan preached twice as part of his application to join the RPCS

  • Mr Ben Lowery (Edinburgh Theological Seminary), Rev. Archie McPhail (APC) and Rev. Andrew Quigley all preached twice

  • Rev. Tom McWhirter (UFC) preached once.

Stephen preached on the following books and topics: Jeremiah 29, Daniel, Psalms 1-10, Romans 1-7, Genesis 3-11, Esther, Public Worship, People Jesus Met and Zephaniah.

Sacraments

  • Communion - The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was celebrated twice. 22 people took communion on 13th May, and 20 on 11th November.

  • Baptism – Thomas Stuart Milligan was baptised on 30th September.

Session

Session met 4 times over the course of the year. We are grateful for Mr George Rodger (Airdrie) as he continues to serve as our interim elder. We would urge our members to pray that God would equip and call qualified local men to serve as elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-16).

Membership

  • Gareth Milligan moved to London for work at the beginning of the year. We are delighted that he has settled well into All Nations International Presbyterian Church, a recent church plant in Ilford.

It is our prayer that in 2019 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.

Bible Studies

Stephen continued to lead two Bible studies per week:

  • On Wednesday mornings we discussed the passage that was preached on the previous Lord’s Day morning.

  • On Thursday evenings we continued working our way through the Shorter Catechism.

Children

Up to 4 children were cared for in the crèche during the morning service each week. Bible stories were taught using Gospel Project materials. Session thank the following people who cared for our covenant children in this way: Amy Bingham, Elizabeth Craig, Ruth-Anne Henderson, Lesley McIntyre, Sheila 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, during 2018 Stephen continued to produce two worksheets (one for older children, and a simpler one for younger children) to help them follow along with the morning sermon.  

Sunday School before the morning service for children aged 7 and up continued throughout the year. The class, teaching an overview of the Bible using the Shorter Catechism, was taught by Mrs Carla Steele. Session commends Hannah and Daniel Hall on their excellent work memorising the first 26 questions of the Shorter Catechism.

We are delighted that Hannah attended girls’ camp and camp reunion once again. We would strongly encourage parents to make use of the great opportunities that these camps provide children aged 10+.

Toddlers

In the autumn Session decided to begin a Toddlers group on a trial basis through to the end of the year – both as an opportunity for Christian mums to get together, but also to try and develop contact with unbelievers. Given a positive trial period, it was decided to keep Toddlers going through to summer 2019.

Church lunches
We had a number of church lunches throughout the year, and are grateful for those who helped out with them.

Wider Ministry

As part of his wider ministry in Stranraer, Stephen took two weeks of assemblies in Stranraer Academy as well as taking part in an RMPS class. He continued to serve as chaplain to Stranraer FC and to write regular ‘Thought for the week’ articles in the Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press.

Special Events Throughout the Year

February: Session were delighted to be in a position to once again increase our givings to Presbytery (putting it up to £1500 per month). The congregation’s initial commitment in September 2015 had been £625, which we then doubled to £1250 in May 2017. We are thankful that this was another small step towards being self-funding.

March: We were delighted to welcome Jason O’Neill from Christ Church RP in Indiana to speak at our Wednesday morning bible study. As well as sharing his own testimony, he gave a very informative talk on the work God is doing through the RP Church in America. This was followed by a time of fellowship where we introduced Jason and his family to some Scottish treats over a cup of tea!

April: Stephen had the opportunity to speak to all the pupils in Stranraer Academy over 4 days as part of their ‘Time for Reflection’ assemblies. He also took part in an S1 RMPS class (Religious, Moral and Philosophical Education) covering ‘Charity’ and ‘Miracles’.

May: Rev. Andrew McMillan and his wife Brenda joined us in Stranraer for a weekend. Andrew preached twice (which was part of his application process to join the denomination) and they were also able to enjoy meals with several members of the congregation.

June: In June we welcomed an RP Mission Team, led by Ian Gillies. The bulk of the team’s work involved giving out leaflets advertising a 3-night mission entitled ‘Who needs Jesus anyway’, based on Romans chapters 1 and 2. The team sang psalms in Dalrymple Court, had  game nights with some of the young people in the congregation, did clean-up work at Stair Park and visited Covenanter sites in Wigtown and Anwoth.

July: Three of our members were able to attend the RP International Conference on the South Coast of Ireland, along with members from the four other RPCS congregations. These conferences are a great way to get to know other like-minded believers, and we would encourage others to consider going to events like these if at all possible.

August: We were delighted to have Jude Colhoun with us on placement for three weeks in August. Jude is a member in Raphoe Congregational Church and studying at the Irish Baptist College. Jude preached through the book of Habakkuk while he was here. He also led bible studies, introduced psalms in nursing homes, and studied The Priority of Preaching with Stephen.

From 24th-27th August we had our annual GO Team. Their main task was organising a Church Family Fun Day, at which Rev. David McCullough (Woodstock RPCI) gave two talks on the importance of family worship. The team also helped run a congregational movie night in the hall on the Friday night, sung psalms in Dalrymple Court on the Lord’s Day afternoon, and put on a musical performance in Belmont Care Home on the Monday, finishing with a time of psalm singing. We also took them to Glentrool to see the grave of six Covenanters, as well as Bruce’s stone. We are grateful for the work of the team members, young and old!

September: September marked three years since Stephen’s ordination in Stranraer, and time for Presbytery’s three-year review. As a reminder, when the Stirling church plant closed, the money that had been allocated to it (on a 3-5 year reviewable basis) was reallocated to Stranraer to enable the congregation to call a full-time minister.

Presbytery’s review looked for a core group of at least eight committed people (we have 20 communicant members), evidence of potential leadership (Rev. Gerald Milligan has been inducted as a ruling elder), a regular participation of at least 15 people exclusively associated with the church plant (our average attendance for 2017 was 28 in the morning and 22 in the evening) and a minimum annual income from tithes and offerings of 25% of the total operating costs (up to that point in 2018 we had covered 67% of the total operating costs).

We are grateful to God for such measurable progress, but would remind members that Presbytery are still covering around £20,000 per year of Stranraer’s costs. We would also remind members of their Biblical obligation to return at least 10% of all that God gives them – not to do so is to rob God (Malachi 3:8).

October: Our minister Stephen was asked to represent the Scottish RP Church at the annual meetings of the RP Global Alliance Advisory Committee in Ottawa, Canada. This is a great opportunity for our small congregation to be involved in the work of the wider church.

November: In November we began Discipleship Explored. Nine people initially signed up for the course so we split into two groups – with one meeting on Tuesday afternoon and the other on Thursday evening. Those who signed up have found the course to be very helpful in explaining the basics of following Jesus.

December: Stephen was asked back to take the Christmas ‘Time for Reflection’ assemblies in Stranraer Academy. We are thankful for these opportunities to bring the gospel message to local schoolchildren who otherwise might never hear it.

Looking back over the past year, we are grateful to have been spectators watching Christ build his church in Stranraer. It is our prayer that in the year ahead we will move closer to being a self-supporting, self-governing congregation known for proclaiming Christ and living out the gospel.

 

2018 AGM

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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.

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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.

Lesley (pictured) and Gerald received tokens of our appreciation for their work to the hall

Lesley (pictured) and Gerald received tokens of our appreciation for their work to the hall

We also celebrated two birthdays on the night!

We also celebrated two birthdays on the night!

You can read the full report below:

Stranraer RPC Session Report for 2017

Regular Events

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.

Preaching

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.

Sacraments

  • 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.

Bible Studies

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.

Membership

  • 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

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.

Children

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.

Building work

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.

Wider Ministry

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. 

2017 AGM

Last week we had our Annual General Meeting, at which we looked back on God's goodness to us as a church over the previous year.

We kept the business part short and then enjoyed some Chinese food together!

The Session report for 2016 is below. As someone commented on the night, we're grateful for further encouragements in 2017 already, which aren't included in this report. We look forward to seeing what God will do in the year ahead!

Stranraer RPC Session Report for 2016
2016 was a year which saw many encouragements in the life and witness of the congregation.

We give thanks to God for the privilege of public worship which we enjoyed together on 103 occasions this year. There was an average attendance of 25 in the morning and 13 in the evening. We were encouraged to see new people begin worshipping with us. It is our prayer that in 2017 we would see some of those who worship with us publicly profess their faith in Jesus and come under Christ-appointed oversight by becoming church members. 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 in Stranraer 81 times on the Lord’s Day, as well as leading two Bible studies per week. He preached on the following books and subjects: Mark chs 5-8, the life of Elijah, Genesis 1-3, prayer, 1st Peter, the ‘One anothers’ of the New Testament, Luke ch 24, 1st Samuel chs 1-7 and the Church.
- Rev. Gerald Milligan preached 12 times
- Mr Stephen McCollum (RPCS) preached 4 times
- Rev. Stephen Neilly (RPCI) preached twice.
- Mr Joey Dunlap (RPCNA), Mr Philip Ross (APC) and Rev. Tom McWhirter (UFC) all preached once.

Session met 6 times. We are grateful that Rev. Andrew Quigley and Mr George Rodger (Airdrie) continue to serve as interim elders, and prayerfully look forward to seeing more local elders ordained. The current local elders met on 16 other occasions to pray for the members, friends and work of the congregation.

The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was celebrated twice. 26 people partook of the sacrament on 29th May, and 19 on 27th November.

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: Elizabeth Craig, Ruth-Anne Henderson, Lesley McIntyre, Angela Milligan, David Milligan, Gerald Milligan, Ruth Milligan and Carla Steele.

 

February: On 7th February, Rev. Gerald Milligan was installed as a ruling elder. This was followed by a congregational lunch at the manse, after which we heard the testimonies of George Rodger (one of our interim elders) and his wife Janette. It was an encouraging day, and we are grateful for Gerald’s continued willingness to serve the congregation, now in a new capacity.

March: March saw the first ladies’ get-together, organised by Carla and held at the manse.

April: On 29th April, Rev. Peter Jemphrey gave an encouraging mission update on the work in Galway.

May: On the 8th of May, a memorable congregational trip to Wigtown was held following the morning service, to mark the 331st anniversary of the martyrdom of the Two Margarets. An act of worship was held at the martyrs’ stake. We are grateful to Wigtown Baptist Church for the use of their hall to eat our lunch, Mr Jim Henderson (a member of the congregation) for driving us in his vintage bus, and to God for the great weather and the fellowship enjoyed.

June: In June, the congregation had its first week-long RP Mission team, led by Mr Joey Dunlap (a member of Grace Gibsonia RPCNA, who has since begun training for the ministry). The team:

- Gave out postcard invitations to every house in the town, as well as Stoneykirk, Sandhead & Lochans.
- Gave their testimonies in two higher RMPS classes in Stranraer Academy.
Helped organise and run a ladies' coffee morning, men's curry & quiz night and church BBQ
- Cleaned 1300 seats at Stair Park (home of Stranraer FC) in preparation for the new season.
- Helped out with the drop-in cafe which Stephen volunteers at each week.
- Sang some psalms and spent some time talking to the elderly folk in Dalrymple Court (sheltered housing).
- Did an open-air psalm sing in the town centre.
- Visited Covenanter monuments in Anwoth & Wigtown.

July: In the summer, a new church website was launched, featuring information about the church, audio sermons and news articles, including Stephen’s regular column in the Stranraer & Wigtownshire Free Press. We have since launched a church Facebook page.

August: We had a weekend-long GO Team helping us from 26th-29th August. Eight team members came from Northern Ireland and three from Scotland. We distributed postcards to the surrounding towns and villages, sang psalms in the town centre and in Dalrymple Court. We are also ran a number of events for the congregation: a BBQ, a screening of the Knox film, a men’s breakfast & a church lunch. A number of visitors were at church for the first time on the Lord’s Day. Half of the team’s transport costs were covered by the GO Committee, while the other half was generously covered by Trinity RPCI.

September: In September we began a weekly prayer meeting before the morning service. We would encourage as many people as possible to come and pray for the Lord’s blessing on the preaching of his word, and for the advance of his kingdom.

During the past year, there have been a number of developments in regard to the church buildings. Around the turn of the year, lead was stolen off the hall roof. This has since been repaired and an insurance pay-out received. During the repairs, it became clear that several of the trusses in the hall were not in a good condition, and needed to be replaced. This was confirmed by a survey of the hall, carried out by Asher Associates of Dumfries. This work was carried out using money we had received when two lots of war stock held by the congregation were redeemed by the government. We also received a grant of £2,000 from the Ferguson Bequest Fund. We are grateful to God for his timely provision.

It was also decided to do major work to the hall, putting in a heating system, along with two new toilets and a new kitchen. This would necessitate a new entry way between the hall and the church. It was also decided to create a space at the back of the main church where tea and coffee could be served after services. A survey of the main church building was also carried out, and we plan to begin working through its recommendations in the year ahead.

December: Work to the hall began in December, being carried out by Mr Colin Muirhead, who is a member of the congregation, and co-ordinated by Rev. Milligan. Significant financial gifts towards this work were received from Trinity RPCI and an individual in the RPCNA.

Looking back on a year of growth and development we rejoice at seeing Christ build his church through the preaching of the Word, and for a deepening sense of fellowship in the congregation. We are grateful for the prayerful and financial support received from God’s people around the world, and particularly the Irish RP Church. We enter 2017 confident that ‘nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few’ (1 Samuel 14:6).

 

Stranraer GO Weekend

From 26-29 August the Stranraer congregation had the help of short-term mission team (GO team), made up of 8 people from Ireland and 3 from Scotland.

While here, the team:

  • Gave out postcards (with a Bible verse & invitation to the church) to homes in Castle Kennedy, Dunragit, Glenluce, New Luce, Newton Stewart, Kirkcolm, Leswalt, Portpatrick, Ardwell, Port Logan, Drummore, Kirkcowan & Wigtown.
  • Took part in open-air psalm singing in Stranraer town centre on the Saturday afternoon
  • Sang psalms and spent time with the residents in Dalrymple Court (sheltered housing, just down from the church)
  • Took part in several fellowship events: a church BBQ, a men's breakfast, the screening of a film about the Reformer John Knox and a church lunch.
  • The team also had the opportunity to visit Covenanter sites in Wigtown and learn about those in the past for whom loyalty to Jesus had cost them their lives.

We are grateful to those who came on the team for their work, and thank God for a very encouraging weekend.

RPCS Young Adults' BBQ

On Saturday 20th August around 25 young adults from the 5 RPCS congregations met in Ayr for a BBQ (given the weather we were glad that we had been kindly granted the use of Ayr Free Church Continuing's building!). It was a great opportunity to meet new people and get caught up with old friends. It also provided a rare chance to enjoy fellowship with those outside of our own congregations. We closed with a brief time of worship and sang from Psalm 133. It is hoped that events such as these will help encourage more fellowship within the denomination.