Eastern Presbytery Youth Weekend

Hannah, one of our young people, recently attended the Eastern Presbytery Youth Weekend, held in Knockbracken RPCI (Belfast). The talks at the weekend were given by Graeme Hart from McKinnon RPCA who was in Stranraer recently speaking about the RP Church in Australia.

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Here's her summary of the weekend:

At the weekend we had really good activities. On Friday we played fun games in the hall and on Saturday we had the choice of ice skating or clip n climb . I did clip n climb - it was amazing! The talks on this weekend were on marriage and gender by Graeme Hart. They were very, very good and I learnt lots. We had 3 talks. I enjoyed seeing friends again, as well as the talks. It was an amazing weekend.

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Shorter Catechism resources

Last week we began a series of studies on the Shorter Catechism - one of the greatest summarises of the Bible's teaching ever produced.

There are a few helpful resources out there to help memorise it. Many of the questions have been set to music by Bruce Benedict. They are available to buy digitally via iTunes or on CD here. A sample of one of the questions is below.

An audiobook version is also available for free via Ligonier - read by Sinclair Ferguson, a well-known Scottish theologian who has ministered in Glasgow, the United States, and Dundee.

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Various modern-language versions of the catechism are available, including one here by Andrew Conway that can be bought as a paper book or downloaded for kindle.

Update: I've also been reminded of a great resource for family worship based on the Shorter Catechism:  Training Hearts, Teaching Minds by Starr Meade.

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Hugh Hefner: the rot goes deep

Given the revelations about Harvey Weinstein, our latest article in the Free Press from a couple of weeks ago seems even more relevant

There’s a joke about a funeral where the preacher got a little carried away, speaking at length about the admirable traits of the deceased. So glowing was the praise that the widow asked someone to open up the coffin…to make sure the person inside was the man she had known for all those years!

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That joke came to mind over the last few days as various news outlets tied themselves in knots over the death of Hugh Hefner. Somewhat bizarrely, in death he has been cast as an aspirational figure, a likeable rogue who lived the dream while challenging the prudish restraints of a less enlightened era. The problem is that this version of Hefner’s story has about as much credibility as those who claim to ‘read Playboy for the articles’.

Let’s be clear: Hugh Hefner was a pornographer who made himself rich off the exploitation of women. He did not strike a blow for women’s liberation. His magazines, his clubs and his squalid mansion simply reinforced a lie that has been prevalent for millennia - that women exist for the gratification of men. Every cover girl who passed through his human zoo was judged on only one thing; their inherent worth as people was deemed irrelevant.

Hefner may have operated within the bounds of legality, yet his business was the selling of young women’s bodies. He had more in common with pimps and people-traffickers than with revolutionaries who have changed the world for the better.

And now that he’s gone, we need to look at ourselves. In every way that mattered, Hefner and the values he championed have made our culture shallower, coarser and crueller. The fact that his life is being celebrated raises real questions about what we value. In death, even more than in life, Hefner has demonstrated how blinded our culture has become to the destruction caused when sex is taken out of its wonderful, God-given place. That only a few are willing to come out and say that the man was obviously wicked is a reminder that the rot he spread goes deeper than we might like to admit.

We can’t point the finger. We have all misused God’s good gifts. We have all used other people to some extent. The values that Hefner packaged and sold are there inside all of us. Only in Jesus is there hope that we can be made clean.

Published in Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press, 29th June 2017
Inspired by a similar article Jonny McCollum (Milford RPC)

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.