"I'm clean enough"

door hangers sam allberry.jpg

One thing that all hotels have in common are those little door hangers, which tell the cleaners whether they should come in and make up your room or not. I came across one recently where the usual two options were put in a slightly different way. One side read: ‘I’m clean enough: please don’t disturb’. The other said: ‘I’m a right mess: come on in’.

And as someone who’s passionate about getting the Bible’s message across in everyday language, I thought they were brilliant. Because they perfectly sum up the only two possible responses to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

One of the misconceptions about Christianity that I try and combat as a minister is that it’s only for good people. That it’s for those who have it all together. But that leads only to pride (for those who think they are good enough) or despair (for those who know they are not). In actual fact, the Bible tells us that there has only be one truly good person who has ever lived – Jesus Christ. The reason he came to earth was not (mainly) to set an example for us – since we could never live up to it. Instead, he came to live the perfect life that we fail to live, and then die in the place of his people.

As a result, being a Christian isn’t so much about ‘doing’ but about ‘receiving’ – receiving the free gift of cleansing that he offers. There are many (not least among those who sit in churches) who say, ‘thanks but no thanks’ – ‘I’m clean enough: please don’t disturb’. But by God’s grace there are others who gratefully say, ‘I’m a right mess: come on in’. It all boils down to how you see yourself.

Jesus himself says ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock’ (Revelation 3:20). What will your response be? ‘I’m clean enough: please do not disturb’? Or ‘I’m a right mess: come on in’?

The above article was scheduled to be in today’s Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press, but wasn’t printed - the ‘Thought for the Week’ column hasn’t featured in the paper for a number of weeks.

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.

Church buildings in Wigtownshire

Our church building features in a 2016 publication entitled Church Buildings in Wigtownshire, by John R. Hume.


In a helpful introduction to the book, Hume notes the pivotal role of Wigtownshire in the Christianisation of Scotland, with physical evidence of early Christianity at Kirkmadrine and Whithorn (where there used to be an RP church). He also notes that in the 20th and 21st centuries rural depopulation has continued, and with it the number of active places of worship, with only a handful of new church buildings constructed since 1945.

It could be added that even in Stranraer itself, church closures and mergers are a constant feature. And while socio-economic factors are doubtless part of it, the Bible alerts us to the fact that there may be another reason for the closure of churches - the Lord Jesus Christ coming and removing lampstands (churches) when they lose their first love (Revelation 2:5). Even in churches which remain open, the Bible has long since been stolen from unsuspecting churchgoers. Against this background we’re grateful that God has preserved us as a congregation to bring the good news about Jesus Christ to 21st century Stranraer.


The book is available from the Stranraer and District Local History Trust for £4.50.

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.


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.


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.


  • 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 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).


  • 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.


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+.


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.