Reports

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. 

RP International Conference 2016

The RP International Conference is held every 4 years in Indiana, USA. The RP Church of Scotland was represented by 8 people from Glasgow, 2 from Stranraer and 1 from Airdrie.

 Below is a report by Rev. Kenneth Stewart, minister of Glasgow RP Church.

The Conference was held on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University – a large, modern campus with excellent facilities and one which is not ashamed to display its Christian heritage and identity. It is hard to convey the good done to the soul by seeing Biblical texts on display in the grounds and on the walls of a university campus. While reinforcing how thoroughly secularised Scotland has become, it also helps to foster a vision and, for those of us with an optimistic eschatology, it serves as a tangible reminder of what God can do and what our nation could yet become when ‘a little one becomes a thousand’.

The Conference lasted from Saturday to Friday and was packed full of opportunities for teaching, fellowship, prayer and recreation. The main addresses, delivered every morning, were focused on the theme of ‘The Sacrificing Church: Ministering Faithfully as Priests in the Local Congregation’ looking successively at The Sacrificing Church as a Worshiping Temple, a Praying Priesthood, a Believing Community, a Merciful People and as a Mission Outpost. The speaker, Barry York who is Professor of Pastoral Theology in the RPTS, spoke earnestly and plainly from the Scriptures and gave plenty material for spiritual profit and for on-going meditation. Classes ran concurrently for children of all ages including High School.

There were two sessions of seminars every day, as many as eight at a time, with wide-ranging themes with the topics ranging from ‘Mission in China’ to ‘The Digital Age’, from ‘Dealing with Cancer’ to ‘Raising Teenagers’ – the choice seemed endless. Because no single seminar was repeated and because many of us wanted to attend several, we decided to split up and report back, which seemed to work quite well!

Some of the Scottish contingent at the airport on the way home

Some of the Scottish contingent at the airport on the way home

Lasting impression are, briefly, as follows.

First, the RP church family lays great store on discipling their children. It was most impressive to see so many young families on the same campus being so committed to the things of the Lord (there were nearly 80 under 2 years of age!) I was (pleasantly!) accosted more than once at dinner by some child asking if I was an Elder and eager to recite a Bible verse, so that they could get a signature and eventually, a prize – while of course reciting a text nearly 50 times in the process. Quite clever! They all take education seriously and I couldn’t help but be envious –with a holy envy – of their Christian schools and their emphasis on Christian education generally. Their commitment is obvious – no way would these families consider not going to the conference because they needed a ‘holiday’: this was their holiday and lounging unproductively in the sun would never provide what these days were providing.

Second, the quality of their singing: it was disciplined, lively, tuneful and hearty. Again, clearly, they take it seriously. The sight and sound of over 2000 people singing the Psalms will stay with me and with the rest of us too. What will heaven’s singing be like if it can sound so good on the earth?

Third, the opportunity to meet with fellow covenanters from all over the world, most of them being from the States, was refreshing for the soul. Their interest in us, in Scotland, is real and sincere and the warmth of their affection is very humbling. Mealtimes – so well organised on the campus – were times of spiritual enrichment as well as bodily nourishment with problems and encouragements profitably shared. On occasions such as this, we can truly say ‘Behold how good a thing it is, and how becoming well; together such as brethren are in unity to dwell’.

Finally, should you consider going? Indeed! Even the cost is not as prohibitive as it seems: If you begin to set aside £10 a week, you’re covered for the total cost well in advance of time for booking. So, as the Ethiopian Eunuch said, ‘What hinders me?’

Covenanter Holiday Conference 2016

Every four years, the RPCI organises a British Isles conference. This year, it was attended by around 400 people. Below is a report by Grant, Yvonne and Jacob Alexander of Airdrie RPCS.

On Saturday 23rd July we set off from home to attend the RP Covenanter Holiday Conference at the Share Village in Northern Ireland. This was not our first RP conference but it was our first time holidaying in Northern Ireland. We were not disappointed.

We decided on the full board option and shared a chalet with the Quigleys, the Fallows and a lovely Austrian lady called Ruth. The accommodation was dormitory style ensuite bedrooms with a central living area and kitchen. There were other options of caravanning, camping or staying off-site.

The food was good – we were never hungry – and we were very impressed by the way the staff from Share worked so hard each day serving food to organising and instructing activities.

The speaker was Rev Knox Hyndman and his series of morning sermons was entitled, “Ending the Long Silence – John the Baptist Introduces the Saviour”. We were left with much to contemplate such as our need of repentance; to not speculating how Jesus may work but to remember that He is always at work; and that although we may not see the outcome Jesus continues to speak through His servants.

In the afternoons and evenings there were various activities arranged and much fun and laughter was had by all.

The Share conference seemed to be a much more relaxed family holiday atmosphere. Whilst Gartmore was completely new to us, at Share we met up with old acquaintances and met new people as well. It is always such a blessing and uplifting to feel part of the larger family of God’s people and to be reminded of their presence.

It is also an encouragement for us as parents to see Jacob build on friendships from the past and meet new children of his own age group. It is such a good opportunity for our children and young people to meet with other Christian families in a safe and caring environment and for them to be hearing God’s Word each day. He is already counting down to the conference in two years time.

We would encourage anyone, young or old, who has not been to an RP conference to seriously consider going along. You will hear God’s Word preached and be challenged in your walk with God. You will meet other Christians and have fellowship with them and you will have fun and much laughter. All are good for the soul.

Here are some thoughts from Jacob, aged 7.

“I loved Share. It was the best conference ever. I liked meeting up with my friends from the conference at Gartmore and making new friends too, especially Ewen, Daniel and Timothy. We had our own group in the morning where we had a story (for example, The Ten Commandments and the story of Ruth). We played at games and made a craft. In the afternoon we had activities. I took part in Archery, Banana Boating and Circus Skills. My favourite was Banana Boating and jumping off the jetty into the water. I also enjoyed watching the boat building and boat race on the last day. At night, after joining with everyone for family worship, we had more fun with activities like orienteering, inflatable table football (with us as the players), t-shirt painting, and slip and slide. I loved playing at the play park with my friends. Oh, and the food was good too. If you were to ask me, “Should I go to the conference in two years time and why?” I would say, “Yes! I’m planning to be there”.”