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Minister’s Letter – May 2019

I was asked to write the following article for the May 2019 edition of Life and Work. Since I know not everyone receives this magazine, I thought I would replicate it in this month’s Informer. Enjoy!

When I was first asked to write a piece reflecting on the experiences of a “young person” in ministry, it was not immediately apparent to me how my perspective differs from older colleagues. We all know the challenges currently facing the Church of Scotland, and we all have to seriously grapple with these; I suppose my situation is different in that I have longer to wrestle with these things before I start drawing on my pension.

Yet, upon further reflection, I notice that being a young person in ministry holds certain challenges. I am fortunate to have friends with whom I have journeyed since Primary School. As we meet and share with one another the joys and difficulties of the paths we have chosen, I am struck that those in other lines of work tend to have more contact with their contemporaries. Contrary to this, I have found in ministry I largely serve and relate to those of my parents’ generation and older.

In this sense, ministry as a young person can feel somewhat isolating. While the desire of any Church is to encourage greater numbers of people to engage with the Christian faith, until there is an uptake in the number of young people coming to faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ, ministry is likely to continue to feel a little lonely.

I should make two things clear.

Firstly, I am describing my context, as experienced by my extraverted personality: it is perfectly possible that the other young ministers coming into the church will experience these things differently.

Secondly, I am truly blessed to serve a congregation where age, whether mine or someone else’s, is not an issue. They are extremely supportive, and share with me the benefit of their wisdom, as I share with them my enthusiastic vision. Taken together, we hope this sets us down the path God has set out for our congregation to follow.

A final question remains: how do I, as a young person, minister to those with far more years than me? To answer, I turn to one of my favourite books of the Bible: 1st Timothy. This letter, from an older minister (Paul) to a younger one (Timothy) contains much advice which is helpful, such as the following:

12Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the
believers
in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself
to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. (1st Timothy 4, NIVUK)

Regardless of age, I am called to set an example to all fellow followers of Jesus Christ, in my speech, conduct, love faith and purity. I am to respond to God’s call to regularly read His Word, to preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to teach others about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Whether I am young or old, if I devote myself to these things to which God has called me, then, to quote my Probation Supervisor on my final Sunday as his student, “you will not go far wrong”.

God bless,

Stuart

 

Easter 2019

Easter will soon be here, and we have lots of services and events in the build-up and over Easter weekend. If you want to know more about what Easter is about or if you want to come and worship the risen Christ, then come and join is at any (or all) of these events.

Minister’s Letter – March 2019

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2nd Corinthians 5 NIVUK)

In recent weeks, I have been very aware of the reality of conflict in our world.

As you know, I am an amateur student of history. The year before I was born (1990), the Berlin wall fell, and Germany was reunited. In the early years of my life, Apartheid in South Africa ended. When I was 8 years old, the Good Friday agreement was signed, and peace (however tentative!) was established in Ireland after decades of conflict.

I look back on these, the events of my childhood, and I reflect that the general sense I have is that this was a relatively peaceful time. Perhaps I am being selective in my memories, or perhaps I was simply a naive child; either way, this was my perception.

As I write this today, this sense of peace has vanished. Instead of tearing down walls, we have a President who is threatening to build one. Instead of encouraging greater acceptance of others, we are shown statistics which state that attacks motivated by racism are on the rise. And, due to breakdown in trust, there has been no functioning government in Northern Ireland since January 2017.

And then, of course, there is Brexit. The deadline is marching ever closer, and our politicians and the general public seem entrenched in their opposing views: no willingness to compromise, no desire work together. I have never known such deep and vitriolic division, and I find it deeply disturbing.

These divides seem so insurmountable that I think it would take nothing short of a miracle to overcome them, bringing about reconciliation.

In the passage above, Paul describes something impossible. He describes how God, because of His love for us, reconciled us to Himself, through Jesus Christ. Now, despite our continued sinfulness, we are counted as God’s children, because He has adopted us through Christ. That is truly miraculous reconciliation!

And God calls us to a ministry of reconciliation. So, while I look at the world and think, “reconciling these divides seems impossible”, God prompts me to remember His reconciliation, and to take the attitude, “with God, all things are possible”.

We are all called to model God’s reconciliation. I hope, therefore, that you will take this ministry of reconciliation seriously, especially as our world seems to become more divided.

God bless,

Stuart

 

Minister’s Letter – February 2019

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
(1st Corinthians 10:31 NIVUK)

I was really struggling to find inspiration for this month’s letter; but thanks to a walk, God gave me some!

I had to pick up a parcel at the local Royal Mail Depot. I thought about jumping in the car, and the journey would have taken around 10 minutes in total. But, it was a nice day (sunny, but cold) and the combination of a quieter-than-usual morning plus a serious need to improve my health meant I decided to just walk there any back.

On this walk, not only did I achieve over 7000 of my 10,000 daily-step target, but I also managed the following:
· Bumped into and caught up with a couple of congregation members;
· Helped a lost lady find the place she was looking for (with some assistance from my smart phone!);
· Invested in a local business by picking up some messages on my way past;
· Spent some time in prayer (with my eyes open, of course);
· Planned the structure of the sermon for Sunday coming;
· Planned this month’s congregational letter (in my head, and which I am now typing);· Oh, and picked up the parcel, which was my whole reason for being out!

As I reflected on all this, I was reminded of our verse of the year: “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”. So much of my walk had involved God: in those chance meetings with people, to the time I was able to spend “in His company” thinking and praying about things. It was, for me, a tangible example of one thing I hope we can realise this year: that we can and are to glorify God in all things we do.

Yet, this walk also reminded me that this also happens “in the other direction”, so to speak. Not only are we to glorify God in all that we do: God can and will use even the most ordinary circumstances for His glory!

I don’t think it was a coincidence that I decided to walk to get that parcel. I believe God lead me to that decision, and in doing so, used my ordinary walk for His glory: as I spent time with Him, but also encountered others along the way, hopefully showing something of Him in our interactions.

I want to, therefore, encourage you to continue to seek to glorify God in all you do, but also to realise that God can use all circumstances and situations, even the mundane and every-day, for His glory. Don’t ever believe that you are too insignificant or dull to ever be of use to God: He can and will use all things and all people for His glory – even a walk to pick up a parcel.

May God bless you,

Stuart

Camel 4 News – Puppet Concert

The Clincarthill Church Puppet team will be presenting ‘Camel 4 News’ from 7-8pm on Wednesday 19th December at Clincarthill Church, giving a fresh take on the Christmas story, with songs and sketches. Entry is free. See the attached leaflet. Hope to see you there.

Minister’s Letter – November 2018

This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord. (Isaiah 2:1-5 NIVUK)

As you might know, history is one of my hobbies. I enjoyed learning about history in school, and while I haven’t taken my study of history any further in an academic sense, I do enjoy reading about it in my own time. I am particularly interested in the time of the Roman Empire, and the Napoleonic Wars/Victorian Era Britain (just to let you know a little more about my interests!).

Because I enjoy learning about history so much, I get frustrated when I perceive others failing to learn from history. This can be on a global scale: for example, the frightening rise of far-right groups in Europe in the last few years (did we learn nothing from the 1939-1945 war against such powers?!). This frustration can also be more personal, and aimed at myself as much as anyone else: I can’t be the only person who sometimes fails to learn from my own past mistakes!

History and remembrance are important. It’s why we have an annual service of remembrance on the Sunday closest to Remembrance Day. This year, Remembrance Sunday is particularly significant: it will be exactly 100 years since, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns fell silent, and the war which was supposed to end all wars finally concluded (another frustration: if we had truly learned the lessons of World War 1, it would have been the war to end all wars. Sadly, war and conflict continue to engulf our world).

The Christian faith is, in part, a faith of remembrance. We are invited, every time we open the Bible, to look back, read and remember the experiences of those faithful people who lived hundreds or thousands of years before us: such as Isaiah, who is quoted above. Yet, this quotation, and the Bible as a whole, also encourage us to look forward in hope: trusting and believing in the work of God to put our world right.

This work peaked with the death and resurrection of Jesus, and will peak again when Christ returns. We trust that, when He does come back, God will do as He promised through Isaiah: that the weapons of war will be destroyed, that peace will reign, and we will live eternally and harmoniously with God and all His faithful. It will be the world God always intended; free from the sin which we have allowed to spoil this world.

And so it is that, when we gather on Sunday 11th November, we are not there to glorify war, or celebrate that “our side” won: we are there to look back, remembering those on all sides who died in conflict, giving thanks for those times when wars end and peace returns; but we also look forward, declaring that we, as the people of God, will pursue the cause of peace wherever we can, and trusting in the assured hope that, one day, God will ensure that peace will reign in our world for all eternity.

May God bless you,

Stuart

Remembrance Day 2018

Today has been marked with a time of remembrance; planting poppy crosses in our garden for people we know who died at war; the laying of a wreath at our war memorial; and reflections on the past, the present and the future. We followed this with an old-fashioned tea party celebrating peace.

Armistice Centenary 11/11/18

We hold a special Armistice Centenary service this Sunday 11th November, starting at 10.45am (note the earlier than usual start time). We mark 100 years since the end of the Great War, so join us to remember those who sacrificed their lives for country and for peace. The service will be followed by an indoor street party (as would have happened at the end of the war) in the hall. All are welcome.