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Minister’s Letter – September 2019

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever
(Hebrews 13:8 NIVUK)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIVUK)

Christianity is a curious faith, in that it affirms both constancy and change simultaneously. Take the above verses as examples.

On the one hand, we affirm things which do not, and cannot, change: God does not change, His love and forgiveness do not change; the Gospel does not change, the results of the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, do not change; our adoption into God’s family does not change, our place in His future New Creation does not change.

On the other hand, we affirm that change is fundamentally important as we journey as Christians: we leave behind old, sinful habits and change to adopt new, Christ-like habits; we no longer seek fulfilment in the things of the world, but change to find complete fulfilment in God through Christ; we change our focus from selfishness to selflessness, with God’s help.

This is a mark of the Christian faith: being able to, on the one hand affirm that which is constant, and on the other, embrace the necessity of change. Since the Church is the gathering of Christians, I don’t think it is unfair to expect the Church to bear this same mark. If we, therefore, take a critical look at the Church: what do we find?

The membership of the Church of Scotland peaked in 1956, at 1,320,091. From the 1950’s onward (perhaps even before then?!) the Church’s broad approach to worship, mission, evangelism, discipleship etc. was “business as usual”. As a result, in 2018, the membership of the Church of Scotland was 325,695. That’s a loss of 994,396 members over 62 years. That a rough loss of 16,000 members per year. Clearly “business as usual” has not worked.

At this year’s General Assembly, the National Church finally faced this reality as it agreed a Radical Action Plan. This plan hopes to achieve many things, but the primary goal is to halt the decline, re-energise the Church, reconnect with the world, and begin the process of making new disciples again.

We have a part to play too. We cannot hold on to the expectations of the past, and assume that members, elders, even ministers, can do things as they have always been done. To do so will only invite frustration and failure.

Change is, therefore, to come. I am grateful to Roger, our Session Clerk, for writing in this month’s Informer to explain part of how we are seeking to implement some changes in the coming months. I expect that there will be more to come.

God bless,

Stuart

Holiday Club – Walk tHIS Way – 5-9 Aug

The Clincarthill Holiday Club team invite your child to
“Walk tHIS Way”.

During the week, they will hear bible stories about people of God who have gone on a journey and find out what we can learn from them. The fun filled programme includes sports, crafts, music and not forgetting the messy games.

“Walk tHIS Way” is free and open to all children entering Primaries 1 -7 and will run from 10am -12 noon on Monday 5th – Friday 9th August 2019. Please your child bring along any morning to join the fun.

The family service at 11am on Sunday 11th will round off the holiday club week and we would be delighted to welcome you for a reflection on the week’s activities.

New this year, the Mission & Outreach team invite you to their Garden Café on four Mondays during July starting on the 8th July from 10am till 1pm. Weather permitting, this will be held in the Church garden and all are welcome with some play activities for younger children. You will be able to register early for the holiday club at the café to save time on the first day of the club.

Registration forms are available below.

You can email Youth@clincarthill.org.uk for further information.

Yours sincerely
Mary MacCallum
Holiday Club Co-ordinator

Registration Form
2019 Walk tHIS Way registration form

Garden Cafe

We are having a Garden Cafe on Mondays 8th through to 29th July, 10am to 1pm, all are welcome (including children)..

Minister’s Letter – June 2019

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you,
Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’
But he replied, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.’
Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows today,
you will deny three times that you know me.’
(Luke 22, vs 31-34, NIVUK)

Those of us who enjoy cooking/baking (and I include myself!) will be familiar with the importance of sifting flour, to ensure what we are making is the correct consistency. Yet, this process is not as necessary today as it was in the past.

Today, the flour we use is already well refined: for all practical purposes, the impurities have been removed. In years gone by, this would not have been the case: especially when we go back into ancient times when flour was made using great, grinding stones. It was far more common for impurities, like small stones, to make it through, so sifting became a necessity when the flour was used.

Sifting was an involved process. We might even call it a violent process! If the baker/cook wanted their final product to the best it could be, then they had to work hard to remove as many of the impurities as they could through the sifting process.

Jesus predicted such a process for Peter. It was not pleasant: when put under the pressure of sifting, Peter failed Jesus by denying Him. Jesus is, however, gracious and forgiving, and “reinstated” Peter in John 21. After this sifting and reinstatement, Peter went on to become the man Jesus predicted he would be: the rock on whom the Church was built; the first of the Apostles to preach the Gospel on the day of Pentecost; the one who began the spread of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

I believe we are facing a time of sifting in Clincarthill Church. Our theme for 2019 is the question “why?”, and I believe this has allowed the freedom to ask questions about our faith and our church. I am aware that as we ask questions and test the way we do things; it can create a sense of discomfort. It is uncomfortable for some because we are perceived to be moving away from that which is familiar; it is uncomfortable for others because we have not arrived at a destination which seems apparent.

I believe that 2020 will be a very significant year for us, and not just because it is the 10th anniversary of the formation of Clincarthill Church. I believe God is continuing to prepare us for something remarkable. For that reason, I want to encourage you not to resent His sifting us, because it is part of that preparation. Yes, it may be uncomfortable; but when He is complete, we trust that the impurities will have been removed, and we will be as God needs us for the next part of His mission – just as Peter suffered sifting to make him ready to be the rock of the Church.

A final word of encouragement: sifting is not easy for anyone. Let us, therefore, redouble our efforts, in our dealings with one another, to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 2, vs 2-3, NIVUK).

God bless,

Stuart

 

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