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Minister’s Letter – January 2019

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

The question, “why?” is an important one.

It is often one of the most basic questions a person can ask. Children will ask things like, “why is the sky blue?”. The question, “why?” is frequently an attempt by one person to understand something. Granted, frequently asking the question over and over can become annoying (again, I am thinking of children), but it is nonetheless an attempt to gain understanding.

How we respond to the question, “why?” is also important.

We could respond dismissively; “because this is just the way it is!” That may well end the line of questioning, but it will often leave the questioner dissatisfied. Indeed, if we think about it, we haven’t really answered the question at all!

As Christians, I believe the question “why?” is one we should continually ask: of ourselves, and of the Church. Why do be believe what we do, or behave in the way we do? Why does the Church do certain things in worship and in service?

Equally, how we answer these questions truly matters. If the answer is, “because it’s always been this way”… well, that’s not good enough! We are not called to be unthinking automatons who mindlessly follow: we are the People of God, redeemed through His Son, Jesus Christ, and we should know why we do what we do – seen as we are meant to be doing it in His name!

I, therefore, encourage the question of “why?”. By reflecting on why we believe or do certain things, we will either reinforce that we are doing the right thing, or challenge ourselves to move toward the right thing. It is for this reason that our over-arching theme of 2019 is that question: Why? It is an invitation for us all to reflect on our Christian living, and on the life of our congregation, and to ensure we are doing the right things for God.

Because, ultimately, that is what matters. As we ask, “why” and reflect on the answer, we should eventually reach the foundational answer: we do this for the glory of God. It is the glory of God alone which should matter most to us as Christians, and it is His glory we should seek in all we do.

If we are confident that what we say/do/believe glorifies God, then let us do it all the more. If what we say/do/believe does not glorify God, then we would do well to set it aside, so we can concentrate more on the things which do bring Him glory.

I pray God’s blessing upon you as we begin this new year of reflection, asking the question, “why?”.

God bless,
Stuar

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.

Minister’s Letter – October 2018

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. (1st Corinthians 5: 18-21 NIVUK)

One of the most difficult parts of my recent trip to Rwanda was learning of the country’s recent history: specifically, the events leading up to and during the 1994 genocide. The events of that time were appalling: 800,000 people were murdered over a period of 100 days. The death and destruction brought the country to its knees: lives were lost, infrastructure destroyed, and the ability to function ruined.

If you visit Rwanda today, it is impossible to tell that these horrific events took place, 24 years ago. Homes have been rebuilt, roads re-surfaced, and the country functions once again, just like any other. Given the level of destruction, this was achieved in record time. And it could only be achieved if the whole country united and worked together in the rebuilding process. The question is this: how could such a divided population be brought together? How could there be reconciliation between Hutu and Tutsi, after the pain and suffering caused by one on the other?

On the one hand, the government which took over in 1994 led a huge campaign of reconciliation. The new leadership understood that the only way for the country to move forward was to bring people back together. Yet, with the best will in the world, governments cannot manufacture the kind of deep healing and reconciliation which was required for Rwanda to move forward.

During the genocide, the Church did not give herself a good name. While in some places, the Church worked to help those being killed, in others she stood by and did nothing; in others still, the Church was complicit in the killings! After the genocide, and despite the poor reputation of the Church, the message of the Gospel rang out through Rwanda: a message of the deep reconciliation Jesus achieved between us and God. If Jesus can reconcile us, horrid sinners, to God, perhaps He could also reconcile the Hutu and Tutsi?

Today, 94% of Rwandans identify as Christians. While this figure may be inflated by those who identify because it’s the cultural thing to do, the fact that the country has been, and continues to be, reconciled after such a dark period suggests to me that a majority do seriously believe this Gospel, and have allowed it to shape their lives and their actions.

The Gospel of reconciliation is so powerful, it can re-unite a country divided by ethnicity and genocide. I wonder: what could this same Gospel achieve here, if we took the same approach, sharing it believing and being confident in its power?

Some food for your thoughts. God bless, Stuart

 

Minister’s Letter – September 2018

20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3: 20-21 NIVUK)

It was the week before this years Holiday Club, and I asked how many children had registered. I was told 3, with the assurance that, “that’s 2 more than we had this time last year”.

I confess that I began to feel increasingly anxious about the attendance at the Holiday Club, fearing that it would end up feeling like a bit of a flop. I, therefore, began to pray, “God, if we could just get 30 children, like we had last year, that would be fine”.

Wonderfully, by the end of the Holiday Club week, I believe we welcomed around 70 children in total, with the highest attendance going to 48 on the Wednesday. I was in awe – not only had God answered my prayer, He had done so beyond what I had asked, or even what I imagined might be possible.

What can we learn from this?

The first, I think, is that prayer works! I have been wondering why we had such a successful and well attended Holiday Club. We didn’t really do anything differently this year: we planned the same, advertised the same, held the Holiday Club on the same week.

So, what made the difference this year? I believe it is because we had a much greater and concerted effort of prayer before the Holiday Club. This, for me, is a very powerful example of the fact that prayer works, and God answers prayer!

The second thing is that, not only does God answer prayer, but He does so beyond out imagination or expectations. If you’d told me that we would engage with 70+ children in the same breath as telling me we only had 3 registered, I would not have believed you. I would have thought it impossible. Yet, God confounded my expectations, and did a much greater thing than I could imagine.

I believe God is trying to show us what He can do when we turn to Him and earnestly pray for the ministry of our congregation. He can help us achieve things beyond our imagining!

I hope this example can act as an encouragement to us, to marshal our prayers and seek God’s hand in the ministry of our church. If we do, we cannot begin to imagine what God will achieve, for it will be immeasurably more; not so that we can glorify in ourselves, but so that He will receive all the glory throughout all generations, forever and ever!

May God bless you,
Stuart

Holiday Club 2018 – Chill

This year the Clincarthill Holiday club team will be taking a deep breath to “Chill“. We will provide an opportunity to hear about God and His Son, Jesus, through the parables – stories told by Jesus in the bible.

Chill” is open to all children entering Primaries 1-7 and will run from 10am to 12 noon on Monday 6th to Friday 10th August 2018. Please bring your child along any morning to join the fun.

We are looking forward to hosting a fun-filled programme of sports, crafts, dance, singing, jokes and messy games.  Please tell family, friends and neighbours about it and encourage them to come along where they will be warmly welcomed.

A family service will take place at 11am on Sunday 12th August to round off the holiday club week and we would be delighted to welcome you for  a reflection on the week’s activities.

If you are intending coming, it would speed things up when you arrive if you would print the registration form, complete it, and bring it with you – here it is 2018 Chill registration form. It would also be helpful if you would email us at youth@clincarthill.org.uk in advance so we have an idea of the number of children planning to attend. Thank you.

 

Minister’s Letter – June 2018

I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber;
Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
(Psalm 121: 1-4 NIVUK)

“There are two seasons in Scotland. June and winter” (Billy Connolly).

As I write this letter for our summer congregational newsletter, I cannot help but feel that summer is already here. We have enjoyed an incredible transformation: we’ve gone from snow in April to temperatures of 25 degrees plus in May.  We can only hope that the Big Yin’s predictions don’t come true, and that our summer is over before we are even aware that it has begun!

Regardless of the weather, we are all preparing for summer. For the months of June to August, things seem to slow down. Organisations finish, people visit other parts of the world and we often make more time to enjoy hobbies and activities that are not work. This can be especially true of churches: during these months a kind of contented slumber falls, as groups and events pause for a summer break.

It is this kind of halting that caused Ministers across the land to often remark, “God doesn’t take a summer holiday!” Indeed, the LORD whom we love and serve, “neither slumbers not sleeps”, according to Psalm 121. Just because church activities take an often-well-deserved rest doesn’t mean God does! And thank goodness for that: our world is bad enough, never mind if God decided to take time off from looking after us!

The same is true of being a Christian. Following Jesus and serving God are not part-time things. We don’t get holidays from being a Christian. This is a calling which is to shape our whole life: mind, body and spirit. Just because church life is quieter doesn’t mean we take a break from living for God, sharing the Gospel, reaching out in Christian love. Just as God never sleeps nor slumbers, so our living out of our faith never stops.

The fact that we are to never stop serving God relates to some changes we are exploring at Clincarthill. Many of you will be aware of the proposal to change to the Unitary Constitution. I know this may seem like a rather dull thing, but it is my sincere hope that making this kind of change will enable more people to use their gifts and respond to this never-ending calling to serve God. We’re creating teams to enable people to serve where they feel gifted. I cannot give more detail in this letter, but the information is available: might I encourage you to seek this out, and find out how you can serve?

That being said, I know that not all of us are able to serve as we once did, and that’s ok: just as the church sometimes rests, so too do God’s people. Yet, we are still called to serve God, and there is something we all can and must do for God’s Church: pray! As such, can I suggest that, over the summer, you might pray for the following things:

  • For the ministry of Clincarthill: that it would follow God’s plan and direction;
  • For the people of Clincarthill: that we would hear God’s call, and use our gifts for Him;
  • For me: as I seek God’s leading, and guide everyone as best as I can.

Thank you for your prayers, and may God bless you this summer,

Stuart