The Assembly Rally was a great occasion, a highlight of which was the excellent music provided by the choir and musicians under the direction of the superbly-gifted Diane. The singing was simply wonderful, and the “goose bump moment” for me was the congregation singing Psalm 103, “O Thou my soul, bless God the Lord.”
The theme of the service was a recollection of three features of the 1859 Revival: renewed praise, preaching and prayer.
The choir was comprised of singers from Kells, Carnmoney and Portadown, the three congregations where I have had the privilege to minister. Their postlude piece, “Count Your Blessings” was accompanied by the congregation clapping along in a rather unPresbyterian kind of way, and with an enthusiastic round of applause at the end.
My friend, Phil Ryken, pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, preached a great sermon from Jeremiah 36 on the indestructibility of the Word of God. Pat, Jean and Margaret led us in prayer, and the offering for the Inter-Church Addiction Project raised 4,400 pounds.
Thanks to all who worked so hard to make it such an inspirational evening.
I’m talking about the temperature in the Assembly Hall. It was uncomfortably hot at times, and especially at the Opening Night and at the Assembly Rally on Wednesday night. In any future refurbishment of the building, I expect there will be no opposition from Assembly members with regard to the installation of an effective air conditioning system, whatever it costs.
Having said that, the emotional and spiritual atmosphere of the Assembly was very pleasant indeed, and at times it was even quite refreshing. We began the week thinking that it would be a “one issue” Assembly, but I was delighted that we actually got round to discussing other important issues during the three days. The speeches were of a high standard, especially so in the debate about the PMS. It is noteworthy that no standing vote or card vote was taken on any issue throughout the Assembly, a point made by the Clerk as we came to our final session. There was a remarkable sense of unity and common purpose in all our discussions. My plea on the Opening Night for us to be a church united in our passion for Christ and in compassion for people was echoed by others throughout the week, and was evidenced in the work of the Assembly.
One of the Indonesian delegates from the Evangelical Church in Timor presented me with a wall-hanging which has the inscription: “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.”
A highlight of the Assembly was the contribution of the SPUD youth delegates who presented and spoke to a range of resolutions, all of which were unanimously affirmed by the Assembly. The SPUD delegates expressed concerns about the church’s continuing ministry of peace-making, of involving every member in the life and ministry of the church, of young people being involved in the preparation of congregational mission plans, and how congregations can engage with their local communities. They brought a breath of fresh air to the debates and were warmly received by the other delegates. We need to make sure that this important voice continues to be heard in the Assembly.
Clearly a lot of people were praying for the work of our General Assembly this week, and their prayers were answered.