The Inwardly-Obsessed Church

Here’s a short article that is worth a read. This description of the warning signs of inwardly-obsessed congregations is frighteningly accurate. Many of us in pastoral ministry in PCI recognise number 6 as being particularly relevant. No matter how many pastoral visits we do, we just don’t seem to do enough. And those pastors with sensitive consciences are left feeling guilty and stressed. That’s why a re-evaluation of pastoral care in our congregations is important, and the report from last year’s General Assembly is so helpful.

Andrew installed in Sloan Street

My good friend, John Kelly, forwarded me some photographs from the installation service in Sloan Street Presbyterian Church, Lisburn that took place last night. Andrew Faulkner, who has close links with our congregation in Portadown, is the new minister of Sloan Street congregation.

Andrew and Jessica with David, Beth and Charis

Andrew’s wife, Jessica, is the daughter of our faithful and long-serving elder, Billy Calvert. And the current Clerk of Session in Sloan Street is Dr Brian Craig, son of our esteemed minister emeritus, Dr William Craig.

The Service of Ordination and Installation was conducted by a commission of the Presbytery of Dromore and the act of Installation was conducted by the Rev Andrew Thompson (Moderator) and the Rev John Davey (Clerk).  The Moderator prayed that the new minister would be enabled by God to be a strong leader, a wise counsellor, an understanding friend and a clear and consistent example to all; and that in the days ahead he will have the encouragement of seeing lost souls brought to faith in Jesus Christ and followers of Jesus strengthened in their love and commitment.  The Rev David Knox, minister of Harmony Hill, read the Scriptures and the Rev Howard Gilpin, minister of Moira Presbyterian, preached the sermon.  In a challenging charge to the new minister and the congregation, the Rev William Henry, Convenor of the Vacancy, spoke of the need to minister with heart-felt passion for Christ and love for the people. The praise was led by the church’s music group under the direction of Valerie Wiggam; the hymns included, ‘Jesus paid it all’ and ‘I will offer up my life’.

Andrew with Clerk of Session, Dr Brian Craig, and former Clerk of Session, Mr Jim McDowell

The service was followed by a reception and supper in the church hall.  Welcoming their new minister and his family, Dr Brian Craig, Clerk of Session, said “We are delighted to welcome Andrew, Jessica, David, Beth and Charis into our fellowship.  The call to Andrew was clear and unambiguous and together with him we look forward in anticipation to what God has planned.  It is our prayer that God will richly bless his ministry in this congregation and in this community”.

Addressing his new congregation for the first time, Mr Faulkner said “It has been incredible to experience the definite leading of God to the congregation of Sloan Street and immensely encouraging to begin to get to know the people here who have a great love for Jesus and the surrounding area.  I have no doubt that God will continue to use Sloan Street to reach people and enrich them with the great good news of the gospel.”

Andrew met his wife Jessica while studying at John Moore’s University, Liverpool. They were married in First Portadown Presbyterian Church in July 1997.   Andrew is a keen Sunderland Football Club supporter, and before commencing his theological education was a PE teacher at Portadown College for one year followed by eight years at Forthill College, Lisburn. We wish Andrew well as he begins his new ministry.

A good supper was provided afterwards
A good supper was provided afterwards
Andrew demonstrates the importance of correct hand positions for Sunderland's goalkeeper
Andrew demonstrates the importance of correct hand positions for Sunderland's goalkeeper

Update from Limerick

Apparently everything went well at Christ Church, Limerick yesterday at their Easter morning service. My local correspondent reports:

We had a most amazing service this morning with about 70 people wearing Ulster shirts – nearly as many Munster shirts and about 50 more – standing room only in Christ Church and not much of that. The church was fuller than ever except for funerals! The singing was ‘lift the roof’ stuff and Tom Kingston, Gillian Kingston and others really did us proud.
I hear that things also went well at Thomond Park. SUFTUM!

Should Christians boycott Starbucks?

starbucks_logo_newThe National Organization for Marriage (NOM), America’s largest group dedicated to preserving traditional marriage, has announced it will lead an international “Dump Starbucks” protest of Starbucks Coffee Company to give voice to consumers around the world who support preserving marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The protest campaign was announced after the annual Starbucks shareholders meeting in Seattle, where NOM spokesmen queried the board on its new policies promoting gay marriage and demanded protection against discrimination for employees, vendors and customers who disagree. NOM states that Starbucks’ executive vice president of partner resources has stated that gay marriage “is aligned with Starbucks business practices and upholds our belief in the equal treatment of partners. It is core to who we are and what we value as a company.”

One blogger, Russell Moore, who is Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Seminary, has argued that such a protest campaign is just not the best option for Christians and that ultimately it doesn’t achieve the goals that Christians are aiming for. He makes his point very eloquently, and the approach he suggests is an alternative to the traditional evangelical response in the part of the world where I live. A younger generation recognises that we no longer live in Christendom where Christians are in a majority and can flex their muscle with some commercial effect. And perhaps a boycott is a much too worldly way of trying to make our point anyway. There are situations that call for a much more nuanced and more Christian style of response.

A boycott of Starbucks is possibly a non-starter with many middle-class Christians since it would take them out of their comfort zone completely and deny them their regular shot of flavourful caffeine. Imagine having to go to Costa instead? But perhaps a more Christ-like response would be equally uncomfortable for many of us. It’s not easy to engage in conversation with those who don’t see things from our perspective, or to persuade them to adopt our position. The intellectual tide of our society is running against those of us who think that what God says really matters. That’s why we need to be bold, courageous, and persuasive, but in a thoroughly Christian way.

In that sense, nothing has changed. Paul advised the Corinthians with regard to their approach in countering arguments and trends in their society: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (II Cor 10:3,4). Elsewhere Paul commends prayer, faith, hope, love, God’s Word and the Holy Spirit as being our powerful and effective weapons in spiritual warfare. It seems as though petitions and boycotts may not be the answer to all the issues we face.

Russell Moore’s blogpost is copied below the fold. Continue reading “Should Christians boycott Starbucks?”

Ordination of new elders

Last night we ordained six new elders in First Portadown. It was a great evening, and the sermon from Titus 1 preached by Rev Nigel McCullough was simply excellent. The new elders have a wide range of gifts and graces and we believe that our congregation will be blessed and strengthened through their leadership and their pastoral care of the congregation. From left on the front row are Stephen Hunter, Mark Kent, Clifford Clyde, Gary Kennedy, Noel Brownlee and Philip Knowles. It was also great to have our Minister Emeritus, Dr Craig, with us, now well into his 93rd year.

The large congregation enjoyed a hearty supper after the service, and there was a great sense of fellowship and rejoicing among all who attended.