The cheques are in the post!

Savers with the Presbyterian Mutual Society will be watching for the arrival of their post with special interest today since it will contain a cheque from the Administrator returning money to them. After waiting for 2 years and 10 months, those with under £20,000 will get all of their money back, and those with larger savings will receive at least 77% of their savings. It’s a day for thanksgiving and rejoicing.

Special thanks to everyone who has made this return of money possible. I know that there has been a considerable expenditure of energy in recent days on the part of the Administrator, Arthur Boyd, and his team, as well as the officials at DETI, who have had the responsibility for tying up all the loose ends of the deal. But they have made it happen, and we are so grateful.

There are two aspects of the arrangement that are of interest to those who have not received all of their money back. One is the rate of interest that the PMS will have to pay on the £175 million loan from the Government. There are some indications that this could be at a lower rate than that on which many of the calculations were based. Simple arithmetic shows that a 1% reduction in the interest rate would mean that PMS would have to re-pay £1.75m less in the first year of borrowing. Overall that would create more favourable conditions for the PMS, and for those who are eager to get access to the remainder of their funds.

The other area of interest is the actual percentage required from those who opted to make an additional deferment. Individuals and congregations were given the option of leaving an additional 5% or 10% of their funds in the PMS so that smaller savers could get all of their money back. I hear that the response to that appeal has been so good that the actual amounts may be less than half of that which larger savers were prepared to defer. That is a tremendous response and shows that there is a reservoir of generosity and compassion within PCI in spite of the PMS debacle.

It would be good if, on this day of thanksgiving, those who are in receipt of PMS cheques remembered the really needy people in our world and considered sending a thank offering to Tearfund or Christian Aid.

Everyday Church

ec_1a669943a2532db37ebf7a13ee30767d1This week I’ve been reading the latest offering from Tim Chester and Steve Timmis called Everyday Church. It’s an interesting and stimulating read which is a follow-up to Total Church and deals with the practical realities about churches being gospel-centred communities.  They start with the vital question of how we reach the 40 million people in the UK who are not open to attending church as it is. That is certainly a question which the wider Christian church should be asking. There are a number of helpful and thought-provoking comments. Here’s one:

One of the common assumptions when people fail to turn up to church is that we need to improve the experience of church gatherings, the “product”. We need better music, more relevant sermons, multimedia presentations, engaging dramas. Or we need to relocate to pubs, cafes, art centres. We need cool venues with cool people and cool music. The problem with this approach is the assumption that people will come to church if the product is better. But remember that 70% of the UK population have no intention of attending a church service, and these figures are even higher among young people….Sunday morning in church is the one place where evangelism cannot take place in our generation because the lost are not there – not until we go out to connect with them where they are, where they feel comfortable, on their territory. We need to do church and mission in the context of everyday life. We must think of church as a community of people who share life, ordinary life. Continue reading “Everyday Church”

Why be a pastor?

geoffrey-thomasAt Westminster Theological Seminary’s graduation ceremony this year an honorary doctorate was awarded to Geoff Thomas, pastor of Alfred Place Baptist Church in Aberystwyth. Geoff graduated from Westminster Seminary in 1964, and for over 40 years has pastored the same congregation.

In his address to the students, he outlined the blessings and privileges of pastoral ministry, a word that encourages all of us who labour in that calling.

There is no greater privilege than to be a pastor-preacher. In the para-church there is extraordinary fascination and vitality (but also there can be self-promotion), and you may well be drawn into some of its ministries, but consider the rich diversity and satisfaction of the work of the local minister. He teaches the Bible to all ages and states of men and women, boys and girls. He lives on to see the fruit of his ministry in their lives. He evangelizes, visits the dying, counsels, writes, organizes, goes to people’s homes, inspires, rebukes, stirs things up and cools things down, involves himself with the affairs of his congregation and denomination, attends conferences, assemblies and serves on committees. There is no richer or happier life. Its foundation is the donation of the ascended, reigning Lord who gives some pastors and teachers. Its boundaries and priorities are defined by the apostolic conviction, “We will give ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Its sustenance is the divine river of grace. God never puts us where he is not present and where his grace cannot keep us. God never gives graces that he does not intend to be used for his glory and the good of his people. There is a need everywhere for sensible, caring, sound and holy ministers of the new covenant. God is their all sufficiency. May you be satisfied with him and be kept by him for long, enriching lives of Christian service. Prepare for the blessedness of such a vocation by daily appropriating your great High Priest.

PMS update

pmslogo_small-1Thankfully, we are entering the final phase of the PMS crisis. I hear that the number of calls to the PMS office has increased in recent days with savers inquiring about when they might receive their money. Here’s the latest update from the Administrator. It looks like the envelopes with the cheques will be falling through the letter boxes before the end of July.

I can now confirm that my application for the Scheme of Arrangement to be sanctioned by the Court will be heard next Monday, 4th July 2011. On the assumption that sanction is obtained on that day, my plans are to draw down the funding available from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (Northern Ireland) which should enable me to issue cheques to members and creditors before the end of July 2011 .

And here is the latest statement from Mr Boyd following yesterday’s court decision:

I am pleased to say that the Court has formally sanctioned the Scheme of Arrangement and that the Scheme Supervisors can now proceed to draw down the funds and issue cheques this month to members and creditors once certain pre-conditions have been satisfied.  I am currently working through the pre-conditions with my legal team and will update members and creditors shortly when I have a more precise date for drawing down the funds and making distributions.

I fully understanding that awaiting the outcome of the necessary legal process surrounding the Scheme of Arrangement has been stressful for members and creditors and I would like to thank you for your patience.

Gilcomston South to leave the Kirk

churchindexThe Scottish Daily Record reports that Gilcomston South church in Aberdeen will be one of the first to leave the Church of Scotland following the decisions of this year’s General Assembly with regard to the possible opening of the ministry to couples in same-sex relationships.

Dominic Smart, the minister, is reported as saying

“This is us taking a stand against a decision we’re not happy with. It’s the strongest response a congregation can make and it’s a very serious step. But our convictions are clear. We have been discussing this for two-and-a-half years and feel our views are being compromised. However, you feel the gravity of what you are doing and it’s not something you do as a kneejerk reaction.”

The former minister of Gilcomston South was the well-known William Still, who exercised a powerful and influential ministry there for many years. Over the last 70 years, it has become one of the Kirk’s most notable evangelical congregations and Mr Smart and his congregation own the church building on Union Street.