Covenant Protestant Reformed Fellowship

Ballymena, NI

 

13 October, 2004

 


 

To the saints of the

Protestant Reformed Churches,

 

            By God’s grace, the work in Ballymena progresses well. Sean and Maria Hanley were recently received as members of the CPRF, and their infant son, Josiah Calvin, was baptized (12 September).  Another single man who left us two years ago at the disbanding of the CPRC has started attending our services.  Earlier this week I began a new catechism class at the manse with the three young girls of a Christian lady who has been coming to our meetings for a while.

 

            I’ve just finished a series of 10 sermons on Philippians 3, “Pressing Toward the Mark,” and plan to begin a study of “Jehoshaphat, the Ecumenical King” (II Chron. 17-20, etc.).  Starting in early September we began a study of Pentecostalism in our midweek meeting.  So far we’re on the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Later, we plan to consider spiritual gifts, worship, etc.  These are pressing issues in Northern Ireland and the British Isles as the scourge of the charismatic movement is strong here.  One of the churches in Ballymena even has links with Kenneth Copeland Ministries.

 

            Further opportunities are opening up in the Ballymena area.  A debate on Psalm singing versus hymn singing has been arranged between myself and Rev. Ivan Foster (Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster) for Friday, 14 January 2005 in Ballymena Leisure Centre.  Jonathan Moore, former British Reformed Fellowship Conference Secretary, has agreed to come over from Cambridge to be the moderator.  Also, I’m now on the rota to speak to the children (aged 4-12) at the morning assembly of Harryville Primary School in Ballymena a few times in the coming school year.  The first date is 20 October.  We have arranged a lecture on “Predestination” (5 November) in Ballymena.

 

            Sean Hanley (our webmaster) has added more material to the CPRF web site (www.cprf.co.uk):  articles on John Wesley, 11 sermons on “God’s Hammer,” etc., as well as both Sunday services each week.  Now we also have a search engine for searching within our website.  The website has been especially busy of late with more sermons being down-loaded than ever before.  It is gaining us more and more contacts, some good ones too, as well as orders for books and pamphlets.  One of the young men who attends the CPRF is soon to begin work on putting the 14 or so sermons on Elijah unto CD for our website.

 

            CPRF book sales at the BRF Conference (13-20 August, 2004) were good, and September’s sales came to about 500.  All our 20 sets of Don Doezema’s Upon This Rock (3 volumes) have sold out.  We’re planning on doing a special promotion of Rev. Ron Hanko’s book The Doctrine According to Godliness.  Since he is well known by many over here, and since the book consists largely of Covenant Reformed News articles, we expect a lot of interest, and we plan to have some book reviews written for the Christian press.  Recently we had a sign made and hung at the entrance to our drive: “Covenant Protestant Reformed Manse & Bookstore www.cprf.co.uk.”  It cost less than 50, and we’ve noticed a number of people looking at it.

 

            On 1 January 2004, the civil government changed the laws regarding officiants at marriages.  Marriages are no longer tied to buildings (as before in the UK), nor do those who officiate have to pay a fee.  We filled in the requisite forms, gathered signatures from our people, and I have now been authorized to perform marriages.  We see this as a step forward.  We are wondering which of our young single people will be the first to avail themselves of this facility.

 

            The British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) Conference (13-20 August) was very successful, as those from the PRC who made it over will readily testify.  The speeches, the fellowship, and the trips to Westminster Abbey and Cambridge (to see Reformation sites) were excellent.  My speech outline on “The Coming of Elijah” (Malachi 4:5-6) was stolen hours before I was to give the opening address, causing me much consternation.  Thankfully it was returned by three charismatics who claimed to know of whom Malachi was prophesying—the coming Elijah was one William Marrion Branham (1909-1965), initiator of the post World War II healing revival!  Needless to say, I stuck to my original exegesis and lectured them on the eighth commandment!

 

            A new BRF council was elected, with Jonathan Moore retiring and Stephen Rushton (a good friend of the CPRF) and Chris Fisher (a new man) being elected.  Brian Crossett, Ivan Reid, Michael Kimmitt, and I were re-elected.  We decided to hold the next conference in S. Wales.  When in Wales last week, Mary and I talked with people at Halliwell College, Carmarthen.  All the other conference centres we know of are already booked up for the dates we are looking for in summer 2006.  The BRF Biennial General Meeting also decided to ask Profs. Engelsma and Hanko to write up their six speeches for publication.  They agreed. So far, we have sold about 300 tapes of the various conference speeches.  The new British Reformed Journal contains some good articles on revivals, infant baptism, etc., as well as a report on the conference.  It will soon be going to the printers.

 

            Currently, Prof. and Mrs. Hanko are in South Wales holding various meetings in two different locations and developing contacts there.  Last week, Mary and I travelled to Wales and stayed with Prof. and Mrs. Hanko from Thursday evening to early Saturday morning (7-9 October).  We were able to talk with Prof. Hanko of the work, look into a possible site for the next BRF Conference, drop off a lot of pamphlets with a retired Baptist minister, visit with Christian friends, and attend a lecture by Prof. on “Hypercalvinism.”  Another Welsh Baptist minister has been attacking our witness, and we’ve been told this has led to a number of people looking at our website.

 

            A second “mission” area has now opened up in Limerick on the mouth of the River Shannon in SW Ireland.  After the BRF Conference, Prof. and Mrs. Hanko toured the Republic of Ireland with his sister Elaine Bos, and Rev. and Mrs. Van Baren.  Finding out that they would be going near Limerick (where one man gets our tapes each week and others e-mail us), we asked Prof. if he’d be willing to meet with them.  The five Americans met with five Christian men in the home of Terry Casey, our main contact man in the area.  Prof. gave an informal speech on the Reformed doctrine of the covenant.  A lively question time ensued.  Later Mary and I (with Sean and Roni Courtney) met with the five men and another young man at Terry’s house (7 September).  I gave a speech answering the question, “What Is a Reformed Church?”

 

            Mary and I returned to give a speech on “Predestination” (28 September), this time in a little hall.  The six men at the last meeting came along with three family members and four other men, making fifteen of us in all.  One Pentecostal chap waved his hands in the air and said things like “Bless you, Jesus” while we sang the 23rd Psalm.  I’d never had this before while I was leading a meeting — and certainly not when a Psalm is being sung!  The question-time afterward centred on whether or not God hates the reprobate.  The debate came thick and fast and it was hard to keep the objectors in order.  One lay-preaching Arminian walked out.  I had a headache after the question and answer period!

 

            The core group in Limerick have been listening to tapes from Ballymena for over eighteen months.  One of the men has recently started getting our sermons on CD each week (this is the first order we’ve had for sermons on CD and we are considering promoting this).  They live relatively close
together and are relatively young.  Some have families. They are also forthright and willing to promote the work and take abuse.  They are increasingly marginalized by the apostatizing churches, and some have been put out—one man for mentioning Hell in a prayer!  They are a spirited lot and make good company.

 

            We’re currently arranging another meeting in Limerick on “The 1000 years of Revelation 20.”  The men are keen to promote it and want me to post them a number of flyers that they can distribute.  Terry books the hall and puts an ad in the paper, thus relieving us of some of the work.

 

            We are thankful to God for the growth of the CPRF and our witness.  Please pray for Christ’s kingdom in Northern Ireland and the British Isles.

In Christ,

Rev. & Mary Stewart