Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
November 20, 2020
Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,
2020 has seen significant growth in the CPRC. Three Gould households from Antrim, about 11 miles by dual carriage way from Ballymena, started coming to our congregation at the start of March. Kerryann Gould came across us through our YouTube channel and main website (www.cprc.co.uk). Her three children are Aaysha, Somaya and Yossef. Kerryann spoke with her parents, Billy and Anne Gould, and her sister, Grace, about our scriptural doctrines and church. Key issues for the three Gould households were (and are) the Bible’s teaching on marriage, divorce and remarriage, and God’sparticular grace in Jesus Christ.
Three saints from continental Europe have moved to Ballymena to join us. Tibor Bognar from Hungary made confession of faith on 26 July. His mother, Boglarka, arrived in our country on 9 September. Ivan Ortu from Sardinia, a large Mediterraneanisland west of mainland Italy, came on 10 October.The Lord used the Hungarian and Italian translations on our website (to which Tibor and Ivan have also contributed) and the British Reformed Fellowship conferences, amongst other things, to bring them to our church.
Two families from the Limerick Reformed Fellowship have relocated to Northern Ireland. Sam and Anga Watterson were received as members on 26 July, along with 3 of their children: Jason, Eleanora, and Jonas. The next Lord’s day, their 3-month-old daughter, Lara, was baptized. Manuel and Emily-Kate Kuhs and their 4 children (Sebastian, Penelope, Felicity,and Elizabeth) moved here in the middle of October.
This, of course, not only manifests itself in increased attendance at both the Sunday services but also in catechism, for we now have 15 students in 4 classes. This growth also benefits the fellowship at our Tuesday morning study on “Saving Faith: A Biblical and Theological Analysis” and our Wednesday night class on the Belgic Confession, which recently concluded its treatment of “Anabaptist Political History and Theory” (Art.36) and began “Eschatology and Time” (Art.37) (www.cprc.co.uk/belgic-confession-class).
We produced a new CPRC address, telephone,and email list (8 November) but not in the foolish spirit of David’s numbering the people in II Samuel 24. We are mindful and thankful that it is the sovereign Christ who builds His church. He does so at the time and in the manner of His choosing (Matt. 16:18), sometimes in ways that are unexpected or tinged with sadness, as with our brothers and sisters coming to us from our (closing) mission field in Limerick.
In order to maintain social distancing during these days of Covid-19, we roped off every other pew in our main auditorium. However, even with this loss of seating and the addition of new people, we are still able to accommo-date all who want to come to our services, though it is getting tighter.
Our church building, which was completed in the summer of 2010, was designed to admit a fair bit of growth. We have added chairs in appropriate places in the auditorium, plus we have a cry room, a balcony (where Tibor translates the sermon into Hungarian for Boglarka) and a narthex. Thankfully, with some planning, a seating chart, and the cooperation of all our people, we have not had to divide the congregation (for example, with half coming to the morning service and the other half to the evening service) and no one has been turned away. The Covid rules and the greater attendance have meant that our Tuesday and Wednesday classes, which formerly were held in the Bible study room, now meet in the (significantly larger) balcony area, for which we have purchased a whiteboard. The catechism classes are now held in various locations in our church building to avoid having to clean one room between each of the classes.
The pandemic made things especially complicated for those who moved country to join us, something that is never easy at the best of times.They had to navigate the coronavirus regulations in Italy, the Republic of Ireland, or Hungary, while putting their own affairs in order, and leaving their homes and jobs, etc., and then settle into a new church, home, job,and land, with its different form of Covid restrictions.
Sometimes even the coronavirus situation in a third country was a factor. Ivan Ortuhad to rearrange his flight route from Sardinia so that he no longer passed through the Netherlands, after the UK added that country to its “blacklist,” for he wanted to avoid a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Northern Ireland.
Fellowship between the people of God is crucial, as the saints build and maintain relationships with each other, giving and receiving support and encouragement in the Lord. This is especially important for new people, particularly those from other nations, but occasions for face-to-face communion outside church meetings have been severely curtailed in the present climate.
Currently in Northern Ireland, the regulations only permit people from one other specified household into one’s own home. Membership classes, which, in the CPRC, typically take place in the home of either the family or the minister, have been put on hold. Even a relatively simple transfer of membership is more difficult, since ordinarily it is our policy for an elder and the pastor to meet with the individuals or families in their homes.
We even decided to forego holding a Reformation day lecture this year (and a wonderful subject had been planned for it!) since, in these coronavirus days, we anticipated having far fewer visitors. Instead, on 28 October, we had our Annual General Meeting (with reports on the congregation’s audio-visual witness, finances, evangelism, etc.), which we had not been able to hold at its usual time in May or June.
We have been live streaming our Lord’s day services by video on Sermon.net since October, 2013. Several months ago, this company from Oklahoma added a function enabling us to simulcast on YouTube and Facebook. With our Sunday services being streamed on three websites, many more people are watching live.
At the recommendation of a lady in our congregation, we now also live stream in audio only (www.cprc.co.uk/live-streaming). This is useful for God’s people who are blind or have limited bandwidth, etc. Jacob Buchanan assembled a new and better, yet cheaper, computer for the live streaming of our services on the Lord’s day. The old one did the job for over seven years before failing.
The CPRC YouTube site has now surpassed ⅓ million video hits (www.youtube.com/user/CPRCNI). Stephen Murray has put in many hours of work, uploading 2,414 videos over the last 11½ years.