Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

Limerick Reformed Fellowship, Republic of Ireland (Mission Field of the CPRCNI)

Website

This is a mission field of the Covenant PRCNI, financially supported by the PRCA.

LimerickmeetingplaceMissionary: Rev. Martyn McGeown

38 Abbeyvale, Corbally,
Limerick, Ireland.

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Mission:Limerick Reformed Fellowship

Worshiping at: Conradh na Gaeilge Hall 

Thomas St., Limerick City

Services: 11:00 a.m.; 5:30 p.m.

Coming lectures in the British Isles

Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - March 2021

Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter
Pastor M. McGeown

MMcGeown livestream preach Nov 2020

Monday, March 1, 2021

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

Many of you have been asking for an update on my plans to immigrate to the USA. When we first started making enquiries into immigration, we were warned that the process could take at least a year, and that was without the added complication of COVID-19. On April 28, 2020 we submitted Form I-130 (“Petition for Alien Relative”) as the first step toward a “green card,” and on June 16, 2020, Providence PRC submitted two more applications under the general category of Religious Worker (R-1 and I-360).

On August 24, 2020 I was informed that the R-1 application had been approved and that I should seek the earliest possible appointment for a (non-immigrant) visa interview in London, England, UK. The earliest possible appointment at that time was August 11, 2021. Later I secured an appointment for November 10, 2020 in Dublin, which was cancelled and rescheduled for March 8, 2021, when Ireland increased its COVID-19 restrictions in October 2020.

On December 17, 2020, the National Visa Center (NVC) informed of us that USCIS (United States Citizen and Immigration Services) had approved the I-130 (“Petition for Alien Relative”), and after more forms, fees, and documentation, I am now “documentarily qualified” for an immigrant visa appointment, but I do not know when I might be assigned such an appointment.

Of the three applications (I-130, R-1, and I-360) two have been approved and one (I-360) is pending. However, I still need a visa interview. On February 23, 2021, the Irish government announced yet another extension of the current “Level 5” restrictions until April 5, with the result that the appointment for March 8, 2021 (the non-immigrant visa) has been cancelled. According to the embassy’s website, “Under Level 5 restrictions the Visa Unit will be able to provide only extremely limited immigrant visa services. Non-immigrant visa services will be suspended except for life and death emergencies and for travel to engage directly in the fight against COVID-19” and “Under Level 4 and under only extremely limited routine services will be possible. As such, wait times for appointments and processing times might be greatly extended” (https://ie.usembassy.gov/us-travel-restrictions/).

To clarify, a non-immigrant visa is one that allows temporary residency in the USA. For example, the R-1 visa would grant me permission to live and work in the USA for two and a half years, and could be renewed for a maximum of five years. An immigrant visa is one that allows permanent residency in the USA. The I-130 (“Petition for Alien Relative”) visa would grant me permanent residency in the USA.

Therefore, since the March 8 appointment is now officially cancelled, the earliest appointment that I have is the R-1 visa interview (the non-immigrant visa) in London, England, for August 11, 2021; and I am waiting for the embassy to grant an appointment for the I-130 (immigrant visa). If the embassy offers only “extremely limited immigrant visa services,” we wonder how likely it is for me to get an appointment for an I-130 immigrant visa interview in Dublin before August. The words “extremely limited” do not close the door completely, but they also do not offer a lot of hope. The National Visa Center’s website states: “NVC cannot predict when Consular Sections will resume routine services, or when your case will be scheduled for an interview.”

The issue, then, is not immigration as such, but the effect that COVID-19 restrictions are having on the embassy in Dublin. Under Ireland’s “Level 5” restrictions almost all businesses are 2 closed. No gatherings outside of one’s household, either in homes or in private gardens, are permitted. Some “social distanced” walking in parks and other public venues is permitted with one other household, but no picnics or the like are allowed (that would be a “gathering”). There is also a travel limit of 5km (3.1 miles) so that we may not, for example, drive to some of the beautiful scenic spots of Ireland and go for a walk, because “non-essential” travel beyond the 5km limit is punishable with a fine of €100 (c. $122), which applies to each adult in the vehicle. (We do have some nice areas for walking in Limerick, however). We also may not travel to Northern Ireland to visit family or to visit the church in Ballymena. Leaving the country on a “non-essential” journey is also out of the question and punishable with a fine of €2,000 (c. $2,430). Therefore, walks within the 5km limit, shopping for groceries, and errands to the bank or post office are really the only reasons for leaving the house, unless you cannot work from home.

Most grievous for us, however, are the continued restrictions on public worship. Most of the members of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship have left (two families moved to Northern Ireland before the end of 2020), so that only a handful of people remain. We have never had our own church building, the hall that we rented for ten years is closed, no other facility is available to us, and even mixed-household gatherings in private homes for worship, for Bible study, or even for a cup of tea are prohibited. Therefore, our worship is online only: I preach two sermons a week from my study and I lead a Bible study (on Proverbs) and teach four catechism classes (two for Providence PRC and two for my nieces in Northern Ireland) from home. The online program that we use allows us to chat afterwards, which is nice. Nevertheless, we long to be able to meet together again, but despite petitions from church leaders to the government and one pending court challenge (by a Roman Catholic businessman, whose case was just adjourned for the fourth time to March 23), the churches remain closed. Our brethren in Northern Ireland in the CPRC do hold in-person worship services and Bible studies, albeit with social distancing and the wearing of masks, but they are in a different jurisdiction (UK) with different rules.

We broadcast our services live on http://mixlr.com/limerickreformed/ at 11 am and 5.30pm (GMT) and the sermons are recorded and uploaded to https://sermons.limerickreformed.com/. I have been preaching a series on the parables (currently number 17 in the series) and have recently started my seventh time through the Heidelberg Catechism. I will continue preaching, teaching, leading the Bible study, and writing, until we move. We may not leave Limerick: Larisa does not have permission to reside in the UK, so moving to Northern Ireland is not an option, and we may not travel to other countries until immigration is sorted or travel restrictions are relaxed.

As you might imagine, we struggle with feelings of frustration, disappointment, and discontentment, but we also trust that God’s way is perfect for us. However, it is not easy: the monotony and lack of social interaction is very difficult, and the lack of fellowship and public worship is demoralizing. We greatly appreciate and need your prayers. Remember, too, the saints of Providence PRC, as they wait for their future pastor. It is wonderful to be able to teach some of the children catechism from afar, but we long to be with the whole congregation.

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Ps. 27:14).

In Christian love,

Rev. Martyn and Larisa McGeown

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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - December 2020

Rev. Martyn McGeown

38 Abbeyvale, Corbally, Co. Limerick, Ireland, V94 K7ER

http://www.limerickreformed.com/

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Tuesday, December 8, 2020

 Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

Within two weeks of writing my last newsletter (October 8) Ireland entered “Level 5” of the coronavirus lockdown. “Level 5” restrictions are the most stringent: no mixed household gatherings, which makes “in person” Bible studies or worship services at our home impossible; no public worship services (online only); and a 5km (3.1 miles) travel limit, except for “essential journeys.”

Two bodies are involved in these decisions: NPHET (The National Public Health Emergency Team, the medical professionals who advise the government) and the Irish government, who makes the actual decisions. It appears that NPHET is more cautious than the government, for NPHET’s advice is often much stricter than that adopted by the government. For example, the government is trying to “save Christmas” (not the religious holiday as such, but the pre-Christmas shopping spree on which many businesses rely) and the government wants to avoid being seen to “ruin Christmas” for families. Therefore, the Irish authorities imposed a “Level 5 lockdown” (October 21 to December 1) with the hope of a more relaxed Christmas-New Year period.

Two examples stuck out for me. First, NPHET advised allowing public worship only from December 21 to January 3, while the government agreed to allow public worship capped at 50 persons from December 1 until January 6 with a review thereafter. This came after a lot of lobbying from religious groups here, including a meeting of the Taoiseach (prime minister) with the Irish (Roman Catholic) bishops, as well as petitions from evangelical groups. We shall see how long freedom for public worship continues in January, D.V. Second, NPHET advised a ban on all travel to and from Northern Ireland. The government rejected that idea, and will review it on December 18 when inter-county travel is permitted. At the moment we must remain inside our own county except for “essential” journeys. Therefore, time will tell on whether I am permitted to travel to Northern Ireland to see my family at Christmastime and to preach in the CPRC in Ballymena. I would be very surprised if the Irish government ever closed the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The political ramifications would be huge.

MMcGeown livestream preach Nov 2020

During the “Level 5” period I contacted the local Garda (police) station seeking advice on holding worship services in my home. The officer with whom I spoke was very cordial and sympathetic to my concerns, but he said that there was no “wriggle room:” gatherings of any kind, whether religious or secular, in public or in private, were prohibited under the legislation. I have also heard reports of priests celebrating Mass with a handful of souls whose meetings the police interrupted and who were threatened with prosecution if they persisted. Therefore, I preached to the handful of souls entrusted to me from my study: I began with “Christ in the Midst of the Smallest Gatherings” (Matt. 18:20) and I am preaching a series on “The Kingdom Parables of Jesus” (Matt. 13).

On December 1 the “Level 5” restrictions came to an end and we were delighted to hear that public worship would indeed be permitted again. We have secured the hall for the month of December and the first Sunday of January, five Sundays, with the hope that we might be allowed to continue after that. With the Wattersons and Kuhs moved to Northern Ireland, and one other person making that transition, we have fewer than 10 people (including Larisa and me) in attendance. Still, we were very happy to be together on Sunday (December 6): for one thing we could sing again, something we cannot do very well over the computer.

We continue our Bible study online on Tuesday evenings (Prov. 6), and I teach catechism to Providence PRC (Monday evenings) and to my nieces (Thursday evenings). In addition, we are permitted to meet with one other household in a public setting, so we go for walks with various members when the weather is dry enough.

Shortly before the Kuhs left Limerick the LRF gave me a gift: they rebound my Bible in beautiful, soft leather with an inscription: “In Gratitude for 10 Years of Faithful Shepherding: With Love from the Limerick Reformed Fellowship 2020.”

McGeown Bible 2020

As you have undoubtedly heard, our immigration appointment scheduled for November 6 was cancelled. The next available appointment, which we have booked, is March 8, 2021. That was certainly a disappointment, but in these trials, which are relatively light in comparison to what many others suffer, the Lord is teaching us patience. The Lord is good, and we remember His blessings to us.

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Ps. 27:14).

 

In Christian love,

Rev. Martyn and Larisa McGeown

 

 

 

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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - October 2020

Rev. Martyn McGeown
38 Abbeyvale, Corbally, Co. Limerick, Ireland, V94 K7ER

http://www.limerickreformed.com/
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Thursday, October 8, 2020

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

In my last newsletter (July 15) I reported on the CPRC Council’s decision (March 9) to withdraw me, the missionary, from the Limerick Reformed Fellowship, and my acceptance of the call to Providence PRC (April 4). I also mentioned how the COVID-19 restrictions have affected our activities, and I gave some indication of how long immigration might take before Larisa and I will be permitted to travel to the USA.

Larisa, being a U.S. citizen, was actually able to travel to the USA to attend her youngest brother’s wedding. Ben and Taylor (Griess) married on August 7 in Loveland, Colorado. Initially, Ben and Taylor had asked me to officiate their wedding, which I would have been honoured to do. Sadly, immigration issues made that impossible, so Larisa travelled to the USA alone. I was glad that she could go—she had missed two family funerals already in 2020—even though I had to stay at home without her. Her visit to the USA also gave her the opportunity to visit Providence PRC, meet the people of our future congregation, attend social events with friends, family, and future congregants, and see the parsonage that the saints in Providence PRC are preparing for us. Of course, travelling during the pandemic was not easy with mask wearing on the flight and self-isolation in Michigan and Limerick, but, thankfully, she and her family remained COVID-19 free.

 LimerickRF 2020

The Fellowship is slowly—and painfully—disbanding. Of the three main families, the Wattersons, Kuhs, and Mansonas, only one remains. The Wattersons moved to Northern Ireland in March, as I reported last time, and are now members in the CPRC in Ballymena. The Kuhs plan to move to Northern Ireland next week, DV. October 4 was their last Sunday worshipping in the Fellowship. They will be greatly missed. Now there are only a handful of souls left. Yesterday (October 7) was also my last day teaching the Kuhs children—Sebastian and Penelope—catechism. As “thank you” gifts the children made cards depicting me as their pastor/catechism teacher: as you can see, they are very artistic. Their new pastor/catechism teacher will be Rev Stewart. He is getting some very good students, who by God’s grace have grown greatly in the knowledge of God’s Word.

children notes 1 2020children notes 2 2020

The Irish government recently adopted a “Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19,” which outlines a five-level approach to the disease. Yesterday, the whole country entered “Level 3.” Under Level 3 we are advised to have no more than six people to our home from one other household, which makes our Bible study difficult (we usually have two visitors to our Bible study, but they are from two other households); worship services must move to online only, so that the Conradh na Gaelige is again closed to us (we will most likely be back to “bubble church” on Sunday, although we could have up to six people from one household join us); and we are only allowed to leave our county for essential purposes. An Garda Síochána (the Irish police) have checkpoints on all major roads to check that people are complying with the “no non-essential journeys” rule. Although, for now, they have no powers of enforcement (they can only advise against unnecessary journeys), the government is considering introducing fines for crossing county borders. There are 26 counties in Ireland and to travel from Limerick to Dublin, we must travel through five counties: Tipperary, Laois, Offaly, Kildare, and Dublin. To travel to Northern Ireland would require travelling through two additional counties, Meath and Louth, with potential checkpoints and questions at every border. Media speculation is that on October 27 when the Level 3 restrictions expire, Level 4 or even Level 5 restrictions could be introduced.

That brings me to immigration news. On August 24 the immigration lawyer whom we hired for the R-1 religious worker visa informed us of USCIS approval, which is very good news. However, the next step is an interview in the US Consulate. Initially, I was told to book an interview in London, which I tried to do: the next available appointment is August 13, 2021! Then I tried the US Consulate in Dublin, and I have an appointment scheduled for November 6, 2020! You can imagine the rollercoaster of emotions of late August, as joy gave way to disappointment, which gave way to relief.

Everything, therefore, depends on a successful outcome in November, which is just four weeks away. Pray, first, that the US Consulate remains open during the COVID-19 restrictions; and, second, that the Lord, in whose hands are the hearts of kings, moves the immigration officials to approve our petition. I can assure that I will be telling every police officer between here and Dublin that my journey to Dublin is absolutely essential! (Incidentally, the R-1 visa, if successful, would permit me to work as a religious worker for a maximum of five years. The other petition, immigration based on marriage to a US citizen, is a separate issue: there is no progress on that petition).

While my catechism instruction of the children of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship has ended, I have begun to teach two classes online for Providence PRC. Because of the time difference I teach only the Beginners and Juniors classes (finishing at 10 PM on Mondays for me). I am enjoying very much getting to know the first through fifth graders as we study New Testament History together, and I look forward, DV, to meeting the rest of the catechumens and the other members of Providence PRC in due course.

In Christian love,

Rev Martyn and Larisa McGeown

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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - July 2020

LimerickmeetingplaceLimerick Reformed Fellowship

Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary

38 Abbeyvale, Corbally Co. Limerick, Ireland

http://www.limerickreformed.com/

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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

The last few months have been tumultuous for the Limerick Reformed Fellowship. On March 9, the CPRC Council, recognizing the LRF’s unviability, voted to withdraw me, the missionary, which effectively means the closing of the mission field. Since, sadly, we have seen the departure of people from the mission group in the last year, the conclusion of the Council was inevitable: we lack the criteria necessary—a large enough group, potential officebearers, and prospect for growth—for mission field viability. The decision, which Rev. Angus Stewart and Elder Brian Crossett communicated to LRF mid-March, was a huge, unexpected blow to the people here, but upon reflection they were able to understand. Nevertheless, many tears were shed, as the hopes and dreams of many for a Reformed church in Limerick were shattered.

The second reason for turmoil in Limerick is COVID-19 with the accompanying government-imposed restrictions to public gatherings. On March 22, just after the government had limited indoor gatherings, we worshipped as a congregation of only ten souls (young mothers and small children stayed away as a precaution). It was also the last Sunday that the Wattersons were in Limerick. Anga Watterson was very close to the end of her pregnancy at the time, so the Wattersons decided to move to Northern Ireland, so that they could be settled before their daughter Lara arrived on May 6. In a very short period of time, therefore, the Wattersons found work and accommodation in Northern Ireland before travel became impossible. Thus, the LRF is already down one family.

Most of the other members plan to relocate to Northern Ireland to join the CPRC, although not as rapidly as the Wattersons did. One family is making plans to move before the end of 2020, because on January 1, 2021 Brexit will make relocation from a EU country (Republic of Ireland) to a non-EU country (Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom) for non-Irish citizens more complicated. Others plan to relocate sometime in 2021, God willing. It thrills a missionary’s heart to see the Ruth-like faith of the people here, willing to forsake life in Limerick to join a true church in Ballymena. I know—and have heard—how painful it has been for them to inform their families that they will be moving to Northern Ireland, but they have bravely faced that pain in order to enjoy the benefits of church member-ship.

On March 29 we conducted our first “home service.” Because the Irish government prohibited all gatherings of people outside one’s own household and restricted movements of people to within 5 km (3.1 miles) of their homes, we were not permitted to gather in the hall, which was closed to the public; or even in our homes, which are too small to allow for social distancing anyway. A solution was quickly organised: I preached from my study through a computer with the various families watching from their homes. The solution even permitted singing, so that one family led the Psalm-singing, while the rest joined in. Various participants were muted so that, for example, during the sermon no one could interrupt my preaching, and during the singing, I was muted—only Larisa was privileged to hear my singing! The program, which I called “bubble church,” because the various people appeared in “bubbles” on the screen in front of me, enabled me to see my congregation while I preached, which helped me. Preaching to a blank screen is not enjoyable, nor is preaching to an empty room. The setup also permitted us to chat afterwards, so that we could still enjoy fellowship together. After fourteen weeks of “bubble church,” “bubble Bible study” (on Tuesday evenings we studied James and have now begun Ruth), and online catechism, we were very eager to be back together again. In the meantime, I preached on texts such as Deuteronomy 32:11-12 (“Jehovah Stirring up Our Nest”), Jeremiah 48:11-12 (“Moab Not Emptied from Vessel to Vessel”), a series on Psalm 46 and an ongoing series on Ephesians 2 (“The Gentiles Brought Nigh”).

Finally, after the Irish government permitted indoor gatherings for public worship again, we met on July 5. What joy it was to go back to the hall—even with a diminished congregation of fourteen and the obligatory social distancing! I preached on Psalm 122:1 (“Rejoicing in the Call to Public Worship”). Currently, we are also permitted to have six visitors to our homes, so we have resumed Bible study (on Ruth) in our house. We also resumed in person catechism: Old Testament History for Beginners for three children, one of whom who still joins by Skype from Northern Ireland. The Catechism season was actually over, but the families requested more Catechism, citing the great benefit that it has been to their children’s spiritual development.

Where does a missionary go when his work of almost ten years abruptly ends? We are so thankful for our sister church relationship, which makes me eligible for a call from a PRC congregation. Unbeknownst to me, God, who cares for His church, was already working to provide for our future: on March 22, the Sunday after the announcement, I received the call to be the pastor of Providence PRC (Hudsonville, MI), which call I accepted on April 4. Larisa and I are very grateful for this provision of a future place to labour.

Of course, it is not as easy as getting on a plane and heading to Michigan: immigration is a major hurdle. On April 28 Larisa submitted an I-130 (“petition for alien spouse”), which according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website has a processing time of 12.5—18 months! After obtaining further legal advice Providence PRC filed two additional immigration petitions (R-1 and I-360—for religious workers) in mid-June: they have currently 8—10.5 months processing time. The immigration lawyer hopes for a late 2020/early 2021 approval for the R-1. May God move the hearts of the immigration officials!

In the meantime, travel is greatly restricted. Only recently did the Irish government permit us to travel more than 25 km (15.5 miles) from our homes. International travel is not recommended, and the government recommends/requires a 14-day self-isolation period on return to Ireland. Besides, I am not permitted to travel to the USA because I do not qualify for an ESTA, which is essentially a visa waiver for tourists to the USA. To qualify for a short-term visitor visa, I would have to demonstrate that I do not intend to immigrate, which is difficult to do, for in the long-term, I do intend to immigrate.

So we wait on the Lord, while the LRF slowly winds down and the wheels of government agencies turn. In the meantime, for those who have asked, I am still missionary-pastor under the care and oversight of the CPRC Council. I will continue to preach, lead Bible study, and teach catechism to the group here, until I am permitted to travel elsewhere. “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Ps. 27:14).

In Christian love,

Rev. Martyn and Larisa McGeown

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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - May 2020

Limerick Reformed Fellowship
Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary
38 Abbeyvale, Corbally Co. Limerick, Ireland
http://www.limerickreformed.com/ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Thursday, May 7, 2020

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

In this newsletter I want to go back to happier times, before the current upheaval in church and state, although the happier times seem but distant memories now. In the last newsletter, 17 December 2019, I mentioned our plans to go to Australia.

The journey to Australia was long (bus trip from Limerick to Dublin, flight from Dublin to Amsterdam, second flight from Amsterdam to Singapore, and, finally, a third flight from Singapore to Brisbane). I am sorry that we could not visit the saints in Singapore; our layover was not long enough. Singapore airlines offer a wonderful service, by the way. Perhaps they need to do that in order to make such long flights bearable. Although I survived the flight to Singapore, my heart sank when realization hit that we had another flight of over eight hours to Brisbane. Nevertheless, we arrived safely, for which we thank the Lord.

Dear friends, (Pastor) David and Ruth Torlach (Brisbane Evangelical Presbyterian Church), whom I have known from my seminary days, were our gracious hosts in Australia. To see them again was a happy reunion: the only regret is that we did not see their children, who live in Tassie (Tasmania). Seth, with his wife Megan, was the exception: they came to Brisbane to attend the Youth Camp, and it was wonderful to see Seth again and meet his wife. David and Ruth welcomed us warmly and made us feel right at home the entire time that we were there.

MLMcgeown wallaby 2019Since David and I are both in the ministry and since we had not seen one another (except once) since our seminary days, we had a lot to talk about. I was greatly encouraged to be able to discuss the joys and sorrows of the ministry with a likeminded colleague. Ruth and Larisa also enjoyed chatting about the realities of being the wives of pastors. I discovered quite quickly that ministers the world over face the same basic issues; churches the world over have the same encouragements and discouragements; and the devil attacks churches across the world in very similar ways. How good it was to see the Lord’s work in different parts of His vineyard!

The main reason for our visit was the EPC Youth Camp, which is held every two years, and is hosted and organized by the youth of the different EPC congregations. This year the Brisbane youth hosted the camp in Minden, Queensland. The EPC youth camp is a much smaller and more intimate version of the Protestant Reformed YPC with about forty young people in attendance, with ages ranging from thirteen to the mid-twenties. They were truly a beautiful group of godly, spiritually mature, enthusiastic, servant-hearted, and fun-loving young people! Ruth Torlach and her sisterin-law, Sue Higgs, were the caterers, while the young people led devotions, served the food, and cleaned up afterwards. There was a lot of time for team games, swimming (when the temperatures hit the mid 30’s Celsius or mid 90’s Fahrenheit a pool is a must!), chatting, fellowship, and even wildlife exploration. Larisa and I even got an air-conditioned room. Speaking of wildlife, contrary to reports, not all the fabulous Australian fauna is deadly. One boy brought me an Australian tree frog, while another teenage boy caught a possum, which he cornered in a cupboard, and David showed me a rhinoceros beetle.

My role was camp speaker. Over the seven days of the camp I gave seven speeches/sermons on the Armour of God from Ephesians 6, instruction that the young people enthusiastically received. On Thursday, word got out that I planned a test to see how much the young people had learned and understood, so the young people started cramming for the quiz that I prepared. They took the test very seriously, huddling in corners, poring over their notes, and begging me for clues. The test was “Military Graduation Exercises,” in which the teams had to answer questions on the Armour of God to demonstrate that they were ready to deploy the various pieces of armour described in the speeches. The exam ended with a sword drill to test their ability to find passages in the Scriptures. None of the young people had any cause for embarrassment, for they all performed extremely well and duly graduated as “Christian soldiers.”

Another highlight of the visit to Australia was the privilege afforded to me to preach in Brisbane EPC for two consecutive Sundays. It was wonderful to meet the congregation, lead them in worship, and fellowship in their homes. The EPC uses the same Psalter as the Limerick Reformed Fellowship, the Scottish Metrical Version. Their order of worship is also almost identical to ours in Limerick, so I felt quite at home. Since December/January is the Australian summer, the other church activities (Bible studies, catechism, young people’s meetings, etc.) were not taking place, which gave the Torlachs lots of time to show us the sights of Brisbane and beyond.

Mcgeown lizard 2019When we arrived at the EPC worship place (Mount Ommaney Special School) I was surprised and fascinated to see a large lizard, an Australian water dragon, about the size of a small dog, sitting on the pathway. I was informed that such lizards are common: they run around freely and they are quite familiar with humans. I saw many such lizards in Australia (including geckos that gathered around a light outside the Torlachs’ house), and on one occasion David caught a lizard and gave it to me to hold it. In addition, we saw koalas, kangaroos, parrots, bats, kookaburras, and cane toads. The latter are a pest species, but I still found them interesting. We swam in the ocean, visited a mountain forest retreat (O’Reilly’s), explored the city of Brisbane, and visited the
famous Australia Zoo to see crocodiles and many other creatures.

All in all it was a wonderful trip, which gave us greater appreciation for the saints in Australia. It was difficult to bid the Torlachs farewell, but we had people in Limerick eagerly awaiting our return. In the next newsletter, I will get back to reporting about Limerick, which, as I write, is under a “lockdown” order, so that we have not met for public worship since March 22. Therefore, as a lot of you are doing, we have had to be creative to get the Word out.

In Christian love, Rev. Martyn and Larisa McGeown

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Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - December 2019

Limerickmeetingplace

Limerick Reformed Fellowship

Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary
38 Abbeyvale, Corbally Co. Limerick, Ireland

http://www.limerickreformed.com/

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

The young man whom I mentioned in the last newsletter has not returned. In fact, he has not responded to my emails and messages to explain his decision to return to the bosom of Rome. Nor did he come to the special lecture on “The Canon of Sacred Scripture: Which Books Belong in the Bible and Who Decides?” which I gave on November 23. I did not actually expect him to come, but maybe he listened online. My comfort is the truth that God’s Word does not return to him void, but “it shall accomplish that which [he pleases], and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto [he] sent it” (Isa. 55:11). Since coming to Limerick in July 2010, I have seen that twofold effect: the Word quickens, enlivens, strengthens, and blesses some, while it hardens and offends others, and who, as the apostle exclaims in II Corinthians 2:16, “is sufficient for these things?”

I have been continuing a series of sermons on texts related to the authority of Scripture, such as “Taking Heed to the More Sure Word of Scripture” (II Pet. 1:19-21); “The Bereans’ Reception of the Word” (Acts 17:11); “The Apostles Speaking Words that the Spirit Teaches” (I Cor. 2:12-13); and “Receiving the Word as the Word of God” (I Thess. 2:13). In the Heidelberg Catechism we are in the second section, having just finished three sermons on LD 12: Christ as our chief prophet, our only high priest, and our eternal king. In our Bible study we finished II Peter on November 12, and since Noel is our most faithful Bible study attendee, I let him choose the next topic, James. Noel, as you might recall, is blind, but despite that hindrance, participates enthusiastically in the Bible studies and rare-ly misses a meeting. We do enjoy his positive, upbeat attitude as he rejoices in the Lord despite his afflictions. He recently remarked that he has almost reached his two-year anniversary in the LRF: he came on December 31, 2017, and the first sermon he heard (I looked it up) was “Jehovah Turning Our Mourning into Dancing” (Ps. 30:11-12). The first chapter of the epistle of James teaches us a lot about trials and temptations and about our calling to count such things “all joy,” something for which we need wisdom, which is obtained through prayer.

Our catechism classes continue with the children—three children in Limerick studying New Testament History for Beginners, and three children via video link (my nieces) studying three different books, New Testament History for Beginners, New Testament History for Juniors, and Old Testament history for Seniors. The classes are enjoyable and the children’s participation enthusiastic. This week we will be studying Lesson 15. In addition, I teach an adult class on Essentials of Reformed Doctrine, which recently finished Soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, and transitioned into Ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church.

Speaking of Ecclesiology, not only did we have a special lecture on “The Canon of Scripture” and its relationship to the church (November 23), but also Rev. Stewart plans a special lecture on “The Reformation’s Teaching on the Church” in Limerick on January 10, 2020. Flyers are being designed and ordered, and advertising is being organized, as I write this. Samuel Watterson designs attractive flyers, and my wife liaises with the Limerick Post newspaper.

The Limerick Post also published a letter that I submitted on October 26, the occasion of which was the recent canonisation of John Henry (Cardinal) Newman (1801-1890), an apostate Anglican, who joined the Roman Church and was awarded a cardinalship for his contribution to ecumenism. Newman was declared “Venerable” or “mighty in virtue” in 1991; then, he was declared “Blessed” in 2010 because a miracle was attributed to his intercession; finally, Newman was canonised in October (a second miracle being attributed to his intercession) and declared a “saint,” although not infallibly pronounced to be in paradise. In my letter, I criticised Rome’s theology of saints and her dogma of purgatory. An atheist wrote a response, mocking Rome and my letter, but I did not respond to him. In addition, a Roman Catholic lady responded privately to my “attack on purgatory,” appealing to “saved as by fire” in I Corinthians 3:15. Therefore, I preached on that text (December 1) and wrote a blog post on the subject (December 3, https://www.limerick re-formed.com/blog/2019/12/3/purgatory).

We always enjoy visitors. First, we had a visit from Mary Gaastra and Denise Haan (Redlands, CA) at the end of October. Mary is the mother-in-law of my brother-in-law (Jeremy), while Denise is the aunt of Kristin Crossett (CPRC). We had enjoyed fellowship with them in Redlands, CA, when we visited there during our honey-moon in April 2018, so it was good to show them a little bit of Ireland when they were here. They also participated in—and en-joyed—our Bible study on October 29. Sadly, they were not here for a Sunday, but there is always a next time, we hope! Second, Rev. and Mary Stewart and Ivan and Lily Reid came at the beginning of November. Rev. and Ivan were here for the annual family visitation in which they visited all the families and regular attendees in the group, which greatly encouraged the people here. Their wives also came, which encouraged my wife. Third, Julian Kennedy (CPRC) and Jonathan and Daniel Moore (Reformed Presbyterian Church) were here towards the end of November, so, as a bonus, they were able to attend the lecture on the Canon of Scripture. Julian and Daniel participated in the Indoor Rowing Championships held at the University of Limerick.

The LRF also had time for a social event. A group of us attended the performance by the Limerick Choral Union of Handel’s Messiah on December 7. My wife would like to join that choir, but sadly they perform masses. She sang in the Messiah for many years in the Zeeland Civic Chorus. Unlike her, I am tone deaf—she was trying to explain to me the nuances in the performance, but I did not pick such things up. Still, I greatly enjoyed the performance, as did Noel, who had never heard the Messiah before. He was raving about how magnificent it was.

Larisa and I are making final preparations for our journey to Australia. We (especially I) are trying to figure out how to survive the long flights, the jetlag, and the heat (for it is high summer in Australia). We will arrive, DV, on the evening of December 24 and land in Dublin again on the morning of January 16. I will be speaking at the Youth Camp of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia (EPCA), having been asked to speak there by my good friend and former fellow seminarian, (Rev. Dr.) David Torlach (Brisbane EPC). We look forward to fellowship with David and Ruth Torlach and the other saints of God “Down Under.” In my absence, Rev. Stewart will preach for the Fellowship on January 5 and 12.

BornForOurSalvation MMG 2019

My latest book, Born for Our Salvation, was just published. I probably won’t see it until the end of January, however. Such is life when the author lives so far away from the publisher. Finally, we thank you for the cards and messages that are beginning to arrive here.

In Christian love,

Rev. Martyn and Larisa McGeown

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