GRATEFUL REFLECTIONS ON 2020

 



CLOGHER VALLEY FREE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH



FINANCIAL & GENERAL REPORT FOR YEAR ENDING 

31st DECEMBER 2020


Motto Text 2021

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

2nd Chronicles 7:14


Minister      

Rev Peter McIntyre

The Manse, 13 Willand Crescent, 

Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone.  BT75 0QJ.

apmcintyre69@gmail.com; 028 8952 1611; 0781 776 7039


Session       

Mr Neville McIlwrath (Clerk), Mr Jeffrey Condell (Treasurer), 

Mr John Irwin, Mr Jim McClung, Mr Ian McClung, 

Mr Neville Robinson, Mr Wills Robinson


Committee 

Mr David Hetherington (Assistant Treasurer), Mr Leslie Allen, 

Mr Rodney Condell, Mr Andrew McMullan




23rd February 2021



Our Financial & General Report for 2020 is much abbreviated owing to the pandemic which curtailed so much of our programme, therefore making a booklet unnecessary. 


AN EXCITING BEGINNING TO AN EVENTFUL YEAR


Our fiftieth anniversary year began with the sod cutting ceremony for our new meeting house where we welcomed our Moderator, Rev Gordon Dane, who was the preacher.  Neville McIlwrath and Leslie Allen both sang solo pieces and Rev Michael Patrick opened in prayer.  Throughout the following weeks Weir Construction made rapid progress in laying the foundation, which was complete by the time the Prime Minister placed the entire nation in a strict lockdown, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.  The course of our year was altered considerably as we entered the strangest and most challenging of times.


INTO LOCKDOWN


By the beginning of March it was becoming apparent that the Covid-19 virus, which was sweeping the world was going to affect all of our lives.  As helpless spectators we watched the growing numbers of cases and heard the grim predictions as politicians worked to find a suitable response to a most unprecedented situation.     


Before the legislators moved to close down church services, along with all other gatherings of people, the Executive Committee of our Presbytery decided to close all of our public meetings.  The rationale was very straightforward; as this pandemic threatens human life, therefore, we must take all reasonable steps to preserve our own lives and the lives of others, in line with the teaching of the sixth commandment.  This scriptural logic has guided our response to the pandemic over these past twelve months.  For almost four months we were without the public gatherings of the church.


MINISTERING THROUGH LOCKDOWNS & RESTRICTIONS


From March to the end of June ministry was conducted through a mixture of podcasts, videos, radio ministry and written Bible studies.  This developing online ministry has had the effect of reaching a much wider demographic with the message of the Gospel both locally and from across the world.  Those from our community who join in through YouTube or Facebook has increased, while our podcast statistics have grown rapidly, with India accounting for one third of all our listens over the past twelve months.  It is a blessing that we are contributing in some small way to The Great Commission.


The WhatsApp group has proved to be a successful means of communicating with the congregation in conjunction with emails, Facebook and phone calls.  Also, Andrew and Beulah produced videos for the children, Ian kept producing the Sunday School lessons and Neville maintained links with the Youth Fellowship.  I appreciate all these efforts.  In particular I have been most encouraged by all the support that the congregation has given to this alternative ministry when we were unable to share personal fellowship with one another.


On returning to the Lord’s House in July we faced a very new environment with no handshaking, hand sanitising stations, a rota system regulating when we can attend church and where we sit and avoiding close contact with others not from our households or family bubbles.  A radio transmitter was introduced for those who preferred to sit in the car park and we commenced web streaming for those who remain at home.  Initially the church was cleaned down after the morning service and then we introduced a sprayer which covers all surfaces with a disinfectant killing all germs including Covid-19.  In the autumn the Government introduced face coverings as being mandatory in closed spaces, which was something else we had to adjust to.  I initially thought that face coverings would make it impossible to sing.  It is true we began cautiously without singing in church from July to August but having restarted praise we couldn’t allow the introduction of face coverings to stop us.  Although it is not an ideal situation we have adapted to what has been often called the new normal.


As the year closed we introduced Zoom Prayer Meetings, through the expertise of Andrew McMullan, during the two week Government lockdown in November / December.  This has developed into further prayer and Bible studies, a Zoom Youth Fellowship, Zoom Sabbath School and a Children’s Bible Club also by Zoom.  We appreciate Andrew’s input in guiding us into this new way of worship and fellowship.


Personally I want to thank Neville McIlwrath for organising the sanitising liquid and the signage, Ian McClung for working out the seating rota, John Robinson for working out the logistics around live streaming and Andrew and Beulah for organising the cleaning of the church between services before our equipment arrived. I took a decision on returning to public worship that our senior office bearers and those with underlying health needs should not be involved in public facing roles during this period.  This has placed extra responsibility upon our other office bearers and I want record our thanks to them.  I also want to thank the congregation for your very high degree of cooperation and compliance.  Every shepherd knows that a content flock is a blessing!


GRATITUDE AND THANKSGIVING


Despite the fact that society has faced a difficult time in terms of health, fear together with all the economic uncertainty that lies ahead we have ever so much to be grateful for in the Clogher Valley.  The Lord shepherded us through 2020, has kept us together as a congregation, has guarded our health and has enabled the building project to continue.  A number of people from within our congregation have been involved in work within the NHS and the caring professions generally while others were volunteering to provide assistance during lockdown.  We want to recognise and thank God for their personal contribution to our wider society.


TIMES OF SORROW AND HAPPINESS


As with every other year, 2020 has brought our congregation the varied experiences which make up the patchwork of life.  


During the spring lockdown our dear sister in the Lord, Mrs Joan McIlwrath, was taken home to glory.  I have so many fond memories of fellowship with her and her late husband Johnston.  It was a blessing to be able to minister to her during those final hours in Craigavon Area Hospital.  With the restrictions in place her funeral was small but intimate and we knew the peace of God’s presence.  We continue to pray for her sorrowing family.  There were others who lost loved ones and passed through hard times in 2020, who are also in our prayers.


There were happier times for Nicholas and Shirley Johnston, who were blessed with baby Micah, Rodney and Rebekah Bennett who were blessed with baby Austin, Clive and Elinor Keys who were blessed with baby Emily and Keith and Ruth Johnston who were blessed with baby James.  It is such a blessing to see the Lord continuing to add little children to our congregation.


In December we completed the fiftieth entry, on our Golden Anniversary year, into our marriage registry book, with the wedding of Emma Wilson to Dani.  With Dani’s family being unable to travel from Spain the ceremony was broadcast by livestream and has become our most popular video.  We wish Emma and Dani well in their lives together in Catalonia.


David Wilson graduated from the Whitefield College of the Bible, was licensed to the ministry by Presbytery, and is now waiting on the Lord for direction as to future ministry.  Andrew and Beulah McMullan announced last year that they have been appointed as Assistant Directors of the South West Europe Area of CEF.  We pray that God will bless each as they look into a future of Christian service.


CONTINUED CONSTRUCTION


While the work of erecting our new meeting house was understandably delayed we have been much impressed by the dedication and workmanship of  Lester Weir and his team (which includes one of our own young people, Tom McMullan), supported by Neil Irvine (Neil Irvine Design Limited) in his management of the project.  By the close of the year the walls were erected and the roof completed in readiness for the inside work.


Some individuals from our own congregation and the wider Free Presbyterian family whose businesses and expertise are saving the congregation considerable money, and who I want to recognise at this stage are Rodney Condell (Condell Consultancy), Andrew Robinson (Exi-Tite), Rodney Bennett (E & R Bennett) and Barry and John McGerr (Dungannon Electrical Wholesale).


REFLECTING ON FIFTY YEARS OF WITNESS


While we commenced the year with various plans regarding our fiftieth anniversary it became apparent that many would be impossible to fulfil owing to the pandemic restrictions, especially an anniversary dinner, which had been scheduled for The Valley Hotel.  We were, however, able to welcome our founding minister Rev Ivan  Foster as well as our former pastors Rev Michael Patrick, Rev Ron Johnstone and Rev David Priestley during the Autumn period, when they ministered the Word of God.  In addition we published a book entitled “Solid Ground” to both record the history of our congregation together with an analysis of the essential aspects of the Free Presbyterian Church.  We completed the year by publicly recognising the contribution of our organist Mrs Ingrid Irwin who has been faithful in her role for the entirety of our congregation’s existence, and of those of our office bearers who have given long service to our congregation.


THE LORD’S TREASURY


The Session and Committee met on Thursday 18th February 2021 to review the finances for 2020.  The report presented by our Treasurer, Mr Jeffrey Condell, showed that you as a congregation have responded with an exceptional degree of faithfulness and commitment to the Lord’s work despite the challenges of the pandemic.  The free will offerings have not declined throughout the year, which is an amazing testimony to the diligence of the congregation.  The building fund offering has increased demonstrating your commitment to the ongoing construction.  The Session and Committee pay tribute to the diligence of Jeffrey, assisted by David, in administering the finances so effectively and in preparing this annual statement.


 I have often said that if we had known 2020 was going to bring us the  first pandemic in a century we would not have laid one brick.  We would have chosen to wait.  But in the providence of God we were directed several years ago that 2020, our Golden Anniversary, would be the year to build.  God, I believe wanted to test us, to challenge our faith and our practical commitment to the Gospel.  By your efforts you have demonstrated that we have been stepping forward in the will of God and this gives us optimism for the future.


But – we have a new meeting house to complete this year.  Decisions are coming rapidly to the Church Committee now and we would value your prayers.  We have still some reserves which continues  to push  back the date when we begin borrowing from the bank.   The further this date is pushed back the less we will borrow, the greater our savings on interest charges and the quicker we will repay what we will borrow.  Therefore continue to be in earnest prayer asking the Lord what He would have you to give to this good work, from the resources which He has given to you.  When I completed a series of studies in The Life of Joy and Peace, from Philippians quite recently the Lord reminded us of the promise to a giving people – But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).


As we have surveyed the interior of the new building it has become apparent to the Session and Committee that owing to the size of the two windows behind the pulpit area they cannot be left in plain or frosted glass.  They must have a design which witnesses to the role and ministry of the Church for all to see and reflect upon as they enter the sanctuary. After discussion and prayer the Session and Committee felt that a rural theme was appropriate, drawing inspiration from the sowing of the seed of God’s Word to produce a harvest of fruitfulness in lives.  We are currently in discussion with a window designer exploring this possibility.  This reminds us of the reason why we are engaged in this project…to develop our buildings to the glory of God, for the extension of His kingdom, for the preaching of the Gospel, for the salvation of precious souls, for the development of Christian lives – that there would be showers of blessing.  I firmly believe that God has brought us to this time and to this season – that we would be a witness providing a message of hope in a post pandemic society.  We are living in days of terrible darkness – the manner in which Westminster has forced abortion unto our society here in Northern Ireland during the height of the pandemic clearly demonstrates this.  This highlights more than anything that we need to stand forth as shining lights and fulfil God’s purpose for our lives.


FINAL WORD OF GRATITUDE


Others not mentioned already whom I wish to appreciate personally are: our groundsman, Cecil Boyd assisted this past year by his son Aaron; Philip Andrews, Daniel Honeyman and Robbie McIlwrath who look after our sound and vision; William Cuthbertson who salts our car park in frosty weather; and the team of volunteer cleaners who care for the interior of our meeting house.


PRAYER REQUESTS FOR 2021


  1. That our nation would turn to the Lord.
  2. For continued protection against the worst effects of the virus.
  3. That our Government would know wisdom in their continued management of the situation and that the health professionals would be guided in their good work.
  4. That the pandemic would cease, permitting us to return to regular church life in every department.
  5. That our new meeting house would be completed and that the Lord would provide for every need.
  6. For our children and young people who are the unseen casualties of this pandemic with the major disruption to these most important years.   Pray that God would guide them into a future where they would glorify Him and build on the lessons learned during these memorable months.



Your Friend and Pastor


Peter McIntyre

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