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Twelve people from the RPCS attended the RP International Conference in America in July. Below is Rev. Kenneth Stewart’s article about the week.
The Conference was held on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University – a large, modern campus with excellent facilities and one which is not ashamed to display its Christian heritage and identity. It is hard to convey the good done to the soul by seeing Biblical texts on display in the grounds and on the walls of a university campus. While reinforcing how thoroughly secularised Scotland has become, it also helps to foster a vision and, for those of us with an optimistic eschatology, it serves as a tangible reminder of what God can do and what our nation could yet become when ‘a little one becomes a thousand’.
The Conference lasted from Saturday to Friday and was packed full of opportunities for teaching, fellowship, prayer and recreation. The main addresses, delivered every morning, were focused on the theme of ‘The Sacrificing Church: Ministering Faithfully as Priests in the Local Congregation’ looking successively at The Sacrificing Church as a Worshiping Temple, a Praying Priesthood, a Believing Community, a Merciful People and as a Mission Outpost. The speaker, Barry York who is Professor of Pastoral Theology in the RPTS, spoke earnestly and plainly from the Scriptures and gave plenty material for spiritual profit and for on-going meditation. Classes ran concurrently for children of all ages including High School.
There were two sessions of seminars every day, as many as eight at a time, with wide-ranging themes with the topics ranging from ‘Mission in China’ to ‘The Digital Age’, from ‘Dealing with Cancer’ to ‘Raising Teenagers’ – the choice seemed endless. Because no single seminar was repeated and because many of us wanted to attend several, we decided to split up and report back, which seemed to work quite well!
Lasting impression are, briefly, as follows.
First, the RP church family lays great store on discipling their children. It was most impressive to see so many young families on the same campus being so committed to the things of the Lord (there were nearly 80 under 2 years of age!) I was (pleasantly!) accosted more than once at dinner by some child asking if I was an Elder and eager to recite a Bible verse, so that they could get a signature and eventually, a prize – while of course reciting a text nearly 50 times in the process. Quite clever! They all take education seriously and I couldn’t help but be envious –with a holy envy – of their Christian schools and their emphasis on Christian education generally. Their commitment is obvious – no way would these families consider not going to the conference because they needed a ‘holiday’: this was their holiday and lounging unproductively in the sun would never provide what these days were providing.
Second, the quality of their singing: it was disciplined, lively, tuneful and hearty. Again, clearly, they take it seriously. The sight and sound of over 2000 people singing the Psalms will stay with me and with the rest of us too. What will heaven’s singing be like if it can sound so good on the earth?
Third, the opportunity to meet with fellow covenanters from all over the world, most of them being from the States, was refreshing for the soul. Their interest in us, in Scotland, is real and sincere and the warmth of their affection is very humbling. Mealtimes – so well organised on the campus – were times of spiritual enrichment as well as bodily nourishment with problems and encouragements profitably shared. On occasions such as this, we can truly say ‘Behold how good a thing it is, and how becoming well; together such as brethren are in unity to dwell’.
Finally, should you consider going? Indeed! Even the cost is not as prohibitive as it seems: If you begin to set aside £10 a week, you’re covered for the total cost well in advance of time for booking. So, as the Ethiopian Eunuch said, ‘What hinders me?’
Rev Kenneth Stewart