The Minister Writes

Writing this, at a time when the latest storm, in a long line of ‘unusual’ weather events, is passing through! Has tempted me to begin with a frivolous parody of the song, “Christmas is coming the geese are getting fat!” So far 2024 is more, “Christmas is over, and the geese are getting wet!” Christmas is indeed over, and I hope that you all enjoyed a happy and peaceful festive season!

Weather events aside; 2024 has also begun with a great deal of worrying news at home and abroad. In Matthew chapter 24, Jesus spoke to his disciples on the serious matter of the disasters and tragedies that would face the people of God not many years after his death; and in the much more distant period he referred to as ‘The End Times’. Verse 6 to 8 says, “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth-pains.” (NIV 1984)

We are certainly living in the ‘End Times’, but we do not know how long the period will be. Instead of falling into despair about what we see happening in the world. We must remind ourselves that Jesus spoke of these things, not to worry his disciples; but to encourage them to remain faithful to him! Not to be deceived by false messiahs and religions; but to continue with the work of sharing the Gospel Message and remaining firm in their own faith. Because it is in Christ that we have our hope!

The prophet Micah spoke of a time that was coming when many nations would come to the Lord of Israel. Chapter 4 verse 2 says, “He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” Verse 3 goes on to say, “Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (NIV 1984) It is a vision of peace that we might want to see realised in this world, but we wonder how it could ever be achieved. The prophet Micah makes very clear that there is only one way in which this glorious state of affairs will come to pass; and that is because the nations come to put their faith in the God of Israel, and choose to follow his paths. His paths are made clear to us through Jesus Christ Our Saviour. It is in believing in Christ and putting our faith in him that we can follow the paths of the Lord. When we come to pray for our world! When we are overwhelmed by so much suffering and distress! We might wonder how we can help, where to even begin our prayers. There are of course many ways we might be able to contribute to practical aid. We could pray for individual leaders, specific events or outcomes; the protection of individual people or communities! All this is good! But the most important prayer of all is for people to come to know Christ.

We are now several weeks into 2024, and as a congregation there are plans to be made and events to organise. Last year we held several very successful social events. Hosted the World Day of Prayer! Joined with other churches in the town for worship events; as well as continuing with our own services, Bible Study and prayer group. All these things are made possible by the hard work and effort that many people put in each week. So as we look forward to the coming months, may we all remember to pray for the Kirk Session, as they continue to oversee the Spiritual Life of our congregation! The congregational Board as they continue to oversee the practical upkeep of our building. The Treasurer in her efforts to make ends meet! The social Committee who plan our fundraisers and the many people who are prepared to turn up and help when needed. Not forgetting all those who faithfully go about their duties and serve the congregation with their practical skills and contribute to our worship and praise each week.

“Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.” Ephesians 6: 18, 19

The Minister Writes

When preparing to write this entry for Gleanings, I was surprised to find that we were about to celebrate Easter when we were last able to produce a Church Magazine. This is evidence perhaps of a rather busy, and on some occasions a tumultuous year, that this congregation, and individuals have been enduring.

I mentioned last time that the beginning of 2023 had perhaps had more ‘downs’ than ‘ups’! The downs have certainly continued with some illness and injury; and a few more issues with the Church Buildings. But I think there have also been several ‘ups’ for us to celebrate. The increasing age and ill health of some members of the Kirk Session had been making it increasingly difficult for all of the Session’s duties to be fulfilled; but the appointment of two new elders has greatly improved the situation. It is now hoped that a revised system of visitation by elders will be up and running soon.

Our regular Bible Study and Sunday Morning prayer group continue, and there have been several wonderful answers to prayer for individuals over recent months. One of our social events had to be cancelled this year due to a multitude of things out of our control, but the fundraising events that have been held, were well supported and enthusiastically received. The Wednesday afternoon Ladies Group, which is open to any ladies who wish to attend, has proved to be a great success. A variety of activities have been engaged in and those attending have found it a good place to be with friends and enjoy a laugh or two. With the Tuesday night bowls and the Scouts continuing to meet in the hall two nights a week; the Church Buildings are once more busy and this is a good reason to rejoice in all the good things that have happened this year.

As the summer turns rather definitively into autumn, we have already celebrated Harvest Festival, and the food supplies collected by the congregation to help St Patricks with the provision of meals for the homeless and those in difficult circumstances were much appreciated. It is a reminder that as winter approaches there are still many people struggling to cope with the current crisis in the cost of living and food prices. Whilst we endeavour to help those who are struggling in our local community, let us not forget that the cause of some of those price rises is to be found in areas of the world who are most affected by climate change or which are being devastated by war.

As Remembrance Sunday comes round each year, many of us might wish that the hope of a ‘War to end all Wars’, had been fulfilled. But sadly many are still losing their lives in acts of war and violence. Of particular concern at the moment are the ongoing war in Ukraine and the outbreak of hostilities in the Middle East. Though this recent event has huge implications for peace beyond the immediate region, let us not forget that for many innocent civilians it is a humanitarian crisis. Let us continue to pray for aid to reach those most in need and for the world to act with compassion towards those who have no say in what happens to them. As Christians we might feel powerless to do anything in the face of world politics, and deep rooted hostility and distrust that has such a long history. But we can continue to pray to God that the world might come to recognise; that the only way to overcome the evil that men do, is for people to come to realise, person by person, that the answer lies in Jesus Christ Our Lord.
We are rapidly approaching the season of Advent and Christmas! We will be preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ with parties and presents; the singing of those old, familiar carols; good food and the traditional gathering of friends and relations. We will talk about the Prince of Peace! The Saviour of the World, and the hope we have in Christ. Our church buildings will be decorated with tinsel and banners declaring ‘Jesus is the Light to the World!’ We will light our Advent candles week by week as we count down to Christmas Day! But through our celebrations will we remember that these are not just joyous words, but divine truths! That in order for the world to recognise the Prince of Peace we have to share the Good News of Christ. That though we can pray for the immediate relief of suffering across the world, what the world really needs is for us to pray that more people will come to accept that true peace, forgiveness, hope and salvation can only come through Jesus Christ Our Lord!

Dear Friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4: 7-12)

The Minister Writes

John 8: 12 says, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

As this Christmas approaches, many people are rejoicing in the fact that after the last couple of years of restrictions, we can really celebrate this year again. Others however, are anxious or worried about the coming months as there are still many difficulties and problems to face. These words of Jesus remind us of the hope that we can all have in Christ. As we prepare to celebrate the light of Christ which came into the world in that stable in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago, we need to remind ourselves that we are not celebrating a historical event that was over and done with then; but that we can continue to celebrate the light that remains with us for all time. The birth of baby Jesus was only the beginning and no matter how dark or challenging our present situation might seem, we have been promised that if we follow our Lord we will not walk in darkness, but his light is with us always.

Sometimes it might feel like that light has grown dim, that it has become totally obscured by our own fears and anxiety. But the light has never gone away; we just have to step back into it to rediscover the hope which once burnt so brightly in our own hearts. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans;
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 8: 35-39)

Whatever happens in the coming year, let us rejoice this Christmas as we remember that nothing can separate us from the Love of God and he sent his only Son to bring the great light of hope into the world.

Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas, and a very happy New Year!

Rev Dr. Sara Rettie

The Ministry Assistant Writes

It has now been 18 months since all our lives have been turned upside down by the pandemic!  In reflecting upon the last year and a half, it seems to me that perhaps these last few months have been the hardest.

After stoically enduring the first wave of Covid, amidst the sadness and the fear, many people discovered hidden strengths and gifts, reaching out to help and support those in need.  As a congregation we found new ways to pray, worship and share with one another.  But after a brief glimpse of hope, last summer, that things might soon return to normal, we were once more plunged into ‘Lockdown’ and restrictions, followed by the ever increasing confusion as to what you can, and can’t do as restrictions are eased.  People have grown weary of the situation, and the danger is that we also grow weary of praying for, and encouraging one another.

In seeking some Word of Scripture to share with you all, I found myself facing a dilemma.  On the one hand, many people are enjoying a life that is slowly returning to normal and it would be appropriate to reflect upon words of joy, celebration and optimism!  But on the other hand, many are still suffering from illness, pain, loneliness and isolation, either because of their experiences of the last few months, or because they have yet to enjoy the benefit of lifted restrictions.  In Romans chapter 8, Paul seeks to encourage a people that have been enduring much suffering and persecution.  He concludes with these words:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8: 37-39)

We can all draw strength from these words, because they tell us that no matter how difficult things might be, or how far from God we might feel, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.  His presence is with us always.  But we are also called upon to do our part towards strengthening ourselves and others, in the faith.  Again, Paul writes in his concluding instructions to the Thessalonians:

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)

I had hoped that, by this time, it would be possible to announce that many of our church activities would soon be returning to normal.  Sadly that is not the case.  We thank God that those who are able to, can worship together once more in the church building, and even sing hymns; but we continue to hope and pray that by the end of the year we will also be able to meet for prayer, Bible Study and fellowship once more. In the meantime, let us remember these words from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

The Ministry Assistant Writes

It is now a year, since we were plunged into the strange new world of life during a pandemic. It has changed all our lives and there has been much sadness and suffering during this time. But it has perhaps also been a chance for us to reflect on what we talk about as being, ‘normal’ life and what we might want life to be like when we reach the end of these trying times.

We have learnt to appreciate some of the things we have lost during the last year such as regular contact with family and friends, the chance of social interaction, and the joy of being able to go where we want, when we want, and even simple things like being able to go shopping in the expectation of buying what we want rather than the bare necessities. The question is; will we still appreciate these things when the pandemic is over? Will we have learnt the value of the small pleasures in life or will we immediately return to the more selfish attitudes and ambitions that were in danger of taking over society prior to the Pandemic?

The New Testament often speaks about the people of God enduring times of trial and temptation. The early Christians were familiar with a world that restricted their ability to worship God as they wanted to; but they did not allow themselves to be defeated by this. Instead they learnt to depend upon God who strengthened them and encouraged them in all situations. During this past year, all the Church activities, meetings and services which we accepted as a constant part of life have been stripped away. Simply doing things the way they have always been done has not been an option. Without activities and fellowship to support and sustain us, we have been forced to turn directly to God to support and sustain our faith and our lives. It has been an opportunity to place Christ firmly at the centre of our lives, not pushed to the side of congregational activities. How wonderful it would be, if, when life returns to what we think of as normal, Christ remained in the centre of our lives and is returned to his rightful place as the head of the Church!

Our hope is that we will soon be nearer the end of this pandemic than the beginning, and as we begin to plan to meet together once again in worship, praise and fellowship, let us make the most of what we have learnt in the past year. Let us reflect upon the things we would like to change, and begin planning for a new start and a new era as a congregation of God’s people.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again; rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

Dr Sara Rettie

Dear All
It seems to be only a short while since as a congregation we were preparing to celebrate Christmas and now we are already rapidly approaching the celebration of Easter.

During January we took a break from some activities such as the weekly Bible Study in case of inclement weather. Unfortunately this winter saved its worst until February so several events had to be cancelled. However we had an exceptionally good turn out for the Beetle Drive Social which was a very enjoyable evening. We have also been able to start a monthly prayer Group, on the first Wednesday evening of the month, specifically to pray for guidance in the future outreach and mission work of the congregation.

In Matthew chapter 28, Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all nations. This is an everlasting command, but we do not have to do it in our own strength, he has promised to be with us and guide us in this all important mission. This is why it is important that we seek the Lord’s guidance as a congregation, for the future work of the congregation. I would like to encourage all of you to devote some time to praying about this subject whether you are able to join with us in an organised prayer meeting or not. The Lord hears our prayers whoever we are and wherever we come to him seeking guidance and encouragement.

We have also begun a monthly ‘Coffee and Craft’ meeting which will be held between 2pm and 4pm on the third Tuesday in the month. At the moment we are working on making ‘Twiddle Muffs’ which have been found to be a help and comfort to some people suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer’s. The pattern is easy to follow and all are welcome to join in or simply come along for a chat. If you are no longer able to knit or sew yourself come and help those who are learning, your knowledge will be invaluable. If you have any spare wool, needles, ribbons or buttons, all contributions will be gratefully received. If you have other ideas for creative projects then come and share them or bring your own work with you. The afternoon will hopefully provide an excellent opportunity to enjoy fellowship whilst spending a little time helping others.

During this season of Lent, as we prepare to remember the sacrificial love of our Lord Jesus Christ, may we all take time to reflect upon our own lives of faith, and commit ourselves afresh to sharing the Good News of the Gospel Message. It is a message that can bring hope to a world which is in need of hearing about the great love of God which is freely available to all who trust in the Lord.

May God Bless you all
Sara Rettie

The Ministry Assistant Writes

 As the days get shorter as well as colder we find ourselves rapidly approaching the Advent Season and Christmas.  For many people they probably just think of it as the ‘busy’ season or ‘party’ season.  But for us it should be a season of hope and expectation.  A season when we take time to remember that the long promised Messiah and Saviour of all the world has finally come.  He came, not only as the baby in the manger in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago; but he comes to each one of us who puts our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us on the cross and who brings hope to the world.

Christmas is a time of celebration when families are re-united, friends gather together, and we talk of Peace on Earth and Good will to all men.  Words are easy to say, but this year let it be our hope that many people will be inspired to perform acts of Peace and to share goodwill with others.  Most of all, it is my hope and prayer that every member of the family of God, all who are part of the family which is Dalreoch United Free Church, will have the desire and the will to join with their Christian family to celebrate this Christmas.

Wishing you all a peaceful and blessed Advent and Christmas Season!