Holding the Rope

“I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

A slate engraving and a stone cairn were recently unveiled in Stornoway as the first in a series of events to commemorate the centenary of the Iolaire disaster (Here). Before being used by the navy in anti-submarine and patrol work, the Iolaire had been a luxury yacht prior to the First World War. It was 31 December 1918, the war was over, peace was restored amongst the nations, and, after four long years, the men who had served King and country were on their way home.

The Kyle of Lochalsh quay was crowded with servicemen, and the steam ferry, the SS Sheila, was soon packed to the rafters. The Iolaire was sent for from her berth in Stornoway to transport the extra men back home to Lewis. She was kitted out with only two lifeboats and 80 lifejackets as 283 servicemen made their way up the gangplank and onto the ship.

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At the Same Time, Righteous and Sinners

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26)

The Lord’s Supper was celebrated throughout congregations in Stornoway last weekend, where church members ate bread and drank wine to proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes. The question is often asked, who should partake of the communion and sit at the Lord’s Table. This question was addressed in the “fencing of the table” in our own congregation by the Minister, Rev. Stephen McCollum.

The fencing of the table is a word of explanation given by the Minister as to who ought and who ought not to participate in the communion. The idea is that the minister is figuratively putting a fence around the table to illustrate the distinction in the congregation. It is something which was traditionally practiced in Presbyterian congregations, dating back to the reformation, but seems to be seldom practiced in the Scottish church today.

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The Troubled Sea

“The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.” (Isaiah 57:20-21)

The Isle of Lewis is steeped in history, heritage and distinctiveness. It may seem strange to those of us who have been born and brought up here, but a visit to the Outer Hebrides is considered a must by many would be travellers. Travel blogs and tourism websites speak enthusiastically of the beautiful beaches, the stunning landscape, the welcoming people, the distinctive culture and the sense of tranquillity and escape.

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Whiter than the Snow

“Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7)

Last month, a small group of us enjoyed a visit to the Gambia, a small country on the West Coast of Africa. Gambia is well known as a beautiful and welcoming country, with temperatures in the mid to high 30’s at this time of year. It is a predominantly Muslim population, therefore Christ is known only as prophet, rather than as the Saviour of sinners.

Having felt the searing heat of Gambia, not known in our Hebridean climate, it was a shock to the system to come back home to the recent snowfall and freezing conditions. We may not experience as much snow as other countries, but snow is something that is never experienced in Gambia.

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The Primacy of Preaching

The following is the Moderator’s Address at the Free Church of Scotland General Assembly in 1995. The Moderator was Rev Murdo Alex Macleod (Stornoway Free Church) and the address was entitled ‘the Primacy of Preaching.’

Rev. Macleod believed that there was a crisis of true preaching in the Free Church. Many of the issues dealt with in his address have greatly escalated in the 22 years that have elapsed. The need for a critical eye to be cast upon the pulpits of our land, whatever our denomination, is surely needed even more so in our day. We ought to pray for a restoration of true preaching in the pulpits of Scotland today.

The paper is as follows, and has been reproduced here with kind permission of the Macleod family…

The Primacy of Preaching

Addressing the meeting of the Synod of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands in 1927, that eminent Free Church man, Sir James Simpson, concluded his address by stating that the Free Church of Scotland, acknowledged to be the Church of the Reformation and of the Disruption even by the State, was fulfilling its trust with no little measure of success. “Its work,” he said, “limited in extent, is comprehensive in character. It speaks with no uncertain voice, and in a tone to be heard, on questions of religion and morals, public and private. Its ministry is evangelical and its members generally live consistent Christian lives.”

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The Forerunner of Glory

 

“…The Lord will give grace and glory…” (Psalm 84:11)

In ancient days, when larger ships were unable to get close enough to shore to dock due to stormy conditions, the ship’s anchor would be placed in a small boat called a forerunner. The forerunner carried the anchor through the breakers and dropped it at the harbour securing the larger ship. When weather conditions would permit, the larger ship would slowly be drawn to shore through the anchor chain, and the ship would eventually arrive safely at the harbour.

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Before the Mountains

“Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth,  Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,  Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (Psalm 90:1-2)

The Clisham is the highest mountain in the Outer Hebrides at 799 metres (2,621 ft). If you climb it in favourable conditions, the views from the summit are spectacular.

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Why a Confession of Faith?

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering” (Hebrews 10:23)

The Presbyterian Church in Scotland has long associated itself with a Confession of Faith as its subordinate standard, so much so that Scottish Presbyterianism and Confessionalism have gone hand in hand. The Scots Confession of 1560 (co-authored by John Knox) had been the accepted confession of faith of the Scottish Church up until the time of the famous Westminster Assembly, from which the Westminster Confession of Faith we know today was published in 1646.

That said, it is entirely legitimate to ask the question, “Should we have a confession of faith?” The fact that, historically speaking, we have always had a confession of faith isn’t sufficient in and of itself to answer that question.

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