January 22, 2012


January 14, 2012

Banner of Truth Ministers' Conference Leicester 2011 Part II

April 15, 2011

I did go on a little bit too much in the last post, I shall try to be briefer here. Perhaps. Meantime, Mostyn Roberts has posted some thoughts on the conference also. I’ll add a few thoughts at the end in response to some of what he raises. If you’re interested in the Banner Conference, give him a read!

We left off on Tuesday night. Wednesday dawned as it tends to do, and the first session of the day was Martin Holdt once more, speaking on ‘the Holy Spirit and Preparation for Preaching’. Although he spoke less on the Spirit than before, as I mentioned. Some opening comments were that the battle for preaching is won or lost in how much it costs us, and that vital elements of preparation are used by the Spirit. I would wholeheartedly concur with this from personal experience, not that that counts for too much.

Noting that preaching is prime and absolutely neccessary, he made the following points about preaching and prep:

1. It takes time. The Apostles (Acts 6) created Deacons precisely because they needed time to study and pray. There is no place for laziness, which will lead to failure. We must try our very hardest, and ‘fight for our mornings in the study’ – ML-J.

2. Prayer is essential before, during, and after. Eph 1.15 – we must strike a balance between time at the desk and on our knees. We need the Spirit’s enlightenment whether we have preached for a year or for fifty years.

3. Reading Scripture widely and reading it well is vital. Thoughtfully, meditatively, prayerfully. Our flock must be able to understand what we present to them – the purpose of various books of the Bible, their direction and how they fit into the whole. If we read enough Scripture then all else will fade and we will see that it is all about God.

In closing, Mr Holdt urged us to read as much as possible, and to take advantage of those men whom God had gifted in the past to edify us. Do we read regularly or have we lost the taste for it? We might find it hard, but we must take up our cross and read! He mentioned and commended John Piper’s scheme for reading, setting aside 20 minute blocks and showing how much can be done in a week, a month, a year. He also commended that we read as much as possible on the Atonement.

The second morning session was Lewis Allen‘s second look at priorities for the church, and he focused on ‘The Church’s longing’ from Revelation 22.20-21, presenting five core truths about the second coming, that 1. It will be personal, 2. It will be visible, 3. It will be triumphant, 4. It will be transforming (not to stop history but to bring it to its climax), and 5. it will be sudden, at an unpredictable time.

He pointed out how the second coming is under-proclaimed, and how it in fact affects all our teaching if we include it. The Atonement, for example – the purchase of lost souls, which will be gathered up at the second coming. The Resurrection of Christ – we declare it and preach it, but do we consider the final triumph of it will be at the second coming? The Judgment – there will be no judgment without the second coming. The Church needs to know that Christ is coming, the community around us needs to hear it. If we ride a motorcycle and look down at the front wheel, we will soon crash. We need to look up to where we are going, to the horizon!

What are we living for? Does ministry indispose us for dying and make us forget, amidst all the busy-ness, that we are mortal men? Do we live on, and by, the promises of Christ about His coming, that He will rule, restore, heal, bless, renew? Can we say with the ‘Blind boys of Alabama’  – ‘I don’t want to walk or talk about Jesus, I just want to see His face?’. In closing, Lewis asked us if we were moaners or groaners – by default we are moaners, feeling sorry for ourselves, outraged at injustice and so forth. Surely we should be groaners – just as all creation longs, so we, the church and her ministers, should groan, earnestly longing for His appearing.

On Wednesday afternoon I got some more sermon prep done, and then back at 5pm for the Question and Answer session with the speakers. I didn’t take notes, and there are some more detailed comments, especially on five remarks made by Geoff Thomas that are very useful, here. To sound a note of displeasure, it was noted that several pertinent and pointed questions were simply not asked, and it was not for lack of time because the floor was opened to additional questions. These were not overly controversial questions either, as I was informed by three question authors of what they had submitted.

In the evening, Phil Arthur presented a very fine overview of the life of William Tyndale. All the facts about this great man are out there, so I won’t go on. There was a clear presentation of Tyndale’s early life, and his convictions. Much comment was made about the quality of his translation work on the New Testament, and his choice of good, single-syllabled Anglo-Saxon words rather than the more lengthy French or Latin-derived alternatives. So fine was the quality of his work that, as is well-known, the King James Version translators retained 80 percent or more of his work in their translation. Tyndale’s later work and publications were discussed, along with his battering by Sir Thomas More, who in total wrote over half a million words attacking him for his translation of just four greek words. We heard again the sad story of his betrayal, and saw once more his desire to study and translate even to the end, when he was martyred for his faith. This man, who went into exile, forwent the comforts of marriage, friends, and family, caused an earthquake in Britain. Men read or heard for the first time in their own language the words of Christ. How much there was to give thanks to God for! This message, along with Phil Arthur’s reading of various passages in old and middle English, would be a great listen for anyone. I certainly plan to listen to it again, there was so much to take in!

On Thursday morning Martin Holdt spoke on ‘The Holy Spirit and preaching’, looking at the New Testament, especially Acts 2, 6, 13, to demonstrate the same three elements present in all the preaching that was so blessed: i) Use of much scripture, ii) Proclamation of Christ, and iii) Identification of Sin. He also made some useful general points about preaching: 1. The Spirit will never flood the life of a man in whom Christ is not glorified. 2. We must ASK for the help of the Spirit – ref Luke 11.13. How many gifts does a Father give his children? Just one gift? Or many? 3. We have a duty to teach the church to pray for us. 4. We must lift up Christ.

The final session was taken by Iain Murray, who again, carefully and thoughtfully took us to John 17, especially verses 25 and 26. He spoke about i) The teaching work of Christ, ii) The special purpose of that work, and iii) What that should mean to us as ministers. The greatest encouragement was his reminder to us that our Lord’s ministry is always effective, and always successful. It is hard to believe that Mr Murray is 80 years old. What a blessing his ministry and books have been to so many!

These were a very blessed few days, and I am deeply grateful to my church for providing for me to attend, because I could not have afforded it otherwise, and I do hope and pray that the blessing I received may be in some way passed to the congregation here in Cheltenham.

A closing word about the whole ‘conference experience’. Mostyn Roberts makes some interesting comments on his blog. I differ with him on the quality of the chicken on Monday night, mine was very good, but I tend to agree with him about the general unfriendliness of the experience, especially if you are new. The lack of information about various practical issues is troubling, and also it is quite notable that it is very hard to have conversations with some men, who seem to only want to speak to their own particular friends. Why were the numbers so far down? I suppose the school holidays didn’t help, and there are other factors also – possibly economic ones – but maybe, just maybe, there should be a sharpening of focus and a better promotion of the event. What is it for? How will you benefit from it? – and so forth. I didn’t pick up the ‘doom and gloom’ vibe that some have mentioned in the past, which was a good thing. I don’t think that the Banner conference should move away from the traditional worship it practices, either. Frankly, anyone who thinks that the worship is what keeps younger people away is surely misguided. I just think that the conference needs to be more closely tied to the needs and pressures of modern ministry, and to have some very specific ISSUES dealt with in a helpful way, rather than general or undefined topics. Not that the ministry this year was not punchy, and edifying, and useful – but perhaps, just perhaps, it doesn’t appear half so good on paper as it was in reality.

Banner of Truth Ministers' Conference Leicester 2011 Part I

April 14, 2011

I am back from a truly blessed few days at the Oadby Campus of the University of Leicester, where for many years the Banner of Truth has held youth and ministers’ conferences. This is my third year attending the Ministers’ conference. Each year has been more of a blessing in terms of the ministry given. In terms of fellowship, several faces I would like to see were absent, and the attendance was about half what it was in 2006 apparently, but the conference did fall in the school holidays due to the lateness of Easter. Another blogger has commented that it clashed with New Word Alive but I seriously doubt that had anything to do with it. In 2009 I was the only man present (apart from Garry Williams, one of the speakers) as far as I was aware, who had been to both events!

Notwithstanding the absentees, I was able to renew acquaintance with a number of men, and to make some new connections too. Above is my photo of the conference speakers, left to right are Lewis Allen, Martin Holdt, Phil Arthur, Steven Curry and Iain Murray.

Herewith my account of the proceedings: Steven Curry gave the opening sermon at 5pm on Monday, speaking from Matthew 6.1-18 on ‘The Piety of the Kingdom’. He centered on Christ’s description of hypocritical piety, showing that it is i) an unreal ‘act’, ii) to seek public notice and iii) to seek the applause of men. The Lord Jesus uses three examples to illustrate this, those of giving, praying, and fasting. Pastor Curry went on to show how all these three things are good, but can be done wrongly.

He moved on to show ‘The mark of an authentic godly piety’ – which is, in a word, secrecy. We are to resist the temptation to display what we are doing, or to drop hints about it. The Lord commands us preachers to ‘go private’, and cut off the opportunity for self-promotion. Of course, we cannot do everything in secret, like preaching, evangelism, visitation, but those things that we can do alone, we should.

Like a surgeon of the pastor’s soul, Mr Curry cut (by common testimony and consent) by the work of the Spirit, into the hearts of many present, as he asked, searchingly, whether we are as fervent in prayer privately as we are in public? He asked if we were as gracious at home as we were in the church? He asked if we were as holy in the house as we appear to be in the pulpit? May God forgive us and deliver us from such hypocrisy!

He thirdly discoursed on the importance of genuine and true piety. Nothing can be hidden from our Father ‘who sees’. Unlike Jim Bakker, who apparently never saw his wife Tammy, without her makeup on, the Lord sees us without our makeup all the time. What must be the source of our piety? It must be love for Christ, who loves sincerity as much as He hates hypocrisy. This message set the tone for all that was to follow over the four days!

On Monday evening, Iain Murray began his much-appreciated standing-in for Prof. Edward Donnelly, whom it was reported has recently preached his first sermon since a very serious illness deprived him of many faculties. We must pray for His continued healing! Mr Murray gave the first of two addresses on John 17, Christ’s high-priestly prayer. He commented in opening that this prayer is unique in scripture – being perfect, and sinless. He covered three points from the first verse of the chapter, firstly showing how the Lord Jesus was, and is, the Priest on His throne. Secondly, he opened up how this passage displays the Lord’s continuing, permanent ministry. His work is not finished as He dies. Salvation is complete, but there is more – He is no less active now He has ascended to Heaven! Thirdly, he covered the petition that Christ be glorified, and the Father in Him. Mr Murray showed us powerfully how God’s glory is entirely bound up in the salvation of His people. He closed with observations about how believers are the glory of Christ, how men are not to be glorified (especially ‘successful’ preachers), and finally he made the though-provoking application that the truth about Christ’s present ministry is surely the answer to unbelief amongst us – we must realise that Christ is not absent, but present, and active, and able!

Tuesday morning dawned, and I leapt out of bed unusually readily for the prayer meeting, breakfast, and then the double-barrelled shotgun that is Martin Holdt. I have heard one or two minor contributions by Mr Holdt at past Banner conferences, and to be honest I thought that he was over-prescriptive and far from reality. Not any longer. In his first message, on ‘the Holy Spirit and the preacher’s personal life’, he simply and profoundly urged us all to seek more  of the Holy Spirit. Are we all as filled with the Spirit as we should be, or could be? He showed that there is no command to be baptised in the Spirit, or sealed in the Spirit, but that there is a clear order to be filled with the Spirit. We must practice what Ephesians 4.1-3 teaches. We must set the tone for our congregations, and exemplify a life lived in step with the Spirit. whose heartbeat is Christ in the Word of God. How well do we know the Holy Spirit, how much do we love ALL the persons of the Triune Godhead? Mr Holdt said far more in this talk about the Spirit than he did in the subsequent talks.

The second message of the day was from Lewis Allen, who spoke of the church’s love for Christ as a great priority, from Ephesians 6.23-24. Pointing us to Christ time and again, he urged us never to tire of looking to Him. He firstly enjoined us to Desire Christ’s presence with us – His truth (John16.13), His peace (John14) and His joy (John 15.11, 16.22). One line that stuck with me was his comment that a pastor should be ‘the best friend a church member could ever have’. What a high standard! What is our Sunday morning habit? Do we enter, looking grim, at the last moment, like ‘a bat from the belfry’, and shuffle towards the pulpit or pew? Or are we about, greeting people, ushering all in to worship the Lord? Secondly, Mr Allen urged us to be Zealous for Christ’s glory, as Christ was filled with zeal for the Father’s glory in John 2. ‘A minister without zeal is no minister at all’. He used the example of the late, great rugby commentator, Bill Mclaren, whose obvious love of rugby came through in his commentary. Are we in love with Christ? Is our passion obvious from our preaching? If we are not excited, how will anyone else ever be? He observed that in English we have a vocabulary the size of French and German combined. How can we be dull? Thirdly, he called us to be Devoted to the Lord’s Service. This service should be costly – otherwise it is not authentic. If ministry costs us little, it is because we love the Lord and His people little.

Duly chastened, I headed off for an afternoon of study in my slightly smelly study bedroom. To be honest, the last-minute switch to Digby Hall from the usual Gilbert Murray Hall did not win any awards with me – the accommodation smelled. As I sat in my room, I heard one of the dutch pastors passing my door saying ‘someone has been smokings in here’. That, and everything else beside! Anyway, you soon get used to rank odours, and I spent longer than expected in my room, missing the reports and discussion at 5pm. I was told that there were moving reports of the Lord’s work in Pakistan and Myanmar.

In the evening, Iain Murray laid out some of the work he has been able to do on the life and ministry of Archibald Brown, a man who ministered in the shadow of CH Spurgeon. I could write for ages here on this marvellous message, but that would, I think, steal some of the thunder that should be reserved for the upcoming articles in the Banner of Truth magazine, and, we trust, the biography!! Suffice to say that Archibald Brown lived from 1844-1922, serving four churches, most notably 30 years at Stepney Green (later East London) Tabernacle, which was rebuilt to accommodate 3,000 under his ministry, and filled. In those 30 years, 5,600 members were added, of whom 4,000 were new converts. In the midst of a foul and deprived part of London where many philanthropists worked, he was noted for his compassionate work. He was a gifted evangelist, and able to communicate with all types of people. Mr Murray pointed out that apostasy was growing in Brown’s time, and his ministry emphases are therefore helpful to us in our times. Skipping so much which will doubtless be revealed in print, Brown’s ministry began when he upbraided a London City Missioner who was planning to read from Pilgrim’s Progress rather than to preach, and therefore the missioner opened the floor to him. He attended the Tabernacle’s Pastor’s College in its early days, aged just 18. Rules of admission were apparently bent a little for him! He was sent to Bromley after a short while to preach to a new work there, but he saw weekly numbers drop several times, and he went to Spurgeon, who advised him to ‘hang on by your teeth, and by your eyelashes if neccessary‘. We need a little more of that tenacity today!

I may share a little more about A Brown in another post, but suffice it to say, this talk was engrossing, enthralling, and inspiring indeed. We await the Banner presses with interest!

Anyway, I’m tired, and this is getting long, so I will leave the rest of the conference to a part II, which I hope to get up by the weekend.

Microreview I: Humility – True Greatness by CJ Mahaney

March 27, 2011

Beginning here, an occasional series of very short reviews of books or other useful things I have come across. I have been sitting on this book for a long time, and considering it is a small (pleasingly hardback) volume, I really felt I should get through it. So I have. I strongly recommend it. It has various stylistic qualities that won’t appeal to everyone, but it is unashamedly straightforward, scriptural, and practical. CJ Mahaney demonstrates that Humility is True Greatness. He helpfully warns against false humility, and writes well about the dangers of pride. He gives sound advice on how to cultivate humility in daily living. The one thing that has stuck in my head and has amazed me in its effectiveness is this gem: That before we sleep, we should thank God for the gift of sleep and pray that it might be effective and refresh us for the tasks of the next day. We don’t thank God enough, of that I am sure. In case you forget the thrust of the book, he sums it up in seventeen simple points at the end. No, I won’t list them here, that might tempt you to skip the book. If you have concerns about Mahaney being a ‘charismatic’, be not afraid. His views on the Spirit do not intrude on this masterly little book, which I will be keeping, if only to give away to someone who needs it more than me. Because, I’m a really, really humble guy… oh dear. Back to page one!

Spurgeon's greatest hymn (Notable Hymns XVIII)

January 12, 2011

C.H. Spurgeon wrote hymns, but it seems that they were not very good, because they have not endured. But there is the odd exception, and this favourite of mine prompts me to revive the hymns series after another year’s absence. This is a communion hymn par excellence, and there are not very many of them!

AMIDST us our Belovèd stands,
and bids us view His piercèd hands;
points to His wounded feet and side,
blest emblems of the crucified.

What food luxurious loads the board,
when at His table sits the Lord!
The wine how rich, the bread how sweet,
when Jesus deigns the guests to meet!

If now, with eyes defiled and dim,
we see the signs, but see not Him,
O may His love the scales displace,
and bid us see Him face to face!

Our past delights we now recount,
when with Him in the holy mount,
these cause our souls to thirst anew
His marred but lovely face to view.

O glorious Bridegroom of our hearts,
Your present smile a heaven imparts;
O lift the veil, if veil there be,
let every saint Your beauties see!

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1834-92

Book Review: CH Spurgeon – The People's Preacher

December 20, 2010

CH Spurgeon – The People’s Preacher. By Peter Morden.

One of the books I bought whilst on the Isle of Lewis was this new biography of Spurgeon. As lovers of CHS will know, biographies of him were two-a-penny in the years after his death, and varied greatly in quality. In modern times, there is nothing that compares to reading his autobiography, complied by his wife and secretary, of course, but in terms of readability, brevity and insight, there has been no modern biography of Spurgeon which compares to that excellent volume produced by the late Arnold Dallimore – “Spurgeon – A New Biography”

I will confess that I read Peter Morden‘s book before I left Stornoway, and enjoyed it immensely. That was, of course, several months ago, so I will not go in to huge detail in this review, but will give you a ‘feel’ for the book and the contents.

My first question on perusing it was ‘So, why do we need another biography – what is new about this one’? It should be stated that the book accompanies a film, and contains several photographs of the actors who played Spurgeon in it. There’s more information and a few reviews of the film here.  But I am a book person, not a film person, so, to the book. What does it do that is new, or worthwhile?

It is well illustrated and beautifully laid out. It is most readable, and it covers the main events of Spurgeon’s life clearly. I will admit that tt was far better than I expected it to be, as it is a production of a member of the Spurgeon’s College staff, and I know that there are  differences between the college of today and the original college of Spurgeon’s time. The dramatic, acted photos actually do add something to the book for the modern reader (with short attention span and need for illustrations!) and there are a good number of colour images of artefacts. What is most innovative and undoubtedly the winning thing about the book is that the author’s self-confessed aim is to ‘make connections between Spurgeon and our own lives’. In pursuit of this, each chapter closes with a ‘Digging deeper’ section, to add detail and make suggestions, and a most helpful ‘Engage’ section, which makes thought-provoking and unflinching applications to our own lives. For example, the chapter on Spurgeon’s upbringing encourages us to ponder the importance of raising godly children, and especially praying for them.

As well as covering the major events of Spurgeon’s life, his conversion, his two pastorates, the building of the Tabernacle, his books and writings, his family life, the orphanages and the Pastors’ College, chapters are set aside to examine Spurgeon, the man. One reflects on his passion for holiness, and another on ‘the Inner Man’. These specific chapters add to the value of the whole. There is no hero-worship in this book, but many challenges to us, perhaps especially to those who jostle for the mantle of ‘heirs of Spurgeon’ – to ask ourselves whether we truly do reflect the man we seek to emulate. (Whether we should seek to emulate him and to what extent is another question and not what I am considering here!)

I was intrigued to see how the author would handle the ‘Down-grade controversy’.  If you are unfamiliar, do follow the link, but in essence this was the time at which Spurgeon left the Baptist Union because some ministers and churches were promoting liberal theology. This biography is the production of a current Baptist Union minister in the pay of a Baptist Union college. Therefore I was generally suprised and pleased to read the balanced way in which the controversy is covered here. A couple of quotes: ‘Those who thought that the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle was making something out of nothing were wrong… Spurgeon was absolutely right (I believe) to say that these things matter. His decision to resign was one that many close to him regretted. But they did not regret his decision to speak out, and neither should we’. I think you can read between the lines and see that Peter Morden does not endorse Spurgeon’s resignation (if he did, I don’t think he would be in the Union today) but that he entirely agrees with Spurgeon on the issues he raised. For that we can be thankful – but this reviewer is in no doubt that Spurgeon was correct, not only in his beliefs, but in his actions. Uncomfortable though it may be for the evangelical wing of the Baptist Union today, history has proven Spurgeon correct. Dr Morden rightly concludes his consideration of the downgrade with the words ‘Are we in danger of downgrading essential Christian truth? If so, we need to hear the call of the Spurgeons to ‘stand firmly on the Rock’.

I suppose we then ask the question ‘What counts as essential Christian truth?’ Well beyond the scope of this little review, I think. Do I have gripes about the book? Yes, in all its attempts to connect to modern day life, it does Spurgeon’s College a favour, but says nothing whatsoever of the Metropolitan Tabernacle today – not even a photo. The same could be said of the chapel in which Spurgeon was converted. A few more ‘then and now’ photos would have helped, along with a little more information. Another whinge is the ducking of the issue of the training of women for ministry, which is relegated to a footnote where it is noted that Spurgeon’s college now does just that. A little courage in dealing with the issue might have been commendable, but perhaps would not have been politically expedient.

Do I recommend the book? Yes, I do, as a thought provoking book for people new to Spurgeon, and the more experienced. I still would commend Dallimore’s biography for the first-time reader above any other. If you know much about Spurgeon you won’t gain much factual information from this new book, but you will see some images of artefacts you might not have done, and you will certainly be made to think things through and make some application to your own life that you might not otherwise have done. A least, I hope you will. I fear that given the connection with Spurgeon’s College, this book will be largely ignored by the conservative independent wing of British Baptist churches today. I think that would be a shame. Get yourself a copy – I intend to buy the author’s next book on Spurgeon, which is his PhD thesis on Spurgeon’s spirituality. I don’t think it is available yet, but if it is an expansion of what I have seen in the biography, I am very much looking forward to it!

William Hendriksen on preaching comfort…

October 1, 2010

To be sure, sin must be exposed in all its horror. Without the knowledge of sin there is no salvation. The preacher who fails to describe sin as it truly is – defiance of God’s holy will -, and who neglects to point out again and again, what are its terrible consequences, is not a true interpreter of the Word of God. On the other hand, the pulpiteer who neglects to address words of comfort to penitents, and to encourage them with messages of cheer taken from or based on Scripture, is not true to the maxim, engraved on many a pulpit, “Sir, we would see Jesus” (John 12.21)

Hendriksen’s NT Commentary on Mark, p497

Isle of Lewis/Stornoway Trip April 2010 Part IV (The last)

July 5, 2010

Yes, here is the final post in a series of four. The main reason there are so many is because I wanted to share the photos. This post in particular contains photos taken on my last evening on the Isles, with another gracious road trip from Iain Don Murray and his trusty Citroen Xantia.

As we headed out to tour part of Lewis itself, we were on the main road (ha ha) and came upon three fire engines. The first had two men still in it, the others were empty, and a fire burned in the undergrowth at least a mile away to the right of the photo. I could not see the firemen – but they had plainly had to carry equipment to the scene on foot. I presume the fire engines were left attended because this was the entire fire cover for Stornoway and the surrounding area, and if there was (unlikely) another incident at the same time, at least one of the tenders could have got there faster.

We visited the standing stones at Callanish, which are supposed to date from about 2900 BC according to Wikipedia. They form a rough cross shape, although they have obviously been added to and altered over time. It is rather more beautiful than Stonehenge.

I include a photo here of sheep in the road – a very common sight. Iain Don took me next to Dun Carloway, to see the best-preserved Broch on the island. The Brochs are a dual-walled round tower home which provided security to some extent against Nordic raiders. Dun Carloway’s Broch is up on the top of the hill overlooking the sea, a very strategic point and easier to defend. The entrance is very small, and presumably could be blocked and easily defended.

Iain then wanted to take me to see a restored Blackhouse – traditional homes made of stone with thatched rooves which were in some cases still lived in until the 1960s.

If you look at the Isles from a satelite image on google maps you can see many of the outlines of these houses along the coastline of the islands. On the way to the Blackhouse, as the sun was setting, I asked Iain to stop so I could photograph a fishery in a lake to show Clare. I think the result is stunningly clear and beautiful. I include another couple of photos looking back along the lake where the fishery is towards the sunset, two different camera settings, different results. These are my favourite pictures from my time away.

I had an absolutely marvellous time on Lewis and Harris, and it was a privilege to preach the gospel of God’s redeeming grace there – Jesus shall reign where’er the sun, does his successive journeys run, His kingdom stretch from shore to shore, till moons shall wax and wane no more.

If the Lord wills, I’ll be back.

Isle of Lewis / Stornoway Trip April 2010 Part III

July 1, 2010

I really ought to get  this account finished up. I wonder if I can do it in one more post? I don’t think it would be wise, I’ll have to do a fourth part.

To give a brief overview of what I did when I was there: Arrived Tuesday, went to watch Barca v Arsenal at Iain Don’s brother’s house. Explored the town Wednesday and bought groceries. Had dinner with the Murrays. Walked nearly to Point on Thursday and then took the Bible Study at SBC. Rested Friday morning reading a new biography of Spurgeon (which I must review for the site!). Toured the south of Lewis and the Isle of Harris with Iain on Friday afternoon, and again had dinner with the Murrays. Spent the day at home chilling on Saturday apart from a brief walk into town to take more church photos. Fell asleep a long time in the hot sun lounge whilst preparing for Sunday. Sunday preached morning and evening at SBC and once again ate well at the Murrays (recurring theme!). Monday went back to town to buy souvenirs and more second hand books, then came back and did a good amount of proofreading for Day One. Monday evening Iain came over and took me on another tour of landmarks on the northern end of the  Isle of Lewis. Tuesday flew out again.

It was a really great time. If I go again I will make sure I have wheels so I can see even more! Did I mention that Iain Don and Catriona were great hosts? When in Stornoway, you must patronise their shops hugely. I am biased as I did get some free clothes!

What I will share in this post are the sights from town and from the tour of Harris. In the final post I will share some photos from the Monday evening tour of Lewis. On my walk to Point on Thursday I visited the Stornoway Cemetery – Sandwick Burial Ground. Many local people have family plots reserved – indeed, one evening that I was at the Murrays a man came around to collect the annual ‘fees’ for the upkeep of the site! AW Pink is buried in the Cemetery, but his grace is unmarked – he lived a simple life and his biography does not enlighten me as to whether he had no stone erected by choice – but it would be typical of the man. Very close to his grave is that of Kenneth McCrae, an eminent giant in the Free Church. The stone exhibits the practice of giving each person their original family surname – so his wife is noted by her maiden name. I noticed this all over the Islands – I am not sure how much wider the practice is. Very often in English graveyards the husband or wife (depending on who died first) is simply remembered by their first name only. Doubtless someone can enlighten me on this matter of grave trivia.

Taken the day before is a picture of AW Pink’s residences when he lived in Stornoway. He spent the first years of his time at number 27 (on the right) and the last few on the upper floor at number 29 (on the left). Some lack of co-ordination has led to the top window being half decorated – I wonder which of the two houses it actually belongs to?

Also taken the day before and inserted for your education is the rather understated (but I am sure absolutely vital) premises of the Island’s own radio station.

Back to the subject at hand, as it were, and it is a very long walk from Oliver’s Brae to Point, along the Sandwick Road and then out along the ‘narrow neck of land’ (to quote a hymn) where I stood between two unbounded seas … points for those who recognise the hymn, which is ‘Thou God of Glorious Majesty’ by Charles Wesley.

As I walked in either direction along the very long road, past the airport and also past the Manse where Dr Iain D. Campbell lives – although I did not know which house was the Manse otherwise I might have called in – several taxis slowed down hopefully and even helpfully hooted before they passed me. Plainly only maniacs attempt this walk and all sane people either drive or take the bus. Still, it was great exercise and probably part of why I lost about 7lbs that week!

Where the land narrows off, there are some pretty beaches, and here is one shot which I took towards the north-west. As I pounded the ground beneath my feet (and pound I do, the same shoes being on my feet now and being due for replacement after only three month’s use – they were new then)  I began to despair of actually getting in to Point proper and stopped at a tourist information point – a kiosk designed to shelter one from the winds. Had I mentioned the winds up until now? Even on the incredibly sunny days I enjoyed, the winds were always strong and prone to snatch at any loose object. They made photography quite hard, and so I tried to take two shots of everything as one was usually blurred.

In the shelter I saw directions to St Columba’s church, and so I headed that way, hoping to make that the new destination. St Columba’s is a ruin, and is the burial place for the Chiefs of Lewis, the Macleods. As the sign exhorts, I did not enter the ruin, and walked carefully around the graveyard. By this point I was still feeling that I had some walking in me, but I knew that I had a Bible Study to preach later on, and so discretion became the better part of valour and I headed back to the Manse.

On Friday I was taken on a driving tour of Harris (which is to the south of Lewis) by Iain, and this yielded the only photo of me on the islands. Lewis is quite flat, and Harris is quite mountainous. You can see the terrain of Harris in the background behind me.

AS we drove, we passed many churches, one of which was literally in the middle of no-where, a Scottish Episcopal Church with the familiar sign (see the last post) and with not a dwelling place in sight in any direction. The car park was good for about four cars, and the building appeared to be a shed-like thing. There were Church of Scotland buildings most in evidence, but one or two Free Churches also – all very similar in architecture and in sign design. Sign design? Who cares about church signs? Apparently I do, which is a touch sad, I know. At the southernmost end of Harris is St Clements Church, which has been restored and is used for weddings, but not for ‘church’ meetings. This is the resting place of the Chiefs of Harris, who were also Macleods! I didn’t take many decent photos here for some reason. I felt rather too much like a tourist with my camera and kept making excuses for taking photos. Silly me, I should have just got on with it. What a sassenach!

 Well, that concludes this post. Next time, and finally, I will share my Lewis tour photos from the Monday night. One or two of them are worth the wait, I reckon. I hope to get the next post up before I head down to London for School of Theology. But judging by past form I wouldn’t hold your breath!