On Thursday the 18th October and Friday the 19th October, Rev. Mark Loughridge from the Irish RP Church was in Scotland speaking about the church planting work in the Republic of Ireland. On Thursday he was in Stornoway speaking to the RP congregation there, and on Friday, Glasgow RP hosted the meeting for themselves and the Airdrie and Edinburgh churches. There was a good attendance of all ages at both meetings. The meeting in Glasgow was doubly special because it was the first held in their newly refurbished church hall.
The Irish and Scottish RP denominations partner together in the work of Missions through a Joint Mission Committee with representatives from both denominations on this Committee. The Committee is divided into three sections: the Home Section that deals with church planting and mission work in Northern Ireland and has also been very financially supportive of the church planting work in Scotland; the Irish Section that deals with church planting and mission work in the Republic of Ireland; and the Overseas Section that deals with mission work in the rest of the world, specifically the mission work in Nantes, France. Each year a representative from one of these Sections visits the presbyteries in Northern Ireland and Scotland to update and inform them of the work at a mission meeting open to all. This year it was the turn of the Irish Section, and Rev. Mark Loughridge, minister of the RP churches in Milford and Letterkenny in Co. Donegal, Ireland, was the one giving the updates.
Rev. Loughridge opened the meeting by giving a brief history of the RP work in the Republic of Ireland and how those churches had either progressed or declined over the years. He then painted a picture of the current cultural and religious situation in the Republic of Ireland. Roman Catholicism is on the decline and has been replaced by secularism. Less than 1% of the population are evangelical Christians – that’s equivalent to the country of Iran. There are numerous towns of over 5,000 people with no evangelical church. Dublin, a city of over a million, has only 1 Reformed church. There are areas in Ireland where you can drive over 40 miles before you can get to an evangelical church. This is in stark contrast to the gospel-rich country of Northern Ireland right next door. Rev. Loughridge reminded us of the Biblical command to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. He said that we know that we are to go out with the gospel in our own area, in Jerusalem and Judea, and we think and pray and support those going out to the ends of the earth, but we can often forget or ignore our neighbours, those in Samaria as it were, who live right next door. We then saw a brief video interview with the families of those who are mission workers in Galway, Ireland, speaking about the day to day realities of life there. Rev. Loughridge then talked about the lines we can draw in our mind – lines drawn because of our culture or tradition or perceptions and how we need to make sure our perceptions of others are not hindering the gospel going forth. He spoke of the three-fold criteria of the Irish Section for church planting: strategic location, lack of evangelical witness, and core family already there. He spoke of the interest of the committee in possible church planting in Sligo, the south of Dublin, and in Waterford. He finished by encouraging us to support the work prayerfully, through GO teams, through visiting, and through possibly relocating.
It was very helpful to get a clear picture of the situation in the Republic of Ireland and the plans for the future. Meetings like this are a great reminder of the global nature of the church and how we should give thanks for what Christ is doing in other places and persevere in praying for His Kingdom and those who work in it.