If you are looking for some reading this summer, why not pick up the latest edition of the Herald – as a double issue there is plenty to enjoy while relaxing over the July and August holidays.
This month’s front cover, hand-illustrated by Joy Dickinson, highlights Lisa Skinner’s article entitled ‘Illustrated Faith’. In her article she explores the concept of art being a form of worship or devotion, and how God placed much importance on art. We see this in many scriptural references:
“From the very beginning the image-bearers of the creator God have been involved in making artistic designs in gold, silver and bronze; stone sculptures; wood carvings… embroidery; and clay pots.”
However, Lisa asks whether we have relegated art to the fringe of life, no longer equating creativity with biblical living today. Or, have we found new ways to be creative in our faith, for example, through the new phenomena of ‘illustrated faith’ (IF) through Bible journaling, for example.
Jamie Neish, Creative Associate at Carnmoney Presbyterian, describes the value of IF. “Illustrated faith has led a generation of people to interact with their Bibles in a new way… The beauty of it is that we have started to digest rich Bible passages on a regular basis with people… sharing in really important aspects of life with the Bible at the core,” said Jamie.
In 2001 Valerie Scott, from Ballygrainey Presbyterian Church, had her horizons greatly widened when she was given the opportunity to step out in faith in Central Asia. In ‘My Story… Where on earth is Tajikistan?’ she recounts a challenging year, which took her from Namibia and Angola to Turkey and back.
This month’s ‘Talking Points’ with Norman Hamilton is given the title ‘Bold Witness’, in which he challenges us to be bolder when it comes to speaking out about our faith.
He writes, “It takes boldness to witness nowadays to Christ and to the reality of one’s faith, even in a free country like ours. That doesn’t mean we have to be brash, insensitive… but it does mean, as the Apostle Paul put it in his second letter to Timothy, that we should ‘not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord.”
Following the General Assembly in June, this issue of the Herald provides coverage of the main debates, discussions and topics of the week. Beginning with opening night, we read about the General Council’s reports on church relations, the discussion of same-sex attraction and the need for strategic mission; moving on to Global Mission and the persecuted church, church planting in Europe and ‘Leadership in the Crucible’. Under Mission in Ireland, a rural chaplaincy scheme was discussed, as well as the review of Home Mission and the challenges of chaplaincy. Public Affairs looked at concerns arising from abortion law proposals and the Republic’s education proposals. Topics under discussion within the Social Witness Council included a call for dementia care funding, adult safeguarding and the new care home in Garvagh.
The retirement of Stephen Williams, after 23 years as Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological College, was mentioned in the reports of Training in Ministry, along with the auxiliary ministry scheme under review and a drop in the number of ministry students. Finally, the Council for Congregational Life and Witness discussed expanding women’s ministry, emerging leaders, social media and ‘small and fruitful’ congregations.
‘Mission Connect’ for July/August offers mission news from a community outreach worker in Dromara, a hospital chaplain in Belfast and overseas personnel serving in Romania and Malawi. We also hear from a deaconess in Ballyclare and the director of one of our Social Witness units. A prayer diary, covering various aspects of the work of the Church, is also provided as a guide to our prayers for the summer months.
In ‘Jetting off to Jordan’ Tony Davidson, Roy Gaston and Scott Moore provide reflections following their recent trip to Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary. They share their thoughts after meeting with our brothers and sisters in the world church; describing the culture they encountered, those individuals they met, what it meant to meet with PCI global mission workers serving there, and how they have been changed by the visit.
Continuing the theme of the Middle East, in ‘A message of hope’ Noreen Erskine speaks to Rev. Fai Elia Dagher, Moderator of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) – and discovered how this small denomination is striving to bring a message of hope to those around them in the midst of horrific suffering and war.
Fadi describes how NESSL, with funding from PCI and other partner churches, has been doing emergency relief work… providing food, medicines, cooking gas, fuel and water to refugees. It has also been able to establish five schools in Lebanon for Syrian refugee children. Fadi said, “The Church brings a message of hope through its work.”
‘Essentials’ is a new resource being launched this summer that will help groups and individuals to consider the ‘essential’ aspects of being a disciple of Jesus. Rick Hill highlights the resource in ‘Ministry of the pew, not the few’, discussing how ministry needs to be the job of the whole congregation.
“Evangelism isn’t just for the confident ones…We want to help congregations to fully equip their disciples. We want to resource everyday believers to share Jesus in any way they can”, said Rick. For more information on ‘Essentials’ visit www.presbyterianireland.org/essentials.
The Herald also brings our regular and popular columns: ‘As I see it…’ with Conor Patton on the topic of social media as a ministry tool, and ‘Life Lessons’ with Conrad Mbewe, guest speaker at ‘Faith at the Crossroads’, a special celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. We also have Betsy Cameron’s reflection in ‘Following Jesus’ and ‘Pulling down and building up’ by Arthur Clarke.
So take the time to read and relax this summer and subscribe to or download the July/August edition of the Herald.
Single copies may also be purchased at the reception desk in Assembly Buildings, Fisherwick Place, Belfast.