James and Heather Cochrane have been serving in Portugal since 2008. Initially they were involved in leadership training, Bible teaching and discipleship (with the Portuguese Bible Institute), but in July 2013 they moved from the Algarve to Porto in northern Portugal to begin a church-planting project in collaboration with the Christian Presbyterian Church of Portugal (ICPP) called ‘Comunidade Pedras Vivas’ (CPV) which translates as “Living Stones’ Community”. CPV is based in Senhora da Hora in Porto and is led by James and Heather. In March 2019 Chris & Rachel Humphries joined the church planting team.
Church planting is a broad term that encompasses many varied tasks: prayer, planning, team building, evangelism, discipling, pastoring, building relationships and training future leaders. The building of relationships is very important to gain the respect of the Portuguese and break down many prejudices and misconceptions about what it means to be a Bible-based church. Together with their colleagues, James and Heather reach out to all age groups (children, young people, men and women) through one to one contact on the streets, formation of small groups to explore faith and Christianity, youth activities and ministry to couples. The shaping of the church to have a missional vision occurs through preaching and teaching and short courses to equip the members to live as disciples and share their faith with others.
They write, “Portugal is a religious nation with symbols of Christianity on every corner. However, only 0.5% of the population would claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus. In this context of religious fervor, the task of church planting is steeped in prayer as we seek to live out our lives before those who do not know Jesus seeking opportunities to explain who Jesus really is, why he came and what this expression of God's love, grace and hope actually means here and now for the people of Portugal.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic, James and Heather have continued to serve in Portugal and adapted their work and witness to comply with local restrictions. At times, when in-person meetings couldn't take place, church services, Bible studies and other church meetings moved online.
From 1996 to 2003 James and Heather served as church planters in north-east Brazil with the Independent Presbyterian Church in Brazil (IPIB). They returned to Ireland and both completed degrees in theology, with James continuing to study as a ministerial student at Union Theological College, Belfast. He was ordained, after two years as assistant minister in Second Comber Presbyterian Church before leaving for Portugal in 2008. James later studied for an MA in Aspects and Implications of Biblical Interpretation with the London School of Theology. James and Heather have two daughters: Alana will complete her Masters degree at QUB in September 2022 and at the same time Lucy will begin her second year at QUB.
- Pray for the people of Portugal who are surrounded by symbols of Christianity but with little or no knowledge of Jesus.
- Making contacts and building relationships is crucial to the ongoing work of church planting. Give thanks for contacts already made and pray that members of CPV would be good witnesses to their friends and colleagues.
- As CPV prepares to return to normal activities following lockdown, pray that there will be a tangible cohesion and sense of community among the church members and a desire to be actively involved in building relationships with the wider community.
- Continue to pray for the witness of ICPP in Portugal. Pray for the many challenges this small denomination faces (approx. 250 members in Portugal).
James and Heather have recorded a short and long film clip which can be downloaded and used in church services, prayer meetings or events to raise awareness and prayer for what God is doing across the world, as we seek to go deep and wide in global mission involvement.
Digital Dispatches // Cochranes // Summer 2022 from Presbyterian Church in Ireland on Vimeo.
(For previous Digital Dispatches video clips click here)
December 22/January 23
In October and November, Comunidade Pedras Vivas ran the Bible Course, produced in Portuguese by the Portuguese Bible Society. The purpose of the course is “to increase your confidence, equip you to read the Bible better and help you to see its relevance to daily life. The course provides a birds-eye view of the world’s bestselling book” (The Bible Society, UK). We had about 20 participants each night, mostly Christians from our congregation but with the presence of 3-4 either very new to the faith or just seeking answers to their doubts. It was a very positive experience. The video content along with small group discussion, a very helpful schematic diagram, personal reflection and daily readings offered the opportunity to engage with God’s word at a deeper level and to share our experiences of the Christian life with each other. This was the third group at CPV to complete the Bible Course. We have found that it is a useful tool even for Christians who haven’t quite grasped how all the books of the Bible fit together.
We have invited 3-4 of the Bible Course class to continue studying the Bible in more depth with us over the coming months. We hope this will give them a grounding in the basics of Christianity. Please pray for these meetings that it would be a time of great spiritual growth in the lives of those who participate.
At meeting of Presbytery in November it was unanimously agreed that CPV has reached the stage of being established as a church (rather than church plant) of the denomination. It will be the first church to be established in the north of Portugal and, we discovered, it will be the largest church in the denomination. We give thanks to God for His faithfulness throughout the past 9-10 years and for the growth He has brought to CPV. We would appreciate your prayers for the next few months as we navigate the process of being constituted as a church and as we prepare local elders and possibly deacons.
- Give thanks for the Bible course and for all who took part. Pray that they will continue to read and study the Bible in their daily lives.
- Give thanks for the opportunity to continue meeting with 3-4 people to study the basics of Christianity.
- Pray for the process of being constituted as a church and for preparation of elders.
- Pray for our Christmas programme at CPV with special events for Graudos e miudos, Adolescents and Christmas services on 18th and 22nd December.
To download a printable PDF version of this bulletin or for a previous bulletin visit the Mission Reports listing at the top or the Global Mission monthly bulletin archive.