Mr. Oomkes is a member of Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church, Byron Center, Michigan.
The 4th bi-annual Family Conference of the British Reformed Fellowship was held in Castlewellan Castle near Newcastle in Northern Ireland, July 25-August 1, 1998.
The British Reformed Fellowship are to be commended for their fine efforts to provide the conferences that they have planned. I am convinced that there is no other place in the world that provides such an opportunity as their bi-annual conferences. One thing is for sure, there is no place more appealing to us as a family. The site of this summer’s conference was a castle that is well over two hundred years old, on the grounds of one of the best arboretums in the UK (talk about an opportunity for a landscape gardener!).
We have gained many friends at the previous three conferences. Each time, in preparation for attending these conferences, we speculate who will be there. Some cannot make it to the conference, while others no longer walk with us. We were also informed of one man who had attended three previous conferences, and who went to glory just prior to the conference.
One thing that never ceases to affect us is that most of those who attend the conferences struggle through life with a lack of fellowship with those of like mind. It is therefore not only the instruction that they enjoy at the conferences but also the fellowship. It is impossible for us in this country even to begin to understand this void in their lives. They truly understand the text, “straight is the gate and narrow is the way, and few there be that find it.”
This year, people from four continents were represented, including Jason from Malaysia, whose contact with the PRC and BRF was through the Internet. For the youngest, honors went to Suzanna Moore, who was just seven weeks old. This year, about thirty young adults from the USA were introduced to this great heritage of the BRF.
One of the first things noticeable in Northern Ireland is the division of the country regarding unification or separation. Flags flying in different cities indicate that the cities are either Catholic or Protestant. The bigger question is, will ruthless and intolerant Rome rule Northern Ireland? Will Northern Ireland be under the rule of the representative of antichrist? That is the real question. For this reason, some government (Protestant) employees who attended this conference had to “sneak” in and out of the meetings, not sleeping in the facilities, for, if revealed, they could be the target of a bomb. For this conference was held in enemy territory. Castlewellan is a Republican city, with its flags flying (illegally) from the power poles. Never mind that we were in a “Christian conference center.” Satan uses these words too.
The conference began officially on Saturday evening, July 25, with a speech, by the present chairman, on Matthew 5:13-16: being the light of the world. This is easier said than done, especially in times such as are experienced in a spiritual vacuum like that in the UK. This was followed by a question period. There are no limits as to what questions may be asked.
Sunday, we were off to Ballymena for church in the town hall. By this time we had renewed acquaintances from past conferences and met most of the new attendees. Our mealtimes were some of the best times to converse with all the different people. We always made sure that we ate with someone different at each meal and got acquainted with everyone. This time often serves as a springboard for many an in-depth discussion. The education system in the UK is aimed at developing deep and systematic thought processes. There are no shallow thinkers in the group. This can be a real challenge for one coming from the US. The British educational system is superior to ours.
Now to the heart of the conference itself. The theme this year was the doctrine of the last things. The schedule of speeches was as follows:
“The Idea of the World’s End” (the place and importance of eschatology) by Prof. Hanko, on Monday morning.
“The Millennium” (an exposition and defense of amillennialism) by Prof. Engelsma, on Monday evening. He not only defended amillennialism, but pointed out that, if one were to hold any other view, he would find absolutely no support from any of the Reformers. The church of the Reformation knew nothing but the amillennial view.
“The Signs of Christ Coming” (near but not imminent) by Prof. Hanko, on Tuesday evening.
“Christ’s Return” (its time, manner, and purpose) by Prof. Engelsma, on Wednesday evening.
“The Great Judgment Day” (the parties, standards, and parts involved) by Prof. Hanko, on Thursday evening.
“Our Calling With Respect to Christ’s Coming and the End of the World” by Prof. Engelsma, on Friday morning.
Friday evening was devoted to a question and answer period on all the speeches. This also gave opportunity to discuss the differences of the views held by some of those in the UK.
All of these speeches give great comfort and hope for the child of God. The signs that are presently unfolding are sure signs that God is in control, and that all things work toward the coming of the new heavens and new earth.
All of these speeches are worthy of being given again in North America. The last one especially would be an excellent topic for an evangelism lecture.
Tapes of these lectures can be obtained by sending $18.00 (US) to:
6299 Wing S.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49512,
or in Europe, sending £10 to:
Mr. Jonathan McAuley
164 Church Rd.
Co. Antrim, BT42 3EL
One of the characteristics of these conferences has been the lusty Psalm singing from the metrical Psalter. Many of these tunes are beginning to become quite familiar, after these many years of practice.
One of the most difficult times of the conference was Saturday morning, when we all went our separate ways. Although we hope to see each other again in the year 2000 in the beautiful country of Wales, we are also mindful that for some it may be the last time on this side of eternity. Such was the situation this year, as just prior to the conference Jimmy Fraser was taken into glory. He was a faithful attendee at the three previous conferences.
The next conference will be held in Bangor, in beautiful North Wales, in July, 2000, the Lord willing.