Andrew Clarke is a member of the CPRC in Northern Ireland.

On 4th July 2001, Angus Stewart was installed as the minister of Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Ballymena Northern Ireland. As yet, the congregation does not have their own building to meet in, so Ballymena Town Hall was rented for the occasion. The ordination was well advertised. Personal invitations were sent to those who had expressed an interest in the work of Covenant. The preparation paid off—there was a good number attending, made up of church members, friends of the congregation, and relatives of Rev. Stewart. We were also delighted to have with us Rev. Barry Gritters and Elder Erv Kortering from Hudsonville PRC. This was a first-time visit for Elder Kortering, while Rev. Gritters has become well-known to the congregation through his frequent visits, and is held in high esteem for his warm preaching and wise advice. It was highly fitting that he preached at this milestone in the congregation’s history. He took as his text II Corinthians 11:1, 2: “For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you a chaste virgin to Christ.”

In a clear, direct manner, the text was explained. At the time when the letter was written, it was customary for the bridegroom to select a friend to help with the marriage preparations (somewhat like a best man today). It was the task of the friend to watch over the bride-to-be, and to ensure that she remained faithful until the day of the wedding. This is the analogy Paul is using here. Christ is the Bridegroom, the church is bride, and the minister acts as the bridegroom’s friend, watching over what has been entrusted to him. And what dangers threaten! Seducers will try to corrupt her with false but flattering doctrines that undermine all that Christ has done for her. Others may break down the antithesis and try to dazzle the bride of Christ with the offerings of the world. The bride herself can even destroy her beauty with pride, luke-warmness, or a lack of love. All these must be exposed, denounced, and warned against. The church must constantly be reminded of the glory of Christ. Then too, there is the danger that the friend of the bridegroom himself might try to seduce the bride. He might seek popularity, wealth, or a good reputation at the expense of faithfulness to Christ.

Instead, he must be filled with a godly jealously over his flock. He must, to the best of his capacity, reflect the love and jealousy of the Bridegroom. The content of his preaching must be the messages of Christ to His bride. They must be delivered with the feeling and sincerity that a friend will have. His pastoral duties will be designed to care for and nourish the congregation. Finally, the friend himself will be rewarded at the marriage feast.

Rev. Gritters, the elders of the congregation, and Elder Kortering then ordained Rev. Stewart. In recognition of his office, he was invited to close the service with the benediction. Afterwards Brian Crossett, an elder in Covenant, made a brief address of welcome and thanks to those present. He expressed the gratitude that the congregation especially felt towards the Protestant Reformed Churches in America for helping Angus and the congregation reach this point through their general financial assistance, the sending of Rev. Hanko as a missionary, and their wise advice on numerous occasions. Rev. Stewart also spoke, giving a brief testimony and explaining his call to the ministry. The meeting was closed in prayer by Elder Kortering. Afterwards there was a time for food and fellowship.

Not only was the service encouragement for the members but also a good witness to those visiting. The fact that the congregation has a minister of its own has also sent out a message to those in Ballymena and elsewhere in Northern Ireland that the congregation has regained stability, and is looking forward to a new period of growth under the blessing of God. It would be foolish, however, to underestimate the task ahead. The congregation earnestly desires the prayers of their friends in the Protestant Reformed Churches in the United States for Rev. Stewart and his wife, and for the rest of the congregation.