FAITH FEATURE FOUR: ‘Cast all your cares upon Him (Jesus) for he cares for you’ – Reverend Gordy McCracken
“Life has changed for us at Fahan Presbyterian Church in so many ways that we could not have envisaged a few weeks ago,” said James Lamberton, the Clerk of Session of the Inishowen congregation. “It has shaken us to the core.”
Speaking to Donegal Live for our the fourth ‘Faith Feature’, James Lamberton and Reverend Gordy McCracken said the members of Fahan Presbyterian Church had been “reflecting on what is important in life,” since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic.
Reverend McCracken, Minister of Newtowncunningham and Ray Presbyterian Churches, who had been “looking after” the members of Fahan Presbyterian Church during their “vacancy” described ministry in the current climate as “different and difficult.”
Reverend McCracken said: “Ministry in the current climate is both different and difficult!
“Different, in that it is pastoring through phone calls and social media platforms with members of my congregation. Difficult, in that it takes a lot of self-discipline to shape your time when you have so much time on your hands. Difficult, in that nothing can replace personal interaction of person with person.
“It is also a challenge in your communication online for services / studies, in that it has to be a length that will be well received and not too laboured.
“As a faith leader at this time, I would simply pick up the words of 1 Peter 5:7: ‘Cast all your cares upon Him (Jesus) for he cares for you.” I would make sense of the current coronavirus crisis simply by acknowledging that we live in a broken fallen world marked by sin, sickness and suffering. Jesus is the Suffering Servant who stepped into our world to bring hope and salvation, to walk with us in our suffering and ultimately to make all things new in a New Heaven and a New Earth,” said Reverend McCracken.
Acknowledging the grief of the many families in Inishowen and beyond mourning loved ones as a result of coronavirus, Reverend McCracken said there were “no easy words.”
He added: “Bereavement is a time when we find consolation in each other, a sense of community and ultimately in God, his word through his Holy Spirit.
“My prayer will be, that when the embrace of friends and family is missing, the embrace of the Lord will be especially felt: ‘Roundabout and underneath are His everlasting arms.’ (Deuteronomy 33:27).”
Reverend McCracken said he was finding Easter preparations “difficult” in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
He added: “Preparing for Easter in the middle of this crisis something I find so difficult, as Easter Sunday and the Resurrection of Christ are the centre points of the Christian Faith.
“How do we celebrate this truth when not together as a community of faith? There is no easy answer.
“At this challenging time, I am trying to keep myself active physically and mentally. I am getting into the garden, going for walks, setting patterns to my days, both personally and regarding work and ministry.
“I also try to discipline my day with personal Devotion in prayer and reading scripture to keep a faith perspective on all that is going on! This time also helps you appreciate Family and it is good to be ‘self-isolating’ with others, a complete oxymoron. There is also quite a challenge in preparing for the videos that are being recorded, there is almost more work in preparing something shorter, so that keeps me focused and sharp. I am pleased their online geographical reach has been from as far away as Asia and the USA,” said Reverend McCracken.
James Lamberton described the members of Fahan Presbyterian Church as “reflecting on what is important in life.”
He said: “It has been thrilling to see the volume of prayer and Bible quotes that are being shared with friends and family via social media and our private WhatsApp group.
“Social media has been a lifeline. Church last met for morning service on Sunday, March 15 in ‘The Meeting House’, Tooban (Fahan Presbyterian Church). During the following week The Presbyterian Church in Ireland stopped all church services and face-to-face meetings (North and South).
“None of us were prepared for the pace of change and the frightening consequences for everyone in the community. For the following Sunday we had a WhatsApp group and a Facebook group established. This brought a new sense of extended family and community as individual members (who normally did not use or were very rusty on social media) were posting messages of encouragements and prayers. Our minister Rev. Gordy McCracken had a steep learning curve and now presents three posts every week: ‘Mini Service’ each Sunday morning, a ‘Thursday Thought’ and the ‘Saturday Song’ with the guitar,” said Mr Lamberton.
Mr Lamberton said the congregation had been spoilt for choice the Sunday before Psalm Sunday in terms of social media.
He explained: “We had the weekly Moderator’s Service by Right Reverend Dr William Henry; Sunday School Live for the children from Aghadowey, which some of the adults secretly enjoyed as well); and the Mini Service by Reverend Gordy McCracken.
“One family watched children’s Bible story using a puppet from Donegal Town Presbyterian and one of our members played a number of well-known old hymns on his violin to great appreciation by our online community.
“Our web site has been active for over a decade. But, our two brand new social media groups, which have been going just over a fortnight have been a great hit with our own members. They were setup to part compensate for the loss of meeting at Church services and meetings. The housebound are communicating between each other in the closed WhatsApp group.
“One member of our Church has started listening to UCB Christian radio on DAB and online. Another member has been listening to daily devotions from Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church, another has been viewing Keith and Kristyn Getty hymn videos. On a practical note a member was looking for an item to assist her nursing duties and it was sorted within half an hour. Many of our members are self-isolating and for the first time in their lives have found the time and freedom to support and pray for others from a distance,” said James Lamberton.
James Lamberton revealed the one verse on the Fahan Presbyterian Church website which is giving hope.
He said: “It is our prayer at this time that, as our country makes herculean efforts to overcome the coronavirus, we remember the God who created all things and remains in control of all things.
“One verse on our web site giving hope is “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4: 6-7).”
The members of Fahan Presbyterian Church are also making extra phone calls to those living alone.
James Lamberton said: “One of the most common comments I hear is, ‘I am not opening the door to visitors, so my neighbours / family are just leave the dinner, medicine (or the groceries) on the step.
“We are also experimenting in the Church with ‘Zoom’ as a potential means of holding some meetings.
“The Dublin based all Ireland VOX Christian magazine has kindly offered to post out the magazine to individual households rather than us getting our normal bulk delivery.
“I found it very moving,” concluded James Lamberton, “to watch our musician who prepared a video for us with all the family, including his young children singing along and doing action choruses. A thoughtful touch was the person who was on the flower rota for the Church that Sunday who posted a photograph of the flowers as she could not deliver them in person.”
James Lamberton, Clerk of Session, Fahan Presbyterian Church. 0044 78 1367 3874
WEB: www.fahanchurch.org Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/210121500059265/
Magazines we have on order for our members: http://www.vox.ie/issue46
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