Archive for November, 2018

“History of Mission Halls throughout Northern Ireland” by Judith Cole

November 22, 2018

DSC_0148

Some time ago I received a gift of this beautiful, large hardcover book in the post from the author, Judith Cole. Thank you so much Judith! This arrived on a morning when I was feeling particularly “down” under present circumstances – but delighted when the smiling postman handed me the parcel.

Judith initially made contact with me back in August 2014, when I first wrote about the “Mission Halls of Ireland” in my blog, having discovered a little mission hall in the Mourne Mountains. I was subsequently really interested when Judith told me that she was working on the book about mission halls in Northern Ireland. Published in 2017, this full colour volume, with its lovely evocative photographs of mission halls throughout the province would make an excellent seasonal, birthday or indeed a gift for any occasion.

For me, personally, the images in the book bring back nostalgic and fond memories of attending old mission halls over the years and I pray that mission halls will continue to be used in widespread communities, as I feel that they still very much serve as an essential witness to God’s redeeming love.

As I have said in my previous blog: “above all the mission hall has a tradition of transcending denominationalism and bringing souls together in a spirit of love and unity. They were once a ‘reservoir’ in the spiritual sense; many having had their roots in the 1859 Revival.” Indeed, I pray that they will continue to be this spiritual reservoir.

One such “reservoir” was “Sleepy Valley Mission Hall” near the village of Richhill in Northern Ireland. I remember giving my testimony many years ago in this little hall and I also remember the Lord speaking to me as a child here when I attended Sunday afternoon meetings for children. How well I recall that picture of Jesus knocking on a door which spoke to my young heart! Please see my blog: “Memories of Sleepy Valley Mission Hall – & Reflections on My Unchanging Saviour,” which was adapted from an article that I wrote about the history of this mission hall for the Ulster Gazette in 2003.

However, a new housing development around 15 years ago meant that there has been absolutely no trace of the little hall since then and of course, from a photographic point of view, nothing but a private housing complex on view! Eventually there were no meetings held in this mission hall but a little weekly prayer meeting continued and I can vouch for the fact that the very last prayer meeting to be held there was on Tuesday 11th March, 2003 and I know that the Woodhouse family, my father and others were in attendance. The meetings ceased in “Sleepy Valley” as the mission hall was demolished by those who had purchased the land for new houses. However, prayer continued in an old cottage adjoining the home of Mr and Mrs Harold Irwin until some years ago; the couple are now elderly and no longer living at home.

We recently called at the nursing home where they now live and it was a joy to pray with them and to hear Mr Irwin (at 96) suddenly burst out singing one of the familiar old hymns. My husband and I joined in and the fellowship was good! Times have changed and some of the old Mission Halls photographed in Judith’s lovely book have been abandoned but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13v8) Old familiar faces have indeed left this scene of time and sometimes we may feel that sincere places of worship are on the decrease… but my Saviour never changes and the need of mankind remains the same.

Judith has sensitively documented and portrayed over 100 mission halls, their history, the people connected with them and the well-loved familiar images associated with them in a very artistic way. This is truly a book to treasure, an heirloom of historical significance but also, I feel, something deeper lies within its pages…

Here, I feel, is a challenge in many ways to professing Christians, to “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die…” (Revelation 3v2) As the old hymn goes…

“Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day:

Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away,

Change and decay in all around I see:

O thou who changest not, abide with me!”

I would have no hesitation in recommending this lovely full colour volume, “History of Mission Halls throughout Northern Ireland” (362 pages, published by Ambassador Books & Media) to anyone thinking of purchasing it.

 

Remembering the Sacrifice – and the Victory

November 10, 2018

DSCF4130

I discovered a little article in recent times concerning the “Souls family,” which I feel is very relevant on a weekend in which we remember the dead of two World Wars and later conflicts. On this Remembrance Sunday in particular, widespread events will be held to mark the centenary of the First World War.

It is also 100 years since Arthur Souls and Alfred Souls (twins aged 30) both lost their lives in Flanders fields. This was two years after the death of their brothers: Albert, Frederick and Walter Souls who were all killed in action in 1916. Five brothers from the one household… my heart goes out to their mother and father, Annie and William Souls (humble English country folk) who must have endured such grief. The couple had a family of six healthy sons in total and it is heart-breaking to think that five of their boys were killed in this way. Upon research I discovered that Annie Souls never stood again for the anthem “God Save the King” but her terrible grief was further compounded when their youngest surviving son died from meningitis.

The awful reality is, though, that many young people today know little about what certain wars were all about and the enormous sacrifices that were made. War would appear senseless and yet most of us realise that democracies must be protected from certain tyrants who rise up in every era (and in all parts of the world) to threaten those democracies that we take for granted.

It is respectful to remember both the sacrifices that were made in these wars and those who made them… but how much more should we honour the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who made the ultimate sacrifice ever in the history of mankind? “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1Peter 2v24)

Wars and conflicts through the ages have resulted in heartbreak for mothers and fathers, husbands, wives and children but when the man Christ Jesus “offered one sacrifice for sins for ever” he arose in glorious victory, defeating the greatest enemy that mankind has ever had to face – forever. He heals the broken hearted and He comforts the bereaved in their darkest hours, if only they would acknowledge their need of Him, His sacrifice for them – and trust Him to save them.

The greatest enemy we will ever have to face (and the father of all tyrants in this world who arise to distress us) has permanently been defeated by the Lord Jesus Christ and His unspeakable sacrifice. Praise God, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1Corintinians 15v54)

The saved can say… “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15v55-57)

This King of Kings and Lord of Lords, of whom it is said: “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come,” (Ephesians 1v21) lives to heal the wounded soul and gives us the victory over sin and death and hell.

How can we remember and honour His great sacrifice? For those who don’t know Him…. By acknowledging their sins and trusting in Him to cleanse them from all unrighteousness (1 John 1v9) and trusting their future lives into His care. And for those who walk the narrow path, to be “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1Corinthians 15v58)

Today we have “wars and rumours of war” but it is acknowledged that an outright “Third World War” could be a nuclear war, resulting in the end of life as we know it on the universe today. To all He says…

“Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 24v44)

“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation….?” (Hebrews 2v3)

 

Sunflowers Still Blooming in November!

November 3, 2018

DSC_0877

“Those sunflowers will never grow,” someone told my daughter when she planted them. “They’ve been planted too late and many storms are forecast. It’s just impossible.” But miraculously, not only did they come out in full bloom but they are still standing after several storms; they have survived and we are now into November. Strong trees have fallen but the row of sunflowers have stood resolute throughout fierce gales and dashing rain. Only one fell, which perhaps had not been properly rooted. There is a spiritual lesson there somewhere…

This little encouraging event is synonymous with another much more serious event that has been going on in our lives. If sunflowers can stand through three major storms, then anything is possible. Indeed, as the old Wesleyan hymn goes… “All things are possible to him, that can in Jesus name believe.” If, as this hymn describes, the Lord can so transform our lives, not only in the new birth experience but to the extent where sin shall not have dominion over us, (Romans 6v14), then “all things are possible to me.”

Every new day in our lives is a miracle in itself. As the days draw in and winter lies ahead, inevitably the sunflowers will die – but their seeds are being used for something really good and beneficial. I remember my father saying… “There is no telling what the Lord can do with a life that has been totally consecrated to Him.” In Romans 5v3-5 we are told: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

I prayed that the sunflowers would grow – because it would have a deeper meaning for me. Not only did they bloom but they grew tall and withstood the storms. Just as I stood, opened-mouthed with wonder at the sight of the sunflowers still in full bloom despite the elements, people are watching those who know the Lord; watching their reactions to the full blown storms of life. “How can they bear it?” they ask themselves. And they look for the answer – and we need to reach them with it.

Praise God…

“All things are possible to God;

To Christ the power of God in me;

Now shed Thy mighty Self abroad,

Let me no longer live, but Thee;

Give me this hour in Thee to prove

The sweet omnipotence of love.”

 

(Charles Wesley)