One of the main benefits of the RP Global Alliance is finding out about churches across the world, that are really very similar to urs! Through reading about their work we can be spurred on in our own work, through reading about their struggles we will be strengthened in our resolve to pray for one another, and through it all we can be encouraged that we are not fighting this fight alone! For this reason, every few weeks we ask a congregation to send us a blog post introducing themselves to the wider RP Church and updating us on their work and ministry. This week it’s the turn of Shaftesbury Square RP Church in Belfast. Here’s what they had to say:
Shaftesbury Square Reformed Presbyterian Church has an interesting history that mirrors the changes within the city of Belfast. Belfast during the Victorian era blossomed from a small town to a major city within the British Empire. This increase in populations included many RPs moving to Belfast at such a rate that the only RPC in the city (known as Grovenor Road RPC) needed to plant a daughter congregation to house all of its congregation and so formed Dublin Road RPC. However post war Belfast’s population saw a decline because of ‘The Troubles’ and the desire to live in the suburbs and so also the membership within these two RP churches. In 1978 when Grovenor Road RPC’s building was damaged by a bomb they decided to join with their daughter church Dublin Road and the joint congregation was then known as Shaftesbury Square Reformed Presbyterian Church.
Shaftesbury Square RPC is a downtown church not far from Belfast City Hall and Queen’s University. Its situated in the nightlife area of Belfast with many pubs, clubs, restaurants and hotels. The community around the church is constantly changing made up of many tourists, students, internationals here to find work and learn English as well as the local Northern Irish community.
As a church, there are about 50 at morning worship and 25 at evening worship. The majority of us travel into the city centre to worship each Lord’s Day although originally many had roots in the area. Now due to reaching out the church has made some relationships with those who live and work in the neighbourhood of the church.
Over recent years the fellowship within the church has improved, refreshments each week after church and monthly congregational lunches have all helped the congregation to spend more time together. Many from the congregation enjoy meeting together for monthly regional Bible studies in one another’s homes. The men from the congregation enjoying meeting up for breakfast and devotions periodically and the women’s fellowship meets six times a year, often to hear a missionary speaker. We have two Sunday school classes before worship for our nine youth and a prayer meeting which meets at the same time.
The church has a burden for the city of Belfast to hear the gospel. We try a variety of means to make contact with people whether its literature distribution (often with outside help from the denomination), English classes, public meetings on topical meetings, guest services, opening the church for passers by to drop in for a cuppa, lunch time services, seasonal events and international student outreach. On three occasions we have enjoyed the help of RP mission teams from the RPCNA. As well as cold contact evangelism we encourage the church to bring their friends and family along.
Each year we host the Reformed Conference with well known speakers who deliver challenging talks on various theological topics. This year Rev Kenneth Stewart (Glasgow RPCS) is coming to speak on the topic of heaven.
We also enjoy the benefit of many RP students studying in Belfast joining us for worship and we organise a meal and Bible study for them twice monthly during term time. We aim to be a support while they are away from home.
Please pray for us, that God would continue to mature us that we become more like Christ so that we shine the light of the gospel into our needy city. Give thanks that he supplies our every need to do the work he has called us to do.
David McKay, Minister @ Shaftesbury Square