Newtownards is a town 25 minutes East of Belfast with a population of around 30,000. Newtownards RPC is part of the Eastern Presbytery of the RPCI, in fact, it is the eastern most congregation in the RPCI. It is a fairly healthy congregation with many family links, a strong Covenanter background, and a town-centre location. On a typical Lord’s Day there are around 80 in attendance at morning worship, and around 45 at evening worship.
We are a group of families, couples and individuals, comprising a wide range of ages (from small children, young people, newly-weds, adults to senior citizens), gathered mainly from in and around the town of Newtownards, but together we make up our church family. Our congregation is Evangelical and Reformed with the ‘good news’ of the Gospel being central to the preaching and teaching.
Our pastor and teaching elder is Rev Robert M. McCollum who was ordained and installed to the ministry in Newtownards in May 2012. He is married to Emma and together they have three young children: Jonah, Toby and Flynn.
Alongside Robert, our leadership consists of 8 additional elders and 8 deacons. The Elders endeavour to visit each family at least once per year and more frequently when required. They share responsibility in leading group Bible Studies and times of prayer. Meetings of Session take place monthly and more frequently as necessary and when overseeing the Biblical sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Once a year our elders have an “Elders Retreat”, staying overnight at a Bed and Breakfast and spending prolonged periods in prayer together.
Our Deacons manage the financial matters relating to the congregation and maintain the church property. They also exercise a compassionate ministry in providing material or financial assistance for any in the congregation in special need.
During the week, we intentionally don’t have lots of meetings, rather members are encouraged to be involved in their families and communities. We do provide Homegroup Bible Studies during the week, meeting in 3 locations at different times to accommodate busy 21st Century lifestyles. The format for the last few years has been to use discussion questions prepared by our minister on one of the sermons from the previous Lord’s Day, followed by spending time in prayer together. About once every 3 months our Homegroups join together for a united meeting when we have a visiting speaker updating us on a work/ministry we help to support.
We are blessed with a good number of families with young children, and for this we are very thankful to God. For children aged 4-11 we have a Friday Night Club, for older children we have CY and each Lord’s Day we have Sabbath School and Doctrine classes. Periodically we have a Young Adults Group, Men’s Group, Young Husbands and Dads group, Elders’ and Deacons’ Fellowship, Young Mums group, Women’s Fellowship, Church Meals and Suppers, an Annual Congregational Weekend and a Summer Holiday Bible Club.
Each month we have a worship service in a local Nursing Home and twice a month we have a friendship ministry to our community called Nosh ‘n’ Natter, where we provide a hearty lunch, with dessert, tea and coffee, free of charge. At the close of each Nosh ‘n’ Natter, our pastor spends 5 minutes bringing some encouragement from the Bible. We have been encouraged and built up by this ministry.
While we have much cause for thanksgiving and rejoicing, it is fair to say that we long for a greater sense of spiritual vitality and health across the whole congregation. To that end, we would greatly appreciate the prayers of the wider RPC family across the world. If you should happen to be visiting Northern Ireland, please be assured of a warm welcome from Newtownards Reformed Presbyterian!