On Friday 10th May, Newtownards RPC hosted a “Perspectives in Fostering and Adoption” evening. Other congregations were invited to attend as well as members of the public, with the meeting being shared widely on Facebook.

There is a pressing need in Northern Ireland for more people to care for vulnerable children through fostering and adoption. At the end of 2018, the Health and Social Care Board reported that there are currently about 3,000 children in care in Northern Ireland, almost 700 of them are under the age of five. Yet for most churches, fostering and adoption aren’t priorities, and this isn’t because church members are anti- fostering/adoption. It’s because it often seems strange to some of them, and irrelevant to others. To be quite honest, for most of us, adoption and fostering rarely crosses our minds. However, throughout the Bible we are reminded of God’s heart for the vulnerable, and particularly those without a family to love and protect them. As God’s children, who have been adopted into His great family, we are called to care for the vulnerable, to defend those unable to defend themselves, and to seek justice on their behalf.

“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless.” (Isaiah 1:17)

Thus, the primary purpose of the evening was to raise awareness of adoption and fostering among Christians and to equip and support those already involved. It was also a compassionate way of demonstrating our pro-life position. We give thanks to God that we had over 30 visitors who came and joined the congregation. Some of those visitors were from the wider denomination, but there were quite a number who were total first-timers into our buildings, some of them with no church background at all.

The Gospel was clearly presented when Rev Peter Loughridge (North Edinburgh RPCS) spoke on Romans 8:12-17, giving “The Pastor’s Perspective – Adoption as Sons”. Having already adopted two daughters with his wife Emma, Peter spoke insightfully and passionately about having a Gospel centred view of adoption.  We then heard from foster-carers, Rev Gareth and Ruth Burke (Stranmillis Evangelical Presbyterian Church), who gave “The Parents’ Perspective” in a wide ranging interview. While humorous at times, Gareth and Ruth shared from their perspective concerning the highs and lows of fostering newborns. Finally, we had a senior social worker speaking. Pamela Robinson, a Christian who has been working for over 20 years in this field of adoption and fostering, spoke about the great need for more Christians to become involved in this work, giving some local statistics. She also described the process involved before being approved for either fostering or adoption.

Rev Robert McCollum, minister of the congregation, brought the meeting to a close in prayer, giving thanks for the supper, for which most of the congregation stayed.

As a congregation, we give thanks for this opportunity and pray for God to work through it.

Robert McCollum, Newtownards RPC

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