In these strange days many of us are doing online things that we never thought possible. Services, prayer meetings, bible studies and even pastoral visits are taking place as we connect through an electronic device. On the 29th March 2020, the Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Australia met online to install Rev Andy McCracken as pastor of the Frankston Reformed Presbyterian Church. Frankston is an outer suburb about an hour to the south of Melbourne, and one of our three congregations in Australia. Those who participated were, however, in their homes in many different parts of the world.
The Frankston congregation has been without a full-time and resident pastor since the resignation of Rev. Ed Blackwood in 2015. In the meantime, Rev. Alastair McEwen worked hard to provide preaching and pastoral care to the Frankston congregation, on many occasions making the four hour return journey from Geelong to Frankston. More recently, the members of the Frankston congregation have been joining with the McKinnon congregation (about a 40 minute drive to the north) for Sabbath morning worship. So, it is a great blessing for the congregation to have a resident and full-time pastor.
Because of the fragility of the Frankston congregation, the Australian Presbytery called Rev. McCracken to lead a replant in Frankston. As if that were not a big enough challenge Presbytery has also called Andy to help it think through and face the wider challenge of extending our witness in Australia.
The McCracken family, Andy and Susan and two of their children, Amanda and Luke arrived in Australia on Thursday 12th March, not long before the Australian border was closed to non-residents. They made it just in time! To complicate matters Susan arrived with a heavy cold and the family were required to isolate themselves for a time until test result results came through. Thankfully it was just a nasty cold, but the isolation which we are all facing presents a real challenge as they seek to get acquainted with their congregation and community. Please pray for them as they adjust to these very unusual circumstances.
The installation service on the evening of the 29th March was led by Rev. Andrew Stewart (Moderator of the Australian Presbytery and minister of Geelong RPC) who was able to welcome people following on at least 65 different devices. It was a real blessing to be able to welcome Andy’s parents, Rev. Bob and Mrs. Mary Lynn McCracken, as well as two Andy and Susan’s children in the USA, Caleb and Joel. Because of the time different they linked in at 2.00 am!
After David Feldman read from Acts 15:36-16:10, Rev. Graeme Hart (minister of McKinnon RPC) preached on Acts 16:9, Paul’s Macedonian call, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” His message helpfully applied the principles of Paul’s call to the situation which faced each one of us, both the new pastor of the Frankston congregation and the members of the RPCA.
After the message from God’s word, the Clerk of Presbytery, Josh Feldman, narrated the events which lead to Presbytery calling Rev McCracken and his accepting the call. The Moderator of Presbytery put the installation vows to the minister elect and Josh McEwen led in the prayer of installation. Thereafter Brandon Fisher gave a very appropriate charge to pastor and congregation in Frankston, challenging us all to “see the chains” which bind the lost in their sin.
After an installation service it is common to have a more informal gathering over supper at which greetings are exchanged. Needless to say, we had to arrange our own supper, but Josh Feldman did an excellent job of hosting an online fellowship time at which greetings were brought to the McCracken family and exchanged between members of our congregations. We all looked at each other on our screens, eagerly anticipating the time when we can all be together, and beginning to realise just how imperfect is our fellowship here on earth. Only in Heaven will our fellowship be made perfect. Now, that is something to look forward to!
Submitted by Rev Andrew Stewart,
Moderator of RPCA Presbytery and Pastor of the Geelong Congregation