RPCS |  Scottish Presbytery  | Stranraer (Wigtownshire, Scotland)

Organised: 1796

Pastor: Stephen Steele, 

Ruling Elders: Gerald Milligan, James Fraser, & Peter Loughridge (interim elder) 

Members: 20 Communicant, 10 Baptized

Revitalisation

The oldest of the current RP congregations in Scotland, Stranraer is a congregation that is undergoing revitalisation after many years of decline. During a 30-year period when the congregation were unable to support a full-time minister, Rev. Gerald Milligan preached each Lord’s Day, staying on as stated supply after he retired, and by God’s grace the congregation was kept open.

In 2015, following the closure of a church plant elsewhere in the denomination, the Scottish Presbytery redirected the funds to Stranraer to enable the congregation to call a full-time minister. Rev. Stephen Steele was ordained in Stranraer in September 2015.

The big emphases since then have been on clear, Christ-centred preaching and building up the body-life of the congregation through hospitality, Bible studies, monthly church lunches etc.

Over the last number of years we have been encouraged to see conversions and new members, as well as others returning after decades not attending worship.

Sadly there have also been others who have come for a while and then left, but we know that the gospel will always be to some ‘a fragrance from death to death’ but to others ‘a fragrance from life to life’ (2 Cor 2:16).

Come and Help!

One of the biggest encouragements in the last couple of years has been a family moving from another RP church to support the work. While Stranraer is in a beautiful coastal location, its distance from Scotland’s big cities means that many young people move away and certain professions struggle with recruitment. This has seen shortages of teachers, but especially doctors. 

In 2018, the local Christian doctors circulated a prayer letter urging people to pray that God would raise up new doctors for the area. A doctor in another RP congregation who was finishing up his training saw the prayer letter, and he and his family moved here in early 2020, just before lockdown hit! They have been a huge encouragement, and we would love to see others doing something similar – even just for the short-term. In fact, if you’re reading this and are interested in coming to Stranraer to serve for three, six, or 12 months (or longer), please get in touch!

 Reaching Out

We are glad that the Lord has set before us ‘an open door’ for the gospel (Revelation 3:8). A number of people in the town still have a connection with our congregation through going to Sunday School decades ago, and so have turned to us when God has begun to work in their lives. With the help of mission teams, we give out leaflets each year advertising special services, and recently ran a regular ‘drop-in’, inviting people into the church hall for tea, coffee and a chat. 

Mostly however people end up coming because they’re invited by a friend. Our current building (coming up on 200 years old) is in a good location, and most of our congregation can walk to church.

Stephen has the opportunity to write a monthly ‘Pause for Thought’ article in the local newspaper. He also serves as chaplain to the town’s semi-professional football team, and has had a number of opportunities to share the gospel in the local high school.

 Looking Forward

As a congregation, Stranraer has a rich heritage. William Symington (1795-1862), one of the most famous of all RP Ministers, spent the first 20 years of his ministry here. He saw revival and a new building built to accommodate the (700-strong) crowds coming to hear him.

None of this means much to most of the locals however, where less than 1% of people would call themselves Bible-believing Christians.

By God’s grace, we are glad to be entering 2022 looking forward – particularly with the first ordination of a ruling elder here for 49 years.

There’s still a way to go in our aim of becoming a self-governing and self-supporting congregation (never mind being in a position to daughter another congregation). But looking back, we are amazed at what God has done here. We continue to look to Him, confident that Christ is building and will continue to build His church in South West Scotland.

 Prayer Points

  • Give thanks for the many encouragements that we have seen
  • Pray that God would continue to draw people to himself
  • Pray for conversions of family members – many of our people are the only Christians in their families
  • Pray the God would put it into the hearts of individuals/families to move to Stranraer (whether short-term or long) to support the work
  • Pray that God would raise up elders and deacons
  • Pray for our ‘GO Team’ and special outreach service coming up on Sunday 17th April
  • While we’re so grateful for the ongoing financial support we receive from individuals and congregations in the wider RP Church, pray that soon it would no longer be needed

 (If you would like to receive regular prayer requests from the church in Stranraer, please contact us here.)

Stephen Steele has been minister of Stranraer RP Church since 2015. He trained for ministry at the Reformed Theological College (Belfast), having previously completed an MA in Irish History at Queen’s University, Belfast, which focused on Irish Covenanter history. He is married to Carla and they have three children.

Stephen has been a member of the RP Global Alliance Advisory Committee, representing Scotland, since 2018. Stephen can be reached through the Stranraer church website.

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