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Locum Minister’s Letter – Summer 2019

Dear friends,

On a bright day in May Hilary and I visited the Atomium, the symbol of this city. Towering above the Heysel Plateau with its new cladding of stainless steel gleaming in the sun, this model of a molecule seems to represent
the last word in modernity.

However, the exhibitions inside provide a trip into the past. The Atomium was built for the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958. Looking at posters and photos of the event one is taken back to an era which, although within the lifetime of us “oldies”, seems light years away from today. The neat jackets and skirts and the permed hair of the “hostesses” of 1958 seem far distant from our more informal t-shirt and jeans generation. Hilary and I expected to be given a glimpse of the future, but instead we were pleasantly surprised to be taken back in time to a more innocent era.

The Atomium at the World Expo in 1958
Photo: Hans Lachmann

In 1958 Europe had moved on from the trauma of the recent war and by trade, technology and innovation was creating a new world for her children. In 1958 the world had high hopes. By contrast our world is one of scepticism and fragmentation. The Brussels World’s Fair of 1958 hinted that the world was within reach of the utopia depicted in the science fiction of that time. But the science fiction of today pessimistically puts a great emphasis on the threat of dystopia, societies which are dysfunctional and in decay. Yet there the Atomium stands, glinting in the sunlight, a survivor from more optimistic times, bearing witness that hope need not be abandoned and may yet spring to new life.

“Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Matthew 13:52

The example of the Atomium may help us to interpret our Lord’s words in Matthew 13, verse 52. Jesus seems to be challenging us to draw on the riches and the hopefulness of our past in order to create a new gleaming symbol of hope in these darker times.

Certainly the life and work of St. Andrews is a harmonious combination of old and new. A church built for the worshipping community of Scots now embraces a multicultural and multinational congregation in a cosmopolitan city. All the treasures of scripture and faithful worship are needed to address the present generation which is rich in technology but poor in hope. The challenge is enormous, but the reward for succeeding is also huge.

Let’s be confident that our Christian heritage, like the Atomium, can still gleam brightly in the new dawn of the postmodern age.

Your friend and locum minister,
Denis Campbell

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Rev Eric Foggitt elected as new minister

On Sunday 8 December 2019 Rev Eric Foggitt preached as Sole Nominee and was elected as new minister.

Rev Foggitt will be inducted to St Andrew’s in February 2020.

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Interim Moderator’s Letter February 2019

Dear Friends,

It is a great pleasure for me to introduce myself – minister of the English Reformed Church in Amsterdam – as your interim moderator during the period of vacancy in which you will looking for your next minister. I know some of you quite well already and look forward very much to getting to know more of you. I also know quite a bit about your church having convened the Presbytery’s Local Church Review of the church a couple of years ago, and I and the team who carried out that review were much encouraged at what is going on here at St Andrew’s. I would think that you will not be short of applicants for the post of minister.

A word about my role as interim moderator. I am really a link between you and Presbytery and will endeavour to represent you to them and them to you. I guess I am really overall responsible for ensuring that ministry in the church continues during the vacancy – and that the church hopefully thrives. You will not see that much of me. I am hoping to attend roughly every alternate Kirk Session meeting and I will be keeping up to speed on all that is going on here, but we have already arranged some ‘ locums’: ministers who will come and stay in the manse for a month or two and carry out the duties of minister so that there is some continuity of ministry. I know that you also have a very gifted Kirk Session, a very talented vacancy committee and many very able and enthusiastic members, so you are well resourced for this vacancy.

Last Sunday the passage that was set by the lectionary that many churches follow and that I preached on was 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. Paul there is addressing a church not unlike St Andrew’s – a church set in a cosmopolitan city and with a very diverse congregation. Paul speaks there of how the Holy Spirit gives gifts to the church: ‘to each is given the manifestation fo the Spirit for the common good.’ In other words, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit everyone has something to offer to the church and to the upbuilding of its fellowship. In my experience vacancies can be a time of ‘manifestation of the Spirit for the common good’ – a time when gifts are discovered and expressed which at other times might be hidden or suppressed. At its best a vacancy can be a time of real enrichment and of people ‘coming out of the woodwork’ and finding expression for their gifts. I pray that is the case for St Andrew’s!

I count it a great honour to be your interim moderator and look forward to being a very small part of the next step in the life of this very vibrant church.

Every blessing,

Lance Stone

 

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Letter from the Manse Family December 2018

Dear Friends,

 On 9 September, I announced my demission as minister of St Andrew’s. Since then we have been busy making arrangements with movers, buying a new car and looking for a new home in Dundee. So far, we have made good progress, but there are still a lot of arrangements to make in order to ‘decouple’ in an orderly way from over 14 years of family life in Brussels.

 Bethany and Karalyn will come home for Christmas and Julie will join us as we celebrate our final Christmas in Brussels together as a family and also with the congregation that we have grown to love over the years.

 The Presbytery of International Charges has appointed Rev Dr Lance Stone, minister of the English Reformed Church, Amsterdam, as the Interim Moderator during the vacancy. Lance will work closely with the Kirk Session and the Nominating Committee, guiding them through the recruitment process to find a new minister.

 Please be assured of our prayers during this time.

 Every blessing for the future,

Andrew, Julie, Bethany and Karalyn Gardner

 

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Minister’s Letter November/December 2018

Dear Friends,

November is the season of Remembrance and this year at our service on 11 November, we remember the Armistice that took place exactly 100 years ago, marking the end of WWI. For many who lost loved ones, the end of the conflict would have been bittersweet. Countless young lives lost on both sides, never to return home to families or sweethearts left behind. The names of the bloodiest battles are not mere footnotes of history, their horrors have been well documented and the neatly arranged white grave stones tell the story of enormous loss. The Somme, Verdun, Gallipoli and Passchendaele saw carnage on a scale that the world had never seen. The area around Passchendaele was so churned up with shell holes that many men drowned in the mud and the mire.

There are many ironies of WW1: the Christmas truce that broke out along parts of the Western front in 1914, a single moment in those 4 years when the fighting stopped. For a few days, enemies recognised their common humanity, singing Christmas carols, exchanging rations and playing football before taking up arms against one another again. What do we make of those events?

During this time, there was a huge development in technology, motivated by a desire to gain the upper hand against the enemy. Poisonous gas, tanks, flamethrowers and aircraft were new tools of modern warfare; the advancement of science for negative rather than progressive purposes.

There is the irony of propaganda versus truth. What was told to the young men who signed up for battalions? What did they think they were going to face? Was it sold to them as a great adventure? War poets like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon paint enduring eyewitness pictures of a gruesome war as it really was.

[Read more…]

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Minister’s Letter Summer 2018

Dear Friends,

It’s hard to believe that we are almost at mid-summer with it’s longer days and warmer weather. Generally, we have been blessed with reasonable weather for the past two months and let us hope that this continues.

During the months of July and August, the pace of life slows down in Brussels; there are fewer cars on the roads (no traffic jams), fewer meetings taking place, children are off from school etc. Generally, people are more relaxed. Some of us will take a holiday in the summer- if circumstances allow us, where we can relax and enjoy a change in routine. It’s during the summer months that we find more time to reflect on the past, the change of pace helps this process. What went well over the past months and what could have gone better?

Personal reflection must be part of the DNA of the Christian’s life- in that we should be referring life events, our activities, our decisions and our attitudes back to the benchmark of our our faith in Christ. I am not saying that disciples of Christ should over analyse everything, but we are called to live distinctively different lives that show integrity and make decisions that reflect the lordship of Jesus Christ over us.

Jesus himself took time to reflect. The gospels describe various moments when Jesus goes off to a quiet place to pray. What did he pray about? If his prayers were anything like ours then he would not only have brought situations of concern before his Heavenly Father, but he would have taken his joys and his frustrations to him as well. Christ’s prayers, like our own, would have been inspired by his personal reflections of his ministry and the relationships that he forged with his apostles and his wider circle of disciples.

There is something else that the quieter summer months allow us to do and that is to plan for the future. The Bible tells the story of God’s saving work for all of creation and human beings are included in his divine endeavor. The Biblical account of forgiveness of sin and redemption from fallenness is described from the book of Genesis through to the book of Revelation. God has a plan and we are a part of it.

[Read more…]

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Daniel Sermon Series – Spring 2018

In May and June, we reflect on the book of Daniel. We learn a lot about the main characters: Daniel, who is steadfast and faithful in dire circumstances, and who was blessed by God with great wisdom and insight; his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, whose faithfulness to God does not waver either, even as they were thrown into the furnace. Then there’s the cruel, insecure and utterly self-centred king, Nebuchadnezzar. We need to ask ourselves: would we dare “to be a Daniel” in our lives, and stand up bravely for the things we believe in?

[Read more…]

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Minister’s Letter April-May 2018

Dear Friends,

Jesus breaks out of the tomb on Easter morning in order to break into out world with resurrection power. The resurrection was the ultimate miracle; the supreme example of the in-breaking of God’s kingdom here on earth. We catch a glimpse of what the fullness of the kingdom will bring to the created order in which we live.

The four gospels spend a disproportionate amount of their time describing the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. The evangelists go to great lengths to describe Jesus’ resurrection as an extraordinary event that is part of human history. The gospels describe the resurrection appearances in the garden, the upper room and on the shore of Lake Galilee. It is clear that the resurrected Christ could be seen, touched and heard. He could eat a fish breakfast along with his disciples, yet his new resurrected body could pass through walls and appear in locked rooms.

The resurrection had a huge impact upon his disciples. Before Easter morning they appeared unsure of themselves or Jesus’ teachings. After the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they communicated the gospel more boldly and spoke about the purpose of Jesus’ ministry with greater clarity. Some of those who heard the message of the apostles’ teaching believed that Jesus of Nazareth was God’s promise Messiah. These believers became the nuclei of the early Church.

[Read more…]

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Easter Sermon Series – Spring 2018

In April, we reflect on the meaning of Easter.

On Palm Sunday, during a family service, we study the crowds’ actions during Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The crowds welcome a Messiah king, many awaiting a political liberator. Surprises await in the week ahead, but not for Christ. His death had been prophesied. His Messianic leadership is about forgiveness and liberty of a different, everlasting kind.

On Easter Day, we come to Christ in gratitude for His salvation, which He offers us freely. He offers us hope of resurrection life. When the disciples got to the tomb, they saw the tombstone rolled away and an angel nearby. The angel had a simple message: Jesus had risen. He then invited them to see for themselves. This is a mirror of what each individual believer has to do: to look for themselves, and decide on their own reaction to Jesus.

On Low Sunday, we reflect on Thomas’s doubts about Christ. Thomas was able to get the proof he wanted when he encountered Jesus himself. What happens today when sceptics demand proof before they believe? We and our fellow Christians are the body of Christ in the modern world. The proof or hallmark of Christ’s blessings lie in the way we live our lives and how we show our love for one another.

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Psalms Sermon Series – Spring 2018

In March, we take a closer look at some of the Psalms, culminating in the Messianic Psalms during Holy Week.

Psalm 112 is about someone who is living a life of service. It’s like a short manual of the life of a servant of God. It tells us of the disposition of the Believer, his or her attitude.

Psalm 113 is the first of the ”hallel” Psalms – Psalms that the Jews used on special occasions to worship God. We examine the answers to the key questions, “what are we being told to do?”,  “who are we to worship?”,  “why does God want our praise?”.

Psalm 115 focuses on learning to trust in God, as the starting point for our relationship with Him.