Archive for March, 2021

“For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land” (Song 2:11-12).

As spring draws near, some RPM updates for praise and prayer.

For starters, Covid derailed my regular house-to-house visitation plan in 2020. In its place, I started up a couple of online Bible studies aimed especially at the lost and the unchurched. I recruited a small number of believers both from within and outside the church to form a core, into which I could invite these other warm contacts from the parish and elsewhere. We’ve been studying Genesis and the Pauline epistles. One Muslim woman, “Fatima,” has participated and was very interested to read about places in the Bible nearby her ancestral home! We’ve also had another African friend, “Lionel,” who has participated a good amount and has asked very thoughtful questions.

Sadly, “Leah” has fallen by the wayside. At some point, she dropped from the online Genesis study, and it became hard to reach her. And of course, no church. When we did get through, she said that her job had begun making her work on Sundays. Please pray that God would mightily draw her to Jesus, overcoming all barriers. I hope to stop by in as I resume the door-to-door rotation. Also pray for her live-in boyfriend “Mark,” and their two precious little boys.

After a year of this Covid-hiatus, I am now planning on a foray into my South Providence and Warwick parishes. One of my helpers from another church, “Ronald,” is interested in coming along. Since he is bilingual, speaking Spanish fluently, I anticipate that he’ll be a big help. I plan to get a couple of see-through facemasks just in case anyone is nervous about the spread of the coronavirus, but I’m going to guess that most folks who answer the door won’t care. Do pray for good success as we sow seeds – and pray that we’ll be surprised and find plants growing from previous seasons!

During the winter, I was also able to arrange and host several webinars introducing Thomas Chalmers, the concept of ‘parish mission,’ and my efforts in Rhode Island, the “Reformed Parish Mission.” It really is exciting to share what has excited me over the years. I hope to offer these every once in awhile. If you’re interested, do let me know. If I can cobble together a group of five, I’d be happy to schedule another. And, if you’re a church leader or preparing for the ministry), I’m thinking of trying to start a group that meets virtually 2-3 times per year to do readings in Chalmers, discuss parish theory, and even compare ‘field notes’ as we try to apply these principles where God has uniquely placed us. (e-mail: mjives dot refparish at gmail dot com)

Last, my good friend and fellow-laborer, Pr. Luis Morales, recently closed his small church of eight years. He has helped me several times with Spanish translation in my outreach to South Providence. Please pray for all his dear folks, that all may find spiritual homes and be embraced by new communities of believers. Yet while our hearts go out to them, it is with great joy to report that Pr. Morales and family have decided to worship with us at the PRC of R.I. This dear family is a very welcome addition to our congregation. Pray that the Lord would bless, renew, and use them among us. I am also very hopeful that Pr. Morales and I will be able to partner together more and more, both in the Spanish- and English-speaking spheres of our witness.

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The following quote from Thomas Chalmers in his Lectures on the Establishment and Extension of National Churches (1838) captures his ideal for domestic missions. The ‘parish’ is not a synonym for ‘congregation.’ Rather, it is the defined sphere of pastoral and even missionary activity by a minister and his elders. This is the local or territorial principle.

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“Now the specific business which we should like to put into the hands of a Christian minister is, not that he should fill his church any how—that he may do by the superior attractiveness of his preaching, at the expense of previous congregations, and without any movement in advance on the practical heathenism of the community: But what we want is, to place his church in the middle of such a territory as we have now specified, and to lay upon him a task, for the accomplishment of which we should allow him the labour and perseverance of a whole lifetime; not to fill his church any how, but to fill this church out of that district. We should give him the charge over head, of one and all of its families; and tell him, that, instead of seeking hearers from without, he should so shape and regulate his movements, that, as far as possible, his church-room might all be taken up by hearers from within. It is this peculiar relation between his church, and its contiguous households, all placed within certain geographical limits, that distinguishes him from the others as a territorial minister. And let the whole country be parcelled out into such districts and parishes, with an endowed clergyman so assigned to each, and each small enough to be overtaken by the attentions of one clergyman—we should thus, as far as its machinery is concerned, have the perfect example of a territorial establishment.”

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