This is the letter I sent to the congregation as we left for our sabbatical in Australia.
Dear Brothers and Sisters at St Peters,
I am writing to thank you for your fellowship and service in the Lord and your generous gift to us on our 25th year in ministry in St Peters, before we head away on sabbatical. The Kirk Session and the Presbytery have kindly granted me a three-month sabbatical from mid March. Myself and Annabel hope to go to Sydney where I will be speaking at the Katoomba Christian Convention (the Australian equivalent of Keswick) and also writing a couple of books – an apologetic one for teenagers and an evangelistic one for adults. Your prayers for us when we are away are much coveted. It is hard to put into adequate words how much we love you as our family in Christ and how much we appreciate the hard work, love and sense of joy as we together seek to serve him in St Peters.
I have no desire to compare myself with Robert Murray McCheyne but when I did the research for my book Awakening about him, I was struck by a couple of letters he wrote to his congregation before he went on a six month ‘sabbatical’ to Israel in 1839 (the good that came from that trip will resound throughout eternity!)
McCheyne wrote to the congregation of St Peter’s saying that whilst he had had two years of great joy and fruitful ministry, as well as frustrating times and spiritual coldness in the congregation, he looked forward to returning to them as a ‘holier, happier and more useful minister”. I can echo that prayer. It is my belief that the Lord is working in our midst, building us up and encouraging, whilst also pruning and exposing! I long for a spiritual renewal and revival throughout our land, in this wonderful city of Dundee – and I look for it to begin with us – and me. The SPA weekend was a real encouragement to us – not least because it showed us some of our areas of weakness as well as strengths. For me it was personally very challenging – I will take the next three months to reflect upon my own weaknesses and sins and I, like McCheyne, hope to return to you a ‘holier, happier and more useful minister’! (Perhaps I should also add ‘healthier’!)
“I sometimes think that a great blessing may come to my people in their absence. Often God does not bless us in the midst of our labours, lest we shall say, ‘My hand and eloquence have done it.’”
Whilst McCheyne was away in Israel, revival broke out in St Peter’s (and other areas of Dundee and Scotland – including Blairgowrie). It was so extensive that the church overflowed into the graveyard and they even tried to hold meetings on Magdalene Green (which the Council refused because they feared it might lead to a riot and political trouble!) Over 700 people were converted and the church was filled every night with people seeking Christ. How I long for renewal and revival to take place amongst us! I believe that the Lord has called us together – not to be a holy huddle, a kind of spiritual ‘safe space’ and comfort zone – but for the purpose of glorifying his name and building up his kingdom throughout Dundee and beyond. I don’t know how that will happen, but I do know that it must begin with spiritual renewal amongst ourselves. O Lord – let it be!
We look forward to returning to you at the end of June….(please feel free to keep in touch)
For pastoral needs contact John Ferguson at the church offices. Above all pray without ceasing.
“You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:3
Your minister in the love and service of Christ
I won’t be posting the services and sermons on this blog whilst I am away but you can still get them at the St Peters website