St Mary’s Heritage Centre, Gateshead, was the location for a conference from 12-14 October, commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
The conference proper was opened by Rev. Dr William Schweitzer, the minister of Gateshead Presbyterian Church, the hosting church. Dr Schweitzer gave a helpful address on the necessity of the Reformation, reminding us that the same issues from 500 years ago remain present today. This was a central conference theme.
There were several types of addresses given: biographical sketches; practical lessons from the lives and ministries of the Reformers; and explanations concerning the doctrines of the Reformation.
Throughout, one was reminded that the Reformation is not just a bygone historical fact from 500 years past, but a living testimony to the biblical foundations of today’s church.
There were devotionals each morning, led by Rev. Geoff Thomas, former minister of Alfred Place Baptist Church, Aberystwyth, and Rev. Dr Kevin Bidwell, of Sheffield Presbyterian Church. These were stirring challenges from God’s Word.
Rev. Dr Ian Hamilton, former minister of Cambridge Presbyterian Church, and Rev. Dr Joel Beeke, minister of the Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and president and professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, brought us practical lessons from the Reformation, covering such issues as preaching, personal piety, evangelism and pastoral care.
Rev. Dr Jon Payne, minister of Christ Church Presbyterian (PCA) in Charleston, South Carolina, provided biographical sketches of Martin Luther and John Knox. These were not merely recitations of historical facts, but vital lessons from the lives of these men. Dr Payne focused on Luther’s centring of all things related to faith and family in the gospel, and on Knox’s courage, both in life and ministry.
Geoff Thomas addressed the Reformation principles of grace alone, Jesus Christ alone and Scripture alone. He did this by preaching biblical texts that highlighted these doctrines. His sermon on Christ, from Hebrews 1, was particularly moving for all those attending. Christ was held up in a clear display of his unique loveliness.
The conference venue was a wonderful setting for this feast from history and from God’s Word. More than 100 men, women, and children from local churches, but also from locations as divergent as Aberdeen and Austria, attended across the three days. We praise the Lord for this blessing to the church.
Rev. Joshua Rieger, Hexham Presbyterian