Two or three events in the last week have been helpful. The first was on Saturday, the graduation at the London Theological Seminary. There were eight students graduating, just two or three Englishmen, and so it was a low year in numbers. The speaker was Michael Haykin now lecturing in Louisville at the Southern Baptist Seminary where over 240 students graduated a few weeks ago. There are 80 members of staff there and all except two or maybe three are Five Point Calvinists. The reason I went was this; it was the retirement of the Principal/President Philip Eveson, and I was to speak at the commemoration service. He did well, controlling his emotions and expressing his appreciation and receiving the teasing of the students with much grace. He was presented with a Nile cruise for himself and Jenny as a thank you. I preached on the closing verses of Psalm 92, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’” It will be appearing on the Banner of Truth website next week.
Then this week for three days the annual Bala Ministers’ Conference took place. 70 men were there; Michael Haykin again was the speaker with three messages on the Holy Spirit. As a history professor his sermons always bristle with fascinating historical observations. Nothing is sadder than a man who has lost his memory, and churches which have lost their memories are in the same state of senility. The discussions were helpful, well led by Stephen Clark, but the prayer times were weaker this year. I put it down to an insensitivity to the leading of the Spirit, as one man, for example, prayed several times in a kind of rambling meditation each morning, and another man read out the entire second chapter of the letter to the Ephesians from his Blackberry. Then the momentum of intense concentration on God has gone, and we have to start to build up again the spirit of intercession and worship passing the baton on to another brother who is the next to pray. I suppose one way of overcoming that is to call on ten men by name to pray, men who are earnest prayerful interceders, and after that open it to anyone else subsequently. One hates to feel disgruntled and critical in a prayer meeting, of all places. The Conference ended with some splendid preaching from Martin Downes on the farewell of Paul to the church at Ephesus from Acts 20. I was so glad to hear that.
Finally we have had four Dutch students working in our home for those with learning difficulties and two are returning to Holland today and next week the remaining two are going home. They have fallen in love with Aberystwyth and the church, and we have fallen in love with them. So we went to the restaurant on the pier, and above the waves had a meal together, about sixteen of us, as the sun went down and the lights came on on the promenade. We felt we were on a cruise liner stopping in Monte Carlo – but how it had rained yesterday! They gave me a CD of Dutch psalm-singing, and to one of our elders a pair of clogs which we walked around in, and to our wives flowers. It was enormously kind of them. We shall miss them very much but they promise to return to visit us. We have four from Holland most years, but these were amongst the very best.
Then on Friday night, sermons completed, we drove two hours to see my daughter Fflur and her family in Cardiff, arriving before 10.30. We had not told them we were coming; ringing the bell and seeing their faces light up was the greatest pleasure. We sat around the kitchen table and ate chipolata sausages until 11.30 and the next day attended the Welsh school’s fair walking around the stalls and getting books, strawberry flans and a pepper plant. High livin’ in Wales