The 2016 BRF Conference in Northern Ireland

Mr. Lanning is a member of the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church and, along with his wife Pat, attended the BRF Conference held last summer.

July 16-July 23, 2016 marked the fourteenth British Reformed Fellowship Conference. The venue was the Castlewellan Castle, in Castlewellan, Northern Ireland. The theme was “‘Behold I Come Quickly:’ The Reformed, Biblical Truth of the End.”

One hundred twenty-four attendees from ten different countries registered and attended all seven days, while several more visitors attended various speeches. Attendees came from the following countries (number of attendees in parentheses): Australia (4), Canada (4), England (6), Hungary (3), Northern Ireland (43), Philippines (1), Republic of Ireland (4), Singapore (12), USA (41), Wales (6).

After taking a red-eye flight from Grand Rapids to Dublin, my wife Pat and I took a bus to Castlewellan. The bus trip introduced us to the beauty of Northern Ireland. We had heard about the beauty of the rugged coastline but were not prepared for the pastoral beauty of the interior of the country; mile after mile of rolling hills covered with thousands of sheep and cattle dispersed among countless small pastures bordered by hedges and stone fences; roads so narrow and twisting that the bus frequently had to come to a complete stop with its side-view mirror embedded in a hedge, just to let an oncoming vehicle pass. The bus drivers in Northern Ireland should all have a medal for skill and bravery.

For my wife and me, one of the highlights of the conference was being able to meet and talk with people of like faith from many other countries. We were able to get a glimpse into the joys and hardships that other believers face as they seek to be members of a church faithful to the Word of God. Another highlight, of course, was the speeches, the first of which was delivered Saturday night by Rev. Martyn McGeown, titled “Disorderliness and the Second Coming of Christ,” based on II Thessalonians 3.

Sunday began with morning devotions at 8:30 a.m. followed by the morning worship service at 10:00 a.m. This service was led by Professor David Engelsma, who preached on “The Hope of Creation for Christ’s Coming” based on Romans 8:19-22. In the afternoon we all gathered again for a lecture by Mr. Pete Adams entitled “The Renaissance and the Reformation.” After a 5:30 p.m. dinner, we gathered for a third time that day for the evening worship service led by Rev. Andy Lanning, who preached from Genesis 5:25-27 under the theme “Methuselah.” The Lord’s Day ended with fellowship and evening devotions at 9:30 p.m.

The rest of the week followed a general format of morning devotions at 8 a.m., breakfast at 8:15, various activities throughout the day, dinner at 6 p.m., speech at 7:30 p.m., tea and tuck (tea, ice cream and fellowship) at 9 p.m., and finally devotions at 10 p.m. The various activities included bus trips, free time, and speeches. The first bus trip was to Hillsborough Castle, a mansion built in the 1770’s and currently used as a royal palace, where the royal family resides when visiting Northern Ireland. The second bus trip included two destinations. The first was to the Boyne Valley, the site of the 1690 battle between the Catholic King James II and the Protestant King William III of England. The second destination was the Trim Castle built in 1172.

Over the course of the conference, attendees gathered for the following nine speeches delivered by five different speakers:

Rev. Martyn McGeown—“Disorderliness and the Second Coming of Christ (II Thess. 3)”

Rev. Angus Stewart—“Dispensationalism, J.N. Darby and the Powerscourt”

Prof. David Engelsma—“The Second and Quick Coming of Jesus Christ (as Indicated by the Signs)”

“The Two Witnesses of Revelation 11”

“The Coming World Conquest of the Beast From the Sea”

Rev. Andy Lanning—“The Reformed Belief concerning the Rapture and Antichrist”

“Jesus’ Coming as a Thief in View of Abounding Lawlessness and Great Apostasy”

“Called to Live in the Expectation of a Final Judgment and in the Hope of Life Eternal”

Mr. Pete Adams—“The Renaissance and the Reformation” (highlighting their eschatological implications)

The week of the conference flew by, and soon it was time to say goodbye to new friends. My wife and I stayed in Northern Ireland for four more days after the conference and were privileged to stay at the manse with Rev. and Mary Stewart and several others. Their gracious hospitality will be one of our fond memories of our trip. During these days we were able to enjoy the Lord’s Day in the beautiful new church building in Ballymena, for which we give thanks. We were also able to rent a car and experience for ourselves white-knuckle driving on the country roads while taking in the beauty of the northern coast. All too soon it was time to say good-bye to new friends and also to family as we headed back to the U.S., while our son and family headed back to Singapore. We are thankful to our heavenly Father for the opportunity to have been part of this gathering of believers from around the world.