Blessings Through Christian Fellowship
One of the privileges of having been involved with the Evangelical Fellowship of
Congregational Churches (EFCC) and with the World Evangelical Congregational Fellowship
(WECF), has been to encounter and to be encouraged and inspired by godly men and women from different backgrounds. Someone whose fellowship I have greatly appreciated in Steve Gammon.
When I first met Steve he was replacing another good friend, Cliff Christenson, as the Conference Minister for the Conservative Congregation Christian Conference (4Cs) in the USA. He is quite different from me in many ways theologically and personally but I have always had a deep respect for him as being transparently a man of God. Before becoming the Conference Minister of the 4Cs, the equivalent of EFCC’s General Secretary (or now Ministry Director), Steve had been a minister in Rhode Island and then in Minnesota, which is one of the northernmost states in the USA. While at Rhode Island he became a US Naval Chaplain and was later on reserve. While working as Conference Minister he was called up from Reserve and ended up working towards retirement as a Naval Chaplain. His final placing was to be the Head Chaplain at Guantanamo Bay.
We renewed our friendship at the WECF Conference in February 2016 in Orlando, Florida. At which point we were both in the process of seeking the Lord’s will for our future. As I
received and accepted the call to the church here in April 2016 you know how it turned out
At that time Steve had been approached by a church on Rhode Island. He had been
involved in the process by which they affiliated to the 4Cs and had preached for them often
so knew them well. They are unique in the 4Cs because they were originally Episcopalian (a
branch of the Anglican Church) and had chosen to leave their denomination for an evangelical church group because of increasing liberalism in the denomination. They still had
an Anglican approach to worship using a prayer book. By the way EFCC have an equivalent
congregation in Christ Church, Teddington, who were formerly part of the Free Church of
Within a few months he had resolved his situation and had accepted their call. His uncertain future in February 2016 meant that I became the President of WECF until 2019. He was the obvious candidate but the uncertainty prevented his being appointed. I felt an increased affinity with Steve at this point – we both left serving in local church ministry because we believed the Lord wished us to serve him in another capacity and we were thrilled to be returning to local church ministry for our final ministry. I was desperately sorry that within a couple of years Steve was diagnosed with cancer and being unable to guarantee to serve the congregation as he would wish chose to resign his pastorate. At the time I remember thinking it could have been me with cancer and resigning and him continuing in that ministry and wondering how I would have reacted. The onset of his illness was prior to the 2019 WECF Triennial Conference at which I had anticipated handing over to him the WECF Presidency and meant I was obliged to continue in office.
It has been a blessing to me is to read the spiritual reflections Steve has recorded during his
period of treatment. He is someone who has humbled himself under God’s hand in a very
testing period and his faith has encouraged me. He has just received stem cell replacement
therapy and so far progresses well. He was recently brought into contact with the writing of
Jonathan Edwards and published a reflection on his resolutions which he wrote when he was
about 20. Jonathan Edwards was an 18th Century Congregational Minister in New England,
who was both a profound thinker and a remarkable preacher who experienced revivals at
periods in his ministry. Steve focused on 7 of the 100 or so resolutions:
6. Resolved: To live with all my might while I do live.
7. Resolved: Never to do anything which I would be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
17. Resolved: That I will live, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
28. Resolved: To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
29. Resolved: Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.
52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live if they were to live their lives over again. Resolved: That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had lived, supposing I live to old age.
70. Resolved: Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak.
A thread running through these reflections is the simple realism with which Jonathan
Edwards as a young man faces the reality of life’s shortness and the certainty of death –
which is very relevant to us in these testing times. While I am sure that others in his era
simply faced these realities with resentment and anger he is willing to acquiesce to God’s
will in the disposal of his life and to seek to use that life to God’s glory and for the good of
others. Steve’s choice of resolution 29 is particularly insightful and the resolution deserves
our attention, meditation and I suspect our repentance. Do we ever pray out of duty and
habit without a real hope and conviction that this is a prayer God will hear and respond to?
Or do we go through the routine of confessing our sins without the realistic thought that we
are bringing them before God who will hear and is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and
to cleanse us from all unrighteousness? Those thoughts are searching and the resolution has great potential to protect us and keep us from backsliding. I commend it to you.
KEEPING THE CHURCH GOING
The Church Officers and others working to support the church at this time of need are meeting fortnightly on Mondays using Zoom. One item we are following up is a survey of our church building, which the church commissioned and which was received shortly before lockdown started. Please pray for the church officers and those who are seeking to lead the church in very abnormal times. Pray for our services Sunday by Sunday that we may know God’s presence. Pray for one another and keep in touch and support one another as you can.
Yours in the Lord,
22nd May 2020