The Congregational  Stated Annual Meeting (previously  known as our Annual General Meeting) was held in the Macrae centre last Wednesday evening 22nd March 2017. As is done each year the congregational trustees presented the accounts for 2016, and these were approved by the meeting. Special thanks are due to our treasurer Angus Macsween for his  comprehensive presentation of the accounts, and for his hard work in looking after the financial affairs of the congregation in the year that has passed. The Trustees of the Congregation ( The Kirk Session and Committee of Management) were heartened by the good number who came along to the AGM , and should like to take this opportunity to thank all who came along for taking interest in this very important aspect of Congregational life. Copies of the accounts are available at the door  of the church for those who were not able to be present at the Stated Annual Meeting last week.

The passage that was read on Wednesday night  from 1 Samuel 7 demonstrates to us  very clearly  of how dependant we are upon God. As Samuel confessed so too must we that ‘Hitherto has the LORD helped us’, (I Samuel 7: 12).  Therefore as we look back upon the last year I hope that collectively and as individuals we are able to say  that, ‘Hitherto (or thus far) has the LORD helped me’.  There were of course necessary steps that had to be taken by the people of God,  and so the children of Israel had to in the first place to acknowledge their need of God’s help and grace ( verse 2). It is actually stated in the text that the children of Israel mourned or lamented after God ( 1 Samuel 7:2). This was to be the catalyst to an earnest seeking after God, and public repentance before Him. Furthermore it was a catalyst to true revival of a people’s fortunes once again.

I am constantly struck by the truth of the words of the Lord Jesus in John 15 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4 KNJV) It is as true of us as it was of the disciples and the early church that “for without Me (Jesus) you can do nothing” (John 15 :5 ( NKJV). The Children of Israel had to get right with God, and in so doing knew the blessing of God in many ways. That might sound trite, simplistic and even insulting to some, who walk by sight and not by faith ! But the Christian and the church of God do not walk this way. We must walk in a different way  motivated by faith and not by how things merely appear. Our lives must be characterised by prayer, and truly if this year has shown me anything it is that prayer is more vital than ever . R A Torrey once said  ‘ Pray for great things, expect great things, work for great things , but above all pray’.

At the Stated Annual Meeting it was good to recall some of the many blessings bestowed on the congregation over the last year. We have seen God prove himself literally to be Jehovah Jireh the Lord who provides for us ( Genesis 22:14). God has been true to His word and His promises both spiritually and materially , and reflecting upon God’s provision  for us in the past, does indeed encourage us to go forward in faith into what will no doubt be a challenging but exciting year ahead.

It is gratifying to see the accounts again in such good shape, with a healthy increase in the freewill offering for the year. It is heartening also to see that despite the financial pressures facing many and further challenges facing the congregation in the past year that total income for 2016 still reached £84464. It is particularly heartening to see that the weekly freewill offering has risen by over £4000 in the last year. It is both humbling and gratifying for the Trustees therefore to be able to present the accounts for 2016 in such a healthy shape. We are indeed very thankful to all who have contributed so sacrificially over the course of the year.  The level of giving is truly astonishing and is a very real indicator of the way that God is at work among us. Special thanks must also be given to all who have contributed to the life, witness and work of the congregation over the past year. As was stated at the meeting it would not be right to highlight any particular group or individuals for praise. However it is right to acknowledge that without the hard work, dedication , skills, talent and commitment of many, much of the work of God would not happen in this church and parish.  So like the Apostle Paul I thank God upon every remembrance of you all in every prayer of mine;

I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-7 (NIV)

Ian Murdo Macdonald

GIFT AID  Mention was made  at the meeting of the difference that Gift Aid can make to the  offerings we give. In 2016 the congregation were able to recover the sum of £7409 based on the offerings of those who are taxpayers.  If you are a UK taxpayer , you can increase the level of your giving to the congregation through Gift aid at no extra cost to yourself. For more information on this please speak to our treasurer Angus Macsween.  The Following notes are reproduced from the Panel on Stewardship and Finance of the Church of Scotland with regard to Gift Aid.

Did you know that if you Gift Aid your weekly giving, the church automatically benefits by 25%? For example, if you put £10 in your envelope, the church can reclaim the tax that you have already paid on that sum and the church receives £2.50 from HMRC so your £10 is actually worth £12.50 to the congregation at no extra cost to yourself. There is no minimum contribution so you can give what you normally place in your envelope each week.

All that is required is that you must pay UK income tax or capital gains tax, at any rate, at least equal to the amount of tax being reclaimed, and give your offering or donation through offering envelopes, by bank standing order or by cheque.

Donors must also sign a Gift Aid declaration form, which gives the name of the congregation and the donor’s name and address (including postcode). Declaration forms are available at the door and may be left in the plate when completed.

•Gift Aid increases our giving by 25 per cent

•No minimum contribution is required

•No particular amount has to be promised

•There is no fixed term during which contributions must be made

•Tax is recovered retrospectively

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