Recognition Service 2012

Matthew Gray becomes pastor at Jireh, Wigan

After a summer that seemed to be nothing but showers the weather was fine as the members of Jireh Baptist Church, Wigan, welcomed our new pastor, Matthew Gray, on Saturday 15th September 2012, the day also being our 161st anniversary.

Our chapel is small, so we had to borrow the much larger Trinity Methodist Church about 150 yards down the road for the service.  It’s as well we did, for over 100 visitors, mostly from the North West churches, but also others from further afield, joined us to celebrate this happy occasion.

The service was led by Peter Day, who has been our overseeing elder for over 20 years because we have had only one elder or none during that time.  He has faithfully stood with us and advised & assisted pastor & deacons with wise counsel in his own inimitable fashion.  The service marked the end of this link, as the appointment lapsed with the final advent of 2 elders within the church.  The whole church is very grateful to him for all he has done over so long.  We are very glad that Alan White, who has served us faithfully as pastor for the last 8 years, will be remaining as an elder in his retirement and with his wife Georgie will continue to help us.

The preacher was Billy McCurrie from Aughton Park Baptist, Ormskirk, our other overseeing elder, who preached on Hebrews 13:7-25 and exhorted Matthew to care for us and us that we should care for and listen to him carefully.  We are also grateful to him for his help and support over the last 8 years.

The vast majority of the visitors stayed on for a tea which was served back at our own church (although the crowding was immense!).  This gave people an opportunity for a good chat, which they seemed to be enjoying, so much so that the last visitor departed at 7.30, tea having been served at around 4.40!  However, we didn’t mind and a really good time was had by everyone.  They also had a chance to watch a PowerPoint presentation which illustrated the life of the Church over the last twelve months and gave a flavour of our activities.

Matthew is 35 and comes to us from Grace Baptist Church, Southport, where he was a member for 9 years and 6 years as a deacon.  He is married to Helen, daughter of Peter Stead, and they have three children, Abigail (10), Christopher (5) and Barnaby (4).  Matthew is a graduate in Hebrew and geography from St. Andrews University.  He has been working as a financial advisor for the last ten years but felt for some time that the Lord wanted him to go into the pastoral ministry in the longer term.  Grace, Southport, also came to recognise his gifts and calling and had started to train him.

It was through this training that the Lord led us to him.  Our pastor was approached at the end of last summer by the elders at Grace to help mentor him in pastoral visiting.  This started in the September and it did not take long for Alan to see that Matthew really had the gifts needed for the pastoral ministry.  The Lord led Alan and the Southport elders independently to have the idea that he might fit in well at Jireh, although as members we scarcely knew him as he been just once to preach for only one service when Alan was on holiday.

In order for us all to get to know him, Matthew and Helen did not just come visiting on Sundays, but also on a church weekend away; they led the Easter Holiday Bible Club and Matthew spoke at an evangelistic supper.  It did not take long for us to warm to him and a unanimous call was call was issued in May.

We are glad to welcome Matthew, Helen and their family and we pray for God’s blessing on his future ministry.