The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, began a four day visit to Portugal on 29th April 2022 to see the work being undertaken by PCI’s Global Mission Workers in the northern Portuguese city of Porto.
Portugal is one of 11 countries across 4 continents where PCI directly supports 27 Global Mission Workers. These include James and Heather Cochrane from Second Comber, and Chris and Rachel Humphries from Tartaraghan Presbyterian, who are planting a church called Comunidade Pedras Vivas (CPV), in Senhora da Hora in the greater Porto area. CPV translates a ‘Living Stones Community’ and is being planted in collaboration with the Igreja Cristã Presbiteriana de Portugal – the Christian Presbyterian Church of Portugal.
Speaking before his departure Dr Bruce said the visit had been a long time in coming, “As the ‘pastor to the denomination’, a Moderator seeks to be an encourager to the Church. In my two years in office I have had the wonderful privilege of seeing and encouraging the work that is being done by many of our congregations, preaching on Sunday’s and meeting hundreds, if not thousands, of my brothers and sisters in Christ across our denomination.
“Due to the pandemic, which has often made short and long term planning difficult, I have not been able to undertake an overseas tour like my predecessors. Now that I can, I hope that this short visit to our team in Porto will be an encouragement. At the same time, I am looking forward to discovering what God is doing through them and the Comunidade Pedras Vivas family,” Dr Bruce said.
Church planting is a broad term that encompasses many different tasks, such as prayer, planning, team-building, evangelism, discipling, pastoring, building relationships and training future leaders. James and Heather Cochrane, who lead the CPV team, said that building of relationships in the local community is also very important.
The couple served together as church planters in Brazil for seven years up to 2003, before coming to work with the Portuguese Bible Institute in 2008. Five years later they relocated with their two daughters to Porto, to establish Comunidade Pedras Vivas with the Christian Presbyterian Church of Portugal. Chris and Rachel, along with their young son and daughter, joined them in 2019 having been commissioned as PCI Global Mission Workers the same year.
Speaking on behalf of the CPV team, James Cochrane said, “The Moderator’s visit will be a time of fellowship and personal encouragement for us and the church family. We are a vibrant multi-generational congregation of between 60 to 80 people who gather on a Sunday morning to worship. We are very much looking forward to Dr Bruce’s visit and hearing what he will bring to us from God’s Word this Sunday. As well as preaching and meeting members over lunch, he will also have a number of opportunities during the weekend to better understand the cultural and missional context of Portugal,” James explained.
“We also see his visit as an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenging mission context in western Europe. Portugal, for example, is a religious nation with symbols of Christianity on every corner. Yet few would claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus. In this context there is a great need to make disciples through the planting of Christ-centred, Bible focused churches,” he said.
During his visit to Portugal, Dr Bruce will travel to the capital Lisbon, 200 miles south of Porto, to meet with the President and Vice President of the Christian Presbyterian Church of Portugal and to hear first-hand of the work and challenges faced by one of PCI’s small sister denominations.
In addition, he will also meet a representative of Grupos Biblicos Unidos, the Portuguese movement within the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) to hear about ministry among students. For three years in the 1980s Dr Bruce was the IFES Travelling Secretary in Ireland.
“On this pastoral visit I will be focusing on encouraging and supporting the work of our Global Mission Workers, James, Heather, Chris and Rachel. I also welcome the opportunity to meet with our Portuguese partners as well. The message I will bring this Sunday is taken from 1 Corinthians 12, where the Apostle Paul writes to the fledgling church in Corinth about the Body of Christ – the Church itself – and how it is made up of many parts,” Dr Bruce said.
“Wherever we are called to serve, as Christians we all have a part to play in building Christ’s Church. I give thanks for the work that is being done in Jesus’ Name in Porto, and I hope and pray, that this short visit will be an encouragement,” he concluded.
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