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The second Sunday in January is always an important date in the calendar for Campbeltown Free Church minister Dr Rodger Crooks, being the anniversary of his ordination to the Christian Ministry of Word and Sacrament.
This year, Sunday January 10 2021, was even more memorable as it marked 40 years of ordained ministry.
As Covid-19 restrictions prevented the congregation meeting in person to celebrate this occasion, the Kirk Session chose to live-stream the morning service on Zoom to enable the congregation and family and friends to attend virtually.
Following the service, Session Clerk Calum Ferguson presented gifts on behalf of the congregation to Rodger and his wife, Joan, and outlined how the congregation was first made aware of Rodger in 2016 and the steps that followed before he was called to Campbeltown.
Calum also forwarded messages of congratulations from Rodger’s ministerial colleagues and friends who would have liked to be present and played a video message from Rodger and Joan’s son Martyn, from Portland, Oregon, in the USA, on behalf of the family.
Rodger was ordained by the Ballymena Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland on Sunday January 11 1981 and was inducted as assistant minister in the congregation of High Kirk, Ballymena.
In September 1984, he took up his first charge in 1st Dromore Presbyterian Church, County Down, and in 1997 took on the oversight of Belvoir Presbyterian Church in Belfast where he served for more than 20 years before moving to Campbeltown in 2017.
It might be suggested that he has Christian service in his blood as there is a strong missionary and ministry tradition in his family.
His father, Mervyn, was also a Presbyterian minister having previously been a missionary with the Qua Ibo Mission in Nigeria, where Rodger’s aunt, Adeline Cripe, also served as a missionary teacher.
His great uncle, Andrew Weir, served in Manchuria, China, from 1899 until his death in 1933, and Andrew’s son, Jack, who also served in China for a time, was both Clerk of the General Assembly and Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
Rodger’s uncle, Tom Houston, also an ordained minister, served in Kerrykeel, Donegal, and in the Church of Scotland congregations of St Andrew’s, Jerusalem and Baillieston, Glasgow. His cousin, Ian Crooks, is currently a serving minister in Canada with the Presbyterian Church of America.
The family has had a long association with the WEC missionary organisation; Rodger’s aunt, Martha Crooks, serving in Pakistan, and his cousins, Philip and Rhoda Crooks, in Senegal and in the UK.
Rodger’s brother, Stephen, served as a medical doctor in Nazareth Hospital with the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society in the 1990s, including during the Gulf War. Continuing this tradition and following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Rodger’s son, Martyn, is the Children’s Pastor in Westside Church, Portland.
Rodger said: ‘I suppose you could say that ministry is in my blood and I am grateful that serving God has been important in my family for several generations.
‘It is a great heritage and one of which I am proud, but it is Jesus’s blood and not mine that is important. Without his sacrificial death, there would not be any good news of forgiveness and peace with God and I would not have a ministry at all.
‘As I said in my sermon on Sunday, God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. My primary role as a minister continues to be making the truth of the Gospel known and doing my best to impress upon people the importance of responding to it.’
He added: ‘It has been a tremendous privilege to be called by God to be a minister of his Word and to have been enabled by him to continue in this role for all these years. Preaching and teaching the Bible is my passion, and the Bible is a book that is new and exciting every time it is opened and read. I hope to be able to continue sharing its truths for years to come, whether still in full-time ministry or not.’
A video of the anniversary service and presentation is available on YouTube and can be accessed through the Campbeltown Free Church website at www.campbeltownfreechurch.co.uk or on the church’s Facebook page.