Farewell to Freddie & Linda

It was a packed company of members and adherents of
Ballymena Baptist Church, who, along with many friends from all
over the province, gathered for the evening service to give thanks
for and celebrate the ministry of Freddie and Linda McClaughlin
over nearly forty years, and also to mark the end of Freddie’s time
as shepherd of the “flock” in Ballymena. Ken Poston (elder)
welcomed the many visitors, especially those representing churches
in which Freddie and Linda had previously served; Great Victoria
Street, Knockconny, Milltown, Hamilton Road and Newtownbreda. David
McCready and the band led the gathering in an uplifting time of
worship, using songs that Freddie and Linda had chosen for the
evening. Sophie Worthington sang a solo employing the words of the
song, “My heart is filled with thankfulness”. Speaker for the
evening was Freddie and Linda’s son, Jonathan, who is currently
pastor of the Hamilton Road church in Bangor. Following a reading
from Acts 20 vs. 17 to 38, Johnny gave the gathering a challenging
message which he entitled “Paul. The pastor of the human heart”.
Over the thirty five or so years of Freddie’s ministry, much has
changed, but not the human heart. The human heart always needs the
gospel. As we considered Paul the pastor we could see the parallels
in God’s dealings in the life of Freddie. Given his early history,
Paul seemed to be the most unlikely person to be a preacher of the
gospel and yet he was to be mightly used. Paul and Freddie
McClaughlin are both trophies of amazing grace. In this passage
Paul reviews the past, (vs. 18 to 21, 31b and vs. 33 to 35) In all
his trials and difficulties he was able to testify (2 Timothy 4 vs
17) “The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength—“. He
encouraged, he taught, he warned. His ministry was gospel centred
and Spirit filled. Paul is also looking at the present, (vs. 22 to
25). He is “compelled by the Spirit”, all the while knowing that
“prison and hardship” are facing him. People need Spirit filled
pastors with a Spirit filled ministry just as much today. God’s
people need to be nurtured and brought to that place where they
demonstrate in their lives the fruits of the Spirit. In vs. 24,
Paul says, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may
finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me
the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace”. Paul wanted
to finish the race well and encourage the next generation. We can
see this in his words of encouragement to Timothy. Paul prayed into
the future. (vs. 28 to 31a and 32). He warns that we must always be
on our guard. The flock need to be protected and warned. This is
the especial responsibility of the overseers. He commits his
readers to” God and to the word of His grace” vs.32, building up
the Church to be a Spirit filled body. These tasks should continue
into old age and even unto death. Johnny asked us to consider Caleb
as a good example of such dedication. The application of Paul’s
words to the life and work of Freddie and Linda was not lost on the
gathered hearers. Johnny concluded by giving thanks as a son to his
Mum and Dad. Also, he gave thanks for their love of the truth and
for being contemporary in its communication. Following the singing
of the hymn “Lord for the years”, Freddie and Linda’s daughter,
Sharon, closed the formal part of the evening in prayer, especially
interceding for the people of the Ballymena church as they seek
God’s will for the future. At this point a lovely supper was
provided for everyone in the sports hall and the mall, after which
we moved back into the main auditorium for a somewhat more informal
time together. Mark Brown, the assistant pastor introduced the
programme, “This is your Life”, with Freddie and Linda as the
subjects. There was a photographic timeline presentation with a
series of pictures from the McClaughlin timeline. Much of this was
hilarious, particularly the photos from the early years. Long time
friends of Freddie and Linda, pastors Lindsay Allen and Clifford
Morrison brought tributes to the couple which were amply laced with
humour; in fact both men would have ably filled a slot on the
“comedy roadshow” given the uproarious laughter which accompanied
their addresses. Having led us through Freddie and Linda’s early
years from primary school up to courtship and marriage, Mark Brown
then brought us into the period leading up to the ministry years,
from the Electricity Board and RUC for Freddie and Stranmillis
College for Linda to the time of God’s call on their lives at
Keswick, some forty years ago. We were reminded of Freddie’s time
at the College and his subsequent assistantship at Great Victoria
Street Church. The church pastoral ministry years were marked by
contributions from representatives involved in the churches in
which Freddie and Linda had served over the past thirty five years.
These were Len Keys from Knockconny, Philip De Courcey, Milltown,
Andrew Brown, Hamilton Road, Steve Wright, Newtownbreda and
finally, Eilish Agnew spoke on behalf of the fellowship in
Ballymena. The gathering was left in no doubt as to the
contribution that Freddie and Linda McClaughlin have made and the
lives they have touched through their Sprit filled ministry. After
taking us through the McClaughlin family years, Mark handed over
the “This is Your Life” book to Freddie and Linda. A gift
presentation was made to the couple by David and Alicia Murphy on
behalf of the Ballymena church after which Freddie and Linda gave a
response. Eric Lindsay from Great Victoria Street closed the
evening in prayer. For Freddie and Linda McClaughlin, Sunday 1st
September, 2013 has marked the end of full time pastoral work but
in the service of the Lord whose they are and whom they still seek
to serve, it’s very much a case of——“to be continued”—-
Kenneth J. Moore