Presbytery prayer 4 nov

Hello, everyone

I’ve really been quite impressionistic in my approach to the Presbytery Prayers since I inherited them from Douglas! I’ve worried a bit about that, but it seems to have been necessary, given what we’re all passing through. 

I think that ties in with the experience of the team of us at UCB, produce our online services.  At  various points we’ve suddenly become aware that the tenor of the worship had changed, without us realizing it.  Initially, everything was to do with COVID – this was worship being conducted in a situation of pandemic, and it was the all-consuming backdrop, and often foreground, of our lives. It was the thing that kept us from going shopping without thinking seriously about it, from seeing the people we love, from going out unless it was necessary, from meeting as a Presbytery, from going to church. 

Then, at some point, it changed. I know that for us at the UCB it was after Pentecost, because our service then was a panoply of pentecosts, pandemics, plosives, plays-on-words and other things beginning with p… Then it all seemed to subside. Our worship wasn’t about COVID any more. It was back to being “just worship”, in strange times, using media we were now used to. Things started to ease, to change – and then they started to go in reverse. That’s the phase – the dreaded winter phase – we’ve now entered.

But our worship is still now “just worship” – the ongoing life of the Church on earth. I would imagine that many, perhaps most, of you will have the same sense about the life of your congregations. This is where we are, this is what we do, this is how we do it – and this is how we are the Church. The world hasn’t just changed overnight – it continues to change overnight. But God is here with us, and we are who we are. We are Christ’s folk. 

We don’t know what the world will be like weeks hence; but we seem to have adapted to that. Is this perhaps the biggest gain of all in a period which has seen such loss?  This is no longer all about COVID. This is, gloriously, about how we are to live, in faith, in the world.

You know the passage in Exodus 3? Of course you do! We’re Presbyterians! The Burning Bush,. “Shoes off, Moses!” And the voice that says – well, what DOES it say? “’ehyeh ‘asher ‘ehyeh…” “I AM THAT I AM!” Or – an intriguing and plausible alternative translation from one Scandinavian scholar:  “I am he who will be there…”  The God whose promise, in a present that is all flux, is that he will be with us in the unknowable future, weeks, days, hours – and certainly months, years – ahead.

We look at the timeline of Presbytery work, congregational work, preparation, radical rethinking, dates in church diaries that already have a radically different significance to the meaning they had when we wrote in what we expected to happen then. That’s the condition of our living, now. We won’t know what it will be like until we get there…. But then, we never did! It’s perhaps just that we understand it so much better now. 

But that’s OK. God speaks to us out of that which is unconsumed and unconsumable; “I am He who will be there….” 

The God-who-will-be-there be with you,


Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place; and I did not know it.”  And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Genesis 28:16-17

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, `The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, `What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses… Exodus 3:13-14a

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward.” John 13:36

1) Invocation, Confession, Grace, Consolation

Jesus  Lord of Grace,

you summon us, each and together,

on a journey of discipleship,

strung out from point to point, place to place –

places we have never been before. 

All we know is this:
“We’ll know what it’s like when we get there.” 

And this: 

You will be there with us. 

Loving God, who destines us for himself,

and creation to the fulfilment of his purpose, 

forgive us the smallness of our faith. 

We become so preoccupied with our own questions

“Where are we going?”
“What will it be like when we get there?” 

Our fears eclipse your promise:

“I am he who will be there.” 

Holy Spirit of God, 

Open our eyes to see where you have already brought us,

What you have already brought us through, 

The unimaginable, that you have already resolved into the liveable-with

For we had wondered anxiously

About this moment, too – this “today”, in which we pray: 

“What will it be like when we get there?” 

And here we are. 

And this is what it is like,

And God fills it, as God promised:
“I am he who will be there…” 

2) Intercessions for our Communities

We pray for the community of communities which Argyll is –

Argyll, which you have placed in our care; 

and we ask you to help us imagine 

in how many ways, how many different contexts, 

and with how many different overtones, and inflexions, and anxieties

people will be asking, as they try to look ahead:

“What will it be like for my job, or my job-hunting?” 

 “What will it be like for my business?” 

“What will it be like for my family?”

“What will my child’s wedding be like?” 

“How will my grief evolve; what lies beyond where I now am?” 

“What will it be like, if it’s like this for a long time?”
“What will next year be like?” – or even, for some – 

“What will next month be like?” 

“What will it be like when we get there?”

Lord you have gifted us with imagination,

and you can banish our self-centredness and introspection;

help us to imagine, envision, 

and as far as we can, understand

the anxieties in our communities, 

where our congregations minister, among people we know. 

Help us to sit with their fears, as well as we can imagine them. 

Help us to draw back from our arrogant “I know how you feel!” 

Teach us that our deepest consolation

 is not an answer we possess, and offer unthinkingly, and unhelpfully: 

“We know that God will be there!” 

but is, rather, the assurance you give – 

which we are blessed to be able to trust –  

“I am he who will be there…” 

Help us to  live out our trust in you

luminously, word-sparingly, lovingly and supportively, 

so that, as individuals and congregations, 

our solidarity with our communities

preaches the presence and promise 

of the God who always will be there. 

3) Prayers for the Church

We pray for all our congregations,

and we each pray for our own congregation, 

as, in each context, each setting we ask

“What comes next?” “Where are we going?”
“Where will Christ call us to go from here?”
“What will it be like when we get there?” 

We pray for our Kirk Sessions, as they try to map a road

across unexplored lands that we know only through rumour. 

We pray for our congregational treasurers, 

Stewardship Conveners, Property Conveners, financial courts, 

who must look out on the months ahead, 

over the demands they must seek to meet, 

and wonder, at each point that punctuates the 

what it will be like, when they get there. 

We pray for those in our congregations

who offer their imaginations to the work of planning

for Christmas as a season of outreach, and wonder,

what it will be like when we get there. 

We pray for this Presbytery.

We pray for those among us with special responsibility

for planning, strategizing, imagining, and asking

on behalf of all of us , and with all of us,

“What will it be like when we get there?” 

This we surely know:

“You are the God who will be there.” 

We repose our trust in you.

We bring our prayers to you for all those whom we know, 

Who look at their lives, their circumstances, their situations, and what lies ahead, and ask

“What will it be like when I get there?” 

Hear us in the silence:


And as Jesus taught us, so we pray: Our Father…