Hi all, this week sees the World Day of prayer service on Friday, and, as we cannot take part in our usual way in Church buildings this year, I have included some of the service below.
Last Friday we had a Kirk Session meeting on zoom. Here we approved last year’ accounts, as well as thinking about the Christian Aid week in May.
We intend to have the usual distribution of gift envelopes throughout the parish. Also some people (Chris Tabraham and David Logue at least) are also planning to do “Kilt Walk” to raise funds. Let me know if you would want to do a walk yourselves.
Here is the Treasurer’s report for 2020 and the minute will be put up on the Church website.
Treasurer’s Report 2020
North Knapdale church closed its doors to public worship in the middle of March 2020 because of the global COVID pandemic.
Almost all those members with standing orders remained faithful with their givings and three others occasionally gave a cheque. Three people started standing orders during this time.
As most of our income comes from standing orders our income did not drop by as much as expected. We were unable to hold any fundraising events which usually bring in the region of £2,000. Outgoings also decreased as we were no longer paying for pulpit supply. Nevertheless, our outgoings exceeded our income by £4,000.
It looks unlikely that we will be able to open our doors before the summer 2021 but with our Ministry and Mission allocation being reduced I would expect to be able to break even in 2021.
The Finance Committee met in February and proposes that £20,000 in our deposit account should be transferred to the growth fund as interest rates are very low and expected to drop even further, whereas investments still have some room to improve over the coming year. The committee also proposes that a bank card be acquired to enable the efficient running of the bank account.
The session is also pleased to support the proposed “Columba Experience -Youth Pilgrimage” for later in the year in which a group of young people led by Kenny Wilson, Presbytery Youth Worker, will walk from Tarbert to Iona, via North Knapdale. As in previous years, we hope to provide a meal for them as they pass through Achnamara. This is all of course subject to Covid restrictions so we will keep you informed.
WORLD DAY OF PRAYER – ‘Build on a strong foundation’
This Friday, 5th March is the World Day of Prayer, prepared by the people of Vanuatu, in Polynesia. The full service can be found at this website:
Here are some of the main aspects of the service:
GREETINGS FROM THE SCOTTISH CONVENOR:
‘Build on a strong foundation.’
Vanuatu proudly waves its flag and its coat of arms with the words, “In God we stand,” for anyone to read. This faith carried them though Cyclone Pam and theC oronavirus pandemic.
With the writers of the 2021 service, let us pray that communities around the world may exercise the attentive listening and responsible action that grows out of our
united prayers. What better way to do this than in taking these words from the material sent by the writers for the Children’s Service. ‘Be good listeners to God’s Word, be obedient to His ways, put God first in all you do, build wisely for eternity.’ It is the children who call us to reflect on this message for today and to
respond in actions to God’s call.
May we know the inspiration of our Heavenly Father and may we all respond to the call to action in our personal lives and our communities….
May God bless you all.
A letter from WDP International Committee Executive Director
Dear WDP sisters and friends,
“Build on a Strong Foundation”
Prepared by WDP Vanuatu March 5, 2021
It is with joy that we share the materials prepared for the 2021 WDP celebration.
One of the first things we learn with Vanuatu women is that, “Land to a Ni-Vanuatu is what a mother is to a baby.” The relationship with land is at the foundation of the Ni-Vanuatu identity and spiritual strength.
We listen to their voices through the worship service, which invites us to focus on the Bible story in Matthew 7:24-27. Jesus tells a story about the kingdom of heaven using the image of a house and the land on which the house is built. Choosing the land on which to build the house is an important decision for people in Vanuatu.
The combination of considering the terrain and the climate is crucial in a tropical archipelago located in the South Pacific Ocean prone to earthquakes, cyclones, volcanic eruptions and rising sea levels.
In Jesus’ story, the wisdom of the builder of the house comes from hearing and acting on the word of God, which is a word of love. This is the foundation on which our sisters call us to build our homes, our nations and the world. A call of faith to be earnestly considered when responding to the prayer of commitment: “What is
the house that you would build?”
The Vanuatu sisters praise God for fertile land, the sweet melody of the birds and for the sound of children. All of these together reflect their way of life and their everyday struggles with production of food, care for the environment and the education of children. Those challenges are reasons to praise God for being the source of their strength while they pursue opportunities in education, keep children
away from malnutrition and provide alternatives to young people. In receiving their voice as a gift of wisdom, we share their hope and creatively engage our communities in “Informed Prayer. Prayerful Action.”
May the everlasting God, on whom Vanuatu stands, be the one who inspires communities around the world to exercise the attentive listening and responsible action that grow out of our united prayers.
Some extracts from the Service:
Welcome to the 2021 World Day of Prayer, prepared by Christian women of the Republic of Vanuatu. We welcome our sisters and brothers around the world in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Vanuatu’s culture, languages, traditional values and spirituality have their source in the population of mostly Melanesian and minorities of Polynesian origin. The black and white sandy beaches, coral reefs with coloured fish, lovely birds, fruits and nuts in the forest all make the islands a pristine environment, while they are also vulnerable to frequent tropical storms, earthquakes, cyclones, tsunamis and active volcanoes.
In times gone by, each island and village had its own chief and style of governance; its own gods and language. Houses were thatched, constructed from leaves and trees, using stone axes. Women and men would come together at the Farea – the village meeting house – to discuss major issues. Vanuatu is a small country in the South Pacific Ocean, a Republic formed in 1980 after independence from a French and British Condominium government. Today, Vanuatu proudly waves its flag and its coat of arms declares, “In God we stand.”
Prayer of Confession
Let us confess to God, who is faithful and just to forgive us. (1 John 1:9).
Our Father in heaven, your name is holy. We stand in your house of grace to confess that we have listened to your words, but have not acted on them. We do the things we should not do and leave undone the things we should. (silence)
We face adversities and challenges in our homes and nations. We build our homes, thinking we are building on the words of Jesus Christ, but actually building on sand. We long to be changed. Restore us, that we may do what is right and just.
(If desired, insert here a short prayer of confession based on the local context)
Creator God, we confess that we have polluted the environment and harmed the creatures of the sea by throwing rubbish into their habitats. We endanger marine life and ruin sustainable livelihoods. We know we can change. (Silence)
We confess and regret our wrongdoing and commit ourselves to fulfilling the mandate to be good stewards of your creation.
God, hear our prayers.
Prayer of Commitment
God is looking for a house to live in. Where is the house that you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? (Isaiah 66:1-2, NIV). We come humbly before you and pray that you will grant us your Spirit of wisdom and knowledge. (Silence)
Teach us to discern the truth. Lead and guide us that we may live in a way that is pleasing and acceptable to you. (If desired, insert here a short prayer of commitment based on the local context)
Humbly we offer ourselves to be a house that you can dwell in.
By the power of your word, transform our lives and our nations. Make us a household of justice and peace.
Gracious God, accept our commitment.
LISTENING TO THE WORD OF GOD
Let us hear the Word of God according to the Gospel of Matthew chapter 7, verses 24-27, where one of Jesus’ parables is recorded:
“So then, anyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them is like a wise person who built their house on rock. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded over, and the wind blew hard against that house. But it did not fall, because it was built on rock. But anyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them is like a foolish person who built their house on sand. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded over, the wind blew hard against that house, and it fell. And what a terrible fall that was!”
Our reflection is based on three chapters of Matthew’s Gospel known as the Sermon on the Mount – the teachings of Jesus on the Kingdom of heaven. The parable of the house builders concludes the teaching that begins with the Beatitudes, found in Chapter 5. Jesus’ words herald a new and challenging way of living. The teachings of the Sermon on the Mount encourage two things: hear and act or listen and do. The Kingdom Jesus proclaims will grow depending on the choices people make and the actions people take. The final picture in his teaching on the mountain is a short parable of comparison. The house of the wise builder was safe and secure in the storm while the house of the foolish one was lost. It is wise to hear and act on Jesus’ words, building firm foundations in life. It is foolish not to, and a weak foundation leads to disaster. Let us consider this carefully in making our own decisions in life.
Prayer of Intercession
Let us be united in prayer with Vanuatu and the world.
Everlasting God, the God on whom Vanuatu stands, help us stand for peace in our families and in our nations. We commit the leaders and people of Vanuatu into your wise hands. Help us stand against the forces of injustice and division present in our nations.
We pray that in Vanuatu and everywhere, we can all live in unity, love and peace, respecting and celebrating ethnic and cultural diversity.
Bind us together in love, peace and joy.
We ask for your protection for people living in places prone to cyclones, hurricanes and volcanoes and the damage they cause. We bring you our concerns for those suffering from addictions.
Almighty God, protect our communities from disasters and suffering. Heal the souls of your people; let them feel love.
Let’s pray together the Lord’s Prayer.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.
You can find news on our church website: www.northknapdale.org
And our Face Book page – North Knapdale Church.
Contact David Logue – Tel: 01546 870647
e-mail – email@example.com
North Knapdale Church of Scotland – Charity No: SC001002
A few miles from Rhyl, where I grew up, is the picturesque, and by now quite sizeable, village of Dyserth. The name is the clue that its existence is rooted in Celtic Christianity. Like Dysart, in Fife, it’s an invocation of the desert in which so much of Christian contemplative practice emerged, and of course this goes back to Jesus himself, and his forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. Even in well-irrigated (!) Celtic landscapes, the desert isn’t far away.
Our Presbytery Prayers this week fall on Ash Wednesday. It’s a day we Presbyterians are aware of sometimes just as the day after the pancakes, sometimes when we see faint marks on the foreheads of friends and neighbours and say “Of course! They’re Catholic/Episcopalian…” (and probably reflect on the austere beauty of practices in other traditions) or if we choose – and as Presbyterians, we have the option – the beginning of our own disciplined pilgrimage towards Easter.
When we think of Jesus in the desert, a particular resonance exists this year; I’d imagine that most people have experienced the pandemic as a wilderness of sorts, and I know many people who have actually called it that. But again, we remember that Jesus’ time in the desert was sandwiched between his baptism and the start of his ministry. It had a beginning and an end.
The water, the dove, the voice; Jesus’ baptism was the threshold at the entrance to the forty days. The temptations – according to Matthew and Luke, anyway; Mark is ambivalent – mark the exit from the experience.
The water, the dove, the voice – there’s an old tendency to represent these things at his baptism as the moment Jesus understood the scope of his mission, and fully grasped who he was and what he was to do. That makes me very uneasy; the Gospels don’t invite us to imagine Jesus’ states of mind, and when we need to know them – the anger in the Temple, the grief at Lazarus’ grave, the agony in the garden – they show us, and tell us, unambiguously. There’s no hint in the Gospels that his baptism was a moment of insight for Jesus. But affirmation, yes, that’s certainly there and the audible proclamation of the Father’s good pleasure, the proclamation that Jesus has, and is, everything he needs and needs to be, to do this.
And if we have reflected on that during our extended stay in the pandemic wilderness, haven’t we also discovered this – that we, in our perplexity and apprehension at what lies ahead, are sufficient for the work God has given us, in ways we hadn’t imagined?
Whether we observe Lent as a discipline or not, forty days of reflecting on who we are, what we have and how we shall approach the work and ministry before us now, is surely no bad thing for us in our lives and congregations, and maybe no bad thing for us as a Presbytery either.
Yours in our shared work
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Mark 1: 9-15
1) Jesus Christ, our Starting-Point
your ministry before you,
your baptism – the voice, the dove, all that, behind you now –
you went into the wilderness.
We cannot imagine how he felt, Lord –
that distant Jesus, then, looking out beyond the wilderness
and over what he could see of his ministry –
but we know how we feel, looking out over this wilderness,
and over our ministry, individual and shared.
We cannot presume to guess
what you thought, what you felt, what you imagined.
but we can trust the humanity of these things, Incarnate Son –
because of your solidarity with us
“We cannot presume to guess,” we say –
and yet, we do.
We seek reassurance, in our perplexity.
We know how we feel –
and all the things we feel –
and we need to know that you understand,
and that we are understood.
Assure us that, in your humanity,
is known from within, brought to God, loved, and understood.
2) Where we are starting from…
We come to you as your Presbytery in prayer.
We come to you with, and from, your congregations in Argyll.
We come to you examining our lives as individuals
and our shared life as your Church.
We are filled with apprehension,
as we prepare to emerge from our wilderness
into a challenging, challenged world.
Were you, too, Lord?
We are filled with anticipation
of the work that lies ahead.
Were you, too, Lord?
In ways of being and staying together,
of worshipping and witnessing and sharing the Gospel amid challenge and strangeness,
we have discovered that we have what we need.
Is that what you encountered in your baptism
when the dove came and the voice spoke,
and the Father pronounced himself well-pleased in his Son?
What we are, where we are, how we are, in the midst of all of this –
reassure us that you understand.
Our reassurance is that you have been here,
that you understand,
and that you will bring us through.
3) For access to the true wilderness
Desert, Dysart, Dyserth;
our forebears turned aside from life and its patterns,
to seek the healing, repairing peace of the wilderness,
as Jesus sought you, and found you there.
They simply called these spaces “desert”
and came to seek you in them.
The desert is not far away.
God is close.
Yet we have lived these months in another desert.
Around us is the disruption, hard and hurtful
Of life’s patterns, of relationships and expectations,
in this wilderness that we did not choose.
But we can turn aside from this, too,
to seek you, and be found by you
in the desert-place of prayer.
Spirit of God, who led Jesus into the wilderness,
lead us now.
Give us forty serious days,
to turn the lessons of COVID’s wilderness
into renewed understanding of your presence with us,
new preparedness for the ministry ahead of us,
a deepened understanding that where we are
Jesus has been.
Turn our pandemic wilderness into the wilderness of Lent.
Make this time a strangeness our space of contemplation.
4) Prayers for others
We withdraw from the flux and flow and noise of life, to pray;
but we, like Jesus, are immersed in the world, for the world.
We pray for the world.
Our experience is so limited, our imagination so constrained;
we easily reduce the whole world’s experience to our own.
Forgive us where the immediacy of our experience has denied us perspective,
and we have forgotten that this is a global pandemic.
We pray for the dedicated work which has produced vaccines,
and which will be required to meet the virus’ new mutations.
We pray for the ongoing work of vaccination,
giving thanks for the skill and stamina of those who organize and execute it.
We pray for our society, frozen in lockdown,
anxious about what thawing circumstances may reveal,
the stresses and fractures that may emerge,
the damage to economic, artistic, productive life.
We thank you for glimmers of hope, intimations of resilience,
manifestations of kindness and care,.
We pray for our communities, our congregations,
And all those lives directly in contact with ours.
We pray for those whose needs we especially know,
and those around us, whose needs we have not seen –
especially where we might have, and should have.
And as Jesus taught us, so we pray: Our Father…
Welcome to 2021! A new year to look forward to, an opportunity to review our lives, and to consider our life’s journey. Superficially, we make resolutions to “do better” or to “do more”, or to “do less”! Whatever we think of, we look to change something. At the end of 2020 there was much talk about a new beginning in 2021, throw off the disappointments and frustrations of Covid dominated 2020, and get on with our lives properly in 2021. Well here we are – New Year, new lockdown – I have felt quite stunned at this reversion to our limited activities, our closed homes and so little social contacts. But…. we have learned a little of how best to organise our lives in this “new normal”, we hear of the roll out of the vaccine, and the increased understanding of how best to treat those infected, so there is definite hope in our hearts for a better time ahead.
One aspect of our situation which saddens me is the growing adoration of “science” as the saviour from our woes. In the media, “Science” has taken on a personality – we trust in “the science” to get us out of trouble, to defeat the “virus”, to heal our people. Now I agree – science is a wonderful system of research and study, many people have discovered thousands of amazing and life saving techniques by applying a scientific system to studying our world, but it is a system, not a “being”.
It is people, not “the science”, who by applying their gifts of thinking and designing who are making the discoveries and inventions which we can use to overcome Covid and so many other terrible diseases.
What wonderful abilities we have as people. People mysteriously made in the image of God. As we consider the clinicians and researchers who developed the Covid vaccines, as we give thanks for the new treatments and skills of our doctors, nurses, and other medics, remember to give the ultimate thanks to God, the ultimate clinician and technologist, who gave us the abilities and curiosity we have to learn through scientific systems, give thanks to Jesus Christ, whose life and love have opened the way for our lives to be complete and fulfilled with Him, and give thanks to the Holy Spirit whose inspiration and guidance have led into such an abundance of knowledge and discovery.
I have been considering this weekly Newsletter for a few weeks now. Should I restart as previously? This was begun in March last year as a vehicle for communication to the congregation of North Knapdale, and I expected it to be for a month or two. It has gone on a bit longer. It was also something which I thought would keep things “ticking over” until we could get back to normal. This was really a forlorn hope, and we can safely say now that North Knapdale Church, and all churches across Scotland and beyond, will never get “back to normal”.
If we can let this “normal” go, and look forward and trust that God is doing something more, something different with his people, if we can stand back and allow Jesus to build His church in His way and then join in, then I think we will see wonderful things happening in the Kingdom of God – here and elsewhere.
Twice this week I have been drawn to readings where God’s people are told to “be still” and let God get on with it. Both are in times of trouble and anxiety, in times of fear and uncertainty.
The first is in Exodus Ch 14 verse 13. The Hebrews have escaped from Egypt, but their initial euphoria at freedom and victory has been dashed by the reality of coming up against a new challenge – the Red Sea. The old enemy, the Egyptian army is pursuing them from behind, and ahead it looks like their freedom has been dashed by the barrier of the Red Sea. Trapped between the army of their foes, and the impassable waters. They are worried, and fearful and rushing about trying to do something, anything, to get out of their situation – go back to captivity, give in to Egypt, no apparent way ahead.
This is what Moses says:
“Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He shall accomplish for you today….”
What a promise this is – and an instruction. When we are uncertain, when we are anxious, when the past seems to be coming back to get us and the future is a big barrier – “Stand still”. Stop rushing around, calm your activities, the situation is beyond you, but wait and see what God is going to do. God opens up the sea, and they walk across in the dry land.
How many Hebrews saw that coming! There are times when standing still is all you can do – and trust in what our amazing God will accomplish.
The second reading is in 2 Chronicles Ch 20 vs 15 to 22, and it is too long to write here so look it up to read yourselves. Again the Hebrews are stuck with an overwhelming enemy army coming to get them. They don’t know what to do or where to go – and the Spirit of the Lord says through one of the leaders:
“Do not be afraid or dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s………..you will not need to fight in this battle…”
This is a time, I think, for us to “Stand still” to wait to see what God is doing. To recognise that the battle is not ours, but God’s. No rushing about, or bright ideas, or quick solutions, for us and our church.
We wait, and pray, and praise, for we do know that God is working and will bless us, as we wait.
Sometimes it is difficult to stand still, but let’s do that and see the amazing work of God for his Kingdom.
As part of that standing still I am going to stop this newsletter as a regular item. I will send out important information, and items of interest when they come in, but for the moment I will be silent, and I would ask that we all, together, listen and look out for, and welcome the ways that we see God working as we stand waiting – who knows how we will see the Red Sea parting!
This day is a new day That has never been before. This year is a new year The opening door. Enter, Lord Christ – We have joy in your coming. You have given us life And we welcome your coming.
I turn now to face you,
I lift up my eyes.
Be blessing my face, Lord
Be blessing my eyes.
May all my eye look on
Be blessed and be bright,
My neighbours, my loved ones
Be blessed in Your sight.
You have given us life
And we welcome your coming.
Be with us Lord
We have joy, we have joy.
This year is a new year,
The opening door.
Be with us Lord,
We have joy we have joy.
May we all know the blessing of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as we move into a new year – 2021.
Chris Tabraham has written a short article inviting people to help with looking into the history of the church in North Knapdale. This looks fascinating and a really interesting project to get involved in.As well as the article in the newsletter he has provided a short history of the parish so far. Do have a look through this and think about getting involved.
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.”
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…
The Mid Argyll Churches Malawi Twinning Group sent £4000 out to our friends in Kasamba Church to help them with protective supplies for the Covid Pandemic. The minister of their church, Rev. Custom Kapombe, whom some of you will have met, has sent this report on how the money was spent. There are lots of lovely pictures in the report and a breakdown of where the money was spent.
If “overthinking” were an Olympic event, I would have a gold medal in it! I’ve been thinking about overthinking (!) since a very pleasant conversation about it this week, with another person who self-describes as an “overthinker.” It’s made me think… (!!) In fact, it led me back to a word I’d encountered a while ago – a wonderful big conversation-stopping word.
This has been a period of much thinking, in congregations, Presbyteries and the General Assembly. Some of it has been – here’s the word – “metacognition”. It’s a concept that goes back to Aristotle – and that’s something the Wikipedia article “Metacognition” will tell you. In fact, Wikipedia gets quite uncharacteristically poetic! It describes metacognition as “”thinking about thinking”, “knowing about knowing”, becoming “aware of one’s awareness”. It’s an idea that leads us into a deep exploration of how we think, why we think as we do, how we plan and strategize – and how we might do these things differently and better.
We will need that, as a Presbytery. We are going to have to do a lot of thinking; in fact, we already are. And we will need to think about how we think. But reflection and introspection in the Christian spiritual tradition cover a vastly larger territory than mere thought.
I’ve loved the Book of Revelation since I read it in one go, from JB Phillips’ translation when I was a teenager. John, as he sat imprisoned on Patmos, was engaged in something other than just thinking, or even “metacognition.” He surveyed the Seven Churches from his isolation, and no doubt he did a lot of thinking. But his thinking was immersed in the mind of Christ. Without that, he would have had nothing to say.
The Greek Orthodox tradition teaches us, startlingly and straightforwardly, that “theology is prayer. Before it’s thought, and creeds, and weighty books, theology is prayer. The whole thinking of the Church is a prayerful seeking of the Mind of Christ. We must think. We must “think about our thinking.” But if we are truly to be the Church, and a Presbytery of the Church, our thinking must seek to be grounded in the mind of Christ. We know that.
But pausing to stock-take at this point in our strange journey across this pandemic landscape, I feel that our awareness of these things has been deepened by our experience.. That’s my own starting-point this week, and I hope it’s helpful.
Anyway, I won’t overthink my greeting this week!
Yours in Christ,
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus… Philippians 2:1-5
I John, your brother, who share with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Per’gamum and to Thyati’ra and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to La-odice’a.” Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me… Revelation 1:9-12a
We start our prayers here, Lord.
We remember John, on Patmos,
staring at the walls of his cell –
physical, palpable, confinement and restriction –
yet in the Spirit, gazing out over the Seven Churches,
their life, their challenges, their troubles and joys.
Shut away, he was sundered from them.
Yet immersed in Christ, he was immersed in their life,
their situation, their reality –
given to see, in Christ,
even the things about themselves that they could not see.
That is not us, Lord, and we would never claim it!
We are not that sequestered saint on his rock in the sea.
But we have been shut away, cut off from each other,
and yet we have known the life of our congregations – of your church – in Argyll,
in new ways in these strange times.
For all that you have granted us to learn,
we give you thanks.
We have been led by the Spirit to imagine, with loving concern.
- how others are coping,
- how other congregations are doing things,
- what it must be like for them, in their settings, in their communities, among their folk.
We have seen each other anew, too.
We thank you for the still-percolating insights that we have
of seeing each other simultaneously
in meetings and at home!
Our eyes have been drawn from faces,
from the diverse room in which each of us made choice
to set up the laptop or the tablet,
and we have glimpsed windows,
and wondered what the view from each one is.
We have realized that each home is set
in a particular, different community,
served by a different, particular congregation
of different, particular, unique individuals.
That is our Presbytery!
Lord, never let us un-see these things.
We have sensed, Lord, that you have been inviting us
to new insights into our work,
and who we are, and what we are, as a Presbytery.
We sense that in ways we cannot imagine
you are equipping us for work we are barely beginning to imagine,
in a future we can for now only grasp under this rubric –
“Everything will be different…”
We pray that our knowledge
and our thinking
and our thinking-about-thinking
have become deeper set in love, and compassion, and prayer.
Consolidate this work in us, that we may better serve your Kingdom.
We ask to be led, loving God,
beyond thinking, and thinking-about-thinking,
ever nearer to the fusion
of thought and deed and work and prayer,
that our service to Christ, as his Presbytery,
may arise ever more out of our life in him.
Loving God, over these pandemic months,
you have sensitized us to each others’ lives.
you have given us insight and awareness, will we but accept it,
to inform our prayers for others.
“The nights,” we say, and smile as we say it, “are fair drawin’ in.”
We imagine you smile at us too:
wherever we were born, we say it like that,
with respect for the land and its people, the communities you have formed,
in which some of us were raised, and some ingrafted,
and in which we all seek to live out the Gospel.
“The nights are fair drawin’in.”
We say it, and smile wryly, for we know
That this is not a straightforward time,
And many wrestle with the encroaching darkness.
Many of us do.
You know it too, Lord.
We bring before you
Not merely the truncated wintry days,
The isolating cold, the seasonal challenge to affect and mood.
We know that this winter will be a prism
Through which the sombre rays of this pandemic will be refracted for many.
You call us to minister to unsettled people, in unsettled communities,
in an unsettled society in unsettled times.
Hear now the prayers your Spirit stirs up in us
For those whose needs we know, and for those we only know to be in need.
Lord you have set us in a darkening world
as people of the light,
as witnesses to your promise,
as signs of hope, as we turn to face the dawn.
Teach us the lessons of these changing times,
that we may be full of the Love of Christ,
and live faithfully our calling to live the life of the Kingdom,
for we ask it in Jesus’ name, who taught us, when we pray, to say: Our Father…
I suppose this is me “reporting diligence”! I love the story, told me by the late Rev Isobel Brain, generous, gracious servant of Christ, and a wonderful raconteuse, of the Glasgow Elder who loved attending General Assemblies, back in the day when you could pick up spare commissions from far-flung presbyteries simply by writing to the Clerk and asking were there vacancies. One year, he picked up a commission from the Presbytery of Sutherland, and off he went to have a rerr terr to himself for a week at our Supreme Court. And a few weeks later came the letter, telling him that he was expected to report diligence – to said Presbytery of Sutherland, which in those days was a much more formidable excursion than it is now! This seems to have taken the gloss off that year’s Assembly for him…
Diligence is the thing! Application to the work of the week. Or weekend…
There are (were!) the other things that positively reinforce the life of the Church: meeting friends, and making new ones, from congregations far away; memorable conversations which show us how much we have in common, how similar the challenges are that we face – and how diverse and imaginative others’ responses can be; informal discussions which then feed into formal debate and decisions; fringe events which reinforce networking. And of course, there are the bookstalls, and the clerical outfitters. “Seventeen pounds for preaching bands? I only paid 85p for my last set!!” “When was that, sir?” “Well, 1982…”
For those of us who took part in it as old hands at weeks on the Mound, this year’s Assembly was both much less and much more than its predecessors. It was less, because the pattern had been stripped bare of things that had been rich and reinforcing experiences, but it was more, and for the same reasons.
Pride is a terrible thing – but it’s still gratifying to hear people from other presbyteries talk about having to embrace things that Argyll has been practising for quite a while now! It’s not easy to challenge us on forward-thinking! Yet a challenge – Christ’s challenge – has been articulated to us this year. We know that our task now is to embrace that. Inevitably, perhaps, my thoughts this week moved to the place in Scripture where Jesus comes closest to saying these very words: “You can’t stay here. Come with me.” I haven’t signed off this way for a while, but…
Yours in the Adventure of Christ!
In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed. One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked.
Let us pray:
We commend our General Assembly to you
as work done in Christ’s name –
but also as symbol of these last months of learning
how to be the Church anew.
We ask, as this Presbytery of your Church –
help us to embrace these lessons,
and be braced to the task you have set before us.
Lord, we confess it!
We are so good at rationalizing our comfort,
as optionlessness, as powerlessness,
the wrong place, the wrong time:
there may be a better time,
not now, maybe next time…
We are so good at rationalizing our comfort,
even when it isn’t all that comfortable,
even when it is no more than familiarity,
and trepidation before the unfamiliar option
we fear to take.
We know and trust that you know this about us,
even when we can’t understand it in ourselves.
We languish, if we do not hear your voice:
“Do you want to be healed?”
We need you to invite us to our feet.
We need to hear you say
“Come with me…”
Help us to contemplate the courage in that story;
thirty-eight years amid the colonnades, the five Mosaic porticoes,
in splendid despair,
sustained by the hope, offered by the occasional flurry,
unrealized yet again;
a life familiar, well-understood, by the poolside –
when a figure offers the terrifying thrill of an invitation
and the invitation is accepted.
We have seen your General Assembly prised this year
- out of beloved tradition,
- out of commodious time-frame,
- out of the reassurance of tradition;
and as with congregations, and Presbyteries,
accepting your invitation to follow you
out of the familiar,
through this, whatever it is –
and into whatever comes next.
We look at our shared journey, Lord,
through the last months, to here –
the adaptations and experiments –
and we smile!
It didn’t seem to need much courage,
for we didn’t have much choice!
In the strength you give, we did what we had to –
what the times demanded.
Yet the times still demand.
The realities with which we wrestled have not gone away;
they still press on us,
and we may be tempted to imagine
that we have choices that we do not.
Take us back to that poolside,
where salvation came, and said
“Do you really want what I offer?”
Let us reflect, now, on salvation’s demand,
And on Christ’s invitation, and all that is implicit in it:
“In here is existence – enough, for now,
but not life in its fullness.
The life to which I call you is out there –
shorn of this comfort and security,
these familiar patterns.
Come out from what has been familiar!
Leave, with me.”
Let us hear your Assembly’s challenge
to embrace the thrill –
even in its discomfort –
of rising at Christ’s call,
and leaving our comfortable colonnades – whatever they are.
Let us gently, pastorally,
but with the urgency of those who know the truth of it,
transmit to our congregations and their people
Jesus’ own challenge:
“You can’t stay here…”
For we are all his pilgrim people,
his disciples, following him through the world –
the real world;
through time, and space, and history,
and through our present, difficult moment.
We can’t stay here.
Life is out there.
Life is with him, and in him.
Make us sensitive to whom
all of this seems like loss and grief,
whose anxiety issues in fear, and anger.
Show us our own anxiety and grief –
which, so often we deny –
at losing and leaving things we have loved
Fill our urging, our inviting-forward
and, when we must take them, our difficult decisions
with compassion and love.
Remind us of the courage it takes
to arise, after decades, a lifetime, amid the familiar,
and follow Jesus out of security
Take us back to that poolside, in imagination and prayer,
and remind us that the source of that courage is not within us.
Remind us that it derives from our trust and faith
In the one who asks “Do you want to be healed?”
Hear our prayer now, as this virtual congregation which your Presbytery is, in this act of worship, for those whose needs we know, or can intuit, or may have missed – where you have not:
And as Jesus taught us, so we pray: Our Father…