In our service today we are contemplating an end and a beginning, turning a page to a new chapter in our church’s history. Next week we move from North Knapdale Church to become Dalriada, Mid Argyll church, so today we will give some time to thinking of this change.
Call to Worship Ps 23 vs 1 – 3
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for His names sake.
Prayer together for Dalriada Mid Argyll Church and area.*
Lord, this Parish of Dalriada, Mid Argyll, this land of forest and loch, of hill and field, of town and village,
of homes and work, of rest and holidays,
Make this be a place of Your peace.
Here be the peace of those who do Thy will,
Here be the peace of people serving others,
Here be the peace of holy people obeying,
Here be the peace of praise by dark and day,
Be this land Thy holy place.
We, thy servants make this prayer.
May it be it in thy care
Readings – Is 55 vs 1 – 3 and 8 – 9
John 4 vs 7 – 14
John 7 vs 37 – 39.
This move into a united congregation will bring challenges, and it will bring blessings, we look forward to that, but we also look back and have our own memories of our worship and life as North Knapdale, in Tayvallich, in Bellanoch and in Inverlussa, some too might remember services at the hut at Kilmory. But as this hymn encourages us – Be thou my vision – not our thoughts but God’s, not our ways but His.
I would like us all to take a few minutes in quiet reflection together – yes to remember the good from the past, but also to look for a God-given vision for our church into the future.
How will we work with God to bring a river of living water to our thirsty communities?
I’ve asked Catherine to play quietly as we sit and ponder these things – to pray or to contemplate our memories and our visions.
Time of quiet
Our Father, who is in heaven
Hallowed be your name
Your Kingdom come
Your will be done,
On earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For yours is the Kingdom
The power and the Glory
May this day bring Sabbath rest to our hearts and homes
May we know the grace to embrace our own finite smallness,
in the arms of God’s infinite greatness
May God’s word feed us and his Spirit lead us,
Into the week and life to come.
And may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be with us now and always;
*amended from a poem attributed to St Aiden for the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, from Celtic Daily Prayer, The Northumbria Community Trust.
All five congregations of Mid Argyll have now voted to become the United parish of Dalriada Mid Argyll. The three vacant congregations also voted in favour of welcoming Rev. David Carruthers to be their minister. It is hoped that the new parish will be put in place in July.
Notice is hereby given that
In connection with the proposed union of the congregations of Ardrishaig, Glassary, Kilmartin & Ford, Lochgilphead, North Knapdale and South Knapdale to form the congregation known as Dalriada Mid Argyll per the approved Presbytery Plan of 14th June 2022,
the congregation of North Knapdale will meet on Sunday, 2nd April 2023 in Tayvallich Church when voting will take place.
Only members and adherents attending in person will be entitled to vote.
The vote will take place after the Stated Annual Meeting.
The congregations of Ardrishaig Parish Church (Church of Scotland) (SC010713), Glassary, Kilmartin & Ford Parish Church of Scotland (SC002121), Lochgilphead Church of Scotland (SC016311), North Knapdale Parish Church of Scotland (SC001002) and South Knapdale Parish Church (Church of Scotland) (SC010782) shall be united on 1st January 2023, or from a date to be determined by Presbytery, and that on the following terms and conditions:
1. Name: The name of the united congregation shall be Dalriada Mid Argyll (Church of Scotland) and SC001002 will be retained. 2. Transference of Property and Funds: The property and funds belonging to or held on behalf of each congregation shall belong to or be held on behalf of the united congregation and any transference necessary shall be duly effected. 3. Places of Worship: The Places of worship of the united congregation shall be as determined in The Presbytery Mission Plan (See note below). All buildings designated (b) shall be sold, let or otherwise disposed of subject to the titles on which it is held, subject to the approval of the Presbytery and, if necessary, the General Trustees or the General Assembly. The free proceeds of any such sale or let shall: (a) if falling within the scope of Act VII 1995, be credited to the benefit of the congregation in the Consolidated Fabric Fund; or (b) if not falling within the scope of the said Act, be held and applied for fabric purposes in connection with the properties of the congregation. Services shall be conducted at times to be decided by the Minister and Kirk Session, subject to the approval of Presbytery. 4. Territorial Responsibility: The bounds to be served by the united charge shall be designated as the bounds of the parishes of Ardrishaig, Lochgilphead, Glassaray, Kilmartin & Ford, North Knapdale and South Knapdale, or as the Presbytery shall determine. 5. Kirk Session: The elders of all five Kirk Sessions shall form with the minister the Kirk Session of the united congregation. 6. Congregational Management: The temporal affairs of the united congregation shall be administered by the Kirk Session in terms of the Unitary Constitution, the Delegation of Assembly being authorised to issue the appropriate Deed of Constitution to the said congregation. 7. Minister: The Rev David Carruthers, currently minister at Ardrishaig lw South Knapdale, shall be the minister of the united charge in terms of Presbytery Mission Plan Act (Act VIII, 2021) Section 8. 8. Manse: The manse of the congregation of Ardrishaig shall be the manse of the united congregation. The manses of the congregations of Lochgilphead and Glassaray, Kilmartin & Ford shall be sold, let or otherwise disposed of, subject to the titles on which they are held, and subject to the approval of the Presbytery and, if necessary, of the General Trustees or the General Assembly. The free proceeds of any such sale or let shall: (a) if falling within the scope of Act VII 1995, be credited to the benefit of the congregation in the Consolidated Fabric Fund; or (b) if not falling within the scope of the said Act, be held and applied for fabric purposes in connection with the properties of the congregation. 9. Ministerial Support: The stipend of the charge shall be paid in accordance with the terms of the National Stipend Scheme. 10. Power to Readjust: While the articles and terms shall form the Basis of Union for the five congregations now uniting, the united congregation shall be free, like other congregations, to adjust arrangements under the authority of Presbytery as need may arise.
Note: Presbytery Mission Plan Buildings Designations
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 –
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!
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.
Next month, I celebrate a melancholy anniversary. It’ll be a year since I saw my father. He celebrated his 94th birthday at the end of last month, and shortly afterwards he met his great-granddaughter. I have no real idea when I shall see either of them. I speak to Dad every day, and my brother’s family keep me in touch with Eira-Lily’s rapid development. And yet…
Realizing I’d miss Dad’s birthday got to me. Realizing it will shortly be a year since I saw him got to me. I hadn’t realized the extent to which the anniversaries would. I would imagine you’re having similar experiences.
“We should have been…” One of the team who offer the worship we upload weekly to the UCB YouTube channel asked me yesterday “What’s happening with Harvest this year?” – and I was stunned. I hadn’t given any thought to it! It wasn’t on my radar despite the fact that it recurs every year. It’s in that sense an “anniversary”.
And I was surprised at the emotions this stirred in me. We decorate the Communion Table rather than the church nowadays, but in a way, that has let us bring out the global and pan-human themes much more strongly.
And we last did this a year ago., The anniversary is upon us. We’ll be celebrating harvest home the Sunday after next – and I’m not sure how to do it yet! But what felt like shock and disappointment – and “We should have been…” suddenly feels like a liberation into new possibilities of thought, and symbolization, and thanksgiving.
But it also weighs heavily. “We should have been…” “A year ago, we were…” The anniversaries are painful, and as a winter second wave seems to grow in likelihood, and the virus finds ways of asserting that we aren’t on top of it yet, we see some of the really significant Christian anniversaries coming. Christmas. “We should have been…”
As Christians, we must, of course, “rejoice in all things” as Paul tells the Philippians. But was there ever a more challengingly honest thinker in the Christian tradition than Paul. From him we learn that rejoicing must never become denial, or we let our refusal-to-look-at-things-as-they-are steamroller, and hurt, people who are hard-put to find things in which to rejoice. And maybe, each one of us is sometimes among such people. If you are finding the times difficult, especially as the anniversaries come round, you are in all our prayers, as I always know I am.
Blessings, and the strength God gives in Christ,
When you come into the land which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance, and have taken possession of it, and live in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the LORD your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place which the LORD your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there. And you shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him… Deuteronomy 26:1-3
Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. Nehemiah 8: 10-12
For no such passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah; but in the eighteenth year of King Josi’ah this passover was kept to the LORD in Jerusalem. 2 Kings 23:22-23
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
We sometimes forget, Holiest God,
More than that, we often cannot rise
to the heights of living
from which we can look out and marvel –
marvel at creation,
and, utterly inadequately,
at the Creator who sustains all things.
Time runs away with us,
events press in on us,
our time for prayer is compressed and constrained,
or sapped by the day we have had,
or the day ahead, and its duties and difficulties.
And we have been sapped by the strangeness of these times.
And then we grasp it:
the things we forgot to look at – and the strength we could have drawn from them;
the things that do not change, which are reassuring, and point to you;
the things we did not, do not, cannot acknowledge, because it is painful to do so, in times like these.
What shall we confess before you, loving Lord?
You do not wish us to “confess” our pain – you wish only to salve and heal it.
You do not wish us to “confess” our smallness, in a huge, challenging landscape of challenge –
Because you know our smallness, and wish only to call us into the largeness of life in Christ.
You do not wish us to confess the littleness of our faith – because you know we have faith; it is your gift.
So we confess our denial,
Our resistance to the idea that “things get to us”,
And above all, our insistence to others
That they should not let things “get to” them.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Especially now, as the anniversaries come around,
As our congregations approach them in radically different ways –
Distanced, some even (necessarily, we know) denied attendance on that Sunday,
No singing of harvest hymns
Perhaps no singing of carols,
Your apostle tells us “rejoice in all things – again I say, rejoice!” We thank you for the Paul who looks at things as they are,
at hard, bruising reality for the congregations he knows so well,
and then tells them “in all these things, we are more than conquerors,
through the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!” –
and tells us exactly the same thing!
Help us in these unsettling times
To acknowledge the impulse to say
“We should have been…”
Help us to respond with compassion and understanding when our members say it –
Help us to own their sadness.
And then let us bear witness to them,
By grasping for ourselves,
That the strangeness strips away the peripheral things,
And lets us penetrate to the heart of what we celebrate, and remember
In the recurrent things – the anniversaries.
“We should have been…”
and we cannot –
but you, Lord, open to us this possibility,
truer to the times,
authentic, and full of hope,
not looking back to last year, and every year before,
but forward into a changed world,
in which, in Jesus Christ, we shall still be
more than conquerors.
So let us approach Harvest Thanksgiving,
for there is a harvest,
there is food, even abundance.
there is consoling reference
to the regularity beyond this intrusive strangeness.
And there are the urgent themes
that command us, we know, to look beyond COVID:
what we have done, what we are doing,
what we must as a human family do,
to save and protect our blue, orbiting home.
There is the irony, we know,
that we have collectively lost sight of these things,
distracted by a serious virus which, it seems,
may have arisen from the way the human species has been feeding itself,
and farming its animals.
In the midst of this strangeness,
Let our Harvest Thanksgivings this year
Be grounded in truth,
Joyous in celebrating your creation,
Honest and penitent in contemplating what we have done to it,
And bracing, consoling, energizing and full of hope
In inviting our folk to keep the feast.
Let our strange, honest, faith-filled Harvest
presage the strange, honest and faith-filled feasts
which may lie ahead this winter.
In the holy silence, we bring our prayers
For those whose needs we know
Or think we glimpse, or can guess at.
Open our minds in this silence
To possibilities of prayer which can only come from the Spirit’s work within us…