Lent Study 2020 – Prayer

The Lent Study this year will be about prayer:

The sessions will be flexible, broadly centred around the following headings:

  1. The Essence of Prayer
  2. The Person who Prays
  3. Growth in Prayer
  4. Living in Tune
  5. Pray like This

As usual, there will be one set on five Wednesday afternoons (4th, 11th, 18th, 25th March & 1st April) starting at 2pm in the Kyle of Sutherland Hub in Bonar Bridge and another set on Wednesday evenings, starting at 7pm in St Andrew’s Hall in Tain.  All are welcome.

Gender and Liturgy in Conversation – 29th-30th May 2020

Responding to the Sacred:

Gender & Liturgy in Conversation

A two day conference bringing together liturgists and theologians, activists and academics to discuss directions for liturgical revision.

Speakers include:

  • Dr Bridget Nichols,
  • Professor Lisa Isherwood,
  • Dr Bill Paterson and
  • Dr Armand Léon Van Ommen.

12pm Friday 29th – 4pm Saturday 30th May

Iris Murdoch Suite University of Stirling

For more information there is a facebook page:  Gender and Liturgy Conference

To purchase tickets visit:  eventbrite.co.uk

If you wish to know more about what is envisaged, consult the current draft programme (subject to revision) or speak to James.

A Praise and Worship Evening – 21st Feb 2020

You are warmly invited to

A Praise and Worship evening

in the Seaboard Hall, Balintore

on Friday 21st February 2020 at 7pm.

All funds raised are for the work of our local Christian charity, Blythswood Care.


Lament for Lent

Lent is only a couple of weeks away and during Lent you might like to consider this resource from the Church Mission Society

Church Mission Society has announced a “Lament for Lent” campaign with free resources to help the church to lament in the face of increasing unrest and uncertainty as persecution against Christians, war, racism, are on the rise together with the climate crisis and other threats to the wellbeing of the world.

The campaign’s key free six-week resource, Only With Eyes That Have Cried, is written by leading theologian and missiologist Dr Cathy Ross, who heads up CMS’s Pioneer Mission Leadership Training Centre in Oxford. She said: “There is much to lament in our world and we need the space and the permission to do so. We need to take time to lament violence, war, racism, exploitation of women and trafficking, the state of our planet and the climate crisis. As Greta Thunberg says, ‘Our house is still on fire’.

Through the campaign CMS hopes Christians will learn to embrace, rather than move on too quickly from personal or collective grief, by developing a deeper trust and confidence in God. The campaign draws upon ideas expressed by Ugandan theologian Emmanuel Katongole in his book, Born from Lament: the Theology and Politics of Hope in Africa, wherein he examines the violence and suffering that beset DR Congo in recent years and asked, “How does one live with this?”, “Can there be a future and if so, what kind?” and “Where is God?”.

As well as using examples from the Psalms, ‘Only With Eyes That Have Cried’ relays the experience of CMS mission partners such as Ruth Radley who experienced the power of lament while serving in South Sudan. Through stories like Ruth’s, people will read about lament as resistance, lament as innovation, lament as activism and lament as hope.

To help people Lament for Lent, CMS is offering the six-week Only With Eyes That Have Cried resource for free to individuals and churches. Written by Cathy Ross, it also contains prayers by Ian Adams, chaplain of Ridley College, Cambridge and CMS mission spirituality adviser, as well as creative suggestions to help people embrace lament as a spiritual discipline that can deepen their experience of God.

Dr Ross concludes: “Through Lent this year we hope that you will learn not only to lament but also to take action – this is what is profound about lament – it moves us from grief to action.

Copies may be obtained through the Church Mission Society Website or by phoning 01865 787519.

Diocesan News – February/March 2020

The February & March Diocesan News is now available.

In it, Bishop Mark writes…

Dear Friends,

I am writing this to you from The Crask while I wait to lead worship here this afternoon. The weather is still rather driech but the inn is very cosy.

I have just completed the joyful task of hosting a meeting of the Celtic Bishops here in Inverness, we spent time in conversation and debate and I also took the opportunity to lead them on Pilgrimage through Inverness, visiting churches and stopping half way through for High Tea in the Town House. We were guests of the Council and it was wonderful to be met so warmly by the Deputy Provost and her team.

Pilgrimage is of course the theme for next years Scottish Episcopal year of Pilgrimage and I hope that all of you will at some point be able to journey with the church. I am also looking for ideas of pilgrimage within this diocese, so if you have any ideas please get in touch.

Tomorrow is Candlemas and we bring our Christmas festivities to a close, my prayers will be with you all as we begin the preparation of Lent.


Lights in the World

This week there have been lots of candles:

Firstly there have been single candles, signifying Christ – Light of the World, reminding us of who’s we are and who we serve.

At the Hub service we meditated on Light, surrounded by many candles and were each individually blessed with a candle to take as a symbol of our calling to be a light in the world and to share Christ’s light.

At Candlemas services today in Lairg, Dornoch, Tain and Brora we reflected on the same theme, blessed the candles that we will use this year and were each blessed as we held our own individual candle and then took it home a Light to dispel darkness and fear from our lives, a light to enlighten our minds, a light to brighten dull days and show each of us the path we must travel.

(NB – if these candles arranged on the floor at the Hub resemble the flag of any group of nations, it’s entirely unintended)


Be Still and Know that I am God

Whilst reflecting on how we might structure our Lent Study on Prayer, I came across this quote by one of my favourite spiritual writers Henri Nouwen:

Deep silence leads us to realize that prayer is, above all, acceptance. When we pray, we are standing with our hands open to the world. We know that God will become known to us in the nature around us, in people we meet, and in situations we run into. We trust that the world holds God’s secret within and we expect that secret to be shown to us. Prayer creates that openness in which God is given to us. Indeed, God wants to be admitted into the human heart, received with open hands, and loved with the same love with which we have been created.

I remember that school prayers were always things with words and not much silence. Also we had to put our hands together and close our eyes tight shut, and woe betide anyone who tried to peek, because strangely teachers seemed to be able to pray with their eyes wide open. Looking round our congregations on a Sunday, I get the impression that most people must have been taught about prayer in much the same way and, of course, old habits die hard. So it comes as rather refreshing to read an article by another of my favourite spiritual writers Eugene Peterson who in writing about a third favourite writer says:

Annie Dillard prays with her eyes open. She says, Spread out your hands, lift up your head, open your eyes, and we’ll pray… She gets us into the theater that Calvin told us about, and we find ourselves in the solid biblical companionship of psalmists and prophets who watched the ‘hills skip like lambs’ and heard the ‘trees clap their hands,’ alert to God everywhere.

When we celebrate the Eucharist together, our celebration is part of entering into the mystery of God. Rudolf Otto, a German theologian, wrote: We experience God as Mysterium tremendum et fascinans. Basically, the unfathomable Mystery before whom we’re awestruck and stand trembling, yet find ourselves inexorably drawn into a relationship that’s also gracious and loving; attracting and fascinating us in ways we can’t fully explain.

It’s quite beyond us to have a loving relationship with the mysterious invisible God, through our own efforts. But because God wants to relate to us individually in love He’s given us the perfect helper in His Son Jesus Christ. Through Him God invites us into the love that we see demonstrated in the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Holy Trinity. The Son shows us the way to the Father through the power of the Spirit. God however remains a mystery.

Prayer is the mechanism through which we try to enter into that mystery. Prayer works through the power of the Spirit, rather than anything that we could possible achieve on our own. In prayer, the Spirit calls and we respond rather than prayer being something that we initiate. As St Paul says in his letter to the Romans:

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27

Come and explore these things in our Lent Study Groups on Prayer.