Presbytery News

Good Friday Worship for Lochaber Presbytery

Welcome and Introduction (Moderator, Richard Baxter)

Hello, and on behalf of the Presbytery of Lochaber, welcome to our shared Good Friday service. Thank you for joining with us on this important day in the Christian calendar.

Today, we reflect on the events which happened in Jerusalem when Jesus was taken, and beaten, and executed on our behalf. It’s a sombre day. A day when Jesus used the words of Psalm 22, saying, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me. I’ve cried desperately for help and still it does not come.”

And yet also a day when those other words of the same Psalm are true: “All nations will remember the Lord. From every part of the world they will turn to Him. All races will worship Him. The Lord is King and He rules the nations.”

In Jerusalem, on that first Good Friday there were many voices. There was the Hebrew of the priests and the scribes. The Aramaic of the crowds. The languages of the Roman soldiers, from all over the Roman world. There were the various languages of the visitors who were in the city. And in this service you are going to hear various voices. But all of us are going to reflect together on the events of that first Good Friday, and what they mean for us.

Psalm 22, verses 1, 2, 27, 28:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I find no rest.

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.

We’re now going to share in our first hymn.

Hymn CH4-365, Ride on, ride on in majesty (played by Mike Whitton)

Prayer of Approach, and Lord’s Prayer (led by Anthony Jones)

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, you have walked the painful road that led to your Cross.

Still, you took time to respond to the people you met.

Our road is broader, its end more clear, our burdens lighter.

Help us to meet the needs of those we meet.

As brothers and sisters help us to support and encourage each other.

Give us love enough to stop and care for those with whom we journey in our times of trial.

Help us to stand by your cross in your time of suffering.

Lord God your commitment to us is clear: we see it in the ministry of Jesus.

Your commitment to us is complete: we see it in the crucifixion of Jesus.

Our commitment to you is often mixed:

what do we want for ourselves; what shall we give to you?

Shall we serve you with unmeasured love; shall we give you a part and keep a part?

Gracious God, you have lastingly shown us and the whole world your measure of love in Jesus Christ,

Christ's outstretched arms on the cross stand so clearly as a symbol of your whole-heartedness towards us;

an offer of freedom from sin for all who will turn to believe and find faith, a promise of wholeness to broken souls.

As Christ wrestled with his mission, setting his face to the tasks before him,

so we would commit ourselves to the pilgrim path as Christ's followers,

our arms outstretched to those in need, wholehearted disciples of our wholehearted Lord.

As Christ accomplished the work set before him by his sacrifice for us at Calvary

Help us so that our commitment to you may be clear and our love complete.

We make this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen

We pray THE LORD'S PRAYER together:

Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be your name,

Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is 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 thine is the kingdom The power and the glory, Forever

Amen

Reading 1 John 18:1-14 Jesus arrested (read by Morag Muirhead)

Talk 1 The Rejection and Arrest of Jesus (given by Sandy Stoddart)

“You don’t put new wine in old wineskins”, Jesus said. The skins will burst, they can’t contain it. This is how radical a change Jesus was bringing and lots of folk didn’t like it.

The Jewish authorities were offended by much of what he said; it sometimes got uncomfortably personal. Their comfort zones were the old wineskins; they were self-righteous in their practices and beliefs and they didn’t want anyone challenging this.

The Romans didn’t like anything radical or new, that way led to trouble. ‘Don’t rock the boat and we’ll maybe not bother you too much’ tended to be their way.

Jesus’ iconoclasm was popular with lots of the ordinary folk but there were those who found him hard to take. He seemed to be asking a lot of them and, although he promised a lot too, they didn’t know how far they could trust him, so many rejected him.

As we come to Good Friday we’re all too aware of the level of rejection of Jesus that led to him being arrested. John summed it up at the beginning of his Gospel, ‘The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.’

How could they not accept the Son of God? Why would God sacrifice his Son? Scholars have written millions of words as they’ve grappled with these questions and tried to make sense of how this could be part of God’s loving plan for the world.

But it’s maybe not that hard to understand why Jesus was rejected. When we get too comfortable in our old wineskins we maybe don’t take kindly to something radical that challenges our practices and beliefs. We might even be rejecting Jesus.

Hymn CH4-356, Meekness and Majesty (Graham Kendrick)

Reading 2 Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 Jesus death foretold (read by Marion Kinnear)

Talk 2 The Suffering of Jesus (given by Malcolm Kinnear)

This passage has been described as Isaiah’s Good News. The description of the servant of the Lord who suffers is the high mark of Old Testament revelation. As we read it we are gripped by the wonder of such a person and of such an event. Who is this, we ask, and the answer is that it is Jesus, walking the lonely journey to Calvary, along the Via Dolorosa. Jesus suffered, and he did it for us. He was wounded for our transgressions. He had no transgressions of his own. He took the penalty and the punishment due to us, and through yielding himself up for us and in our place, we are healed. He made his soul an offering for sin.

Jesus was not the passive victim of men’s cruelty. He willingly gave himself unto death for our sake. C. S. Lewis once put it, ‘he served in our sad regiment as a volunteer’.

When all was accomplished he declared ‘it is finished’, and yielded up his spirit unto God.

As Isaiah prophesied, by the travail of his soul he bore our iniquities, he made us right with God. As a sheep before the shearers was dumb so he did not open his mouth. He remained silent, as the one carrying the weight and the burden of our sin, assuming the place of the guilty. He did it for us. He carried in his spirit and in his awareness the burden and sorrow of our condition. He offered himself up as the one effective and acceptable remedy for our brokenness.

It was the will and the purpose of the Father to bruise him; that his own Son should so give himself; for he that spared not his own Son, delivered him up for us all. Jesus gave himself for our sin that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God our Father, as Paul wrote. And it was so. Our response, as in the hymn Man of Sorrows, must be ‘Alleluia, what a Saviour!’

Hymn Mission Praise 85, Come and See (Graham Kendrick)

Reading 3 John 19:16 – 19:30 Jesus is crucified (read by Bill Skene)

Talk 3 The Death of Jesus (given by Fiona Ogg)

The passage from John is studded with hindsight and theology -

it’s a Christian interpretation majoring on the fulfilment of Jewish scripture and we can rest easy knowing Easter Sunday is coming.

BUT, can I suggest we take the role of onlooker, and gain some insight as to how it might have been at the time.

Jesus had been out there healing, teaching new ways of sharing hope, being the Messiah, the Saviour

But no matter how much Jesus said, did, and taught, mostly differently to what was expected of the role of Jewish Messiah, those following still put Jesus inside the box of their expectations. Jesus was still expected to be the Messiah who freed them from the oppression of the Romans.

People simply did not understand what Jesus was doing.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus poked the wasps nest of Jerusalem - he upset all sorts of authorities -

religious, political, Herod’s people, the Romans – the outcome was –

the hopes of the people were dashed, and a bloody and cruel death for Jesus.

Much as with any criminal, he was beaten extremely harshly, nailed to a cross and left to suffocate as the weight of his body drove the air from his lungs - his clothing was distributed to the soldiers - to his close friends and relatives, he handed over care for his womenfolk.

Above his head Pilate had a plaque nailed that read “King of the Jews” –

interestingly, this was something the religious authorities denied, but Pilate acknowledged, ironically or not - and in three languages, Latin, Greek and Aramaic, proclaiming Jesus’ kingship to Jews, gentiles, and the world.

And so, Jesus died, dreadfully, leaving family and friends broken-hearted, followers without a cause or reason for carrying on, and the Jews without their Messiah - so many hopes dashed - staring into a future with no hope – only darkness and despair.

This happens to us too – when someone we love dies, hopes and dreams of the future are no more,

something within us dies too - and we look into a pit of despair and depression, despond - grief for what we’ve lost, and we see no future.

Next day - what to do – all the routines, and life itself, felt meaningless.

That’s where the story stops, today.

When we realise that the story stops there, we realise that God knows, and has experience, of human bereavement and loss - God knows, God really knows. Amen

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Request (led by Rory MacLeod)

‘We may not know, we cannot tell, what pains He had to bear

But we believe it was for us He hung and suffered there.’

Let us Pray.

Living and Loving God,

On this Good Friday we try to enter in mind and imagination, to better understand something of the importance of all that took place on Calvary’s Cross.

In the depths of darkest horror we listen to Christ’s cry from the cross, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.’

We know that Jesus was steeped in the Scriptures and we wonder if he was calling to mind the opening words of Psalm 22. Words learnt at the knees of his parents Mary and Joseph. Was he thinking too of words that follow from the psalm, ‘Since my mother bore me you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.’

We can never fathom the depths of Jesus’ suffering that he endured. The brutal violence inflicted upon him. The cruelty and injustice of it all. The blood lust of his enemies, the unleashing of hatred and bitterness, the torture of his body and inner soul.

On Good Friday we join those who down the centuries who have stood and watched from a distance. Glimpsing costly love in action. That somehow Jesus suffered on our behalf and in our place. That he was involved in a conflict between forces of Good and Evil, fought out on a battleground of wood and nails. Golgotha is a place where we would tremble and fear to go.

On this day, Good Lord, teach us to Stop, Listen, and Learn.

Give us an enquiring mind and a thankful heart.

We give thanks for all that touches our lives with beauty, truth, and goodness. For the families and friendships we cherish. For the heights of mountains, sunlight on water, birds in flight and the companions of the heart.

Heavenly Father, be with all today – who for whatever reason are struggling, for whom life at present is empty. All who feel unloved, lonely, and isolated, confused or shaken by life’s tragedies.

We pray for our doctors and nurses, our key health workers. All battling to overcome Covid, as well as other cruel and dreaded illnesses.

For all who are up against it – for whom the weight of the world is on their shoulders. For whom laughter and security has been replaced by a daily diet of fears and tears. Give to them all Your strengthening presence, which you alone can give. May your healing power transform for the better, the inner heart, the bruised body, the tormented mind. Deepen our faith in the one who brings healing and restoration and transforms broken lives.

Let the words of the mystic, be a guide, who said

You do not need to seek him here or there,

he is no further off than the door of your heart.’

God, enter that door and stay with us this day.

Amen.

Hymn Your Cross, O Lord (video with words, by Joyful Noise)

Closing Words and Benediction (Moderator, Richard Baxter)

Thank you for being part of our service today. Thank you to everyone who has helped to put this together. We hope that you and the people in your congregation will know not only the sorrow of Good Friday, but also the joy of Easter Sunday, when it comes.

As we part from here just now, go with this thought: all that we have read, all that we have heard, all that we have spoken of, was done for your sake, and for my sake.

Now go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

And may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with us all now, and for evermore,

Amen

Contributors to worship, and their roles within the Presbytery:

Rev. Richard Baxter, parish minister of Fort William Kilmallie and Kilmonivaig. The current Moderator of presbytery.

Rev. Donald McCorkindale, parish minister, Ardgour, Kingairloch, Strontian, Morven. Presbytery Clerk. Integrated the videos clips.

Rev. Anthony Jones, parish minister of Fort Augustus and Glengarry.

Mr. Bill Skene, Reader in Fort William Kilmallie and Kilmonivaig.

Mrs. Ella Gill, Reader in Western Lochaber parishes. Ella selected the hymns for our service, in association with Donald.

Rev. Fiona Ogg, parish minister of Acharacle and Ardnamurchan.

Rev. Malcolm Kinnear, parish minister of Nether Lochaber and Kinlochleven.

Rev. Morag Muirhead, Ordained Local Minister in Fort William Kilmallie and Kilmonivaig.

Rev. Marion Kinnear, Auxiliary Minister in South Lochaber parishes.

Mr. Mike Whitton, organist, Acharacle.

Rev. Rory MacLeod, Team Minister in Fort William Kilmallie and Kilmonivaig.

Rev. Sandy Stoddart, parish minister of Glencoe and Duror.

Rev. Stewart Goudie, parish minister of North West Lochaber. Stewart coordinated the worship, and prepared this text version.

A message from Richard Baxter, Moderator of the Presbytery.

Dear friends,

I would like to bring greetings from Lochaber Presbytery to everyone in Kinlochleven and Nether Lochaber. Having had the privilege of becoming the first Lochaber moderator to be installed in a virtual service, this letter is part of my attempt to make a series of virtual visits to our local congregations. We have been living in strange times, with many challenges and opportunities for our Christian communities across the area. I want to assure you that your congregation, and you as a part of the life of that local congregation, are in my thoughts and prayers.

We are learning to adapt to a rapidly changing world, and I want to thank you for your resilience and patience, and also for the creativity we are seeing around the churches. While we are all missing the opportunities to meet together in person, a mixture of online worship, printed resources and other ways of working are breathing new life into our congregations, and helping us to connect to new people. I have enjoyed sharing some of Malcolm’s online church visits.

Let me encourage you to help in a number of ways. First, please pray. Pray for your local congregation and the wider church, pray for those involved in ministry and for the people in your congregation and community. Pray that God will equip us to adapt and serve Him in changing times.

Next, please play your part. By picking up the phone to a friend or neighbour, and offering a listening ear, you are doing Christ’s work. At a time when most usual channels of information are closed, all of the ministry teams appreciate hearing about anyone who could do with a call or with some support. Even if you are under the strictest limitations, therefore, there is work for you to do.

Finally, please support your congregation’s work. All congregations are facing financial challenges with the loss of their regular income. Many people in our communities are also in difficult personal circumstances especially if their income depends on tourism and hospitality. If you’re in a position to actively support the work of the church financially, please do so (and if you’re not, your involvement in other ways is just as important). Whether you use standing order, online giving or fill envelopes for collection later, your vital support is helping us through a time of transition.

I don’t suppose a return to our former ways of working is likely (or even wholly desirable). It seems likely that there will be a major process of presbytery planning ahead across the country to decide what is sustainable and what is not in the light of the changed circumstances brought by the coronavirus. This will involve looking at our ministry, finances and buildings together, so it’s important our congregations are in the healthiest possible shape before that begins. We’ll have to learn new ways of working, and keep finding better ways to share resources, but we have an unchanging God, whose love never fails. He constantly calls us to follow, and enables us to love and worship and serve Him in new ways and old alike.

Let me, then, thank you for your prayers and your work and your commitment. Please know that it is appreciated. And let me encourage you to look forward with faith in a God whose message is for every time and every generation, including ours.

May God bless you, and strengthen you and your congregation for all that He has in store for us.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter

Moderator, Lochaber Presbytery

Presbytery of Lochaber - Looking ahead.

The Presbytery are keen to see congregations adopt the Unitary form of Constitution whereby the Kirk Session handle all affairs of the

Church. A copy of the Constitution is available for download at the foot of this page.

Exploring the Unitary Constitution

As we have been encouraged to explore the unitary constitution as an alternative to the current way we run our congregation, this section is intended to answer some questions that people may have.

What is the main difference?

Under our present set up the financial and temporal matters of the church are dealt with by a Congregational Board. If we adopt the unitary constitution the Board will be dissolved and all these matters will be handled by the kirk session.

Who sits on the kirk session?

The minister normally convenes, moderates or chairs the meeting of the kirk session which is comprised of minister(s) and elders. They can appoint a clerk and a treasurer who need not be elders and who would attend meetings but would not by virtue of this office become session members.

Could anyone else sit on the session?

Session meetings are normally open meetings and so any member can be present - except in certain sensitive matters where it meets in private. Former board members who are not elders could be co-opted and so still be part of the management process of the church - and their ideas and help may well be of great value to the session, but they would not be session members. It might be that in time this exposure to the wider affairs of the church would help them to feel motivated towards becoming elders.

What advantage would the unitary constitution bring?

There would not be a separation between the spiritual and temporal matters of the church which in practice are not totally separate. For example stewardship, giving, the use of buildings are not just about property and money. It would also mean that all the charity trustees would have a say over all the activities of the congregation and not just some of the activities: currently trustees who are only Board members only make decisions over some areas whereas being trustees they are in a sense responsible for the whole.

How will the decision be made?

If the kirk session feels this is the way forward the congregation as a whole will be consulted. The presbytery will guide us through this process and if the congregation supports the change, a request goes to the church's Edinburgh offices who alone have the power to allow us to adopt the new constitution.

What is the Church of Scotland's preferred option?

In 2016 the General Assembly decided that congregations who still have Congregational Boards should be urged, or strongly encouraged to move to the Unitary model.

Presbytery of Lochaber - Looking ahead.

Statement to be read and included on congregational websites on February 10th 2019

General Introduction for all;

The GA 2018 instructed Presbyteries to review Presbytery Plans. This review will take into account the national shortage of ordained ministers as well as a nationally reduced financial capability while at the same time keeping the missional purpose of the church at its core.

In all plans the number, use and purpose of each building which is funded and serviced by the church must be reviewed.

Lochaber Presbytery is in the process of implementing this instruction.

We are aware that many Presbyteries around the country are taking rapid and radical action in response to the current situation. While we recognise the urgency of the issue, the Planning Group are concerned to take sufficient time to make sure our plans in Lochaber are workable and well-considered.

To this end the Presbytery has been divided into 3 separate groupings of congregations and in each mission and ministry is being reviewed as well as working practices.

Notice for Southern Group;

Nether Lochaber, Kinlochleven, Duror and St Munda’s.

In October 2018 Presbytery agreed that, at a future date, these four congregations will form one charge with one nationally ordained minister. All Kirk Sessions have been consulted and discussions will take place with office bearers to agree the terms of the basis of this charge.

There will be no alteration to the current arrangements while both ministers are in post.

Notice for Central Group

FWDM, Kilmonivaig, Kilmallie, Fort Augustus and Glengarry

Based on recent reviews of all these congregations and parishes, a plan for future ministry and mission will be proposed.

Having an accepted plan in place will enable recruitment of appropriate ministry personnel.

Notice for Western Group

Acharacle, Ardnamurchan, Ardgour, Morvern, Strontian, NW Lochaber

A review of the pattern of ministry is underway.

For all;

The Presbytery Planning Process is an open process. Reports are made at each Presbytery meeting and so should be reported to each congregation under the usual reporting procedure. Your Minister and Presbytery Elder can be contacted for details.

You are welcome to contact Ella Gill if you would like further information or have any queries.

Ellagill768@gmail.com

Presbytery Planning

The Lochaber Presbytery are looking ahead to the time when there will be fewer Ministers in the Church of Scotland and have issued the following report to be discussed by each of the charges. At the foot of this page, there are 2 leaflets which can be downloaded.

A meeting was held on Saturday 06 February, 2018 in Duncansburgh Macintaosh Church Hall from 10.00 to 16.00 when the following facts were considered and discussed. Report to follow on this page.

Lochaber Presbytery

Planning for the Future

Help us to plan for Ministry and Mission in Lochaber

There are 15 congregations in Lochaber divided into 8 charges.

Presbytery plans must be reviewed annually and approved by Ministries Council.

Shortage of Ministers

The allocation of 8 ministers for Lochaber a number of years ago was made when there were 1000 minsters who could fill these posts. Presbyteries were asked to rationalize their charges so that there would be a total of 1,000 charges nationally.

Since that time, a number of ministers have retired. In spite of the retirement age being raised voluntarily to 75 from 65 and also active recruitment drives, the current number of ministers is around 740. In spite of the rise in retirement age not very many ministers are staying on significantly longer. With changes to state pension ages it may rise by a year or two to 66 or 67.

By 2023 – 5 years away - it is estimated that there will be only 468 ministers under the age of 65 out of a total of 611. So, in the not too distant future, out of 1023 existing charges there will be 412 in vacancy with no prospect of inducting a minister and this will rapidly increase to 555.

Ministries Council have confirmed that – even if 1000 ministers could be found, the church could not afford to pay them.

A proposal will go to the General Assembly this year so that Presbyteries will be asked to plan for a reduction in ministers.

Situation in Lochaber

By February 2018 there will be one charge out of our 8 in vacancy with permission to call – North West Lochaber

We are in the fortunate position of being able to plan for the future while we have people in post but that situation can change very quickly and so we must not become complacent.

Now is the time when we must consider our future rather than wait until there is the pressure of trying to support more congregations in vacancy. We know there will be a problem sustaining our current way of working and so we must plan for the issues which will occur – not if but when.

A major concern which needs to be addressed in Lochaber is the difficulty in filling church officer posts. There are parishes which do not have property conveners and session clerks and many who have officers who will step down from their roles in the next 5 years. The Clerk has been asked for a summary of church officers across Lochaber so that parishes where this is the case can be identified.

There are still some parishes which operate a model constitution which requires officers for a congregational board as well as for the Kirk Session. Where there is a shortage of willing and able people to fulfill officer roles there can be no logic in operating under this constitution. Transfer to a Unitary constitution which requires only a Kirk Session is a straightforward process and so Parishes are asked to consider this move.

In Lochaber church membership has reduced in the last 5 years from 1172 to 1012 but, of course, membership is not attendance.

In all our churches attendance has decreased over the last few years.

However, there are other expressions of ministry which are appearing throughout the area – mid week meetings, discussion groups, Bible groups, Messy Church. All these need to be nurtured.

Buildings and Finance

Almost all our congregations are being financially supported by the wider church. In spite of this, decreasing attendance and income coupled with increasing costs of maintaining buildings and supporting Mission and Ministry contribution gives rise to concerns and some challenging decisions. Justifying the use of all our buildings in Lochaber is challenging. Many churches have been significant in the lives of members- the church where they were baptized, got married, parents had funerals- the rites of passage. However sympathetically this can be viewed the current situation and our commitment as a national church has to take priority.

What is there to consider?

Our commitment; The Church of Scotland has a commitment to ‘bring the ordinances of religion to the people in every parish of Scotland through a territorial ministry’. This includes the preaching and teaching of the Word in a service where all are gathered together, as well as mission and evangelism in our communities.

Next Steps

There is an opportunity to discuss this situation and what it will mean for you, your parish and the future of faith in Lochaber on Saturday February 10th at Fort William Duncansburgh MacIntosh Church at 10.00am until 4pm.

We need to put in perspective our role in meeting the function of the church with the practical issues which face us. Changes in the perception of faith in society, reduction in available ministers and ministry teams, increase in costs and decrease in income must be considered as we contemplate the future of the Church of Scotland in Lochaber.

Where does the church fit now?

We are just emerging from winter and shoots of plants are braving the elements and popping up from the ground. The same is happening in the church, the old way is dying but; – help us find the new growth of faith so that we can protect and encourage it.

Come and discuss your ideas

Please let me know if you are able to attend and help us to decide our future.

Ella Gill 01967431834 ellagill768@gmail.com

The leaflet below was issued last year as an initial approach to Congregations to begin to face the situation which will arise in 5 years from now.

Planning for the Future

The Bible is full of stories of travelling, travelling either because of persecution or God’s calling. Abraham was called to leave his home country, Moses led the people towards the Promised Land and Jesus’ ministry was a nomadic one as he met and mingled with many people throughout Galilea, Samaria and Judea. Moving for very valid reasons and purposes which could not have been met if they had stayed in one place.

Well, the Church of Scotland is on the move, journeying towards different expressions of church to meet the changing needs of the community.

Why do we have to move?

In Lochaber we have been fortunate to have had the support of Ministers, Readers and lay people involved in our Sunday worship for many years but many are reaching the age of retirement and the status quo cannot continue (even the band Status Quo retired!).

We have to have the courage to really look at why we do what we do – is because we are used to it? is that a valid reason for staying still? or does God want us to step out?

As with all journeys, you have to leave one place to be able to arrive in another. It is a wrench, there is confusion and hurt but there is also excitement and anticipation.

But which direction? Where do we start?

What is our purpose?

The Church of Scotland has a commitment to ‘bring the ordinances of religion to the people in every parish of Scotland through a territorial ministry’. This includes the preaching and teaching of the Word in a service where all are gathered together, as well as mission and evangelism in our communities. Caring for the spiritual welfare of young and old in the parishes.

Who or what is the Church of Scotland with responsibility for this pledge?

We all are. Not the General Assembly, not Presbytery, not Kirk Sessions but all who have made their own commitment to membership of the church.

This is where we start, with a purpose in mind and the commitment of all in the church.

The Church is based on biblical teachings and we read in Galatians 5;25 ‘Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit’

We have tarried too long in one place and, guided by the Spirit, we must step out.

The Elders and Ministers in the Kirk Sessions are being asked to let their congregations know that it is not possible to maintain the present structure of parish ministry and to help in developing new ways of meeting our commitment.

This is about the need for congregations to be more active in evangelism, worship and mission now. The status quo means decline.

Justin Welbye speaking on Thy Kingdom Come, the call to prayer between Ascension and Pentecost has said: we can’t afford to leave evangelism to the professionals, it is the responsibility of us all, and we need to be praying for opportunities for sharing the gospel and using these.

How do we do this? We need to start with the facts.

There are 15 congregations in Lochaber divided into 8 charges.

The allocation of 8 ministers for Lochaber a number of years ago was made when there were 1000 minsters who could fill these posts.

Since that time, a number of ministers have retired. In spite of the retirement age being raised voluntarily to 75 from 65 and also active recruitment drives, the current number of ministers is around 800.

It is estimated that this will fall to 600 in the next few years and even if 1000 ministers could be found, the church could not afford to pay them.

So it can be easily seen that the current shortfall of 200 ministers will rise to 400 in the not too distant future.

The issue then arises for those charges which go into vacancy – where will the ministers come from to answer the Call to their charge?

Reduction in Church Attendance

In Lochaber church membership has reduced in the last 5 years from 1172 to 1012 but, of course, membership is not attendance.

In Lochaber Messy Church has become popular and is family worship. Attempts have been made to standardise the recording of attendance so that it can be entered into annual statistics but it is likely that we do not have a clear picture of numbers.

In all our churches attendance has decreased over the last few years.

How can we face the future?

Our Presbytery covers a huge geographical area with many obstacles for travelling from cost, single track roads to weather conditions and cancelled ferries. This is the down side – the upside is that is that we are brothers and sisters in Christ with the same aim – to spread the Good News of the Gospel.

We are a small Presbytery in terms of population and in spite of our geographical size, we are family.

For many years we have been financially supported by the wealthier churches – 14 out of our 15 congregations are helped financially with their ministry costs – now is the time for us to share our resources with our neighbours.

2 Corinthians 8: 2 -4

In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.

What do we do, how can we move forward?

Kirk Sessions have been asked to nominate a representative from each parish to join the planning group to formulate a plan for the future.

The charges have been divided up into 3 groups;

1. Duncansburgh Mackintosh l/w Kilmonivaig; Kilmallie; Glengarry l/w Fort Augustus

2. Nether Lochaber l/w Kinlochleven; Duror l/w St Munda’s

3. Acharacle l/w Ardnamurchan; Ardgour and Kingairloch l/w Morvern l/w Strontian; N. W Lochaber

Each group is asked to explore areas in which they can support each other so that a plan for meeting our commitment in their area can be devised.