Prayer Everywhere

Creator God, who formed us from dust, breathe in me again. Give me a new imagination to perceive new possibilities today.” Prayer of Approach from Lectio 365, week commencing 6th July.

Many of us have had to be creatives and innovators in recent months, including those of us who would have never considered ourselves to be creative. Normal methods and usual routines have been interrupted and disrupted, making us feel like we are walking down literal rabbit trails, not just proverbial ones.

But the beauty of disruption is that it often facilitates creativity and innovation.

As restrictions ease slightly, there is understandable frustration that we are still unable to gather as church congregations in the same way. But maybe once again we can allow God to turn our frustration into innovation. Maybe we can come to him as his tired and frustrated and even sad children and allow him to do as the lovely prayer above suggests – to breathe into us, giving us new imaginations and eyes to see new possibilities where we saw before only obstacles.

Prayer has been googled more than ever during these past several months. People have been worried, frightened, stressed, even grieving and have been searching for a way to process all that they are feeling and experiencing. How can we as the Church help them in this? How can we, as the children of God, visually demonstrate the hope and peace found in coming boldly to a Father whom we know to be good, kind, wise, loving and powerful?

What could it look like to facilitate prayer for those searching, needing a safe space to process? What could it look like to guide them in reflection, helping them to express their thoughts and emotions?
Do we really need our church buildings to do this?

Scotland is filled with beautiful outdoor spaces and though our Scottish weather is a bit unpredictable, still, it is summer and people are outside as much as possible right now. And through the ancient Celtic Church, we in Scotland have a beautifully rich heritage of prayer, even worship and devotion, being held outside, utilising our natural, beautiful surroundings and resources.

What could it look like to set up places and spaces of reflection and prayer in outdoor spaces where social distancing can still be easily maintained?

We love what Blantyre Old Parish Church have been doing. They have opened their church garden up to the community and provided various, changing reflective “prayer stops” to help people pray and process without the need to touch anything, making it completely safe and stress free to engage with.

Our friends at Discovery Church in Dunbar gained permission this past Advent to create a labyrinth in the local park to help their community engage reflectively with Advent. They created it with simple branches, twigs, rocks and logs gathered from the nearby forest and beach.

Other churches have been dreaming up and implementing similar things just recently.

What could this look like where we live, for our local communities?

Creator God, who formed us from dust, breathe in me again. Give me a new imagination to perceive new possibilities today.”

If this is something that gets you excited and you want advice and inspiration, give us a shout at and be watching for “Hope Spaces” resources soon to be released!

* Photo creds: Jon Tyson

Prayer Course & Alpha – A Beautiful Relationship

We thought we would try a video blog this week for the fun of it! Let us know what you think!

Crystal talks with Bridget Sundlerland who leads Village Church in Aberdeenshire as well as Diamonds Scotland.

In this video blog, Bridget shares how their church is using the Prayer Course from 24-7 Prayer as a follow-up to Alpha online and what they are seeing God do through it!

Have you been running an on-line Alpha Course and wondering how best to follow it up? Listen to what Bridget and her church have been doing and why they have found the Prayer Course to be the perfect next step.

Leading from Our Soul : Pause

Glenn Innes wraps up our series on ‘Leading from Our Soul’ with a personal story of the importance of sabbath, that pause that refreshes.

Yesterday I saw a tweet from a pastor saying how tired he was and expressing how hard the past year has been and the toll it has taken. He is right!

This year has not been normal and for church leaders it has been exceptionally trying. Three things stick in my mind as being particularly challenging. The first is that lockdown happened immediately before Holy Week and our usual Easter celebrations, perhaps the high point of our church year. Instead of planning services filled with reflection and rejoicing we were busy learning the ins and outs of Youtube, video cameras, sound equipment and, of course, Zoom. That substitution took a toll, whether we noticed it or not.

The second thing that seems to be happening is also related to timing. Just as the summer break appears on the horizon and plans are being made for some rest, it seems as though gathering as the church in some form is back on the cards. In conversations I am having, and within my own self, there is a level of anxiety about how we make this happen, when we should make this happen and what it will involve. This fear threatens to steal the rest that was planned and much needed.

That rest is needed because throughout this time, church leaders (and many others), have been busy in so many new ways. Whether naturally creative or not, they have lived as creatives for the past few months ; whether digitally savvy or not they have become technological whizzes ; they have become community organisers and food distributors. This is on top of the usual load of caring for the flock, preaching the gospel, organising the church, leading teams. This has all been exhausting. 

The question I have is – ‘Is this the only way for us to do this? Is this the “new normal”?’

I hope you can join me in saying ‘no and no’.

I have learned many things throughout this lockdown. Perhaps the most important came as a kindness from God before lockdown even began. I was preaching on Sabbath and had that moment where I realised I was preaching something I wasn’t living out. I left church that day convicted. We decided as a family that we would finish all our work on a Friday evening and there would be no more work until Saturday evening, phone time would be reduced, we would make space for the things we enjoyed, the good things God has put in our lives.

We are not perfect with it but it was beginning to feel life-giving before lockdown. During lockdown it has been life-saving. Having a time when we turn away from what we are doing for God and toward enjoying what He has given us has sustained me physically, mentally and also spiritually.

Let me encourage you, find time to rest this summer and find time to rest this week, and next. It’s not just God’s law – it’s a good idea!

Glenn, his wife Karin and daughter Zoë arrived in Portobello in the summer of 2018 after 10 years in Aberdeen where Glenn was involved in church planting. Prior to that they were in Vancouver, Canada where Glenn did his theological studies at Regent College. Glenn has a passion for mission and for the local church. Most particularly he wants to see those two things co-exist as God’s people begin to join God on mission in this world. Glenn loves spending time with his family, riding his motorbike and following the fortunes of Aberdeen FC.

Leading from Our Soul : Pace

For most leaders the past few months have been intense, exhausting, constant, bewildering – and we know there is only more change to navigate and lead others through ahead of us. So how do we make certain that we are not leading from the final dregs of whatever energy, wisdom, grace and compassion we have left but leading from souls that are connected to the life-giving breath of God?
In this series, a few different leaders have been sharing from their personal journeys in leadership something they have learned that has been key for them to live and lead in a sustainable way. Stella Campbell shares here around ‘pace.’

A few weeks ago, I heard Jon Tyson use the phrase ‘sacred pace’, and it resonated deeply within me. At the end of February, beginning of March, our church family encountered a number of very painful and difficult situations, all whilst the threat of Covid-19 was beginning to rise. As has been my practice throughout my ministry, I had booked time off in retreat and was looking forward to a few days out of the parish, to recover and reflect and to prepare for Easter. There was a question mark over whether or not to go when Sunday 15th March rolled round. But my gut feeling was that if I was going to be able to lead well in the coming season, I needed time apart, at a different pace.

One of my favourite places for retreat is Pluscarden Abbey, outside Elgin. I was introduced to the Benedictine rule of life and daily rhythm during my divinity studies. It feels like stepping into another world, where time runs more slowly and there is space to think more clearly. It is a place which has often allowed me to connect deeply with God and to discover the path that He is leading me on in that moment – both personally but also as a church leader (often the two are interconnected).

And this time was no exception. In the silence and solitude, in conversation with my companions, and in walking and praying, I grasped a better understanding of what I was being called to in the coming season and found myself led to Psalm 33 : ‘We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.

To wait upon the Lord, to put our trust in Him, must mean, among other things, to allow our pace to fall in line with His. Usually that means slowing down for me and being intentional about listening carefully and not running ahead with my own thoughts and ideas. This is something of the ‘sacred pace’ I mentioned earlier.

The pressures of the outside world were hard to keep at bay, and it became apparent that I did need to return home from Pluscarden sooner than expected. But somehow, I felt ready to come back and face the world that was being turned upside down.

As the lockdown has progressed, there have been moments when I have again chosen to step out of my usual pace and allow a catching up of my soul with everything else. We have gone through so much in the last 13 weeks – personally and otherwise. So much trauma and grief, as well as facing big questions about where we go from here. It is only in slowing that some of that can be processed and prayed about. And for me, it is only in waiting upon the Lord, that I truly can have confidence in making decisions and guiding others going forward.

Whatever your normal pace or rhythm is, and no doubt it will have been impacted by lockdown, what would it look like for you to develop a ‘sacred pace’? A pace that allows you to run the marathon set before us, with perseverance, rather than simply sprint for a little while and run out of steam. A pace that allows you to wait upon the Lord and His counsel. A pace that allows you to serve faithfully and with joy.

Stella is minister at Skene Parish Church in Aberdeenshire. Originally from Northern Ireland, Stella enjoys a walk beside the sea. She loves good conversations with friends over good food, a cheeky trip to the cinema and you will often find her buried in a book.