Pray for Brora

brora_FccLast weekend, I had the blessing of a visit to the FCC congregation of Brora in East Sutherland, to assist at the communion there. It was a visit to familiar territory, to a congregation where I have often provided supply in years gone by. It was a particular joy to stay with my friend Rev Allan Murray, and his dear wife Maurine. Mr Murray retired from pastoral ministry in Brora two years ago, but remains very active in the congregation and further afield.

Let me give a brief report on the Brora congregation, to stir up prayer for the Lord’s work there.

 

THE AREA

Brora is a small fishing village on the East coast of Scotland, with a population of about a thousand. Sutherland itself has a wonderful history of Gospel blessing, with many of the most outstanding “Men” of the Highlands – the godly elders who were the spiritual leaders of Highland Evangelicalism – residing in the rich valleys of this vast county in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The recently republished Records of Grace in Sutherland gives an insight into this precious heritage, which is sadly now largely departed.

Today, these straths are empty, the tragic relic of the Highland Clearances that rent these communities from their homes and depopulated large tracts of the Highlands, forcing the people either into small coastal villages like Brora and Golspie, or (as in most cases) into emigration overseas. Sutherland as a county is a vestige of what it once was, and adding in the secularism of the present century, it is no surprise that the Church in Sutherland today is a shattered remnant.

 

THE CONGREGATION

The Brora congregation was formed as a new entity in the year 2000, by those in the congregations of East Sutherland who chose to adhere to the stand of the Free Church (Continuing). It is a highly gathered congregation, and the large distances that many of the members travel testify to their commitment to the church and their love for its witness. Some come from as far north as Latheron in Caithness, others from as far west as Lairg, and others from as far south as Dornoch. Numbers are small, perhaps twenty at each end on the Sabbath, and fewer at the two midweek prayer meetings, but their unity and mutual love is evident to see.

They gather in a beautiful little Scout hall, conveniently located near the centre of the village. Its rather ecclesiastical appearance is explained by its former function, conveyed by the inscription on the exterior, ‘Temperance Hall, 1893’.

 

THE MINISTER

Today, Brora is a vacant charge. For fourteen years, the congregation enjoyed the gracious, compassionate and prayerful ministry of Rev Allan Murray, father of the better-known Dr David Murray of Grand Rapids, USA. Mr Murray continued in ministry long past the usual age of retirement, and his close relationship with his former flock is heart-warming to witness. He continues to organize supply, and to preach once a month himself in the congregation.

But the prayerful desire of the people in Brora is for a new pastor in the Lord. So far, after two years of vacancy, there is not yet any obvious candidate to fill that vacancy, and they continue to wait on the Lord, to lead them to His man to be their teaching elder and under-shepherd in Christ.

A good number, including visitors from the neighbouring congregation of Tarbat, gathered for the preparatory service on Saturday. I was enabled to preach from the wonderfully Christ-centred Old Testament text, Isaiah 32:2, to bring the people to consideration of our Saviour, as we prepared for His Table. On the Sabbath morning, we gathered at the Lord’s Table with a spirit of warmth and unity. I was able to preach an action sermon from the precious words of Galatians 1:4, speaking of Christ, ‘Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father’. The efficacy of Christ’s death, its mercy and its saving effect were before our minds, and I trust we were able to enjoy a measure of communion with the risen Lord. In the evening, I tried to bring an evangelistic call from Jonah 2:4, which we pray the Lord will bless to those present who may be not yet his own.

 

PRAY

  • The congregation longs above all for a new pastor; pray that the Lord would raise up and equip a man with the love, grace and calling to fill this important vacancy.
  • Remember Mr Murray, in his ongoing pastoral concern for the people, as he resides in their midst, that he may continue to be blessed and upheld in his monthly ministry, and in his labours on behalf of the wider church.
  • The congregation has no property at all, and while the Scout hall is an adequate meeting place for services, a dedicated place of worship would be desirable. However, the more immediate need is for a manse, as this may be required to call a new minister; pray that the Lord would lead the congregation in this matter, and provide the resources necessary for a home for their next pastor.
  • Efforts at outreach in the village by this gathered congregation have not been greatly blessed so far; pray that the Lord would enable the congregation to make meaningful contact with the many in Brora and further afield who never attend church, and never hear the Gospel preached.
  • Pray for the young people in the congregation, that the Lord would work in families, in accordance with His covenant, and make them His own.
  • Above all, that God would be glorified in the worship of His church.
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