Pray for North Uist & Grimsay

north-uistLast weekend I assisted at the communion season of the congregation of North Uist & Grimsay, along with my senior colleague Rev James Gracie (Edinburgh). This was a new experience for me, as though I have briefly visited the island before, I had never before preached or worshipped in the congregation. Although they are a small gathering, the people were welcoming and receptive, and it was a privilege to be with them.

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

 

THE AREA

North Uist and Grimsay are islands, although joined by causeway, to the south of the Western Isles. The area has beautiful terrain: low-lying moorland, little lochs, and long scattered crofting villages. With fewer and more irregular ferry sailings, it feels much more distant and remote from the rest of Scotland than Lewis or Skye.

These islands experienced revival in the 1950s, when many were converted, but as with other parts of the Western Isles, the years since have witnessed a steady spiritual decline. Despite faithful ministry from men like the late Rev James Morrison, Rev Ronald Morrison, and Mr Gracie himself in earlier years, fewer attend church today than in the past, and there are few signs of conversions.

 

THE CONGREGATION

The Church building at Paible is a reminder of a better day: it was erected in 1858 in the aftermath of the Disruption, when almost the whole population followed their eminent minister, Rev Norman Macleod of Trumisgarry (1801-1881) into the Free Church. In the stone wall to the side of the Church entrance can still be read – despite the wear of the elements – the solemn carved word “Eternity”. Sadly, church divisions have multiplied since these days, and today even the local Presbyterians are divided between four denominations, while a fifth independent fellowship recently formed as a breakaway movement from the Church of Scotland over its acceptance of ministers in same sex relationships.

The congregation that remains at Paible is small and elderly, with a core of perhaps 15 regular members and adherents in attendance. Numbers have been reduced by death in recent years, with two worthy elders passing away, one just in the last few weeks. Sadly, there is little sign of another generation being raised up to take their place. But the core who are here are faithful and dedicated, and it was encouraging to meet one older man who gives evidence of having experienced spiritual change at an advanced stage in life.

 

THE MINISTER

The Pastor of the charge is Rev David Blunt, previously of Aberdeen. He and his wife Sybil, who comes from the best part of Lewis, have lived for some years now in Uist, and the bonds between congregation and minister are plainly very close. In an isolated and potentially discouraging situation, he continues to exercise a faithful ministry from week to week.

 

I enjoyed preaching amongst the people, bringing them a message on Thursday evening about the Scriptures, both law and promise, and how it all leads to Christ and finds fulfilment in Him, from Galatians 3:22: But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. Then on the Friday morning, I brought a challenge to self-examination from the test of Abraham’s faith in Genesis 22, seeking to show the marks of true faith there revealed. That evening we heard an edifying and appropriate message from Mr Gracie on the similarities between the believer’s experience in this world, and the experience of Israel in their journeying through the wilderness to their Promised Land. It is a subject full of encouragement for the embattled and discouraged Christian.

On the Saturday I preached on the first revelation of the Gospel in Genesis 3:15: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. I tried to show how this text is a promise of the coming and work of Christ, and thus how Adam and Eve received the same salvation as we receive, if our trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s only Saviour.

In accordance with local custom, as the junior minister I returned home to Point on the Saturday afternoon, leaving Mr Gracie to conduct the Sabbath services. I enjoyed a rare break in my own congregation, hearing a dear and elder colleague, Rev Daniel Mackinnon (Retired), bringing an edifying message from the Word.

 

PRAY

  • This congregation has been painfully depleted in recent years, and badly needs encouragement. Please pray that God would work mightily in some of those who attend but yet give no sign of conversion.
  • Remember Mr Blunt especially, and his partner in life: pastoral ministry is a lonely work at the best of times, but far harder when the situation seems bleak and unpromising. Pray that he will see the Eternal value of his ministry, and thus feel encouraged and upheld by the grace of God.
  • Pray for these communities, which knew revival blessings and faithful ministry in a bygone day, and now seem so hardened. We must long for the Lord to stir up concern of soul amongst those apparently heading towards a lost Eternity.
  • Pray that the believers who do maintain a testimony on these islands would know the upholding and presence of the Spirit of God in their lives, and true communion with Christ.
  • Above all, that God would be glorified in the worship of His church.
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