I love strolling through forests at this time of year. The autumnal shades are transformed by the light radiating through the trees and yet it remains mild enough that the woodlands are bursting in a flurry of growth and activity prior to the onset of winter. I discovered soon after moving to the county of Kildare that it is filled with trees, very much in keeping with its county name which means “church of the oak”.
Trees can have a great significance. They can be planted as a symbol of something new such as the building of a school and they also symbolise the passage of time. Just think of the age old oaks of Ireland that have witnessed so much of the history of this land.
Our Bible is filled with images of trees. It begins in Genesis with creation, then there is the angelic visitation to Abraham at the great trees of Marmre. Bible verses wax lyrically regarding the cedars of Lebannon. Prophets take shelter under trees. In the New Testament the most obvious episode with a tree is the account of Zacchaeus climbing the tree to get a better view of Jesus.
Jesus referenced the birds of the air taking shelter in tree branches, he prayed prior to his arrest in a grove of olive trees and then, his death was on a tree fashioned into a cross. Significantly, his Resurrection, the place of the empty tomb was in a garden, and what garden could be complete without trees.
Strong trees are rooted deep in the ground and reach up to the heavens. Have you ever considered that this is how our prayers should be? Prayer should be rooted deeply in our everyday lives and experience, but yet are heard by the Father in the highest of heavens. This is true for us as individuals but also in terms of the Church Universal.
Over Advent, we have in the last few years given people opportunity to place prayer requests on a symbolic Prayer Tree at 11.00am Worship. In 2019, we want to continue with that but also build upon it. The plan is to have a whole month of prayer for the Union over December. This will culminate on the 21st December 2019 when we will have 12 hours of prayer at St. David’s Church with each hour being hosted by a different Parish Group or Organisation. The rationale behind this is simple. As a Parish we need to pray for growth and renewal. Naas Union is blessed to have many different groups and activities, but often there is very little linking the various elements of the Parish. Subsequent to the Church Army review in 2018, a representative group of Parishioners have been meeting to formulate ideas as to how a Parish Council or Mission Group could best work for the Parish.
The more we discussed the possibilities, the more we realised that we could not do this with our own wisdom. As God’s people we should dedicate ourselves to prayer, confident in the grace of God. We are asking each and every Parishioner to set a regular time aside over Advent to pray for the Parish and it’s wider Mission. Towards the end of November, a Prayer Pack will be available to help all of us to pray effectively and the programme for the 12 hours of prayer will be distributed in advance. A prayer request form will also be available on the Parish Website www.naasunion.com. In January, we will then call together representatives from each Church and Parish Group to discern what God’s will is for the Union.
I hope that this will enable the Parish to build on the deep roots of faith within our congregations to remain rooted in the true vine, Jesus Christ, who taught us saying, “I am the vine and you are the branches.”
HEALING PRAYER GROUP
A constant witness to Parish Prayer is the Weekly Healing Service. This quiet meditative service has significantly helped many over the years and was a great comfort to people to know that they were being prayed for. The Parish owes a great debt of gratitude to Nicky Gardiner and Ruth Moloney for the co-ordination of the Healing Service and also to Daphne Wright who until recently also helped lead the services.
Unfortunately, recent attendance has dwindled to literally two or three, placing an unfair burden on the Leaders. However, the need for weekly prayer for those who are ill remains. With this in mind, we are developing the pattern of Healing Ministry. A Healer Prayer Group of a dozen or so people, will pray regularly for those who are ill. This will be done as part of their private prayers. There will be no weekly Healing Service from November, but the Healer Prayer Group will meet every two months to celebrate Communion, pray and encourage each other.
Those prayed for will be named on a first name basis and confidentiality of the details of those on the prayer list will be restricted to the Rector, Ruth and Nicky. There will still be a possibility of Healing Services with the Laying On Of Hands, but these will take place either at a main Worship Service or on an occasional Sunday or weekday evening. Building on the success of previous years, we will continue with midweek study courses on a Wednesday morning over Advent and Lent. This is an organic process and initially we will work with this pattern for a year before assessing if there are any changes that could be made. If you are interested in becoming a member of the Healer Prayer Group, please have a word with Nicky, Ruth or the Rector. Prayer requests can be submitted via the website www.naasunion.com or directly to Reverend Philip.