The Moderator’s theme of hope

Richard’s Moderator theme is ‘hope’. The theme, he says, means to feel one has a future. Without hope, life loses meaning, momentum and importance.

“Hope has an eternal aspect. Paul said, ‘Faith, hope and love abide, and the greatest of these is love.’ We tend to dismiss hope as being less important and overlook how important it is to ordinary folk living daily life. People lose heart when they can’t see a future worth living – and in the Church that’s very much the case.”

The Church, he says, has suffered from poor self-image for a long time, comparing itself negatively to fast-growing churches.

“We’ve been swimming against the current in society, mired in parochial concerns and arguing over things that can’t be fixed in a hurry. Andrew Norton [current Church Moderator] has been tremendous for the Church through his focus on making mission possible and on reshaping the Church,” he affirms. “I just want to back up the horse a bit. In order to motivate people we need to recover a sense of hope. We’re a good news church. Without hope we can’t promote our own story.”


Prayer for General Assembly 2016, 15 – 19 Nov Dunedin

The key to understanding Assembly is realising that above all else it is a spiritual event. Assembly was, at it’s heart, always meant to be an exercise in discerning the will of God and this is always something that involves the Holy Spirit and prayer. I believe we have allowed ourselves to stray somewhat from this perception of this gathering and that we need now to return to prayer in order to see GA deliver the kind of results we need from such a big effort.

So I call now the whole Church to gather together as presbyteries and parishes and, indeed, as individuals, to pray for this event.

To help with this a resource will be made available called ‘5 Smooth Stones of Prayer’ which will provide some direction for prayer. This will be distributed to all parishes in September. The key requests of these 5 Stones are confession and a prayer for unity in mission both to the people of the world and, indeed, the world itself.

I would hope that churches and individuals would use these prayers often in the weeks leading up to Assembly, and, indeed, during Assembly. But you needn’t limit your praying to these themes. You certainly may pray more specifically for me and for the officers of the church and Assembly. You may pray for our Church as you see fit and you may pray for the world in like manner. But whatever you do please pray!

Please find below the 5 Smooth Stones strategy outlined.


Prayer strategy for GA16 to GA18 for the PCANZ

Five Smooth Stones of Prayer…

These ‘stones’ provide a set of five intercessions which may be used to guide our prayer for our Church over the next couple of years. They are not exhaustive and yet they reflect a scriptural vision of the Church and provide us with a timely reminder of our great need for God to be at work amongst and within us.

The key task of praying these prayers and of interceding for the General Assembly 2016, which commences on 15 November in Dunedin, is now in your hands as both a parish, a presbytery, a synod and, of course, as individuals.

Please join with me in seeking God for our Church.


The strategy below is divided into one that focuses on individual church members, parishes and presbyteries and synods. It is intended to provide a three pronged approach to both communication and action.


  • Postcard reminder with “five stones” headings for all parishes to distribute to as many members as possible. (I have created this already. It is ready to print.)

  • Regular updates with special prayer topics every fortnight via blog/email.

  • Website with all the info above on it and a link to parish and presbytery/synod strategy via tweet/fb and the emails above. Website URL on postcard.


  • Postcards distributed via parish with link to register for Concert of Prayer for PCANZ (Use Concert of Prayer as a title for the strategy)

  • Parishes to be asked to take a week and make it a special week of prayer for the GA and the Church. Feature GA in intercessory prayers that week and make some effort to have a special prayer meeting/s during the week. Have a longer list of prayers for GA for this purpose.

  • Parishes to collect any words that might be spoken about the GA and Church and pass on via a special email.

Presbyteries and Synods:

  • Presbyteries/synods asked to take a week/s prior to the Assembly and feature prayer for GA/PCANZ in that week in some way – presbytery gatherings/ special focus/ special mailing

  • Give each presbytery/synod a prayer focus from the five Stones or ask each presbytery/synod to take one. Make it theirs in any way they can.

  • Encourage parishes and individuals to pray through their communications, including parish newsletters, prayer letters and circles.

General Assembly:

  • A prayer vigil will be held in the week prior to Assembly throughout the country A date will be provided and individuals, parishes and presbyteries/synods can organise various prayer gatherings around this date. Parishes and presbyteries can say special prayers for their GA representatives.

  • A prayer team will pray throughout each of the sessions at Assembly. Those attending GA will be able to join them.

Prayer themes (five smooth stones)

   1.God forgive us

We pray this as confession for we know that many of the worst problems we face are of our own making, both within and without the Church. Let us confess together our great need of Christ’s redeeming work in our lives.

We pray this as a confession that we are not separate from the lost world but identify with that world in that our need is the same as everyone else’s. We need Christ just as all do. We pray this so that God may work in greater ways through us to both love the lost and save the world. We can do this only as we ‘die to self.’ Our crucifixion with Christ is God’s opportunity to work with resurrection power through us.

   2. God save us…from evil

The New Testament (NT) recognises that we face evil in the form of something other than our own evil. (12For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.) Our duty is to recognise this (deliver us from evil), be prepared for it (roaring lion), and resist it (resist Satan).

We pray this also as it relates to ‘powers and principalities’ for evil will and does use whatever it can to destroy God’s good work in us and in Creation. We must pray against the evil inherent in powers and principalities, and pray that they might be used for God’s purposes and God’s Kingdom.

   3. God lead us…to love

Love is the most profound expression of God’s presence and person in human experience. The NT is clear that ‘God is love’ by which it means that God is found and understood most fully in the true expression of love for another. Therefore the Church’s clear mandate is to be a place of love and to be a clear expression of love in all it does.

We need to pray that all that we do both in public and behind closed doors is imbued with love. Justice, then, is a form of love as is joy, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All these are expressions of love.

Love is also the key to bringing Christ to a lost world. Jesus said, “They will know you are Christian by your love.” So much depends on how and how well we love.

   4. God empower us…to share the Gospel.

Perhaps the most significant part of the Church’s life is to be ‘witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and to the ends of the earth’. But this requires the working of the Holy Spirit within the Church for we find that without the work of the Spirit we do not have the means to truly impact the world.

   5. God help us…to heal the world

The context of the Church is the natural world which enables our survival. Unless we treasure this and make sure it survives human civilization we will lose the only true home we have and we will destroy the habitat of many other creatures of God. We have a basic duty to care for and protect the environment and, indeed, to repair the damage we have already done.