A Service of Hope: praying for those missing from home

by Frances Novillo
Posted at 14:23pm on 13th January 2018

January is a difficult month, by all accounts.  The media report Blue Monday as the most depressing day to head out to work in the cold and dark.  As a new year begins, chronic problems may appear more daunting, the prospect of struggling to cope with them for another 12 month period overwhelming.  Two years ago this month, one of our colleagues disappeared.  His details are still listed on the Missing People website.  At the start of last year, our Adviser, Jon Payne, put together a liturgy which helped many of us express our sorrow and compassion, and respond in prayer.  We share it here as another anniversary of Ed’s disappearance passes, to remember him, and because no worshipping community, no matter how safe and comfortable, can immunise itself from tragedy.  It is possible that at some point, suddenly and unexpectedly, you may need a form of prayer which expresses the shock and confusion, dread and powerlessness which can arise when someone goes missing.

My feelings surrounding Ed’s disappearance were reawakened the summer after he went missing, when a choir member asked everyone at church to help #findalicegross, a close friend's teenage daughter who had disappeared while out walking close to home.  The devastating conclusion to the search for Alice was documented in all the papers; her body was found a month later, as was the body of the prime suspect in her murder.  Somehow, her family and friends have not succumbed to grief and despair; they honour her memory and give hope to others through Alice’s Youth Music Memorial Fund.  

Hope is the particular gift for which we pray while someone is missing. It provides the motivation to persevere in searching until, in some cases, reconciliation is possible.  In all cases, we hope missing people are at peace, wherever they are.  If you would like to pray with us for Ed Machin and all missing people, you are welcome to use the liturgy printed below, which you can also adapt to remember someone you know who is missing.  Further support and advice can be sought from the Missing People charity.

Please stand as the minister enters. 

Welcome & Introduction 

Minister Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord. Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. All and also with you. 

 Minister Lord God, whose Son Jesus Christ understood people’s fear and pain before they spoke of them, we pray for those who are missing, particularly for Edward Machin, for his family, and for his friends. Give strength to those in pain; hold the weak in the arms of your love, and give hope and patience to those who wait anxiously for news; we ask this through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. All Amen. 

 Reading Genesis 28.10-15 

Please sit. 

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the LORD stood beside him and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go,

and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

At the end the reader says 

This is the word of the Lord All Thanks be to God. 

 Responsorial Psalm Psalm 121 

I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. All My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth 

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. All My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth 

The Lord is your keeper, the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. All My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth 

The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore. All My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth 

 Reading Missing, by David Culver 

Early in every morn’, when sun lights the rooms of this house, you are here - here, inside pictures on the wall - here in the silence of memories. Your movements are felt inside us, and we reach out to find you against grey walls, undivided, sensing your smile all around us, when thinking your name. There are those who walk with you, as angels in the dark… 

angels will find you, by your whisper. And always with you, they watch over you. And sometimes in the early light of morn’, they gather to the shore of every ocean, looking out to the tall white waves, that come in their calling, and together, chant prayers for the missing, that may you find a sense of comfort there. 

You are lost, but not far from the single quiet whisper of hope, nor from the eyes of angels, and hearts of those, who still come to the silent waves, in wait of light’s flicker… watching from the shore. You, are not alone.

The reading is followed by a period of silence. 


Minister As we pray for light’s flicker to illumine the darkness in our hearts this day, let us pray to the Lord. Please sit or kneel for prayer. 

Minister Father, be with those whose loved ones are missing. In your compassion, enter their darkness; assure them that you are always with them and their missing ones, wherever they may be. Lord, have mercy. All Christ, have mercy. 

 Minister Give strength to members of the police and emergency services responsible for searching for missing people, and give them sensitivity in the support they provide to those in distress. Lord, have mercy. All Christ, have mercy. 

Minister Give wisdom and patience to all those who work for the Missing People charity. May they be channels of your grace in helping those devastated by the loss of missing loved ones. Lord, have mercy. All Christ, have mercy. 

 Minister As we pray today for those who are missing and their families, particularly for Ed Machin, give to us the compassion of Christ in responding with prayer and appropriate action to the needs of others that you bring to our attention day by day. Lord, have mercy. All Christ, have mercy. 

 Minister Merciful Father, All accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen. 


Please stand. 

All my hope on God is founded; he doth still my trust renew, me through change and chance he guideth, only good and only true. God unknown, he alone calls my heart to be his own. 

Pride of man and earthly glory, sword and crown betray his trust; what with care and toil he buildeth, tower and temple fall to dust. But God’s power, hour by hour, is my temple and my tower. 

God’s great goodness aye endureth, deep his wisdom, passing thought: splendor, light and life attend him, beauty springeth out of naught. Evermore from his store newborn worlds rise and adore. 

Daily doth the almighty Giver bounteous gifts on us bestow; his desire our soul delighteth, pleasure leads us where we go. Love doth stand at his hand; joy doth wait on his command. 

Still from man to God eternal sacrifice of praise be done, high above all praises praising for the gift of Christ, his Son. Christ doth call one and all: ye who follow shall not fall. 

Final Responsory 

Minister Blessed are you, Lord God, King of the Universe. All Blessed be God for ever. 

Minister Your light shines on us and all peoples shall see your glory. All Blessed be God for ever. 

Minister You gave us Jesus to be the light of the world; he makes our darkness to be light. All Blessed be God for ever. 

Minister Through the Holy Spirit your love burns within us, bearing witness to your truth. All Blessed be God for ever. 

 Minister As we bear your light, may our lips never cease to sing your praise. All Blessed be God for ever. 

Minister Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All Blessed be God for ever. 

 Minister And as we pray for the safe return of our friend and brother, Ed Machin, bring your glorious light to shine in our hearts, to illumine those places of darkness. “Be strong and let your heart take courage.” All Amen.

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