The burning bush is probably the most commonly used and recognised symbol in Irish Presbyterian Churches. It is embroidered upon countless pulpit falls, and is carved into church tables and chairs and hymn boards all over the country.
Why did Irish Presbyterians adopt this symbol from Exodus chapter three? The earliest recorded use is by the French Protestant church in the late 17th century with the Latin inscription flagror non consumer. The Church of Scotland has long used a burning bush with the inscription nec tamen consumebatur ‘not consumed’.
Irish Presbyterians have preferred yet another inscription; ardens sed virens ‘burning but flourishing'. The earliest Irish use of a burning bush symbol was in the first edition of the twice weekly Presbyterian newspaper The Banner of Ulster, published on 10th June 1842. The editor, Rev William Gibson of Third Belfast, featured a burning bush with an open Bible beneath. On either side of the bush was an Irish wolfhound and an Irish harp. A shamrock and thistle were intertwined and an Irish round tower featured in the background. Within fifteen years the symbol was simplified to the now more familiar burning bush and Latin inscription.
Thanks to Prof. Laurence Kirkpatrick for the kind permission to use this copy from his book, Presbyterians in Ireland: An illustrated history, published by Booklink.
Several examples of the Burning Bush which have been used within PCI over the years.