So these arrived by courier the other day and, as soon as the wind subsides a little, I hope to get them mounted on the church railings along the dual carriageway.
It’s a banner that simply says ‘try praying’ and, beside it, there will be a Perspex box with some booklets. It’s aimed at people who don’t go to church and the 7 day readings inside are a starter’s guide to prayer. It covers things like, ‘How do you go about it?’ and ‘Why should we pray?’ and it shares some personal experiences as it invites those who are not used to praying, or who haven’t prayed for a while, to give it a go for 7 days.
As a ‘church without walls’, I think it’s a beautiful idea in its simplicity. We get quite a lot of footfall along the carriageway these days as people take their daily walk, and they are invited to simply take one of the booklets out of the Perspex box. There’s a website for enquirers wanting to find out more about Jesus called trypraying.co.uk and there’s an app if people have smartphones and would like to try praying.
It’s not a very threatening question to ask someone, ‘Have you ever tried praying?’ If they haven’t, and they would be interested in giving it a go, direct them to the booklets in the Perspex box, or suggest to them downloading the ‘try praying’ app to their smartphone. Either way, it’s free and it simply gives everyone a decent chance to hear a bit about Jesus.
Lockdown for all its frustrations and limitations has been a chance to try things. In our house, thanks to the cooking and crafting programmes, we have had a go at a few things that are totally new to us. Some of those things have been a great success – Pork and Chickpea Stew – who knew it could be so tasty? Others, you give them a go and you decide – ‘Hmm! I’m not sure we’d go for that one again.’
Conor has had music lessons and climbing lessons and even Sunday school by Zoom. We’re going to have our first Vestry meeting hopefully by Zoom this coming week and I’ll be sharing details at the end of this blog about getting involved in the first parish prayer meeting via Zoom next Thursday.
Over this period the church has tried to adapt to our new circumstances by doing many things for the first time. In becoming a ‘church without walls’ we have had to learn to record services and post them on the Internet and I have already paid tribute to the team who helps this to happen.
We will soon be attempting our first virtual Messy Church event. Many people have responded to the treasurer’s appeal to make their financial contributions by standing order. Many of us don’t feel so comfortable with all of these things, but we give them a go because the circumstances are challenging at the present time. We want people to be safe, so we have to do things in a new way.
As a church leader, one of the things that is most challenging to manage is change. Very often you see changes that need to be made, but you are afraid to make them, because you’re afraid that some people won’t like them or be upset by them. You’re afraid, too, that you might fail and it won’t work out.
The message of this season we are living through is that these things don’t matter so much anymore. If no one picks up a ‘try pray’ booklet and the technology fails for our Zoom vestry or prayer meeting, it’s not the end of the world.
One of the interesting statistics I read about churchgoing through lockdown is that many people are trying other churches when they livestream or listen in to a service. While some might find that disappointing or terrible, I’m really encouraged to hear that. It doesn’t mean that I want everyone to abandon St. Finnian’s, of course, but I love that people are having the opportunity to experience other worship styles and services and, hopefully, being enriched by that. I’ve mentioned in previous blogs how enriched I have been by attending an Alpha course hosted by Foundation Church and the wonderful generosity of Belvoir Parish in sharing the mechanism by which those without the internet can now dial in to receive services, or how much I value the wonderful Daily Candle videos posted by Chris Bennett.
We are seeing in this season the people in the church rising to the challenge of pastoral care through phoning each other. Gillian, on our website, and Alison on our Facebook page, are posting opportunities to get involved in supporting people in hospital or our local community group and sharing wonderful resources from Divine Healing Ministries, the Boys’ Brigade, the Mothers’ Union and a host of other organisations and ministries. You will find resources to help with Bible reading, prayer, mental health, bereavement and other important subjects at this time. The doors may be closed but the church must continue to function and carry out the mission of making Jesus known and sharing his love in practical ways.
So the message today is try things. I was struck by the Bishop’s invitation on the day of prayer on St. Mark’s Day to invite our neighbours to say the Lord’s Prayer together at 8pm. I dropped a note into all the houses on our street and, to my surprise, about 4 of the 7 houses all assembled and, as we socially distanced and shared the prayer together and shared our stories, it was a real time of coming together and I’d never have made the invitation unless encouraged to do so by the Bishop.
On Thursday at 7 pm, our first parish prayer meeting by Zoom will take place. This is part of the 10 Days of Prayer for spiritual renewal and a spiritual harvest in our diocese. Bishop David will share a message and we will have opportunity to pray quietly at home and be led through this time together. It will finish by 7.40 pm to give me time to get over to church to ring the bells at 8 pm and record our weekly Facebook live and pray for those we have been asked to remember. If you would like to take part you will need to register beforehand.
•Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
•Subject: Prayer Meeting 28th May
•Add your name in the message
You will then be sent Zoom joining instructions by email.
Don’t be afraid to try new things.
Look forward to speaking again soon.