As part of the world-wide ‘Your Kingdom Come’ project, a group of us walked the parish during the first week of June, praying as we went. Why did we do it?
Recognising the importance of prayer should be a priority in every church. There is so much we need to pray for; individuals in need, the local community and its needs, our country, its leadership and people, conflicts in today’s world, those suffering overseas through war, terrorism, famine or poverty. We need to pray for the Christian church, here and overseas, especially where there is persecution. And we must pray for the growth of the Christian church, that people might come to Christ and grow in their faith. Quite a list!
We are fortunate that we can keep our church doors open during the week. People who pass do come in and enjoy the feeling of quiet and they do pray and leave requests for prayers, something we pick up at Morning Prayer on Wednesdays. During the ‘Your Kingdom come’ week we had special prayer stations to help people pray, highlighting areas for their prayers. It is surprising how people can be drawn in by their own curiosity because it looks different, the doors are open wide and arrows point the way in.
But we also took our prayers out into our parish. We walked round the village after the monthly prayer breakfast on the Saturday, and then round Booth, Luddendenfoot, Kershaw and Midgley on the evenings of the following week, sometimes in the rain. In Luddendenfoot we joined with members of the United Reformed Church which gave us more insight into that part of our parish. We prayed for church members as we passed their doors, we remembered former church members in our prayers and individuals one or more of us knew were in need. We prayed for families we had been able to help through Pop-in-Shop funds or through the Watkinson charity. We prayed for the Schools, their staff, governors and pupils, for the Community facilities, the Youth Club, the Health Centre and the shops on Kershaw and in Midgley. We prayed for the bus service and those who use it (twice the bus stopped for us as we prayed in the shelter at the bus stop!). And everywhere we prayed we left a palm cross for someone to find. The one that Clive cast into the river from Luddendenfoot Bridge may take some finding. Or was he playing Poohsticks?
Personally, I found the whole experience very uplifting. And I think that we all felt that we knew our parish a little better as a result, for not everyone had walked some of the paths we squeezed down or noticed some of the buildings we stood outside. It brought home the fact that if the church has a responsibility towards the people of its parish, we all ought to know the parish a little better and understand what makes it tick. There is a big challenge here. Our parish is both large and diverse, there are people who are very comfortably off and people who struggle to manage. We have many older people in the flats on Kershaw and a lot of one parent families who can find life very difficult. We have young people seeking work in an area where work is short, and school children hanging around in the evenings not finding anything to occupy themselves with.
As Christians we are here to take the Good News of Jesus to them, and to show the love and compassion that Jesus showed the sick and needy in his lifetime in practical ways. And we need to pray, both for the people of the parish and for ourselves as we labour in Jesus’ name.