As we navigate the Shaped By God Together journey and form Minster Communities around the diocese, one deanery has found strength, support and serenity in the power of praying together across its parish lines and benefices…
The power of prayer and discernment for thy Kingdom to come on earth is a need we recognise now, and forever, as Christians. But putting prayer into action - particularly during periods of uncertainty and change - might not always seem straightforward.
Earlier in the year, during Thy Kingdom Come (the annual, global prayer movement for more people to come to know Jesus), Revd Crystal McAllister, Ordained Pioneer Minister in the Framland Deanery, noticed that providing a space for people to pray across the parish lines and benefices was crucial to many in her deanery.
She explains: “For some, prayer was complicated, but knowing that others were praying for their church or community made them feel cared for.”
Crystal also recognised that people were feeling unsettled about Minster Communities, and the changes forming them might bring. “Many people had been reacting with all sorts of emotions,” she says. “Love and kindness felt at the bottom of the pile, so creating a space for people to come together to pray seemed like a good idea. We are told to cast all our worries and anxieties onto God - it was time to put it into action as a deanery.”
Crystal took her thinking to the Deanery Standing Committee, who agreed it would be a good idea to pray collectively, and from there she created ‘Prayer Night’ – an opportunity to come together to pray for the discernment of Minster Communities.
“Revd John Barr, the Area Dean and I, thought it would just be us and one or two others that would attend,” Crystal admits. “However, God had other ideas.”
In fact, 18 people gathered, from all corners of Framland Deanery, to pray together using scripture, the diocesan Holy Habits, and resources such as Lego men and bees.
They gathered as a large round, inviting the Holy Spirit to come through music, before splitting off into groups, pairs, or individuals to pray, and finally coming together at the end of the hour with another piece of music.
“What is clear is that if we pray and provide the space, God will send his people,” says Crystal. “If we have lost all sense of direction we must come together and pray, rather than wander around in the wilderness experiencing the feelings that come with that. On the evening there was a strong sense of belonging to one another in, and through, God.”
She continues: “It was also a helpful reminder that God is in control - not us. We need to give him room in our lives, church, and community to do his thing, instead of being angry with each other, the diocese or, indeed, the Church of England.”
So, as the journey continues in Framland, so too continues their commitment to prayer and change whilst seeking a way forward, with the deanery planning another prayer evening in October.
Crystal says: “The hardest part of navigating the Minster Community process in this rural part of the diocese is seeing elderly folk running the churches in the only way they know how, realising that unless something is radically done sooner rather than later to help them, they will not see a new generation come to faith.”