O Lord our creator, by your holy prophet you taught your
ancient people to seek the welfare of the cities in which they
lived. We commend our neighbourhood to your care, that it might be
kept free from social strife and decay. Give us strength of purpose
and concern for others, that we may create here a community of
justice and peace where your will may be done.
Book of Alternative Services
Anglican Church of
WHOEVER first said "Think globally, act locally" (and the source
of the saying is a matter of debate) would have been in complete
agreement with the sentiments expressed in this week's prayer. The
focus here is on neighbourhood and community.
This immediately gives us the feeling that what we are asking
for is achievable. Neighbourhoods and community are visible and
tangible. You can walk around them, and they have boundaries -
well, roughly. They're made up of people who greet you and shake
your hand; people whom you can get to know and feel you belong
with. Praying for the community is not like praying for world peace
- vital as it is to do that. When we pray for the community, what
we are praying for is somehow within our grasp.
Locating our church, congregation, and parish within a wider
reality called "the community" reminds us that the Church can no
longer claim any privileges for itself. This "community" of which
we are part is multicultural and multireligious, and it does not
give a special place to any religion.
It expects the different religions - "faith groups" to use the
sociological term - to accept each other, and it also acknowledges
the right to have no religion. We all know this, but we may not yet
have fully adjusted to it. The local church is just one part of
what Teilhard de Chardin called the "bundle of human activity".
This being the case, what do we mean by "mission" and "outreach"
- these words that trip so easily off the clerical tongue? Looking
again at the prayer, we are not only praying that more people will
come to church, we are commending our neighbourhood to God's care.
We should certainly hope that our church will flourish and grow.
But we should set that hope within the wider context of care for
We are also praying for the strength and concern needed to
create the kind of community we want, one of justice and peace, not
of strife and decay. Creating takes some effort, and we are not
going to be able to do it on our own. As we work with our
neighbours in creating this community, we will surely discover what
mission and outreach are, in the deepest sense.
What I love about this prayer is its realism. It starts by
remembering God's ancient people and the cities in which they found
themselves, and the reference, of course, is to the prophet
Jeremiah. But then it immediately moves close to home, and to the
communities which have been given to us, and to which we have been
In so doing, it surely points the way forward for the Church.
Political issues and inequalities underlie the social problems of
our villages, towns, and cities, and the voice of the Church should
be clearly heard at national level, as we demand social change. But
it is also within our grasp to work with others in our
neighbourhood to create communities. So let's grasp the
opportunity, and refuse to let go.
The Revd Robin Vickery is a priest-worker in the diocese of