FROM paper aeroplanes inscribed with prayers suspended from the ceiling of St Paul’s, Leamington Priors, to an evening prayer-walk around Kirkham, in Preston, to the beating of the bounds in Sloane Square, in London, parishes across the country have responded creatively to the Archbishops’ Pentecost summons to prayer.
The call for a “great wave of prayer” for the evangelisation of the country was issued in February, when the Archbishops wrote to every serving parish priest in the Church of England (News, 5 February). Under the banner “Thy Kingdom Come”, events are being held across the country over a nine-day period, culminating in services at six cathedrals this weekend.
Among the partner-organisations is 24-7 Prayer. Asked about the take-up of the initiative, its founder, Pete Greig, said on Tuesday that he had been delighted by the “overwhelming” response.
“It feels like a God idea, not just a good idea, because of the way that tens of thousands of people are responding,” he said. “Perhaps there is a vested interest for vicars and church leaders to respond to an invitation from both Archbishops, but when you get a teenager praying at 3 a.m., that is nothing at all to do with anything but their relationship with God and a desire for his Kingdom to come.”
He described it as “a groundswell; a movement from the grassroots up”. “The two Archbishops”, he said, “have just touched on something that I think God was wanting to do.” He had been “very moved” to hear from one boy who had prayed for five friends, of whom three had become Christians.
In a film produced for the initiative, Archbishop Welby said that he was asking people to pray for three things: “That all Christians find new life in Jesus Christ . . . That all those you meet and are close to . . . might see something of Jesus that draws them towards faith in him . . . For the Church that it is so full of the life and joy of Christ that it overflows with the reality of the presence of Jesus.”
In an interview with Premier Radio on Tuesday, Archbishop Welby spoke of the report written during the tenure of Archbishop William Temple (Towards the Conversion of England), which had warned that “There will never be a conversion of England until every Christian disciple is equipped to share the good news of Jesus Christ.”
He went on: “That has always been one of the greatest weaknesses in many churches — not just Church of England churches. We do not spend enough time equipping people to share their faith.” Any Church that left evangelism “to the ‘professionals’ is committing missionary suicide basically”.
The Priest-in-Charge of Hurstpierpoint, the Revd Jane Willis, said on Tuesday that she thought the call was “fantastic”, and the fact that it had come from the Archbishops had helped her to communicate to her “very traditional” church that this was “not just the vicar’s wacky idea”.
She and one of her assistant curates, the Revd Deborah Beer, had devised prayer stations that were open to all. They included paper hands on which people could write the names of those who had supported them on their journey of faith, and a “Tree of Life” on which could be written the names of people who did not yet call themselves Christians.
She described how, during the Sunday evening service, while people prayed at the stations, a power-cut caused the lights and sound to break down.
“Without the microphone, I felt really small and powerless and weak, and I went from feeling troubled by that, or cross with that, to thinking that is how we all are and how much we need the power of the Holy Spirit.”