THE third instalment of Thy Kingdom Come — the annual call to prayer for evangelism between Ascension and Pentecost — was launched on Tuesday at Bishopthorpe Palace, outside York.
Those behind the project, which takes place in May, said that what had begun as a one-off Church of England initiative had now taken on a life of its own.
The project leader for the Archbishops’ Evangelism Task Group, Emma Buchan, said that she was often asked why Thy Kingdom Come had exploded “exponentially” since it started, two years ago. “I tell them ‘I think it’s what God has called us to do,’” she said.
She then quoted the Archbishop of Canterbury: “‘I cannot remember anything in my life I have been involved in . . . where I’ve sensed so clearly the work of the Spirit.’”
The launch began with a sermon from the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, who said that he had prayed the Lord’s Prayer five times a day during his six-month pilgrimage in 2015 and 2016 (News, 27 November 2015).
“This prayer says it all: you need no other prayer. It’s the act by which we take ourselves with open hands into the very presence of God,” he said, exhorting those present — a mixture of priests, evangelists, and church officials from many denominations and dioceses — to depend on God to make this year’s Thy Kingdom Come a success.
Jesus did not give his disciples a new liturgical text when they asked him how to pray, Dr Sentamu said; instead, he taught them the Our Father. Christians today often suffered from “practical atheism”, where they believed the doctrines intellectually but, in practice, acted like non-believers, he warned them.
“We pray ‘Give us our daily bread,’ and then say, ‘Where’s the kitchen?’ Thy Kingdom Come will have a fantastic reality if today we say we are going to be totally dependent on God for everything.”
Ms Buchan gave some examples of how the prayer initiative was bearing fruit. Last year, Thy Kingdom Come events took place in more than 85 countries, and among 50 different denominations. Some 500,000 packs of resources were sent out across the world; the website was accessed 1.5 million times; and Thy Kingdom Come videos were seen more than two million times.
In a survey of some of those who took part last year, 60 per cent said that they were motivated to pray afterwards, and 40 per cent said that they felt more inspired to talk about Jesus with their friends.
Ms Buchan spoke of her team’s ambitions for how the initiative could continue to grow. “Our hope and prayer is that in 50 years’ time people might still be praying between Ascension and Pentecost. We don’t care if it’s still called Thy Kingdom Come or not, but we hope to see the Church always stopping between these times to pray for the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
“It brings unity across countries, traditions, and denominations,” she said. “It’s simple, portable, and time-limited. It’s necessary, and it’s growing.”
Those present were given packs of the new resources produced for the 2018 instalment, which included a Thy Kingdom Come branded mug to remind Christians to pray for their non-believing friends each time they made tea, sparklers, prayer journals, and booklets, flyers, and cards.
The ecumenical flavour of Thy Kingdom Come was also emphasised at Bishopthorpe: officials from both the Roman Catholic and Methodist Churches spoke about how their denominations were throwing their weight behind the project.
The Durham diocesan director of mission, Canon Sophie Jelley, described how the scheme could work across all traditions in the C of E. She had found it straightforward to persuade the Chapter at Durham Cathedral to get involved. “What not to like about prayer? It’s an easy win.”
The National Mission and Evangelism Adviser, Dr Rachel Jordan-Wolf, said that, often, prayer could become very inward-focused; so it was good to have Thy Kingdom Come to “push us out”. Ed Mackenzie, the Methodists’ discipleship development officer, said that there was a special “energy” that came from specifically praying for evangelism in the context of a declining Church.