A MIX of indoor and outdoor celebrations, church services, and continuous prayer events marks the sixth annual global prayer movement Thy Kingdom Come (TKC), which began on Thursday, Ascension Day, and ends at Pentecost.
During this period, in England from 17 May, coronavirus restrictions will begin lifting in earnest: groups of 30 people from unlimited households will be permitted to meet outdoors, and groups of six people from up to six different households will be able to meet indoors and stay overnight. The Prime Minister also said during a press conference on Monday that social distancing would become a “personal choice” from that date and that hugging between friends and family would be permitted.
Dioceses in England are making the most of the changes with outdoor events: in Exeter diocese, a prayer Labyrinth is being created on the cathedral green for the duration of TKC and throughout the summer as part of the “Pilgrims Path” season. And inspired by the “Cheeky Panda” children’s video series created for TKC (News, 5 March), Coventry diocese has created a prayer trail to encourage children to find hidden panda posters with themed content, including QR codes for the animations — suitable for use on church grounds, parks, and in the wider community.
Writing for the Church Times online this week, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, said that the Church had a responsibility to involve and interact with children and teenagers in creative ways, inspired by the range of TKC resources this year. Lockdown had made it more difficult for churches to engage with children, and more effort was needed to reverse this, he said. “The more education moved online . . . the more likely it was that children and young people would zone out, because they were Zoomed out. Sadly, many churches have made little effort at all.”
He continued: “The Gospels relate that Jesus was annoyed with the disciples when they thought that the children being brought to him were a distraction. Jesus saw children’s celebration, on Palm Sunday, not as a noisy inconvenience or a distraction, but, rather, as true worship.
“For Thy Kingdom Come 2021, I encourage you to join in yourselves, and enable everyone in your community — aged three to 103 — to join in, too.”
Online events include continuous prayer vigils organised through the Upper Room — a virtual prayer-room resource created by 24-7 Prayer and based on the Acts of the Apostles — and an interactive escape room, “CaThedral PuRRsuits”, created by TKC and the diocese of Winchester.
The Founder of the 24-7 Prayer movement, Pete Greig, said: “Never in any of our lives has the message of Pentecost been so needed in our world. At Pentecost, the disciples who have been locked down in the upper room, fearing for their lives, are filled with courage as they take to the streets. . . In this moment of bewildering challenge for the Church around the world, prayer is the most natural, necessary and wonderful thing we can do.”
Prayer walking remains one of the most popular ways to mark TKC around the world. Churches Together in Greater Manchester will be focusing on social issues, including education, healthcare, and the economy. For many, the focus of prayer this year will be the encouragement and refreshment of Christians who are wearied by the pandemic, especially in Brazil and India, where new variants have led to spiralling infection and death-rates (News, 7 May).
TKC resources have been translated in the UK into French, Spanish, and Portuguese, and into dozens more languages in other countries, including Finnish, Maori, Korean, Tamil and Sinhala, and Cantonese. Churches in Sudan, Greece, Sri Lanka, Japan, Australia, Canada, Trinidad, America, South Africa, Brazil, and Burundi are also taking part in the movement.
The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, said: “Life has been so tough this last year. When I think of all those who have struggled, I long for them to know the gift of abundant life Jesus offers. . . Thy Kingdom Come is about prayer: praying for those on our hearts, praying for those who don’t know Jesus — to find him, praying for our Church as we seek to be simpler, humbler, and bolder.”
The RC Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said: “The Feast of Pentecost, celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the Church, is a great moment for our prayer for the spreading of the gospel of joy in our Lord Jesus Christ. . . We may also remember the power of the Holy Spirit in the work of Creation, and so include in our prayers the responsibilities we bear for the created world at this significant time.”
Read the full comment from the Bishop of Durham