So, each month I gather to pray with the trustees of the charity that look after the building which I live in and the old chapel where we run our lighthouse cafe.
Tracking the changes over the past 5 years of this prayer meeting is fascinating. Being in the midst of it can seem almost like nothing changes, you know the drill…. Seeing the wood through the trees. But last night was a bit of landmark: we ate together. Yep, I know, it isn’t all that revolutionary. But it felt significant. You see when we started it was very formal, slightly awkward and the same few people turned up every month.
When my family and I moved from a city to a village we knew change and outreach would be much slower, and over 5 years we have gradually seen a closed unwelcoming old chapel space transformed into an accessible space for the community. This change correlates to how we meet and pray together. We’ve become so much more open and relational.
Here are some tracks I have observed as I look back over our journey. By the way, the pictures this blog is interspersed with are from the lighthouse cafe which we open up to love and serve the community:
1. From bible teaching to the bible teaching.
When we met together 5 years ago one person would do a short teach from the bible. It was a bit like a thought for the day, a short scripture launch into a hushed time of prayer. Now we tend to do lectio divina (Devine reading.) The pattern is Read, meditate, pray, contemplate. So, we read the word together and ask the word of God to teach us. Instead of one voice we now can have 4 or 5 speaking out what scripture has spoken to them and why. It can be powerful stuff. It also changes the culture from the professional (minister) teaching, to everyone being able to hear the word of God and teach.
2. From formality to family.
Last nights meal spoke to me about becoming more and more like a family. Growing together and getting to know one another while eating. Young and old sit together and simply eat. No wonder Jesus spent much of his time eating with people. It’s a shared human experience, we become equal around food, we all slurp, enjoy and participate.
3. From prayers for the community to prayers for people in the community.
I’ve noticed over the years the general prayers for the community have now changed to praying for people, who are part of the community. How often can we be in prayer meetings when the world or our communities remain unknown quantities? We’ve started praying for the people we have got to know and love.
4. From asking God to do something to doing something for God.
2 years ago, in the middle of the busiest time of my life as I served the baptist union of Great Britain for a year I felt God say that we had done enough asking for something to happen and that we should start doing some stuff! So as a group we put on some concerts and started making plans to run a community cafe. We hosted an arts cafe week which proved to be popular…. People actually came along and enjoyed it! It was a nervous time of having a go to do something and we were pleasantly surprised when it worked!
5. From come to pray to come and observe, if you like.
We’ve moved in how we operate recognising that most people won’t know what ‘prayer’ is. So I make a point of inviting people to come and along and observe and see what they think. So simple, but it changes the culture of how we are and puts us in expectation for the people who may join us.
I’ve also noticed how much more relaxed and ‘me’ I’ve become over the years… I’ve done more and more art and celebrate others creativity. Im not too good at being formal and ‘church service’ like, so being able to be more-so me has been liberating for me, and given permission for others to also be themselves.