Category Archives: Prayer

Hear God in the stillness

There are two new services being introduced into the parish in the next few weeks, both of them opportunities to have some stillness and pray.

The first is Said Evensong from the Book of Common Prayer (BCP), a service beloved by many but which has declined in popularity in the last few decades. The second is a Taizé service, a simple service based on chants and silence.  They will take place monthly for  a trial period of six months, starting with Evensong on the final Sunday of the month at 5pm at St George’s, Badshot Lea – January 27 is the first one –  and  Taizé on the first Sunday of the month at 6pm at St John’s, Hale, with the first one on February 3.

The idea is to give us a chance to find some stillness so that we may hear God speak. Lesley Crawley says: “It feels so amazing, miraculous even, that God speaks to us ordinary folks and our lives are transformed forever.

“I believe that to experience such things we have to deliberately put ourselves in the way of God. We won’t hear God speaking unless we make time and space to do so. In our parish there is so much going on that sometimes I wonder whether God can accidentally get sidelined; and so we are offering two opportunities each month to have some additional stillness and prayerfulness. These will be located in particular buildings but are for everyone, irrespective of whether you go to a different church, or no church.”

BCP Said Evensong has been chosen by Lesley because it is a service she has loved since she discovered it during her curacy. She says of this discovery: “I loved the BCP, I loved the poetry of the language, I was charmed by the way that words have changed their meaning, and I enjoyed using those words with their old meaning. I found particular words and phrases incredibly challenging or comforting or meaningful – they pulled me into the presence of God. I loved the way that words were paired together like peace and concord, celebrating the depth and range of our language and behind that the diversity of all the peoples with their languages over many centuries who have come together to make our complex and many-faceted nation. The repetition was also helpful – saying almost exactly the same thing each week meant that I could experience the same words that had so blessed me the previous week and I found that those words continued to bless me from then on, week in and week out.”

Taizé has been chosen as a ‘doorway’ through to a closer experience of God. Lesley says: “I find that the experience of chanting enables me to step through the chants into the presence of God. Perhaps it is because I’ve always found it easier to learn things that are sung rather than said. For instance, at school I was rubbish at learning poems but I knew lots of pop songs off by heart! The chants are in various languages (although I tend to stick to the English and Latin chants) but actually language is irrelevant, it is just a tool to step into that place of intimacy with God.”

Craig Nobbs will be leading Said Evensong at 5pm St George’s on Sunday, January 27, and thereafter on the last Sunday of the month. Come along if you love BCP or have never experienced it and be swept along with its beauty.

Lesley will be leading the Taizé service at 6pm at St John’s on Sunday, February 3, and thereafter on the first Sunday of the month.

Lesley adds: “If neither of these services speak to you but something else will help you draw closer to God then please do that, and if you want some help setting something up then please contact me”.

 

God above us, within us and at the bottom of the garden

A Celtic Service

God above us – trees, birds and sunshine, stars and moonlight – God above us.

God within us – hope, tears and laughter, love and wonder – God within us.

A few weeks ago I was chatting with my son about the Celtic service at St George’s I was going to be taking part in, with Wendy Edwards and Dave and Helena Walker. As a joke – I think – he asked  Is that where you paint your face blue and dance around with no clothes on?”

I said that was not what we would be doing and he seemed disappointed ! However it did make me think that other people may have similar ideas.

So to reassure everyone, on Saturday, July 14 at 5pm, 22 of us met in the garden of St. George’s for a Celtic Service. The weather and setting were just right.

Wendy led our worship beautifully with words and prayers, and told us how she found God at the bottom of her garden. Helena and Dave prepared an area for us do do various art activities, and brought a large Celtic cross they had painted.

We sang some familiar hymns and some new songs and sang The Lord’s Prayer to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.

Afterwards we all stayed to chat over refreshments of shortbread, Welsh cakes and homemade fruit bread, with tea and coffee.

It was a beautiful service. Thank you Wendy. I look forward to the next one.

Margaret Emberson

PS And we did NOT paint our faces blue and dance around with no clothes on!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What’s a Prayer Co-ordinator?

Hello, I’m your Parish Prayer Co-ordinator. Now, I bet you didn’t know we have a Prayer Co-ordinator and perhaps you are wondering what I have been doing all this time. Prayer underpins our lives and the life of our parish. It is the way we communicate with God and it is often an individual matter between you and God. It is certainly NOT the role of Prayer Co-ordinator to interfere in any way with your personal prayer with God.

We have run sessions introducing new ideas to reinvigorate your prayer-life and this is something we could develop. You may have seen pop-up displays in church with photos, artefacts and thought-provoking quotations. Or perhaps you have missed them … they are designed to be a momentary, fresh display to inspire prayer and help you to ponder theological questions during the week. There will be more. They are part of my role: I am passionate about finding ways to get people creatively thinking about prayer.

My latest target in the parish is the Prayer Boards we have in St George’s and St John’s. The aim is to take the prayers made via these boards and present them during the Sunday service. They will be brought to the altar and blessed at the same time as the collection (not read out loud). From there, they will be delivered to me as Prayer Co-ordinator and I will ensure that they are prayed from Thursday till the following Thursday. I believe this scheme will ensure that people’s prayers are prayed and honoured both on the Sunday at the main service and during the following week.
Obviously, if there is a particular pastoral issue, I will relay that to the ministry team. We will be trialling this scheme for three months, starting on 1 October.

If you have any ideas or concerns about this scheme, or the prayer-life of our parish generally, please let me know.

Lesley Shatwell (LLM)
llm.lesley@badshotleaandhale.org

Thy Kingdom come – praying with psalms

Do you ever wake up to find your partner’s put the radio on in the small hours of the morning? In our case, it’s a sure sign that Lesley’s got something on her mind and is having deep and profound thoughts about it at 3 o’clock in the morning. It could be sermon writing or holiday booking, but in this case it was the exhibition recently held at St John’s.

“Thy Kingdom Come” is an annual international Christian initiative supported by the Church of England. The idea is to have a “wave of prayer” between Ascension and Pentecost (25th May – 4th June). Last year, the emphasis was on the Lord’s Prayer and our parish held an art exhibition illustrating and focussing attention on this. This year, we didn’t have such definite guidelines, so it was decided within the parish to use the psalms as our basis.

Lesley spent a lot of time perusing the psalms and finding ones that would be suitable for illustration. The artists of the parish, and Farnham in general, were then sidled up to and it was suggested they might like to produce works to be displayed in St John’s. To our delight (and slight surprise), thumbscrews were not necessary and most artists were thoroughly enthused by the idea.

So, works were commissioned, checks made occasionally to see that the artists hadn’t forgotten, but despite the smooth running, such events always generate a certain amount of stress – hence the 3am panics. Do we have enough easels? (No, we purchased and borrowed some more.) We haven’t got enough small tables! (Hooray for “The Range” in Aldershot. Four tables purchased for £9.99 each.)

So the afternoon before Ascension several of us assembled in St John’s to put the exhibition up. The contributors ranged in age from seven to seventy and the art works showed a fascinating range of imagination that does credit to all involved. I did a slight double take as I stood on a precariously propped up stepladder to mount Alison’s picture high up on a column (I’m H&S officer – should I be doing this?). However the end result was one we were very pleased with. The comments book indicated we were justified in this.

The event finished with a Pentecost party on the afternoon of Sunday 4th June, in which tea and scones, music and singing featured prominently. Thanks to all involved.

Altogether a nice parish event. Not earth-shattering in its impact, but:-
“The least you do for Jesus will be precious in his sight”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bob Shatwell

Thy Kingdom Come – Praying the Psalms

It doesn’t seem like a year since I was hastily putting together an exhibition of paintings depicting the Lord’s Prayer.  Artists with strong connections to our parish each took a line from the prayer and created an image.  Musicians and singers performed, and scones were enjoyed.  Amid all this festivity, we remembered that our Archbishops of Canterbury and York had set the ball rolling when they called for a wave of prayer to cross our country.

This year, they have called again; and as I write, artists are planning their response, bakers are checking their recipes and singers are practising their new repertoire.  This year, our theme is the Psalms and we are hoping that our pictures may stir up new ideas and ways of looking at these ancient songs.

Praying the Psalms – good heavens, what have those old things got to do with our lives today!  What is a Psalm anyway?

To start with, you can find them in the Old Testament because they are part of our Christian inheritance from the earlier Judaic tradition.  Open the Bible, about half way through and flip back a bit and you will find 150 Psalms lurking between Job and Proverbs.  They are ancient songs written by the Hebrew people.  If you look at the headings, you will see (for example Psalm 15) “A Psalm of David”.  We have legends of King David writing the Psalms and often you can see pictures of him, with his harp, wrestling with some poetical tracts … but this is just a legend.  We do not know for certain who composed the Psalms, there could have been several authors.  There are Psalms of joy, Psalms of despair, deep anger with God … I think we have lost the ability to have a really good lament.  The Psalms hurl so much grief and anger at God and there is nowhere better to aim it.  God is big enough to take all our human suffering – together with our joy, delight and thanksgiving for our world.  The Psalms give voice to it all.

psalms

(Photo: King David, from a 6th century mosaic from Gaza)
http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/Gaza.html#Anthedon

 

Our exhibition will give a tiny glimpse into these ancient songs, I pray that it will open your eyes to look again at the Psalms and perhaps be glad when they say, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (see Psalm 122).

 

Art Exhibition: open 25 May – 4 June 2017 at St John’s, Hale

Pentecost Party:  Psalms, art, music, refreshments: 4 June at 3.00 pm (St John’s, Hale)

 

 

Prayer (part 3)

The thing about prayer is that it is so many things.  There are so many ways of praying, and some of them will resonate with us, and some won’t.  I would always encourage people to pray the way they can, not the way they can’t.

Many memories of school (hands together eyes closed) or church (someone at the front reading from the book) give us an idea of what prayer is, but a very incomplete one.  So today I am going to list various sorts of prayer with links to resources.

ACTS

When praying the acronym ACTS can be used
A  adoration
C  confession
T  Thanksgiving
S  Supplication

TSP (teaspoon)

T  thank you
S  sorry
P  please

These two approaches cover similar elements with different words.

  • Adoration – recognising God’s kingship and honouring it.
  • Confession – acknowledging the ways in which we have fallen short of God’s desire for our lives.
  • Thanksgiving – searching out and recognising the good things that have happened to us (I know several people who as part of their prayer routine recall 15 good things that have happened that day – 15 so that it takes effort)
  • Supplication – asking God for things – either for ourselves or for others

Within supplication there are Arrow Prayers, intercessions (the name often used in church services), cycles of prayer, where lists are kept.

Prayer is also a way of listening to God to seek God’s will.  There are may techniques for this:

Resources

The key is to find something that fits your circumstances and personality – if you try something out and it doesn’t work, then try something else – don’t assume that you can’t pray.

Alan

 

Prayer (Part 2)

Does prayer work?

In this post I am going to look at intercessory prayer – asking God for something (usually for others).

It rather depends what you mean by work – and what happens if it doesn’t “work”.

Almost all Christians will have had experience of an apparent failure of God to answer prayer.  I wonder how many children haven’t received x for a birthday or Christmas, or adults someone not receiving the healing that has been prayed for.

In the Church of England’s guidelines on the healing ministry, “A Time to Heal“, it is recognised that healing is different from “cure”; it even goes so far as to say that sometimes death can be healing.

In prayer we are aligning ourselves with God’s will, but all too often unanswered prayers are prayers which are not answered the way we want, rather than the way God wants.  When we or loved ones are ill it is ever so tempting to pray for a cure – but is that God’s will?  Instead, I find myself praying that God’s will be done.  It perhaps prevents me having to question why my prayer wasn’t answered, but it also perhaps helps me to come to terms with whatever is happening – which is an answer, but not the one that I might have been looking for.

Alan