Friday, March 08, 2013

Sacred Space : Part 3

Over the past five days, St Peter’s Church and Prayer Garden have been open 9:30am-3:30pm, as a Sacred Space. We have offered prompts – making use of the testimony of the building itself as an Ebenezer (a reminder of an encounter with God in the past) and the testimony of several Psalms – and given people as much room as they have wanted to spend time with God. We have had conversations with, and/or prayed with, those who have wanted it; allowing others to slip in and out anonymously.

We have been absolutely thrilled by the testimonies we have heard throughout the week. Firstly, just the right number of people came through the building: never so many at once that the space was too busy, but a constant trickle through the week, and a large number in all. People engaged with the five prayer stations – it was great to see people engage in ways we hadn’t suggested, as well as ways we had, taking an ownership for responding as the Holy Spirit prompted them – and really appreciated the opportunity; and afterwards, several told others, who in turn came themselves.

But over and over again, it was the Labyrinth in the centre of the building which people found to be the most profoundly moving experience. As they had moved from place to place around the building (a journey that was not dissimilar to a Labyrinth itself) they had opened themselves to God; and again and again experienced God’s Spirit speak to them, or minister deeper than words, most personally in that central space. Again and again God spoke through the twists and turns of the path.

So who came? Some were members of our own congregation, who came in two-hour blocks so that the church could be open, and found the experience deeply healing. Some were members of our sister church, who encountered God in a way that they would not at St James,’ and discovered that there are ways in which the two churches can work together and complement each other in mission. (In my opinion, this may well turn out to be the most significant lasting impact of the week.) Some visitors had historic connections with the church, such as the woman who had been christened here some seventy years ago. Others had a pastoral connection – such as the couple who came in this morning to pray before going on to the inquest into their baby daughter’s death, whose funeral I took last year (I had not known, when I sent them a personal invitation, that the inquest was this week: but God knew). Others walked in off the street, passers-by, such as a Polish man with hardly any spoken English, and his young daughter. Some were deeply distressed but knew that peace is found where God is met. Many attend external groups that hire our Parish Centre throughout the week.

Some had faith as robust as a mustard bush; others, faith as tiny as a mustard seed. Most, if not all, were in the midst of uncertain times, seeking God’s leading, one step at a time.

Sometimes we think that we need to speak on behalf of God. This often sets up a dependency between those who understand and can communicate what people need to hear, and those who lack understanding/are not eloquent speakers. It raises the educated up and puts the uninitiated down. The irony is that this is utterly opposed to Jesus, who came to set people free.

Our job is simply to take every opportunity to bring Jesus and people together;

to allow God to speak for himself (the Holy Spirit – poured out on all flesh since Pentecost – is a more effective communicator than me, and though he might speak through me, he might need not to);

and to have the same confidence Jesus showed in the Gospels in people who had just encountered him and knew nothing else going and telling others what the Lord had done for them...

1 comment:

  1. love it. your thoughts on creating dependency are so right. hook people up with Jesus, once they glance at Him everything changes (and how so you ask? give his word away (scripture is living bread) and give his love away (not just in word little children, but in deed.) That my friends is the meaning of life!