In the Beginning: Prayer and Building Trust
You know what, although moving is a pretty big upheaval, two weeks in, I am overjoyed at all God has given, although perhaps not completely able to comprehend it yet. Really, his promise is sure: “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap” (Luke 6:38).
Knowing how much God has given, my heart is asking how we can respond to this gift, how we can revere and honour what God is doing in our midst. We are so aware in the parish that our first priority at the moment is prayer. This can be hard, because everyone is keen to jump in straight away to activity. But, “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Next weekend, we are holding the 24 Hours for the Lord initiative in our church. This weekend, we are giving every family a small candle in a holder, inviting them to bring it back next weekend, light it and leave it on the sanctuary, and spend some time in prayer. We are using these few weeks of advertising to tell people about the importance of intercessory prayer.
As a team, we are also increasing our prayer. We have a Holy Hour every morning from 8am, followed by Mass. And every Tuesday night we also have a Holy Hour with music ministry, a talk on the themes of the kerygma, and a testimony. So, we are gearing up very slowly towards mission, but still very much in the ‘building-a-foundation-of-prayer’ stage.
I also see this time as an opportunity to build bridges of trust and curiosity (in the language of the thresholds of conversion). We are a really small parish – only 266 households, and around 400 people at Mass each weekend. This is such a joy, because I feel that soon, we might be a close-knit family. To enable this, we have shamelessly “stolen” (imitation is the best form of flattery) Fr Chas Canoy’s “Fireside Chats” idea in Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples. I have spent the last week using my anti-charism of administration (anyone who knows me will feel my pain on this one!) dividing the parish into 16 geographical zones with roughly 10-15 households in each. Parishioners are volunteering to host what we are calling “At Homes”. I love Fr Chas’ casual invitation to “pop open a cold one” with his parishioners (it would be met with stunned silence here). I love how evangelisation means we adapt to our own cultures, which means more “cocktails and conversation” in Richmond. (We have a number of contenders for the Dowager Countess of Richmond in our area, and could easily fill a cast of Downton Abbey 😉 ) So, between now and the summer, we are hoping to hold around 15-20 “At Homes”, inviting people in the immediate neighbourhood, and using it as an opportunity to get to know people and hear their own hopes for their parish. (Fr Chas brilliantly summarises the goals of this exercise on p. 105 of BPID.)
I find that particular seasons in your life and work are characterised by what you’re reading and listening to. A book I am enjoying very much at the moment is Bill Hybels’ The Volunteer Revolution – Unleashing the Power of Everybody. As you know, I am immensely passionate about his book, Courageous Leadership. And his style is so easy to read – I bought it last Saturday at HTB and have nearly finished it. It is packed with stories and ideas for recruiting and supporting volunteers. One of the results of our “Engagement Survey” was parishioners’ low level of understanding of what expectations their parish has of them. In the coming months, we will reflect on what should be expected, and how this can be communicated. But reading Hybels’ book, it is clear that serving in some capacity, according to one’s charisms, has to be one of the expectations. If you want to renew how your parish views volunteering, read this book. It is also utterly compatible with Called and Gifted. Those who have discerned charisms through Called and Gifted need a context in which they can experiment and begin to serve. It strikes me that we need to build a culture where everybody serves in some way, for Called and Gifted to be really effective. Currently, I imagine we have countless people in our parishes on the sidelines waiting to be asked, but unsure of how they can get involved.
And, finally, the theme tune of these first weeks has to be Audrey Assad’s stunning new album, Inheritance. Read a great review of the album here. It is deeply prayerful and profound… Let me leave you with my favourite track, New Every Morning. Somehow, it is speaking to me of the newness of God’s mercy in bringing me here. Enjoy 🙂