Ascension to Pentecost: prayer, community and mission

This article was published in the September to December 2018 issue of Rapport magazine.

Inspired by the Thy Kingdom Come prayer initiative Jonathan Banks and Esther Birtwistle reflect on a ‘zig zag’ journey from Devon to Yorkshire

This Journey had its origins in a conversation between Paul Reily (Scargill House) and Esther Birtwistle (Lee Abbey), in November 2017. Those at Scargill had been toying with the idea of a Journey for a couple of years, but had never managed to make the vision into a reality. So, from a relatively small conversation, a ten-day Journey was born – although at that time we were far from aware of what it might grow into.

The three key aims were:

  1. Prayer: to join in the country-wide prayer movement Thy Kingdom Come (10 to 20 May)
  2. Community: to ‘live out’ and ‘be’ Community as the Journey proceeded, strengthening our links and relationships with local churches and all who offer prayer support
  3. Mission: to be involved in mission along the way, engaging with individuals and groups

The distances between the two centres meant that cars had to be used. The route taken was not a direct one and so the team zig-zagged its way across and up the country, stopping off with various communities and churches who had offered to be hosts.

The importance of prayer

This was very much a ‘prayer’ Journey. It had been constructed around the Thy Kingdom Come, prayer initiative. It was lifted and supported in prayer both before and during the Journey. We joined communities in prayer meetings and prayer walks. We prayed with individuals we met along the way. We also established a rhythm of prayer within our group, meeting regularly together to use the Novena daily prayer material produced by the Church of England for Thy Kingdom Come. We experienced the benefits of this in the safety and unity of the Team, and in the blessings we experienced along the way.

Community

In spending no more than one night in any one place the contrasts between the nine different communities we visited stood out starkly. Each had very different challenges, each had faithful servants of God engaging with those challenges. We saw the importance of unity within the Church with different denominations coming together to serve their communities. We also saw this unity in our own group with a recognition of the shared ministry of the Scargill House and Lee Abbey Communities.

Mission

The Journey highlighted the need for a mighty move of God throughout this nation. We saw Christians reaching out to their communities, attempting to build bridges with those from very different economic backgrounds and those from all faiths and none. This highlighted the importance of our own ministries at Scargill House and Lee Abbey Devon, places of renewal and refreshment for those serving their communities.

‘Their visit has been so uplifting, sharing prayer times, testimonies and seeing their loving service to one another and all the people they meet. It was affirming too of our own strength of community and the hospitality we were able to show. We enjoy a strong sense of community here, but we were encouraged by their visit to reflect on how we as a church might develop this further. Although we do not live under one roof, there is much to apply to our community of serving Christians.’

(Member of Kineton Church, Warwickshire)

‘I have been lucky enough to visit Scargill House four times and shared in the “mission” week when members of Community came to us. The reflection that was read in our “Team’s got Talent” night really resonated with me – I visualised the “colours” and without exception everyone I’ve ever known spend time at Scargill leaves with a smile. On the morning that the group from Scargill/Lee Abbey left for the next leg of their journey I had that same sense of having been “touched” by the visit. You all brought a different colour and element to the visit and collectively you splashed that colour over us – for me it’s almost like having a massive spiritual hug.’

(Member of the churches at Astley, Tyldesley and Moseley Common)

As a Team we were overwhelmed by the warmth of the welcomes and hospitality we received at every stop along the way. We express our thanks to each and every host, community and church, and to all who supported us in prayer.

Jonathan Banks and Esther Birtwistle