I was recently in London to meet three ministerial colleagues in a group which has been an important part of my support network for about ten years. Although we have all been stationed more than once by the Church, in that time, we still find London the easiest and the cheapest place to which to travel by train. Over the years I have come in via Kings Cross, Waterloo and now Paddington to our meeting room at Hinde Street Methodist Church.
For some reason, learning the route to walk from Paddington to Hinde Street has been a real challenge for me. (My excuse is that the first time I became so lost that every junction I pass now seems familiar.)
As I walked back this time, with a colleague, who gave me careful instruction – again – we started talking about the differences in how people find their way. Some have an inner compass. Some can glance at a map and internalise the route. Other people always have phone signal and the confidence to orienteer through the streets by Google maps, tablet computer held aloft. I use the half-remembered instructions method, and often only resort to my phone (with or without signal or battery) when it is apparent I am lost. This is not to be recommended.
Our conversation, as we walked, followed a session in which we had shared ideas about Churches being praying congregations. Churches together looking to God for guidance in decision-making and everyday living. People of faith walk through life in different ways, finding God’s way for them at different times and places. We shared experiences of encouraging a wide variety of opportunities for prayer. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone…” (1Timothy 2: 1)
It is quite normal to feel apprehensive about praying with other people, as though others know the way and we don’t. It is quite alright to use maps (such as books of prayers – the Methodist Prayer Handbook is still available at St Andrew’s.) It is quite alright to meet for prayer and say very little out loud. (Prayer Fellowship on 1st Tuesday of the month would love to be bigger, and Prayers at 10.00am each Sunday, as would the Prayer Groups at Norton). And when words fail us all in prayer, travelling together is preferable to struggling along on your own. (Prayer Vigils in public places – see elsewhere in this Newsletter – have become a feature of the Churches’ response to the refugee crisis.) Whatever you do, I do not recommend that you rely on half-remembered instruction in prayer.
On the station concourse my friend and I realised that as well as sharing a valuable day together in the formal sessions, we each had a subject for our Church Newsletter – with deadlines fast approaching!
May God bless you, wherever you have to travel, near and far, during this month.