Updated Sunday 15th November

Recently, Mark wrote to our church family forwarding an invitation from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to join with Christians around the world and to pray during this current lockdown (see the letter below). As part of this, St Stephen’s is going to be open as a prayer space a couple of times a week during the remainder of the current lockdown.

These times are 2.30pm to 3.30pm on Sundays, and 5.30pm to 6.30pm on Wednesdays. So if you would like to come here and pray in a covid-secure space, you’ll be really welcome.

With love from Mark and the team at St Stephen’s.

Here is a letter from Mark to our church family sent on Friday 6th November:

As I write this we have just entered into the second national lockdown, and there is that sense of darkness across the nation.

In response to this, you may have seen the letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on Wednesday (if not then click here to find it). Do feel free to share this letter with others as it was written to the nation.

Within the letter you will see that the Archbishops have called upon the church – and are inviting others to join with us – to pray for our nation and our world each day at 6pm, and they are suggesting a different theme for each day and providing material to help people pray. The seven daily prayer themes are:

Sunday // Family, friends and loved ones
Monday // Schools and colleges, children and young people
Tuesday // Elderly, isolated and vulnerable
Wednesday // Businesses, the workplace and economic wellbeing
Thursday // The NHS and other key workers
Friday // National and local governments
Saturday // All who are grieving and all suffering with physical and mental ill-health.

I want to encourage us as a whole church to commit to being part of this so here are some suggestions for us as a church:

Find a time that to pray // Whilst 6pm may not be a great time for you to stop and pray, don’t be put off by this; find another time – and why not set your phone alarm to remind you each day? There are resources going to be available each day to help you pray and these can be found here as well as a weekly prayer and various other resources to help you pray, and here is a downloadable booklet to help.

Children’s resources // Kathryn has created some resources for children to join in with this call to prayer, including colouring in a scripture every Thursday which can be put up in a window. It will be scheduled to be sent out on Facebook and emailed out to parents.

Prayer at St Stephen’s // During the previous lockdown, we started having church open for private individual prayer. Numbers participating in this tailed off, as did people offering to open the church for prayer. I wonder whether as part of this initiative we ought to open the church on a couple of occasions each week for the duration of this lockdown and as a sign to the community that we are joining in with this call to prayer by the Archbishops. I was wondering whether we could offer Sunday afternoon and either Wednesday afternoon or potentially at 6pm to coincide with the time being suggested for prayer. If you would be interested in helping out with this and there are better days or times for you to be present in the church then we would love to hear from you.

Please contact the Church Office if you can help. We will need to ensure that there is a church keyholder available for the times when we do open for prayer.

Prayer walks // What about prayer walking around our community? Find someone to go with (socially distanced of course unless you are already in a bubble) and pray for your neighbours and the people, schools, businesses, surgeries, leaders of our town. Perhaps you could meet with someone from your Connect Group one evening instead of meeting on Zoom? Click here for some helpful prayer walking advice from 24-7 Prayer.

As the Archbishops say in their letter, “These are deeply challenging and difficult times for us all. When we are surrounded by fear and suffering, it can be hard to feel hopeful. This coming winter feels like it will be longer and darker than usual”. But we believe in a God who hears and answers our prayers, and so as God’s people let us commit to joining other Christians throughout our nation in praying that “Christ’s love will comfort us, calm our fears, and lead our nation and our world through this terrible pandemic”.

Before I finish though, please be assured that I and the staff team are praying for you all, and if there is anything you feel we can do to help support you or others, then do be in touch.

With my prayers and every blessing.