Could You Establish a House of Prayer?

by Gerry Lynch last modified 07 May, 2015 01:05 PM

Salisbury parish seeks mature Christian couple to come and set up new religious community

A Salisbury parish is asking mature Christians to consider giving a few years to set up a new religious community, the ‘House of Prayer’, in one of the Wiltshire city’s poorest communities.

The Bemerton Heath estate is in the 15% most deprived areas in England, but in South Wiltshire it is one of only two areas with concentrated high levels of poverty.

“That means the Heath carries a stigma not in keeping with reality”, says the Revd Simon Woodley, the Rector of Bemerton, well known for his passionate commitment to the estate. “Some people look down on the area because it’s a working-class community in a very middle-class city.”

“Bemerton Heath is a large post-WW2 council estate, with St Michael’s and the Methodist Church at one end, so little Christian presence in the core of the estate.

“Our vision is to have a small Christian community living in what was once our curate’s house, helping it become a ‘House of Prayer’. We want those who are members of the ‘House of Prayer’ to be active in and life of the parish of Bemerton and be committed to worship at St Michael’s Church.

“We are looking to recruit some leaders for the project, most likely a married couple, with sufficient maturity in life and as Christians to lead a religious community with three single people.

“We imagine the single residents will be from school leaving age into their early twenties, and committed to spending a year or two living in a Christian community. Ideally, we would like to recruit single members from the local area, as we know many young people would like to move from the family home and become more independent, but can’t because rents in Salisbury are high.

“We want to give young Christians a chance to live in a Christian context, worship within the Anglican tradition, but also to be part of the world. We want to create a lighthouse, not a lifeboat! We expect the single residents to be employable and normally in employment.

“St Michael’s Church itself has a very broad, very open, Evangelical tradition. Our Communion services are traditional and clearly part of the Central Tradition of Anglicanism, our informal services are very lively and spirit filled, and we are signed up members of Inclusive Church. So we certainly don’t fit any stereotypical model of an Anglican Church – our worship reflects the diverse Christian beliefs of our worshippers.”

Ven Alan Jeans, the Archdeacon of Sarum, emphasised the project is also supported by the Diocese and fits within its priorities.

“One of the three priorities for the Diocese’s senior staff is “time to pray”, and we put prayer at the heart of all we do as a Diocese.

“One of the first priorities for the leaders will be to establish the right pattern of daily prayer for the new community. We want the House to be a focus for prayer for the whole city, and to be both rooted in the Anglican tradition and linked in to the extraordinarily deep ecumenical networks in Salisbury.”

For more information or to explore whether you might have a call to set up the House of Prayer, contact the Revd Simon Woodley, Rector of Bemerton, on 01722 333750 or revwoodley@me.com.

Learn more about St Michael's and the other churches in Bemerton Parish at www.bemertonparish.org.uk.

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