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Making Lent a time of deep study and prayer

by Michael Ford last modified 06 Mar, 2021 02:06 AM

As the Covid-19 lockdown continues and church doors remain closed, church communities throughout the Diocese are coming up with new ideas to ensure that it is 'service as normal'.

Typical is St Mary’s Church in the heart of Weymouth, whose members have gone to extraordinary lengths to tap the new technology and ensure that everyone in need is helped and encouraged.

2 years ago, a wooden 'prayer tree' was set up in the welcome area, for the public to hang their prayers to God.

Parish volunteer Geoffrey Murray explains:

"The response was staggering and each week, members of the congregation would gather before the morning service to read out the heartfelt and heart-rending messages related to family difficulties, loneliness and struggle, sickness and bereavement for group prayer. Church closure brought an end to that activity, but the current season of Lent has brought about a 'virtual' revival.

"The word has gone out that those seeking prayer support should send their requests to Neil Biles, Town Centre Chaplain and, at noon each Monday and Wednesday, via Live on St Mary’s Facebook page, he is reading out each petition and adding his own prayer. Those watching are encouraged to pray as well.

"There has been a remarkable response and Neil is dealing with up to 15 prayer requests each time.

"We are looking forward to the day when the church reopens and people can physically hang their prayers on the tree again and spend a time of peace communicating with God in His house of worship.

"Meanwhile, every Tuesday and Thursday in Lent, Vicar Jo Haine can be seen on YouTube and Facebook delivering a series of thoughts and prayers under the title of 'Footsteps of Christ', looking towards Easter and based on illustrations from the Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey."

Facebook link here.<

Lent is also being marked by a 5-week study course each Tuesday evening on the subject of 'Unanswered Prayer', a Zoom-based series built around a weekly video featuring 24/7 Prayer founder Pete Greig and based on his best-selling book 'God on Mute' that recounts his frustrations at appearing to receive no answers from God for his anguished prayers on behalf of his wife wracked by epileptic seizures following removal of a brain tumour. This led him to a deep exploration and greater understanding of the meaning and practice of prayer.

Geoffrey adds:

"Those joining the study course at St Mary’s received an advance 'health warning' from Curate Matt Renyard that it would not be an easy experience, as the course might touch their deepest pains and sufferings in considering 'Why doesn’t God answer me?'

"In the process, however, the course helps people to explore ways to communicate with Father God during difficult times."

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