From June 15th, church buildings are permitted to open for ‘private prayer’ and St. Paul’s has decided to open in a very limited way on Saturday 20th June between 10.00 – 11.00 a.m. to allow individuals (or a couple from a single household) to enter the church for quiet reflection and prayer. My profound thanks to the churchwardens, Matthew & Jean, for making this possible. Very strict rules on social distancing and hygiene are in force and must be followed carefully by all. We will aim to open each Saturday morning at the same time until the church is fully open.
It is very important to understand that we are not open for public worship and there will as yet be no ‘service’. Nor is the church open for social gathering. It seems a terrible thing to have to write such words, but it is a sad fact that the majority of our congregation fall into the category of ‘high risk’ for Covid-19 and it is our duty to ensure your safety as far as possible. There is a real threat of a ‘second wave’ as general lockdown restrictions are eased, and the UK has one of the highest death rates in the world. We have been very fortunate that so far our congregation has remained free of the virus, with the sad exception of Bert Bailey who contracted Covid-19 while being treated in hospital for other conditions. Let us do our utmost to continue in this vein.
It should be remembered that whether you find it helpful or comforting to be in church to pray, or whether you prefer to go into your own room (see Matthew 6.6), the Lord hears your prayer and longs to enter into conversation with you as you open your heart to Him.
Sometimes we are afraid of silence when trying to pray. We think that we have to try to use the right sort of words to talk to God, and that if we don’t know what they are, then we are not really praying. Let me remind you of St. Paul’s words in Romans 8: “ Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Even Paul can admit that he doesn’t know how to pray properly! And yet he has come to realise that prayer is not really to do with his words at all, but those of the Holy Spirit who prays in him and for him and for all the church. We are so used to hearing well-structured prayers in polite language in church that we forget that actually it is our very inability to pray ‘properly’ that opens the door to this deeper connection with God.
So on Saturday June 20th, why don’t we all as a church sit down to pray at some point between 10 and 11 a.m., whether we choose to go to the church or to be quietly at home, and spend a little time – like Paul – not praying ‘properly’ but letting the Spirit of God Himself pray in us and for us, and for the church, and for the world? Don’t fill your head with words. Simply open your heart to God. Just breathe gently and calmly and ask God to speak with you. Let us see how much God can bless us through our own inadequacy.