Today, instead of our usual service, we shared in an extended prayer time at church. The aim was to try and discern what God was saying to us, as individual Christians and as a Church, about our future direction.
Within the Methodist tradition of which I am a part, the New Year regularly gives us an opportunity to examine our standing with God through the annual Covenant Service, as " we freely and whole-heartedly yield all things to [God's] pleasure and disposal." This year, though, we had renewed our covenant with God in September, as a new church - one which combines two congregations while retaining their independence as worshipping communities - was launched
The Church in Crookes has been seeking for a vision from God for a number of years, and that vision has focused for the last 4 or 5 years around training disaffected young people in catering and hospitality skills, while at the same time providing a service to the local community through a cafe run by the kids and their chef/teachers. Sadly, towards the end of last year, that project folded, and now we are back at God's feet, eager to know where we go next.
Our situation isn't helped by being situated in a 103 year-old listed building, which is showing increasing signs of its age. Numerous thoughts have gone through our minds: should we cut our losses and close; should we shut off part of the premises and use only what we need; should we seek to let out as much as we can to increase our income as well as our effectiveness in the community; or should we look for new ventures that can breathe new life into our community and our church?
That's why we needed to pray this morning. We need to know what God is calling us to do and be in 2011, because only when we are in God's will for us will we begin to see the growth in discipleship and in numbers that we desire. So we took time to listen to God: we worshipped together and thanked God for God's goodness to us in so many ways; we reflected on 2 Chronicles 7:14-15; we prayed together and individually, asking God to show us the way forward.
I'd like to say that there was a blinding revelation that left us all stunned and certain of God's path, but we're British and we're Methodists, and that kind of thing doesn't often happen with us (maybe that's a failing in us, I don't know). What I will say is that there was a deep sense of calm and peace as we prayed, despite some being a little uncomfortable with that kind of activity. God was definitely there with us, and I'm certain was fulfilling his word to us: "Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place." [2Chr 7:15]. We continue, I hope, to pray, and to listen for God's voice speaking to us, for I'm sure God has much more to say to us, and much more to give us.