Welcome to Worship in Avon Stour Pastoral Area
23rd January 2018
Mary Thomson, a parishioner of Avon Stour Pastoral Area, writes:
“On 10th January 2018, about 90 people gathered at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Southbourne for Avon Stour Pastoral Area’s ‘Welcome to Worship’, an evening of prayer, praise and fellowship organised by Richard Martin, our Director of Lay Formation, ably supported as always by a great worship band and team of helpers.
For those who have not been to a ‘Welcome to Worship’ gathering before, I have always found that there is a deep sense of God’s presence, expressed through song, silence, the exploration of Scripture and prayer ministry.
It was emphasised that we should just relax, with no pressure to do anything except be open to The Holy Spirit. People are free to sit or stand, sing or be silent, and participate and respond in whatever way they feel most comfortable.
We began with songs: ‘Here I am to Worship’, ’Cornerstone’ and ‘Be still,’ followed by prayer.
The scripture for the evening was from the Book of Proverbs:
‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.’
With great openness, Richard shared some of his own experience in learning to rely on God, and how trust is built up gradually over time and experience, as in any relationship. God does not whisk away our problems, but if we listen to him we may become aware of him supporting us - perhaps in a way that we would never have anticipated ourselves.
The evening continued with two reflective songs leading us into a time of prayerful reflection. We were then invited to visit one or more of three available prayer stations:
1.New Year resolutions: we were invited to write a resolution that would strengthen our trust in God, to place it before the altar with a personal candle, and to take a ‘gemstone’ to keep in our pocket to remind us of our resolution in days to come.
2. Parent and child: we were invited, with the help of a picture, to reflect on our relationship with God as our loving parent.
3. Bible dip: we were invited, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to select a Scripture verse from a ‘lucky dip’ and quietly explore the way it spoke to us in our situation.
As well as the prayer stations, there were places set aside for prayer ministry. Pairs of trained lay ministers welcome individuals who are seeking prayer for themselves or people known to them, usually for a specific reason. I am fairly new to this ministry, but I feel so privileged to be able to pray with and for people in such an intimate and personal way.
We closed with a final prayer and three more songs:
‘I will offer up my life,’ ‘Be not afraid’ and ’10,000 reasons’.
The evening ended with refreshments in the parish centre and an opportunity to share fellowship and make new friends.
If you have never been to a 'Welcome to Worship' gathering, I recommend that you come along to the next one - and better still, bring a friend!”
A few comments from other people who came…
♦ “It was as though that prayer time was aimed directly at me. I came away walking on air.”
♦ “It was like a mini-retreat”
♦ “I need to wait a while before I drive home - it has been such a time of heightened awareness of God's presence”
♦ "Just wanted you to know how beautiful yesterday evening was-a lovely sense of calm and deep prayer”
♦ “a wonderful reflective and uplifting evening. Many thanks”
♦ “I feel much more peaceful now”
♦ “I'd like you to know how much last night helped me… The prayer ministry which I received was just so amazingly accurate in delivering the message I needed to hear.”
Contact Richard Martin for more information: email@example.com