Friday, March 24, 2006

Heart to Heart

Is the title of a rather wonderful multi sensory prayer activity, devised by Chris and Sheila Chesterton…
Back in the autumn, I attended a training morning in which they outlined it, together with other resources they'd developed, and it seemed to me that this sort of approach might be very helpful in getting beneath the guard of some at St M’s, who tend to fence God round with liturgy and ritual so that it’s clear he is very dangerous indeed.
I spoke to Chris, who agreed that though it had been envisaged for an all-age family day, it could be adapted for an evening slot during our Lent course on prayer…and we arranged to talk after Christmas.
Only, just before Christmas Chris, our diocesan Children’s Officer, died very suddenly.
His many friends in the diocese and beyond all mourned, and wondered how we could support Sheila. Once the first shock was absorbed, I assumed that this would mean a re-jigging of our Lent programme…only to find that Sheila, being an amazing lady in all sorts of ways, had other ideas.
So, on Wednesday she came to St M’s to lead an evening, based on the material they had developed together…the first time she’d done so since Chris’s death. And it was splendid.
Heart to Heart is an acrostic based on the premise that prayer is a 2 way conversation…We Honour God, Enquire what his wants of us, Apologise (I seem to be doing that rather a lot at the moment) Request his help and Trust and Thank him….
In return, he has High Hopes of us, Encourages and Accepts us, Reminds us of his rules and Transforms us.
That possibly sounds either contrived, cheesey or both…but the reality really works. Particular highlights were joining our rather staid, and definitely post middle aged course attenders, as we stood in a circle in age order (lots of giggling as we swapped and swapped again, till we were all sorted) and passed a crown from head to head, reminding us of the treasure in store….And the joyful experience of giving each other stickers to encourage….a wonderful opportunity to find something to affirm in everyone there. By the time that activity was over, everyone was proudly sporting several awards of the type generally found in primary school exercise books…I transferred mine to my computer monitor today and am delighted to report that at least someone thinks I am not just “very good” but "excellent" too…and that I have "done well"….
Again, it sounds potentially naff but was a hugely positive experience for everyone.
To support this input, Sheila created a series of prayer stations in church, which we left up and running till tonight. Confounding my gloomy assumptions, quite a range of unlikely people were prepared to give these a go, even if they later confessed to me that "all this touchy feely stuff left them cold",- so I'm left feeling deeply grateful, - to both the Chestertons for their vision and creativity, and to Sheila for her courage in going ahead with the evening.

A year ago, nobody at St Mary's had ever experienced this kind of non verbal,right-brain type of prayer...but now they've had no less than 3 prayer trails set out in church, and they seem to feel braver every time. At this rate, we'll be able to let God out of the Box before we're too much older. Deo gratias!

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