by Roger Mills, Missioner, Churches Together in Cornwall
Isaiah 43:18-19: Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
It was all going so well. Renewal would be the theme. On the eve of Pentecost, Christians would be stationed at one-mile intervals across the entire 630 miles of the South West Coast Path (www.southwestawake.com), praying simultaneously at 2 pm for the coming of the Kingdom. In Cornwall, an additional web of inland prayer walks would link churches of different denominations across the county. On Pentecost Sunday, two Beacon Events would unite us in praise, at Liskeard for those in East Cornwall, and at Gwennap Pit (the open-air amphitheatre near Redruth, where John Wesley preached to thousands) for those in the West. By February, a web site was set up with 630 green dots on a map of the coast path and they were beginning to turn first orange and then red as people signed up for that spot until it reached capacity. Speakers and musicians across the country were being invited to the Beacon Events. What could possibly go wrong – other than the weather?
Then came lockdown and it was soon apparent that none of the plans could go ahead. What to do? Well, Thy Kingdom Come is about prayer, so pray we would. St Martin’s Church, Liskeard would prepare a virtual Beacon Event for the morning of Pentecost Sunday, repurposed for the whole of Cornwall; and church leaders across the five counties of the South West would join in the region’s biggest prayer group that evening to pray online for unity, frontline workers, missional effectiveness, leaders, and renewal.
It all worked better than we could have dreamt. Videoconferencing gremlins left us (almost) alone, thanks to the highly professional teams behind the scenes. The morning service (viewed 1200 times to date) was accompanied by online prayer rooms where individuals could pray live with members of St Martin’s, and a parallel kids’ session was introduced by a video in the main service. Powerful worship from the Transforming Mission Worship Group, performing at their homes across Cornwall, accompanied a message of joy and hope from Sarah Yardley of Cornwall’s Christian festival Creation Fest.
Sarah also offered the first prayers in South West Prays that evening, in which prayers from each county on each of the five themes were offered by 28 different leaders, embracing a wide diversity of traditions and styles. At the conclusion of each section the topics covered were displayed (now available to download) as we paused for our own reflections. A link allowed individuals to request personal prayer, and worship leaders across the region, including some involved in the morning, provided inspirational music. Those watching live (over a thousand) added their own prayers via chat.
Not what we had planned then: but in many ways better, and certainly reaching larger numbers – huge thanks to all involved. The Coastal Path prayer chain will still go ahead, when safe to do so; and we will meet again to pray Thy Kingdom Come next year. Bur renewal is in progress now, across our county and our region. New relationships are developing, and denominational boundaries losing importance. See, I am doing a new thing!
Roger Mills, an Anglican based in Falmouth, Cornwall, facilitates the ecumenical development team for Churches Together in Cornwall.