Public Prayer Places Alasdair Kay - 2 Aug 2013
A recent visit to Italy, as well as three years of running Healing on the Streets, has awakened me to the fact that most people who tag themselves as Christian aren’t in Church and possibly don’t know how to access it. They have a tag and a spirituality but there is little in terms of a coherent theology attached to that.
However Spirituality is far from dead. Faith has been privatised and consumerised for most in Western Culture.
My interest was particularly aroused when I visited Italy and noticed that during the day, en route to work, or on return from work, or at lunch time ordinary Italians would pop into Church to pray especially the young. While holidaying in southern France I noticed groups of young people cycling the route of the Chemin de Santiago de Compestela, pilgrimage was something they wanted to do together. Last year while visiting the isle of Iona I had a profound encounter with a young surfer from New Zealand looking on Iona for the meaning to life. Again in Iona I remember explaining to some Belgium Hippies how to walk a Labyrinth and engage in Ignatian prayer in the centre of the Labyrinth. All of these people were wide open to connecting to God through ancient Celtic spirituality.
Commonly in the UK I see road side shrines erected around places where people have been killed in accidents. Hospitals and especially Florists are grasping for spiritual memento’s for a world that has unknown symbolism to engage with death.
Around death, people are needing people to direct them and walk through this bewildering time. A very public priesthood is needed to accompany people in this valley place.
I am finding cemetery’s a telling place of spiritual culture. The gravestones often revealing a very post christian culture with no clear theology of death. Again here is a public space for people to engage with questions of life, death and the reason for life.
Lastly my journeying with 24-7 Prayer Rooms this last 2 years has shown me how much people are looking for a place to commune with God. I am constantly surprised that people who don’t do a Sunday service want to come to engage with and spend time in Gods presence.
So I ask myself are we missing a trick here in our evangelistic practice. Do we need to create places for people to Dwell? Is the journey of faith today one more of an Emmaus road experience than a day of Pentecost one?
All images are used by permission in accordance with commons copyright license terms:
Feature image is a derivative of the image 'Old women praying inside the church
St. Anne Church in bambang Taguig City.' by Ronald Repolona.