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God’s work deep in people’s lives

8 months ago

In this blog post, Revd Canon Felicity Lawson gives us a wonderful reminder that God longs to make himself known and that he is always at work in people’s lives, even during this latest lockdown.

I sat in my conservatory last Tuesday morning, the day we went into the third national lockdown. It is the place where I usually pray but I didn’t know where to begin. I felt overwhelmed, not so much on my own behalf but on behalf of everybody else. So I sat there not even beginning to say morning prayer.

All of a sudden I remembered Jack, someone I hadn’t thought about in years. Jack came to my Institution as Vicar of St Peter’s. He was the chairman of the Pensioners Group who met in the Community Hall and apart from funerals he had not been inside St Peter’s since he left the church school over 60 years before. The next Sunday he was there, sitting right at the back, but because I was new I didn’t know it was his first Sunday. After a few weeks his wife Doreen came with him and when I organised my first Saints Alive! group they signed up. They were worried about one of their daughters and coming to church and praying for her brought them peace and seemed to help her. Come Week 6 they came forward for prayer to give their lives to Christ and be filled with the Holy Spirit and a few weeks after the course ended they were Confirmed.

Mary lived opposite Jack and Doreen on one of the housing estates.  She came to their Confirmation.  The next morning Mary phoned me, ‘Are you running another of those courses because I want to come on it?’ Naturally I went round to visit later that day and discovered that she had had a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit during the service and wanted to know more.  She believed in God and prayed regularly but had never had anything to do with the institutional church except occasional visits with her husband to the Orthodox Church 20 miles away. She was a delight in the group because she was so open and honest – a true Yorkshire woman who tells it as it is! She gave herself wholeheartedly to Christ and became one of our great prayer warriors and a wonderful witness on the estate.

About 12 years later I was sitting with Jack in his living room waiting for Doreen to return from shopping. He knew he hadn’t got long to live and I had come to give them Communion. While we were waiting he told me about the experience he had had the first time he had dared to come to the Communion rail for a blessing. I prayed for him briefly as one does and passed on to the next person. But God didn’t pass on, Jack was flooded by a sense of God’s presence, love, power and peace. I was overwhelmed by God’s graciousness and wondered why Jack had never said anything before. When he went to be with his Lord a few weeks later the church was packed with people giving thanks for his quiet and steadfast service in the community.

Why, I wondered, had I suddenly thought of Jack? He was a reminder to me of the many ways that God is at work deep in people’s lives long before those who of us who are ministers, lay or ordained, ever know about it.  He doesn’t need us though often he graciously allows us to partner with him as he makes himself known.

When we were making the new Saints Alive! video last September various folk from St Peter’s came to share their experience. Margaret, who has led many courses with her husband Steve, spoke about going to visit people individually before praying with them in Week 6. She recalled how often she was amazed at the ways God had been at work in people’s lives even though they had said little in the meetings and the leaders had sometimes wondered whether anything was happening. She and Steve also spoke about how often when they were praying for people in Week 6 God seemed to be one step ahead of them.

I am writing this on the Feast of the Epiphany – a reminder that God longs to make himself known, sometimes in remarkable ways like he did to the Magi but more often quietly like he did to Simeon and Anna.  My prayer now is one of thanksgiving that even during this latest lockdown God is at work in the lives of men, women and children. May we his people be alert and ready to partner with him when he needs us to speak his word or show his love.

Saints Alive! is a nine-week nurture course with a difference, designed to equip disciples in ‘little, local and ordinary’ churches to live in the power of the Holy Spirit and to make a difference in the church and the world. To find out more about the course and to purchase the Leaders Manual, the Participants Journal and the DVD go to www.saintsalivecourse.com.

You can also read more about the Saints Alive! course, written by Bishop John Finney and Canon Felicity Lawson HERE, and watch a short introductory video and download a free taster session. If you would like to speak to Felicity about the course she can be contacted through the ReSource Office.

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"Michael’s combination of theological insight, pastoral sensitivity and sense of humour enabled us to see the challenges that Jacob faced in a new light. There was an underlying sense that the Spirit was at work amongst us as we explored the themes together. Even more refreshing was the way in which the Spirit gave us new insights in our discussions. This was a truly encouraging, if brief, retreat and we returned to our parishes with fresh enthusiasm to keep on going in the power of the Spirit."
Geoff Mumford, New Ainsty Deanery, Diocese of York

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