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May 2017, Bishop James: A real commitment to prayer

I still vividly remember my first visit to what was then one of our Link Dioceses, Chennai (formerly Madras) in South India. We met up with the Bishop there, and I asked him about his priorities. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘my first priority is Evangelism’. ‘And your second?’ I asked. ‘Evangelism’ he replied. ‘And your third?’ ‘Evangelism’. Later that week we attended their Diocesan Conference, and witnessed some of the fruit of that emphasis on evangelism : literally hundreds of people singing and dancing through the packed conference hall, representing the six thousand new converts who had been received into the Church over the previous two years. Six thousand new converts… What a difference they would make to the life of the Church here in Cumbria!

Mission – of which evangelism is an important part – lies right at the heart of our ‘God for All’ strategy in this great county. That’s what ‘Mission Communities’ are all about ; and that is why we have received a substantial grant from the Church Commissioners to fund our so-called ‘Reach Team’. Of course, there’s nothing new in all this. The Christian Church in Cumbria emerged from the evangelistic efforts of the great Celtic Saints, and flexible, united ‘mission communities’ mark a return to the early days of Christianity in England before the mediæval (and largely political) introduction of ‘parishes’.

But, as we all know, nothing substantial will be achieved merely by re-organisation and structural change. What matters most is a re-structured mind set; and fundamental to that mind set is a real commitment to Prayer. We can only expect to see people coming to Christ and discovering his love for them and his purpose for their lives if we are prepared to pray for them.

That’s why the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have launched ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, which is an invitation to us and to people all over the world to engage in a special week of praying specifically that more people will come to know Jesus. The explicit hope is that ‘those taking part will be transformed by the Holy Spirit through prayer and find new confidence to be witnesses for Jesus Christ’. Dioceses throughout the Anglican Communion are joining in together with many from our partner denominations, and Archbishop Justin says ‘I cannot remember in my life anything that I’ve been involved in where I have sensed so clearly the work of the Spirit’.

We will be encouraging everyone to be involved with this between 4th-11th June (slightly later than some parts of the country due to half-term dates). A ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ website has a range of resources to help and we hope that local communities will host ‘Community Prayer Boards’ (including an external prayer board at Church House in Penrith).

Of course, this ties in wonderfully with ‘Moving Mountains’ which is scheduled for next March (2018). So before anyone complains about ‘yet another initiative’ (!) can I simply emphasise the fact that Mission Communities; Moving Mountains; and ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ are all inter-linked parts of one big initiative ‘God for All’. We long for more people to encounter the Risen Christ for themselves and experience his power to transform their lives. But we are fully aware that nobody will respond to the Gospel unless someone shares it with them. And we know that Prayer is the key to that response.

‘Thy Kingdom Come’ is a great opportunity to pray for the mission to which every one of us is called. Do please seize it if you possibly can.

James Newcome
Bishop of Carlisle

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