Held in Community by Shaan Ellinghouse and Judy Cooke

Held in Community by Shaan Ellinghouse and Judy Cooke

The prayer chain came into being during the ministry of Douglas Bax, to support and uphold members of the church facing problems or crises. Betty, his wife, initially took all the calls or requests, and these were relayed telephonically between those members who formed the ‘chain’. When Douglas retired, Betty felt the need to step down, and Shaan took over. The ‘chain’ now consists of nine members, and we meet once a month in order to update and coordinate our schedule of requests, which have grown considerably, and are not confined to church members. In between meetings we keep informed via e-mail. Robert joins us at our monthly meetings, as he is called upon to minister to people who wish their problems to be confidential. Without in any way betraying their trust, we are able to pray for the upholding and strengthening of certain situations or crises. From its humble beginnings the prayer chain has now become a very important pastoral ministry in the life of the church and its nine members are dedicated links in the ‘chain’.

A creative aid to our praying has been Robert’s development of a picture-booklet, with portraits of those being prayed for wherever possible. So we pray, looking at the person, remembering their situation, their families too, entrusting them to God’s love and care. There is a strong sense of the preciousness and uniqueness of this task, of our privilege in participating in it, and an awareness of the responsibility that goes with it. Members draw strength from each other, being only too aware of themselves as ‘standing in the need of prayer’. A warm and committed fellowship in the group has developed as a result.

Even though there is often sadness and heartbreak being prayed about, there is the wonderful assurance of God’s love hovering over us, and the experience that indeed he uses this little prayer chain in unexpected and surprising ways to help strengthen and nurture our community at RUC, and outside of it.

Henri Nouwen wrote tellingly about the power of prayer and its capacity to build community. He said: ‘People do not form community when they cling to each other in order to survive the storms of life. They do form community when together they raise a living prayer in the midst of our anxiety-ridden human family’. So we have discovered in the prayer chain in reaching out wherever we pray.