As I write this, we have just celebrated Palm Sunday. For some of the churches, this has been accompanied by a new found wayside ministry, with crosses outside the churches for members and community alike. For one or two this ministry is not so new, but it has certainly expanded during the last year, when it has been impossible to distribute things inside the building, as we have done in the past.
A wayside ministry gives lots of possibilities to connect with the community around the church. Many of us have long done that by putting posters and banners outside our buildings for all those who pass by to see. This doesn’t just get over the particular message written on the banner, but also the more subtle one that the church is alive and wanting to engage beyond its walls.
It’s important to think carefully about the written messages themselves, of course. If we only ever put up signs about Christmas and Summer Fayres, then the underlying message that we convey could be that those sort of events are all that we are interested in. Whereas, the banner that many of the churches displayed about Christmas 2020 being different, but the message being the same, was something that we really wanted the community to hear.
Whether it’s angels at Christmas time, daffodils on Mothering Sunday or easter eggs on easter day, wayside gifts are a reminder that the seasons which the community is probably already celebrating are part of the Christian Story. The more subtle message is to do with the generosity of the church and the inclusion of everyone within the Story.
Some of the churches have also used their railings to allow folk to remember loved ones, for example by writing on ribbons and tying them on the railings. It’s also possible to have a wayside ministry that allows folk to pray for those that they are concerned about in a similar way or to gather prayers in box, to be included within church prayers. This not only shows the concern of the church for those in the community at large, but also reminds folk that the church is a people of prayer and it may well encourage others to pray.
Some of the churches in Bolton are taking this a step further, by starting a ‘Try Praying’ campaign. This involves putting up a banner that says just that: TRY PRAYING. The suggestion is that folk try praying every day for a week and see what a difference it makes. There are leaflets to help folk, which can be placed in clear Perspex boxes fixed on the outside of the church or railings etc.
Perhaps we should try this. If we do, we’ll have to pray ourselves too of course. Why not try out the tips on the trypraying website. They may be helpful even if you have been praying regularly for years.
May God bless our wayside ministries and all those who are reached in this way,