REV JONATHAN JEFFERY: The powerful symbolism of prayers

Children add their prayers for others to the sculpture
Children add their prayers for others to the sculpture
West Street, Havant

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WE are always trying to think of new ways to engage people with the Christmas story. 

Last Christmas, we organised the Leigh Park and Warren Park Community Nativity Play which was certainly a new enterprise here. 

Never before have three real camels graced the streets of Warren Park!

Alongside this, we ran another, more reflective project which involved all the junior school pupils in Leigh Park and Warren Park.

It reaches its climax early in February, when the church celebrates Candlemas – when we remember Jesus was presented in the temple as a young child.

This marks the end, for another year, of celebrating Jesus born into the world and the last of our decorations come down.

We created a prayer sculpture in St Francis Church and designed the structure of it to fit in with our church decorations.

It took the form of a snow drift, curving around the pulpit at the front of the church.

It was covered in silver netting, to which we tied an individual prayer for the world from each pupil on the estates.  

Each child wrote their prayer or wish for the world on a white luggage tag which we added to the sculpture in the lead up to Christmas.

It encouraged the children to connect with something important in their lives or in the world and to take a moment to reflect on that, and how they would like it to be.

When the young people came into church over the festive season – with school, cubs or brownies, or for our Christmas Eve crib service – they saw the sculpture and all the prayers on it. 

For a while, as the prayers came in from all five schools across the estate, it was a work in progress. 

Not only did they engage in the project by thinking about their own wish or prayer, but they could also see the powerful symbolism of their prayer when it was joined together with others. 

At stages over Christmas and since then, we have taken off sections of the prayers – leaving the strings behind to show where they were and offered the prayers as part of our regular services.

Our final service will be on February 2, when we celebrate Candlemas and conclude our celebrations of Jesus born amongst us, and we pray the remaining wishes for the world.

St Francis Church is in Riders Lane, Leigh Park.

For more information go to stfrancisleighpark.org.uk.

Rev Jonathan is vicar of St Francis Church, Leigh Park, and St Clare’s Church, Warren Park.