Back at the beginning of December, Spital Street Methodist Church in Dartford tried something different. Supported by members of Sanctuary of Hope Church, a few people stood outside the church on a bitterly cold Saturday morning asking Christmas shoppers, "Do you pray?" If the answer was yes, the passers-by were invited to tie a ribbon on the church railings.
We were surprised and delighted to have over 100 ribbons tied on the railings in that one morning alone. We had wide florists ribbon so people could write prayer requests on it if they wanted and we had some good conversations with people. Some were intellectual and others were very moving as people shared the reason they prayed for a family member who was ill or to remember a loved one.
But that wasn't the end of the story. We left the ribbons on the railing with a notice explaining what was happening and some extra ribbons in a plastic bag. A few days later we found that the spare ribbons had all been tied on the railings! We put more out and the same kept happening. The ribbons and notice were left out from 5th December until the Carol Service on 20th more than 2 weeks later. In spite of being right in the centre of town and just round the corner from the biggest and rowdiest night club there was no vandalism and the only "graffiti" on the notice was a prayer for the homeless and refugees.
At the Carol Service, members of the congregation went outside during the prayers of intercession and brought in the ribbons to symbolise bringing the prayers of the town into the church. They heaped them in front of the altar rail and offered them to God. Altogether there were exactly 200 ribbons and one extra prayer written on the notice.
The church now plans to have a prayer box permanently outside and is planning ways to build contact with the praying people of Dartford.
Deacon Jane Paine