Grace Church Groningen also answered the call of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, with their ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ (see thykingdom.co.uk) initiative, to devote the week before Pentecost to prayer. All church communities pray every week, but in this week we were invited to pray in special ways and places for the renewal of the God’s Church and her witness to the world, all in preparation for the Feast of His Spirit.
So Grace Church offered a Prayer Walk around the center of our beautiful city. And several members, and also friends from the Old Catholic Parish, joined in.
This brief pilgrimage was shaped by the prayer Jesus gave us, ‘The Lord’s Prayer,’ and the point of the exercise was not so much to be seen to be praying (though that happened, too), but to see, in order to pray. At each stage of our journey, we paused and observed our surroundings, reflected on their significance in light of the Lord’s Prayer, and committed ourselves, and the people of Groningen and the world to God in prayer.
‘Our Father in Heaven’: Standing by a local school in sight of the university hospital, we remembered we are all children of God, and in need of His care and nurture. We prayed for students and teachers, for patients, nurses and doctors, for all the ‘caring’ professions and, of course, for parents and children and those who are alone.
‘Hallowed be your name’: In the gardens of the monumental Martinikerk, whose tall tower points heavenward above the city, we reflected on the holiness and power of the God.
‘Your Kingdom come’: From the Groningen Provincial HQ via the Grote Markt and City Hall to the courtyard of the University’s Academiegebouw, with its façade bearing a coat of arms citing Psalm 119:105 (‘Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet’), we pondered places of power and influence, those who ‘rule’, and those under them, including the oppressed, and reflected on the need, not only for knowledge and the just use of power, but for a sincere and strong relationship faith in God, whose Kingdom is above all others.
‘Give us today our daily bread’: at the Korenbeurs (the old Grain Market), we thanked God for providing for us, and prayed for those in need.
‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’: At the back of the Aakerk, we laid stones symbolic of our sins before a stone cross, and then, laid sharp tacks (for our painful problems and people we needed to forgive) before the same cross.
‘Lead us not into temptation’: Passing by local bars and the red-light district, we prayed, using Ephesians 6, for God’s strength against whatever temptations we face, and for freedom and justice for those who are addicted or used and/or abused by others.
‘Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory’: We concluded our walk in the lovely Noorderplantsoen park, at a statue of a figure staring up in amazement, and we celebrated the glimpses of God’s glory we get from God’s creation and in each other’s company.
The Grace Groningen prayer walk was a special time together, and, we realized, worth repeating. It gave us fresh perspective, helping us to see ourselves, our city and our world in a new, more prayerful, and, we trust, more God-given way.
Yours in Christ, Sam
(the Rev Sam Van Leer,
Chaplain Grace Church)