What is a Prayer Walk?

As Resurrection Church prepares for the official launch of the church, one of things the launch team has been doing to connect with our community is to hold prayer walks in different parts of Hermitage.  If you have never heard of or participated in a prayer walk you may wonder what it is.  Prayer walks are actually very simple.  Groups of people get together and spend time walking through the community and praying as they walk or stopping at certain places in the community to pray for specific people, groups or issues that may be affecting the community.

For the Resurrection Church Launch Team, this began by meeting behind the Hermitage City building.  If you park in the lot behind the building, you would see various buildings connected to Hermitage in very important ways.  You would see Hickory High School, the local police department, the Hermitage Municipal building and Rodney White Park-a local park in Hermitage.  As we gathered at that location, the team walked the grounds around the area and prayed specifically for high school teachers and students, work done by the police department and others serving our community and those who worked at the Municipal Building each and every day.  We would stop at different locations and pray for our community and those who lived and worked in it.

A few months later we gathered at Buhl Park, another local park in Hermitage.  The date we chose to meet was the day West Middlesex High School was having its homecoming.  Many of the students and family and friends gathered at the park to take pictures.  As the groups were gathering, our team walked the park stopping at certain places to pray.  We prayed for the safety of the students attending homecoming.  We prayed for the beauty of the park and for ways that we as a church could be good stewards of God’s environment.  We prayed for all the people that walked through that park, praying that God would be with them, especially those hurting and in need of God’s love.

In November, news came out that a dispute between a transgender employee and a co-worker at our local Wal Mart caused a shooting to take place in the parking lot.  Later that week Resurrection Church held a prayer walk at the Wal Mart.  We walked outside and prayed for God’s peace.  We prayed for our brothers and sisters in the LBGTQ community and all those in Hermitage who are marginalized because of their gender, race or sexual orientation.  We prayed for all those affected by violence and those who live in fear.

And just last week some of our launch team gathered at our local mall and walked throughout the mall praying for our community.  We pexels-photo-11780prayed for the stores closing in the mall and those whose lives are affected by the economy and loss of jobs.  We prayed for those at the mall who are in need of God – those who are hurting, lonely and in need of God’s presence.  We prayed for those we are trying to reach as we plant this new Episcopal faith community, that God will open up doors for us to have conversations and to reach new people through the church we are planting.

In each of these prayer walks, the purpose is very simple. Pray for the community.  Pray that God will open our eyes to see the community the way God sees it and to help us see the vision for reaching new people.  Prayer walks do not take a lot of time, but they are so effective.  Walking in the community and praying for specific places, people, groups and issues allows the church to be present in the community, to bathe the community with God’s love and presence and to help the church to see the community the way God sees it.

I encourage every church to try holding prayer walks in your own community.  Where are the places your church could gather and pray as you walk?  Where is God calling you to connect with your community?  Where are the places in your community where you are longing to see the community as God sees it?  Where are the places and people that need to be transformed by the love and grace of Jesus Christ?  Wherever those places are, gather as a church and simply pray. I think your church will be surprised by what you see and the way God will use these walks to build God’s kingdom here on earth.

The Rev. Jason Shank is overseeing Resurrection Church, our church plant in Hermitage.

This is the second installment in our Prayer series that will run up to the Diocesan Prayer Vigil in March. Click here to view other stories in the series, and here for more information on the Vigil.

God Is At Work in the Diocese of NWPA – A Letter of Greeting From Jason and The Rev. Erin Shank

734939_10100197008500734_2821844428937965238_nWe are so excited to be starting new ministries in the Diocese of NWPA! In our brief time here we have already explored parts of the Diocese and have been able to connect with some of the clergy and community. We are overwhelmed with the support which has been poured out to us. Since Erin is originally from this diocese we knew there would be some sense of familiarity but in many ways it already feels like home.

We can already see how God is working in the lives of the people of this Diocese and how great things are ahead. This past week we were in New Castle getting our PA drivers licenses and while we were there, multiple people asked us why we moved to PA. We told them about our vocation and the ministry that was ahead of us. Every person we talked to was so excited about new ministries coming to New Castle. They already knew about Trinity and could not wait to see what God would do in this next chapter of its story. God is moving in the Diocese of NWPA!

Similarly, the first week we moved here we were getting cable at the apartment. The technician who came out to install it was a young man. While he was working we engaged in conversation and he too asked what brought us to the area. We told him about our new ministries and a little about our work as pastors. He shared with us how he had lived in the Hermitage area his entire life but fell away from the church some time ago. Yet, he still sensed God’s presence in his life and knew the importance of church but he has never been able to connect with one. He was excited to hear about a new Episcopal church coming to Hermitage and the possibilities of being able to experience God and community in new ways. He gave me his information and told me to contact him when we get started. God is at work in the Diocese of NWPA!

Neither Erin nor I know exactly what our ministries will look like or what exactly God has planned but what we do know, is that our short time here has already given us a glimpse of life here in NWPA and we know that God is moving and that God is well and alive. We know that God is already at work in the life of the people and in the various communities found within this Diocese. Words cannot express how excited we are to be here and how we cannot wait to see everything God has in store for us, for this Diocese and for the life of every person that is touched by the work we will do with you together!

Jason Shank, Pastoral Leader of the Church Plant Hermitage, PA and The Rev. Erin Shank, Vicar at Trinity Church, New Castle, PA