Last Saturday we held an Advent Quiet Day at Priory. Three of us had been talking, praying and planning for the day for some time. The idea was to offer an opportunity for people to step aside from their daily routines for a while and take time to be quiet, reflect and pray; a kind of antidote to the busyness and pressure of Christmas preparations.
The theme of the Quiet Day was "Stations of the Nativity". We set up about 8 "prayer stations" based on the story of the nativity, ultimately leading to the manger. At each prayer station there were ideas for personal prayer, reflection and response. I was very hopeful that many would want to come, and would greatly benefit from the experience. In reality, the turnout was about the most disappointing to any event I ever remember helping to organise!! Nevertheless, I think that the few who did come found the experience to be very moving and thought-provoking.
One of the prayer stations was on the theme of Rejection (based on the time when "there was no room at the inn" for Joseph and Mary and the baby). I had pinned up some images of people/groups in our society who are sometimes rejected (or at least feel rejected). People at the Quiet Day were invited to light a candle and pray for those who feel rejected in our society. One of the images was of a group of young people in hoodies.
The London riots earlier in the year are still very much in our consciousness. It appears that many of those involved were young people. The problem is that all young people tend to be tarred with the same brush. I was delighted, therefore, to read a report from the Youth For Christ (YFC) organisation, which revealed that a number of young people responded very positively in the aftermath of the riots. This is part of the YFC report:
In the aftermath [of the riots] many were quick to denounce England's young people as wholly self-centred, anti-social and opportunistic. But this was just one part of the picture. A counter movement saw groups of young people come together to clean up streets, help those in need and restore some normality to their communities.
The report goes on to say how teams of young people were on the streets offering help and assistance, and making a real difference in the terrible situations suffered by a number of communities. They helped clean up damaged shops, even offering to pray for those who worked there. In response, one shop assistant remarked, "that's restored my faith in people a bit. I might even go to church on Sunday." There are some truly wonderful young people around.
The prayer station after "Rejection" was "Acceptance and Inclusion". The message of the angels to the shepherds was of 'good news of great joy for all people'. God's love in Jesus is offered to all. He longs to forgive, and reveal his love to all people - including those involved in the riots!