Living stones - iOpener Prayer Session
The idea that followers of Jesus are ‘living stones’ and that God is using them to build his Kingdom was explored throughout the iOpener Prayer Session - and resulted in one of the most striking images of this year’s Assembly.
The session was led by the young people in the Innovation stream, who took 1 Peter 2: 4-5 as the Bible reading: You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honour. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. As the session progressed, brick-shaped cardboard boxes bearing people’s names were used to make a visual representation of this.
The first boxes featured the names of those who have died in the past year. As the young people began to arrange these boxes into a wall, these names were also displayed on the screen, and a prayer of thanks – thanking for this opportunity to remember, thanking for the ways in which God has used each of them to build his kingdom here – was prayed.
Next was the recognition of ministers and mission personnel, who were invited to add their own bricks to the wall ‘as a sign that they are often building on what has gone before… and to symbolise the ongoing work of God using individuals to lead the building of his Kingdom.’
Another prayer of thanks was prayed, "for the unique identity and for the gifts and abilities you have given each of them and ask that they would grow in you as they seek you and serve you."
There followed another Bible reading (1 Peter 2:9), recognising that alongside ordained ministers and mission workers past and present, “we are actually all ministers of the Gospel in some way or another.”
This was an invitation for all Innovation youth to add their own boxes to the growing stage wall, after which came instructions for the delegates to sign boxes that had been placed at the end of each row. ‘To be living stones we need to be loving stones,’ said Joy Clark who led the Innovation stream with husband Andy. ‘We are building a kingdom.’
Once signed, the ministers and mission personnel formed human chains around the venue to pass boxes forward to the stage, where they were added to the wall by the young people. At this point the wall had grown impressively, several rows high.
There followed the second part of 1 Peter 2:9, to highlight that God chooses us not simply for our own benefit ‘but for the benefit of others so that we can reach out and be an example of his love to those around us.’
Delegates were invited to get into small groups to talk about and pray over things in our communities to meet the needs of the area. ‘We want to be build into people’s lives,' said Joy. 'Maybe we have been too comfortable in our own walls. Our prayer is that we want to be used by God.’
After this discussion and prayer, the following liturgy of encouragement was used:
Father, help us to reach out to those around us with the message of your goodness and grace. We go with your love.
Jesus, fill us with your light so that we may shine for you in this world and bring your peace and hope. We go in your name.
Holy Spirit, strengthen and enable us to be the people you want us to be and do all that you want us to do. We go in your power.
To conclude the session, delegates were invited to come to the stage and take a box ‘to use as a reminder to make our walls into paths or bridges into the community’ by using the boxes in some way, such as filling them food, toys or clothes for an individual or community project.
There was praise for the Innovation youth, who had played a full role in leading the session. ‘We have been so blessed by them,’ said Joy, ‘they are yours. Look after them, watch over them, encourage them.’
The Innovation youth programme was held between 2 and 4pm, with around half that time a rehearsal for the prayer session that immediately followed.
The programme, developed by Andy and Joy for the Assembly over the years, challenges the young people to live a different life, and be confident about being different. Over the years there has been many a testimony of youngsters who have drawn strength from one another through coming together one a year for the weekend, to learn and grow together.
This year was no different, as shown when teenager Isabel Green was asked to share her highlights during the closing celebration. 'The feeling of family, getting together with all my friends. And we’ve had such a great opportunity to take part in so much this year.’
Box moving picture: www.alexbakerphotography.com
What an iOpener - such amazing Blessing at the Baptist Assembly 2015!! Read Joy and Andy Clark's blog documenting the day