That’s the first hour covered. Now just 39 hours to go.
Good idea to walk to St Michael’s, I thought yesterday. Our chapter – the local Anglican clergy – invariably begin our bimonthly meeting with Holy Communion and this month we were meeting down the road in Aughton.
However, this meant that the service in the chancel had already started when I arrived. Nothing new there. So I slipped in discreetly and found myself sitting in the Rector’s pew, the very same place where Rev William Henry Boulton led worship for over 50 years.
You will remember that this was the very rector who inspired the building of Christ Church some 150 years ago We commemorate the laying of the foundation stone this Sunday, the very same day as in 1867, March 26th.
For me this was an unreal experience, sitting in his place
And what struck me most as vicar of Christ Church was how much smaller St Michael’s church is, certainly as you face the congregation.
So when Rev. W H Boulton started thinking about building a second church at the other end of his parish to accommodate the growing population of Aughton, he was thinking big. That’s BIG with capital letters.
No modest mission hall for him. No way. His vision was for a huge building, at least four times the size of the parish church. 120 foot tower, a massive and highly ornamental structure. And no expense spared.
Even a balcony, which would lift the seating capacity to nearly 500 parishioners. Some building, some vision.
And here I quote, somewhat incongruously, Elvis Presley. “Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.”
So where did this spiritual oomph come from? At the very least WHB was committing himself and his congregation to a spectacular step of faith, which – as we saw two weeks ago – was to cost him dear. Any sense of status seeking would be burnt out through hard testing.
The answer was where I was sitting, where he prayed. This was where God enlarged his vision.
A contemporary of the rector, Phillips Brooks (who gave us “O little town of Bethlehem”) urged “Pray the largest prayers. You cannot think a prayer so large that God, in answering it, will not wish you had made it larger. Pray not for crutches but for wings.”
For in prayer God enlarges our vision and enables us to see situations through his eyes. It’s not that we need great faith in God but instead a faith in a great God. And that makes all the difference.
This was the story of building our Ministry Centre. It was in 2002, as we were preparing for this project, God spoke to us through the prayer of Jabez, from the Old Testament book of 1 Chronicles 4:10:
“Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.”
So we began to pray that God would enlarge our territory and inspire us to think boldly and imaginatively. To pray with the wings of faith.
And then in 2009, once planning permission for the proposed Ministry Centre was given, we as a church committed ourselves to seven days of continuous prayer in the church building. This culminated in a gift day with an outcome which surpassed our already-strained expectations.
So as we prepare to celebrate 150 years of God’s faithfulness, we do with this same commitment to pray, to seek God’s over-the-top grace.
Today this takes the form of 40 hours of continuous prayer which began at 7.00 am this morning. If you are in reach of Christ Church, please make every effort to attend before it finishes at 11.00 pm tomorrow.
As of this morning we need cover for today at 7.00 pm and then Saturday afternoon from 12 noon, 1.00 pm, 4.00 pm, 5.00 pm and 6.00 pm. A special thank you to those who have volunteered for the night shift.
For if there is any secret to the Christian life it is this commitment to pray, together and as individuals. As simple as that. It is how God works even through us, especially when we are at our weakest and most vulnerable.
And with Rev W H Boulton we allow the Holy Spirit to enlarge our vision and prepare us for the task he calls us to own.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.