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Public Church Practices: Neighborhood Prayer Walk

The Riverside Innovation Hub is a learning community made local congregations who gather together to learn how to be and become public church in their neighborhood contexts. We convene the congregations and then invite them to practice the artforms of the Public Church Framework in their contexts.

Accompaniment is the first artform of the Public Church Framework. It is the movement out into the neighborhood to hear the neighbors’ stories. In this movement, we learn to engage and listen to the neighbor for the neighbor’s sake. We’ve simplified and categorized accompaniment into four layers, or four different practices to hear the neighbors’ stories. This blog post dives into the second layer of accompaniment, a relational one to one.

The practice of a neighborhood prayer walk is a spinoff of the  Ignatian Awareness Examen, a contemplative prayer exercise that guides you through an examination of your day as you prayerfully seek moments of desolation and moments of consolation.

Moments of desolation are times of sorrow, brokenness, fear, anxiety, etc.

Moments of consolation are times of hope, healing, courage, peace, etc.

You can use this same framework as you walk through the neighborhood in which your faith community is situated, asking God to show you the places of desolation and consolation in that neighborhood. The general outline of that activity is to practice this by walking through the neighborhood, paying particular attention to consolation and desolation. Then, together, with people in your faith community, reflect on what you saw, felt, sensed and heard and map the locations of those places of consolation and desolation on a shared map.

examples of neighborhood prayer walk

Prayer Walk Instructions 

Step 1: Start with an opening prayer or reflection. 

Here is an example of a simple prayer: “Creating God, Ground us and open us to be aware of the Hopes and Joys and Fear and Heartaches.” Feel free to use it, or come up with your own.

infographic with example of mapStep 2: Do a Neighborhood Prayer Walk

Pay attention to areas of consolation and desolation. Walk around the neighborhood. You can go with a direction in mind or you can let the movement happen as it feels right. There are no wrong ways! As you walk, where do you sense areas of consolation (hope/joy) and desolation (fear/anxiety)? Continue to come back to this question as you walk. Once you have finished your prayer walk, take time to reflect on what you noticed.

infographic with example of team map from neighborhood prayer walkStep 3: Make a Map

Sketch a map of the main roads and landmarks. Add your route and reflections to the map. 

Step 4: Team Reflection

Gather as a team and share your individual map / experiences with a larger group and make a shared map. Then reflect together using the following questions

  • Why do we want to be present in these spaces?
  • Who do we want to be in these spaces?
  • Why do we want to do this work over the next 2 years?

The neighborhood prayer walk is a practice that can happen once, occasionally, or regularly. As the seasons change, you may notice different things. As you get to know more people in the neighborhood, their stories of the place may influence what you notice. As you get more familiar with the places, you may realize how much more is going on than what you initially noticed.

Have you done a neighborhood prayer walk? What did you notice? Where did you sense God?

Check out these sharable slides to share with your context.