Outside. Sunshine. Gatherings in the backyard. Kids playing up and down the block. Time by the water. Schedules, full yet less scheduled. These describe summers in Minnesota to me. A time where more folks are out and engaging with each other while walking around the neighborhood. What could happen if we intentional went for a walk in our neighborhood paying attention to where joy was hanging out or where fear or anxiety was creeping in?
The Christensen Center for Vocation’s Riverside Innovation Hub is a learning community made local congregations who 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.
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 (sorrow, brokenness, fear, anxiety, etc.) and moments of consolation (hope, life, courage, healing, joy, etc.).
We invite you this summer to join us in prayer walks around your own neighborhood. 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 or neighborhood, reflect on what you saw, felt, sensed and heard and map the locations of those places of consolation and desolation on a shared map.
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.
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.”
Sketch a map of the main roads and landmarks. Add your route and reflections to the map.
STEP 4: REFLECTION
Gather as a team/community 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.