Holy Trinity St Austell

With Thy Kingdom Come officially over, the temptation could be to stop praying. More hopefully, you’ve been so encouraged by the experiences of praying regularly and determinedly during the time between Ascension to Pentecost that you couldn’t imagine going for a day without talking to and listening out for God.

Revd Howard Flint, of Holy Trinity Church, St Austell, is using prayer as the bedrock of his ministry since arriving in the parish towards the end of last year, “The Japanese have a saying that busyness kills heart, for me that means when we’re busy being busy, not effectively busy but overwound, our hearts suffer and so does our prayer life. Instead of being still, and waiting on God, too often we act, get busy and then pray for help.”

It’s been a bold step for Revd Howard as he arrived at Holy Trinity at a time when grand plans, that had long been in the making, were ready to launch. Instead of project managing the change, he asked everyone to pray and let God do the project management. “We felt that, instead of fixing the building and its inadequacies, we needed to let God fix us first,” said Revd Howard. And so, they went about that by praying.

Prayer is hard. Bishop Chris said recently, “Even among those who in my eyes have been spiritual giants, prayer has been a daily challenge, punctuated by glimpses of grace.”And Revd Howard agrees:

“Prayer and prayer meetings are hard. Prayer is a discipline, and we can be easily discouraged, and that’s because the enemy loves us not to pray. It’s all too easy to ‘do’ instead of to pray. We’re trying to turn that around and pray more before we ‘do’ – that feels like the right shape.”

Revd Howard’s hope that St Austell will become a prayer community is gaining momentum, “People are hungry for prayer – we have 50 or 60 people who regularly pitch up, midweek, to pray together. The social needs in St Austell are great – poverty, alcohol abuse, addiction issues – and the church has been wonderful at doing as much as it can to help, but we’re like a carousel. We are the middle, with everything circling us, Foodbank, street pastors, home groups, marriage prep, Alpha, but if that centre isn’t strong there is a danger that things will fly off, unsupported and less effective. Prayer grounds us, gives rigidity and support to all the busyness of the carousel.”

The carousel is a good image when you know the physical location of Holy Trinity. It sits towards the top of St Austell, with a road circling around it. The hope is to bridge that road and become a hub for the town. A destination that everyone heads for, no matter where they are with their faith, what faith or no faith. “We want to be there for our community, we know it’s hurting and needs very practical help. We are physically well-placed to offer or sign-post that help, but we also need to ensure that those who come, come into a healing, loving and reconciling environment, which relies on us being properly equipped.”

As Revd Howard points out, “We’re not social services. Of course, we’re here to help, but firstly we’re here to bring people closer to God.”

Another way of building bridges has been to cross the road. Prayers to achieve that have been answered with St Austell Brewery offering, free of charge, an empty shop opposite the church, on the other side of that road. It’s been a wonderful asset. Most of the church’s administrative work is now based there, but the biggest boost has been the shopfront. The fact that they are a physical presence on the street, making it easy to just pop in, “People can see in, it’s welcoming, accessible and part of the community. It’s proving to be a huge asset and one that we will build on,” said Revd Howard.

Plans are already afoot to move into a bigger property further up the road, but that doesn’t mean the church building is being in any way set aside. Quite the opposite, as Revd Howard explains, “People have worshipped and prayed in the church for over a thousand years – it’s a wonderful place that means a huge amount to so many. But it’s Grade 1* Listed, which means changing the internal space to accommodate modern needs is an expensive challenge – so moving the office across the road frees up more space to create the hub we hope for.” Included in the plans is a huge glass door that look out onto the road, as Revd Howard points out, people don’t go into a shop they can’t see inside, so it is with a church, especially one so prominent in the town.

So, the campaign Thy Kingdom Come may be over, but the praying most definitely is not. Revd Howard says, “Praying is vital, all of the time. Especially the listening part. We’ve been really encouraged. We believe it’s largely about getting to know Him, to know what His heart is, so we follow that rather than our ideas – which are can be good ideas in themselves, but they’re maybe not God’s ideas.”

As Bishop Chris said, and Revd Howard agrees, “Thy Kingdom Come, keep praying until it does.”