Dear Congregation at Willoughby Church,

The author of Hebrews reminds us to ‘not give up meeting together’. Strangely, for many of us, that is currently not a possibility. And it’s not been a possibility, or felt safe, for over half a year. That’s a long time to be apart.  

I’ve been wondering lately: how do we stay connected, and continue to feel a part of Willoughby Church when most of us are not meeting physically together and won’t feel safe to do so until Covid-19 is all but said and done?    

Livestreaming our services has been one way we’ve attempted to create a sense of community. People can feel present even while physically absent. And that’s a good thing.  

But, as Covid-19 drags on and limits on gatherings stay in place, we need to do more, and be innovative.

When I was still a young man, in my mid teens, someone at my home church assigned a “prayer partner” to every member of the body. Prayer partners could also morph into mentoring relationships. But this happened naturally.  

Some people were matched with others their own age; some older were matched to younger; I myself was matched with a man about ten years my senior. Oddly, at that time, I never questioned the church’s top-down decision to simply put us in prayer partner relationships: I just accepted it, and decided it must be good for me. Guess what? It was.  

Being older, my prayer partner took the initiative to call me—once a week or once every two weeks. I can’t quite remember. But I do remember that he’d ask how I was doing, we’d share, and then we’d pray for one another—for three minutes, sometimes five. Not long. After a while, I became like a little brother to him and he invited me over for dinner. He made spaghetti for me—from scratch! In a crockpot! It was wonderful.  

I felt cared for. I felt loved. I felt like I mattered to the whole church because of this simple relationship.  

I felt connected.  

I still look back with incredible fondness for the time this man—likely only in his mid-twenties at the time (!)—spent praying for and with me. He was a spiritual light at a time in my life where things could feel quite dark. He probably thought it was nothing. Perhaps he wanted to opt out of what the leadership in the church signed him up for. I don’t know. But he made a difference to me. And I’m grateful.  

I’ve been wondering lately if a similar prayer partner ministry isn’t just the thing necessary for the time we find ourselves in. Couldn’t it be wonderful? And sustaining?  

But I also see some obstacles. If we in leadership make this optional, the vast majority of us in the body won’t engage. We’ve told ourselves we wouldn’t make very good mentors; we’ve told ourselves we’re too busy; we’ve told ourselves we don’t need it; we’ve told ourselves we’re not very good at praying; we’ll assume someone else will step up . . .  

Here’s what we’re going to do. All members or long-time attenders in this body above the age of ten will be signed up to have a prayer partner in the church in a few weeks. However, if some of you find that for various reasons you simply can’t do it, or are not suited, or are already in this sort of relationship and don’t want to add to your load, that will be honoured. Just send me an email ([email protected]) and let me know that this is not for you and I’ll remove your name from the program.  

I’ll be matching people up in the next two weeks, so please let me know before that time. Once I’ve given you all some time to respond, those of you who have not removed your name will receive a name and a phone number, along with some guidelines for how to proceed with your prayer partner.  

One more thing! If some of you are willing to partner with more than one person, let us know. We might need you for just that purpose!  

The Peace of our Lord,  

Pastor Ed