UK Christians Seek to Reach Spiritually Active Non-Believers

LONDON – Christians in the Diocese of Portsmouth are hoping to reach out to churchgoers in need of new inspiration as well as people who would describe themselves as spiritual yet do not go to church.

They are inviting passers-by, tourists and worshippers to drop into the city's Anglican cathedral for its spirituality fair, which will host prayer stations, workshops and meditations on April 17.

Organizers say they hope the "Be Still" fair will inspire people to worship God in new ways and help those who rarely experience Christian spirituality.

Also on offer will be prayer stations, poetry as a spiritual aid, the role of the senses in Christian spirituality, what the Bible has to say and a prayer tent. There will be a traditional labyrinth – a medieval maze that encourages contemplation – laid out in the center of the building. Workshops through the day include prayer and movement, weaving and sculpture.

The fair is also offering "speed spiritual direction." It works on a similar principle to speed dating, giving visitors to the fair half an hour with a spiritual director to discuss spiritual issues. There will also be the chance for the sick to receive prayers of healing from the diocesan healing team.

A chapel will be set aside for people to pray for others or world issues, using a peace globe, candles, a map, prayer cards and a prayer tree.

The day is the inspiration of Stefan and Susie Smart from New Community Church in Southampton, who have both been on the year-long spirituality course led by diocesan spirituality adviser Canon Peter Lippiett. They've run "Be Still" days for 12 years and Stefan Smart has written a book on the subject.

He said the day was aimed particularly at those who don't go to church but might be spiritually active, and churchgoers who've never tried prayer or certain activities.

"It will be a friendly atmosphere, low-key, and not too structured. People can go around the cathedral and try different things at their own pace," he said.

"A lot of people are hungry for spiritual reality. The challenge for us as Christians is to help them connect with God in a way that relates to them personally," he stressed. "The speed spiritual direction is often one of the highlights – people are touched and moved to have the chance to talk about their prayer life. Many Christians don't get that.

"But we're all spiritually inclined and to talk about one's inner journey is a valuable, even a sacred experience."

Susie Smart commented, "Christians who come can be refreshed and given new ideas for prayer in the future. They can also feel confident bringing their non-Christian friends. People can come for an hour or two, or use the whole day as a retreat.

"Refreshments will be available, and there will be workshops, events and services throughout the day as well as ongoing prayer and art installations for individual use."

Joining the Smarts to organize the day are Paul and Gill Leppitt from City Life Church, as well as the diocesan spirituality team and healing team. More than 50 people from across all denominations will be manning prayer stations, running workshops or offering prayer.

Diocesan spirituality adviser Peter Lippiett said one of the key features of the event is ecumenical co-operation.

"This day will bring together people and prayer techniques from across the centuries of Christian spirituality and across the entire spectrum of the Christian Church," he said.