The Order of St. Jude - a life of prayer
The concept of The Order of St Jude arose from two periods of sickness which isolated me from the world in general and my church in particular. The second 'breakdown' brought early retirement and a move back to Norfolk. It was truly a home coming, since I had spent my formative years and all my married life in Cromer.
The church was familiar and my welcome enthusiastic, but I was not at ease with public worship, and preferred to be quiet at home. However, after a time I realised that although alone in worship, there was a vast group of fellow Christians who for various reasons were in a similar situation. How supportive it would be if we were aware of each other's needs and linked by a common order of worship.
My Methodist background took me to our new Methodist Worship Book and I found the order for morning and evening prayer simple, helpful and easy to use. I purchased two paperback versions of that section of the book, purely for ease of use, and I keep one upstairs and the other downstairs.
I was away for the month of March, visiting relatives, and during that time I prepared letters and leaflets, name and objectives. On my return I put my plan into action, and with my Chairman's blessing I launched the scheme.
There are no restrictions for membership and each denominational group can pray for their local church, the wider collection of churches and their leaders in the same way as Methodists pray for our church, circuit, district and the whole Methodist connexion. We encourage the observance of Morning and Evening prayer, but some will be up at 5.00am reading the Office while others will read theirs at 8.00am or 9.00am or beyond. Similarly at night. The time is not important; it is simply knowing that others are worshipping alongside us, and our prayers are united for our officers and leaders and for the church itself.
We are linked in our endeavours by the Quarterly 'Missive', and all members are encouraged to send items for inclusion. We are growing steadily and I suppose that naturally the East Anglia District has felt the largest impact. We have fourteen members in that district and a cell has developed already, where people can meet occasionally. I hope that eventually every district will have its town 'cell' and appoint a cell leader to arrange these local meetings once or twice each year.
We have an annual membership fee of £5 and badges, prayer cards and service booklets can be purchased from me. At the end of each year any residue of funds from the membership fees will go to one of the Methodist charities. Initially the contribution will be small, but as the membership grows, so hopefully will our yearly contribution. The badges, books and cards must naturally be self-funding, but we keep costs to the minimum.
I have found that this regular Prayer Time has been a 'powerhouse' for my life of retirement. It has enabled me to feel a part of the church once more, and when my health allows I go to service on a Sunday and I have been able to preach again once each month.
There are enormous possibilities for this Prayer Source. I envisage that District Chairs will tell 'cell leaders' in their district of any particular needs for prayer within their area. This can then be passed on to the 33 cells across the country and be included in the prayer requests listed in the 'Missive'.
We have the St Jude prayer which is used daily, and asks that the leaders and ministers may be guided in their decision making, and be obedient to God's will in all matters, not led astray by self glorification or self gain. Our churches need prayer if we are to witness successfully in a world increasingly influenced by greed and selfishness. Satanic powers and evil influences undermine our standards constantly, and we, the church, must stand firmly for our beliefs. We need the power of prayer to make us strong enough to withstand the wiles of the Devil.
The St Jude name comes from Jude, the brother of Jesus, who worked ceaselessly after the death of Christ for the Christian cause. He kept in the background, and in similar vein the members of the Order offer background prayer support to the church of the twenty-first century.
The Monastic implication is intentional; it puts the responsibility for regular prayer into our own hands. If we fail, we let others down, as well as our selves. Equally the discipline of following a set pattern of daily worship and commitment to a routine helps us to maintain our Christian standards. As soon as we lose the will to pray, we lose so much more; our faith wavers, our standards fall, we get into the ways of the world, bad language, deceit, possessiveness, lax behaviour and lack of discipline. It all happens so easily, so subtly. Prayer is like fuel to the engine...essential. How often we try to run 'on empty' and it doesn't: work! As members of the 0rder of St Jude we are 'topped up' twice daily at least, and there is nothing to stop us praying at other times too. All who wish to join us are welcome.
Rev Judith Stevens ia a supernumary minister in the Cromer and Sheringham Circuit.
Headline Spring 2005 pp 21 - 22.