On Thursday 9 March, a small group from St James’ Quedgeley and Kingsway braced the inclement weather and took to the streets of the parish to walk and pray for its people, homes and businesses.
Inspired by the ancient custom of ‘beating the bounds’ – where clergy would ‘beat’ the parish boundary marker with green boughs to confirm the boundary lines – the Revd Mark Siddall invited people from his worshipping community to join him on a walk around his parish boundary in Quedgeley and Kingsway.
With the size of the parish having doubled in the past ten years and 29,000 people living and working in the area, Mark wanted to get a better understanding of how to best use his resource to pray for, connect with and support them.
Mark says, “I came to this large parish in May last year and have been praying about ways to reach and connect with the people across the area. The idea to walk the boundaries was partly about my own research, to help me understand the needs of the businesses and people who live here, but also it was an opportunity to encounter people and pray for this whole area more intentionally. Before the walk, I was looking forward to meeting people, to discern and pray responsibly about what is needed and what was and wasn’t working in the parish.”
People from the worshipping community at St James’ offered to join Mark on his travels. So, after morning prayer, the team set off through Quedgeley with a welcomed stop for coffee at a local café.
Mark says, “As it was a week day, there were lots of businesses open and opportunities for encounters with different people throughout the day – from mums on the school run, workers and, later, teens coming out of school. I think being a small group helped with those encounters, so it was easy for us to pop into cafes and shops, and to speak with people on the streets.
“I pray for the parish every day, but literally pacing it out gives you a good idea of need. While having a large populated industrial area, the parish is also half farmland so, as well as the businesses, we prayed for and celebrated all of creation locally. We were able to see the wildflower corridors for ourselves, for example.”
The relatively new village of Kingsway continues to be developed, with roads, buildings and houses still being made and much of the area not yet mapped.
Mark says, “We did get lost a few times, but down one dead end on an industrial estate we found the British Red Cross training offices, so we went and prayed for the staff there. There were also lots of areas of new housing where the people had moved into the area and didn’t know what their local church was, so it was nice to be able to chat with them and tell them who I was and that St James’ was their church, they seemed to really appreciate this.”
During the six-hour walk, the team prayed the Lord’s Prayer over all four corners of the parish, covering some 10 miles and stopping for refreshments in cafes and a pub for lunch along the way.
“I pray for this patch every day, and when you see it and pray, you develop quite a connection. I didn’t really know what to expect before, as this was a simple exploratory prayer walk, but I’m overflowing now, having walked it and have ideas of how to use the resource I have to serve this community. Moving around and just encountering people helps me begin to think about how to support them.
“Beating the bounds is about ploughing this earth but this is more about embracing and exploring the parish – encircling it with love and the gospel. There was something too about celebrating the distinctively Anglican spirituality of place, which I think we should be proud of. It was hugely encouraging, we were all beaming at the end of it because people were so happy to see us and talk to us. We all felt we had an encounter that day.”