Pastoral Intern Janelle Hennager, Bethlehem Lutheran Pemberville, OH
Project: Prayer Walk Around Pemberville
Why was this project subject of interest to you?
The practice of prayer walks around the community has struck me as an interesting discipleship practice each time a Pastor or lay professional presented their experience for a class. It struck me as an interesting way to engage with the community and hear from the community surrounding the congregation’s worship space.
Why was your context a good fit for this project?
The Bishop of NW Ohio has a theme for the synod every year. This year’s theme is Year of Prayer. The Synod’s theme combined with the community’s perception of being a small village where everyone knows everyone had me thinking of a way to encourage the theme while challenging their perceptions and encouraging the congregation to care for their neighbors.
Why might this project be of interest to your fellow interns?
Prayer walks around your neighborhood or in my case the entire village challenges your perception of who is your neighbor. My community found it helpful to care for their neighbors through prayer while challenging their perceptions in a nonaggressive manner.
An outline of the internship project:
What: Over the course of 12 weeks, we prayed for the village of Pemberville. Walking down a different street every week, we stopped and prayed for families, business, and churches by name. Whenever we passed by someone in their yard or walking their dog, we would introduce ourselves and ask if they had any prayer requests.
Who: Congregation members and other congregations were invited to walk and pray. Also, we invited people to wait on their porch and we would pray with them as we came by. This is how we got our oldest participant at 92 and our homebound members involved.
Hopes: Our overall goal was to pray for the entire village, but we had many side experiences we hoped would happen. People were challenged on how well they knew their neighbors by name. We grew in our prayer life to experience prayer in new ways. And eyes were opened to see what we normally couldn’t see, such as the transient population for farm workers and lack of low income housing.
Share the Outcomes and Transformations the Internship Context experienced:
1st The congregation realized they no longer really knew their neighbors to name them. This really challenged some of the congregation members to ask who people were and get out and walk around their street to know their neighbors.
2nd Prayer life. The congregation with the synod has been looking at different topics and forms of prayer. Changing focus to include prayer while out on a walk or while sitting on your porch is a big step to include prayer into all aspects of your life.
Share the Outcomes and Transformations you experienced:
For myself the take away is how easy it is for people who have lived in a community for generations to overlook poverty and social justice needs. The community my internship congregation is in hides poverty and has very limited low-income housing or housing for immigrant or transient population which are employed at the Canning Factory within village limits. My take away questions are, how can we advocate for the poor and people inhibited by societal structures when most of the population overlooks it. Additionally, how can we as a worshiping community reach out to them if our community doesn’t welcome them into the village?
What “image” exists in your memory from your internship project experience?
The delightful joy of several homebound members being excited about participating in a Church activity. We called our homebound members and let them know we would stop at their house. They were enthusiastic about getting prayed for and about caring for their neighbors with prayer.
How might this project experience influence your ministry in a settled ministry call?
For future ministry opportunities, I might ask the question, “how this activity could involve more people and is it accessible to anyone in my context?” Also carrying theme from the synod and the congregation level into my project was helpful to connect people to multiple opportunities within a given discipleship practice. We talked about prayer in sermons, bible studies, and retreats and now here is a practice using your body and mind that will help others.