Our February ‘worship idea’ is the story of Paul the Polar Prayer Bear, who began as a way to help us pray, but has become so much more…
You will need:
- A cuddly toy
- A great name
- Your imagination…
It all began when Naomi, one of our clergy heard about Bob the Intercessorsaurus, who helped the children at his church to pray. We really liked him, and thought it would be great to have a similar character at St Clare’s.
Choosing – The first thing you need to do is find the right character for your church. We decided that ours needed to be:
- Big enough to be seen
- Robust enough to be handled a lot
- Soft enough to be cuddled
Naming – Next you need a name for your character that everyone can remember. Our Polar Bear was clearly called Paul, and so he became Paul the Polar Prayer Bear.
Using – Most Sundays (but not every week – you don’t want to become a slave to these things!) Paul sits in church, holding or wearing a prop. Initially we placed him in our children’s area, but quickly decided that wasn’t working so he has in own chair in the circle.
At the beginning of service, at the end of the notices, we turn to Paul and talk about what he is holding or wearing and explain who we might want to pray for this week. For example, one week Paul was holding a First Aid kit. We encouraged everyone to start thinking about who they knew who was poorly, so they could pray for them later on in the service.
Sometimes, he encourages us to pray about what is going on the in the world, so on the Sunday before the General Election, he encouraged us to pray about that.
Other times, his prop relates to the theme of the service. So when we celebrated Michaelmas, he came wearing a halo, and invited us to pray for people who for whatever reasons could do with an angel to guide and help them. At our All Souls service he brought a picture of his Grandfather, who he wanted to remember and light a candle for.
When we recently had a service of saying goodbye to someone, Paul came ready to go on a journey.
Its worth saying that we are a small church community and we don’t have children with us every week. To start with, we worried about whether to include Paul when there were no children, but we quickly discovered that the grown ups loved him as much as the little ones, so he is part of the service whatever ages are present. Just pausing at the end of the notices to think about who or what we might want to pray for today is really helpful.
One of the things we hadn’t expected, was the wider impact that Paul would have. Members of the community of all ages really love him. Sometimes someone will just pick him up and hold him during a service. He is soft and warm and comforting, and sometimes that’s just what we need.
When one of our community had to go into hospital for a very serious operation, she asked if Paul could visit. He did, and he took with him his brother Patrick (a smaller version of Paul) who stayed with her as a gift from the church.
Recently, one of our children brought her friend, Floppy the bunny to visit Paul at church. She is also seen here cuddling Paul and Patrick, who had come for a Christmas visit.
During the week, Paul gets cuddled and played with by numerous children who pop in to the shop with their grown ups. And he also gets quite a lot of love from the grown ups too – in the shop and on social media!
Paul has somehow become a way in which we build community and bond with one another. If nothing else, he makes us smile, which is always good thing.
I’ll finish with some more pics of Paul doing his thing!