Ilford church congregation prays for atheists by rota

PUBLISHED: 12:00 13 February 2017 | UPDATED: 12:46 13 February 2017

St Mary the Virgin church in Ilford High Road

St Mary the Virgin church in Ilford High Road


An Ilford church has devised a rota to make sure it is praying for every single person in its parish, whether they believe in God or not.

St Mary the Virgin, High Road, has come up with a novel way to take care of the 22,000 people living in its catchment area and the congregation prays for a different group of roads each day.

Fr Gareth Jones thought of the idea and said he has a responsibilty to care for all people in his parish whether they believe in God, observe another religion or are without faith.

“The bishop charges priests to pray for every single person, Christian or not,” he said.

“To ensure that we do that, we have a rota where we pray for streets in the parish – I am not aware of any other parish doing this. We read the prayers out at mass. They are public services and people are welcome to come along and hear them but if they can’t make it they can see Twitter and know we are praying for them.”

It took a lot of time and energy to devise the system, which incorporates “a lot of streets” and the vicar worked out that he could cover his parish by praying for three roads each day.

On the last day of the month he sends thoughts out for those sleeping rough.

Fr Jones thinks it is essential that the church is viewed as necessary in the 21st century and added: “I think it is important that we as a parish church are seen as a beacon of hope and strength, not a museum from the past.

“By using Twitter to send the message out, we are letting people know that we care about them and are doing something for them even if life prevents them from attending daily services.

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