The Revd Urmila Kurkalang, curate at St Matthew’s Yiewsley, shares about the church’s journey of discovering a shared Way of Life. A shared Way of Life is about having a simple, shared structure to our lives as followers of Jesus so that, together, we keep growing in Christ.

 St Matthew’s Yiewsley began exploring what their shared Way of Life might look like just over a year ago. In this conversation, we explore how this journey seems to have come at a critical time as Richard Young, vicar for 17 years, is moving on in May, while Urmila Kurkalang will extend her curacy for a year of transition. 

Yiewsley is a large outer London suburb between Uxbridge and Heathrow airport in the London borough of Hillingdon. St Matthew’s is located right on the busy High Street and is open every day of the week. With a food bank, toddler group, community café, groups for youth and older people, the church’s doors are wide open. People can walk in directly off the street, and they do, seeking a place of warmth, care, compassion, and help.

“At the heart of St Matthew’s is the sense of community and hospitality”, Urmila enthuses. “Most of the 25 who come to our Friday night youth group are unchurched. They come because they want a place to belong and enjoy a safe space with friends. They’ve been trampolining and bowling, and at the last ice-skating trip – Bishop Lusa turned up! It’s a vibrant, diverse, and very outward looking community; and this activity of growing the church and serving the local community increasingly is bringing a hunger to go deeper with God in discipleship. The more you build up, the deeper the foundations you need.”

Like a tree: rooted, flourishing, fruitful

During her training for ordination, Urmila had been exposed to various prayer practices that had enriched her own faith journey and St Matthew’s began gently introducing some of these contemplative practices into worship. It was at this time, just over a year ago, that Mirjam Ngoy-Verhage, diocesan Discipleship Enabler, led a quiet day with the clergy of the Hillingdon Deanery chapter on helping churches discover a shared Way of Life rooted in some of these prayer practices. The presentation deeply resonated with Richard and Urmila and they invited Mirjam along to a PCC and Leadership Team away day. They found that they were able to sit back as the church council began to take hold of the thread of what a shared Way of Life might look like for St Matthew’s.

Last year’s Prayer Practices for Lent led to more prayerful conversations and discovery, and a further visit from Mirjam in October coincided with the church adopting its emerging Way of Life as its new Mission Action Plan. When Mirjam shared examples of different churches’ Ways of Life, it was the image of a tree that resonated with St Matthew’s. A tree that flourishes and because of its healthy roots, becomes fruitful. Like the powerful image from Psalm 1 verse 3 that describes someone who delights in God’s word as being ‘like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.’

Going deeper with God

For St Matthew’s to maintain and further extend their fruitful branches of compassionate community care and growing young people they saw the need to strengthen their trunk of worship, diversity and belonging by deepening and feeding their roots with scripture and prayer.

Daily morning and evening prayer – in person and online – has been part of the rhythm of St Matthew’s, as well as an active WhatsApp prayer group. In addition, during Lent 2024, the church developed a monthly prayer diary to assist people in praying each day for the parish and its streets. St Matthew’s also engaged with the Lent Listening Groups offering from the diocese, hosting three groups.

Urmila shares, “We are a very, very busy church. To just be still and listen … to others … to God. That’s a challenge. It was so hard at first to hear someone talking and not respond with conversation.” But the outcomes are striking. One individual initially found periods of silence so uncomfortable she just started laughing. But even by the second session she was expressing how much she needed this. To deeply reflect on a text, an image, or a person’s words we need silence in order to listen. “Something really profound happens when we create the space to be silent in the midst of our busy lives. It unlocks different things.”

Urmila tells me about a conversation with a 17-year-old boy wanting to navigate periods of wilderness to go deeper with God in prayer. These kinds of conversations expressing a desire for depth are increasingly commonplace in the church.

When approaching a vacancy in a parish, it’s easy to focus on all the roles and jobs that need covering but St Matthew’s are thinking more in terms of what it is that underpins them; what it is that God is calling them to. Approaching change, it’s easy to be concerned for the life of the church but Urmila sees the vision for a shared Way of Life “taking on a life of its own.”

To explore the Way of Life resources visit this page