A Prayer Pilgrimage: St Petrock’s

The current building dates from early medieval times. It may have been founded as early as the 6th century (when Petrock was a Welsh abbot), but some sources date it to the 11th century, and it has been extensively altered and enlarged over the centuries. Since 1994 the larger part of the church has housed a centre for homeless people. The part of the church retained for occasional services and bell-ringing has its entrance in the High Street.

3 points of prayer
1) The entrance to the homeless centre is in Cathedral Close. The church has a history of concern for the poor: in 1411 a parishioner gave funds in his will for a hundred poor persons in the parish to be properly clothed. Coincidentally, but fortuitously, when a number of churches in Exeter worked together on a homelessness project, St Petrock’s was made available as the base for what is now a stand-alone charity.

2) The Crown of Thorns metal sculpture hangs in the medieval chancel (behind the glass screen and doors). According to the gospel narratives, a crown made from strands of thorn twisted together was placed on Jesus’ head by Roman soldiers during the events leading to his crucifixion as part of their mockery. It is a symbol of Christ’s suffering and a reminder that his kingship is “not of this world”.

3) The bell ropes in the NW corner of the church ring a peal of six bells, said to be the lightest in Devon, which is occasionally rung by members of the Guild of Devonshire Ringers. The tower which houses the bells carries a tiny octagonal turret of 1736.

1. The Homeless Centre
Righteous God
I live in a world of the haves and have-nots,
and knowing myself to be blessed with much,
I pray for a generous heart
both in myself and in my society,
for feeding the hungry and housing the homeless,
knowing that this is where Christ will be found.

2. The Crown of Thorns
Saviour God,
this symbol of innocence being mocked
by savage violence
tears at the heart and at the mind;
I pray for all victims of violence in its many forms,
and for all who challenge its continuing use
within and between the nations of your world.

3. The Bell Ropes
Joyous God
as the ropes tell of hidden bells
needing the skill of ringers to release their music,
every atom of the world tells of you
and of your love, needing only our response:
ring out those peals of joyful tongues, then,
loudly, I pray! Everywhere!


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