Churches and Christian communities in north Belfast will come together to hold 40 days of ReLENTless prayer, offering community prayer space during the entire Lent period.
The initiative is driven by the Church of Ireland Lower Shankill Ministry Team, headed by the Rev Canon James Carson, rector, and his wife Heather, parish development officer.
It has the support of 21 local churches and Christian communities to date, with Gordon College, an evangelical, non-denominational College in Wenham, north of Boston, Massachusetts, USA, also expressing a desire to join this wave of prayer for communities in north Belfast. The College will be covering one of the days in prayer. Students from the College have been visiting Belfast in partnership with the Duncairn Centre for several years.
The initiative was launched in St Michael’s, off Shankill Road, on Friday February 2, just hours after 230 people had gathered at the church to examine political Loyalism 20 years on from the Good Friday Agreement – the launch event of the 4 Corners Festival (see below).
Welcoming church and community representatives to the launch, Canon Carson referred to the previous night’s event. “There is hope in our community and that hope is going to be accentuated by prayer,” he said.
Canon Carson moved to Lower Shankill after 17 years in St Paul’s, Parish, Lisburn, soon after clergy in Lisburn organised 40 days of ReLENTless prayer. “It was the last big thing we were involved in before leaving St Paul’s,” he said. “We had a prayer room and I have to say it was one of the best things we had ever had in the parish. It was brilliant to be involved in.”
Heather said the same. “ReLENTless prayer had such an impact in Lisburn and such an impact on us. We are keen to engage churches who are not involved in our monthly Prayer Walk, and have been delighted by the response,” she said.
“We are great believers in partnership. We can plough our own furrow, but in partnership we can have a much bigger impact in north Belfast than if we do it alone. Our vision is that as churches we set an example to the community by working together.”
She said that ReLENTless Prayer would run through Lent and Holy Week, with each church or community offering creative prayer space and endeavouring to have eight hours of prayer on their designated day or days.
The initiative will focus on praying for six core topics: Family life; mental health; schools; peace and reconciliation; local businesses and growth in good neighbourliness among Christian churches and communities.
A payer journal will be passed from church to church and will form a tangible record of the whole event, Heather said.
Sister Karen Webb, Lead Pioneer Evangelist with the Connor Diocese / Church Army North Belfast Centre of Mission Connect Base, outlined ideas for creating a stimulating prayer space.
Karen’s fellow evangelist, Stephen Whitten, said that these ideas, along with prayer resources, will be made available to the participating churches and communities. Anyone interested in finding out more about ReLENTless Prayer North Belfast should contact Stephen on Stephen.email@example.com.
Churches and Christian communities taking part in ReLENTless Prayer to date: St Michael’s CoI, St Stephen’s CofI, Divine Healing Ministries, Soulspace, Mission to Seafarers & All Nations Ministries, Greenisland Parish CofI, Connect Church Army Base, Shankill Church of the Nazarene, Shankill Methodist, St Paul’s CofI, Eglinton Presbyterian, St Andrew’s CofI, St Columba’s CofI, Joanmount Methodist, Lamb of God Community, Woodvale Methodist, Church Mission Society, St Matthew’s CofI, Alexandra Presbyterian, Jennymount Methodist, Gordon College nr Boston, Massachusetts.