Praying blessings in North Belfast

Wednesday January 31st 2024

Monthly Prayer Walks have been taking place in North Belfast for a number of years. Here, the Rev Canon Jim Carson, minister-in-charge of St Michael’s and St Stephen’s & St Lukes in the Lower Shankill area, reflects on this ministry.

One of the things that has inspired, challenged and encouraged me most since moving to minister in North Belfast is the monthly North Belfast Prayer Walk.

I remember thinking about the move to North Belfast and being slightly nervous, as this would be an entirely new experience and place for Heather and I and our family to live and work.

The prayer walks had been happening for some time before we moved, started by Stephen Whitten (formerly Church Army), Liam Cluskey (Lamb of God Community) and the Rev Colin Duncan (Shankill Methodist). Heather and I decided to go along one night shortly before we moved to experience the prayer walk and to meet the people involved.

We received a very warm welcome from all the folk, and it was inspirational to see people of different faith communities come together to pray blessings on local communities. We have formed great friendships with everyone involved and are supported ourselves in prayer by these faithful prayer warriors.

Over the past almost eight years in ministry in North Belfast, these walks have taken me around most of North Belfast, from The Falls, Lower and Mid-Shankill, New Lodge and Tigers Bay, Woodvale and Glencairn and many other places.

We are invited to various churches on the first Monday of the month. We meet at 7.30pm, pray together, have a briefing on the area from a local person and go out by twos or threes to pray through that area for about 40 minutes, before returning for a debrief and cup of tea. Some people also decide to stay in the building to pray for the faith community we are meeting in and for life in that local community.

The prayer walks began following conversations between local clergy of various denominations based generally in North Belfast. The question was, ‘what we can do practically for our communities?’ and the answer was to pray and walk.

A strong influence on several people in the group was Roy Godwin, from Ffald y Brenin, in Wales. One of Roy Godwin’s Books, ‘The Way of Blessing,’ has influenced people worldwide to reach out to local communities.

Hence the purpose of our prayer walking is to pray blessings on our local communities. Praying blessing of peace and harmony, healing on our broken communities.

Praying for the people we may meet perhaps along the way, saying, ‘we are Christians from all denominations out praying, can we pray a blessing upon you?’ and that prayer has been well received. Praying blessing on community centres, schools, GP surgeries, shops, churches, hospitals, homeless shelters and many other places we may pass. Sometimes literally walking in dark places seeking to bring the light of God, in Christ. In praying blessings, we believe that God does bring hope, our communities will be revived and churches renewed.

In this as Christians, from different denominations, we believe that this makes a difference to our communities. It’s a simple act of unity and witness, but also something that the church as a body of people in North Belfast has been doing now for nearly 10 years. We believe it changes the atmosphere – faithful and regular prayer opening a door so God the Holy Spirit can come through and work.

The Rev Canon Jim Carson.

One of the things that inspires and encourages us the most is the sense of fellowship and the bond that our praying has created among us. We would love to see more people come along, anyone who has a heart for prayer and blessing communities that need continually brought closer to God.

  • The next walk is from our St Stephen’s Church, Millfield, BT1 1JS, on Monday February 5 at 7.30pm.

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