Earlier in the week I blogged about the ecumenical ‘Faith Fest’ organised for the Feast of Pentecost in Belfast. Events during the 17-19 May weekend are undergirded by two 24/7 prayer rooms – at the Church of Ireland/Methodist Church of the Good Shepherd (Cogs) in Monkstown and St Oliver Plunkett’s parish in Lenadoon.
Since then I’ve learned that some people from Cogs will be joining the monks at the Holy Cross Benedictine Monastery in Rostrevor in prayer as part of the 24-hour prayer initiative. Parishioners from Cogs have been visiting Holy Cross over a period of years, and some of the monks visited Cogs during their celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible in 2011.
Rev Arlene Moore of Cogs explained that leading up to Pentecost, Fr Martin Magill of Oliver Plunkett’s rang her to discuss whether her congregation had special activities planned for Pentecost. There is a long-standing relationship between Cogs and Oliver Plunkett’s, with parishioners from both congregations visiting one another’s services or attending special events.
Moore said she described the activities Cogs had already planned for Pentecost, including a 24/7 prayer room leading up to a Youth Praise service on Sunday 19 May at 11 am. Moore said:
He was very interested as he was about to talk to some folk in CFC [Christian Fellowship Church in East Belfast] about 24/7 prayer and wanted to know more about our experience of it as we have run prayer rooms many times whereas this was a first for the people of Lenadoon. So I suggested we do it in parallel as we were both planning similar things over the weekend and it seemed only right to support each other and be together in prayer if it was not possible diary-wise to join together in person. He liked that idea and … after a few days reflection he got back to me and said he and some others would like to come experience what our folks might do in 24/7 prayer. It developed from that to mutual exchange.
Moore went on to explain that Cogs regularly plans prayer events to support ‘any big festival or church event.’ She also emphasized the inherently ecumenical nature of prayer, and how this is especially significant at Pentecost:
For us in Cogs we often precede any big festival or church event with 24/7 prayer. There’s something very special about continuous prayer. But any prayer is important as it roots and grounds the event and the individuals in the Love and grace of God – an essential for any proclamation of the Gospel or sharing/celebrating our faith in Jesus with others, and experiencing renewal of faith for ourselves.
At Pentecost of course we are praying for a fresh in-filling of the Holy Spirit that we might fulfil Christ’s commission to us – to be His witnesses and to make disciples of all people. In Cogs of course we want to do that as a united people as this was Christ’s heart and prayer – John 17: 21 [that they all may be one] – which undergirds all we do in Cogs. Also Psalms 133 conveys the power of prayer when brothers/sisters unite in Christ.
Students who take the module on Community Learning and Reflective Practice that I teach at the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin at Belfast, attend a reflective silent retreat at Holy Cross Monastery each year. When they provide feedback on the visit, some students remark on how often the monks pray – admittedly, prayer is not unexpected in a monastery! But I think these students are uncomfortable with the seeming inactivity of prayer, and anxious that they should be out ‘doing’ something.
But Moore emphasizes that her congregation’s experience of extended prayer, both in Monkstown and in Rostrevor, refreshes them and helps to renew their commitment to Christian unity, among other things. In Rostrevor, the monks often end evening prayers by singing Ephesians 4:5 – ‘There is one lord, one faith, one baptism’ – a soothing reminder to those present that efforts to promote Christian unity are not in vain. As Moore said of prayer:
I can only speak personally on the importance of taking time to listen to God in silence, to still our souls, and to work from a place of rest … Rather than rest from work. …
We all need to connect again and again with our Father and to know his love and acceptance personally too in a real way….. Never mind any outreach. Prayer is the way that communion is realised.
I hope our prayers this weekend promote a sense of God’s Holy Spirit at work within all people/ denominations – a bit like the day of Pentecost itself where people of different nationalities were united in the Spirit. It’s the same Spirit at work in all of us.
This weekend’s schedule of events at Cogs:
24/7 prayer room from 10.30am Saturday 18 May until 10.30am Sunday 19 May.
Sunday May 19 at 11am Youth Praise service, which will include a live Skype link with one of Cogs’ young people, Paula Lough, who is serving as a member of YWAM staff in Battambang, Cambodia.
Sunday May 19 at 6.30 pm service will be using specially prepared liturgy for Connor Diocese’s Vision Strategy at a service of Holy Communion with prayer for healing/anointing of the sick. The parish’s prayer ministry team attend training with Br David Jardine and Divine Healing Ministries at St Anne’s Cathedral.
(Image from Holy Cross Monastery, http://www.benedictinemonks.co.uk/)