Yesterday (Thursday 10 May 2012), a group of prophetic intercessors from along the Thames Corridor region spent time at three key historic and significant places along the borough’s riverside.
A brief history of the TGP
This was the latest in a long line of ‘prayer actions’ that have been taking place since the inception of the Thames Gateway Prayernet (TGP) in November 2008 and its first gathering in February 2009 at the Tilbury Seafarers’ Centre in the Docks.
The TGP can trace its origins to prayer walks along Thurrock’s stretch of the Thames in 2000, and then in October 2005 the “24-28” that was The Turn Of The Tide (TTOTT) – an almost month-long attempt at continuous prayer from St Cedd’s chapel at Bradwell and the Thames Estuary right to its source in a field near Kemble in Gloucestershire.
In 2006, each of the boroughs along the river from Southend to the City were prayer-walked in a week-long repeat of TTOTT. In September 2007, Tim Harrold went to the Coastlands & Gateways Conference in Liverpool where the call was given by Brian Mills of Ashburnham for the country to prepare itself for the Olympics by setting up gatekeeping prayer groups all around the coast and in the cities.
In response to this, Tim met with representatives from Southend and Havering in November that year and out of it came the idea to ‘resurrect’ TTOTT, and so in January 2008 there was a TTOTT Day held at St George’s, Thundersley, where Jonathan Oloyede led prayers. Some 80 people came from across the north Thames area – and one of our prayers was to make links with the Kentish folk.
It wasn’t until the autumn that the intercessors of Kent heard that prayer and responded! Tim had a call from some members of the Kent Prayer Partnership – who said they’d been praying for Essex! – and a meeting was set up. This took place just before Christmas in the Grays Community Prayer House (aka The Old Tennis Courts), and a programme of prayer up and down the river was decided upon.
From that first gathering on a cold but bright February day in 2009, something ‘broke’ over the river and it ceased to be a barrier – friendships were instantly made, and the newly birthed vision began to grow. Since then, the TGP have visited points along the Thames from Southend and Sheppey to Tower Bridge, Greenwich and the Olympics. And in the summers of 2009 and 2011, the TGP held two voyages of prayer from Gravesend to Westminster and back aboard the Princess Pocahontas.
The main thrust of the TGP is to pray for the healing of the land through blessing, declaration and glorifying Jesus, coming in the ‘opposite spirit’ of all that’s gone before down through the palimpsests of time, the Holy Spirit peeling back the layers of history on the way.
Two Forts and a Beach
The TGP’s trip to Thurrock yesterday came after earlier days out this year to the Prime Meridian at Greenwich (in January) and Minster on the Isle of Sheppey (in March). Both trips had been full of Godincidental surprises with lashings of the prophetic.
The group of nine, which included Tim and folk from Tower Hamlets, Newham, Havering, Brentwood, Dartford and Hoo, met at the Victorian Coalhouse Fort at East Tilbury in mid-morning. Tim took them down to the beach where the original 16th century Henrican blockhouse stood, and where a World War 2 radar tower – recently featured in an episode of Spooks – still stands.
Gary Seithel, Brentwoodian and facilitator of Across Havering, read from Daily Light’s reading for 8 May:
Ye that are the Lord’s remembrancers, keep not silence. Thou … hast made us unto our God kings and priests. — The sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow with the trumpets; and they shall be to you for an ordinance for ever throughout your generations. And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the LORD your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies.
The group took communion together, sang a song and shofars were blown – they were our trumpets! Here we were, on the margins, and so, more visible. “The centre is the edge”, as the Celts would say. Then Liz Pooley (Dartford) declared from Isaiah 62:1-4 over Thurrock:
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.
The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.
You will be a crown of splendour in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah;
for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married.
Thurrock is a place of watching, as empitomised by the blockhouse remains, the fort and the radar tower – all watching out for invasion. And so fear and anxiety are embedded mindsets. But the inhabitants of these low-lying marshlands are to be encouraged with, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” (Psalm 121:1 KJV.) The land can experience healing as the church awakens to its calling – “…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14.)
The group prayed with Tim and Edward Wright, who is an Anglican minister at Cliffe on the Hoo Peninsula, as neighbours across the river. The connections between the two boroughs are ancient: St Cedd founded a monastic community at East Tilbury, probably on the site of what is now St Catherine’s Church – and he and his fellow monks are more than likely to have crossed the river over form Saxon lands to north Kent to evangelise the inhabitants. In those days, the river was wider and shallower with islands exposed making it a lot easier to cross over – the two counties were virtually one. Psalm 23 was read over them, and therefore over the lands they were representing:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Matthew Porter (Newham) put small coals he’d found into the hands of Tim and Edward with the instruction to start fires across the river, cutting across the to-ing and fro-ing of empire – wild fire, Celtic fires, fires that will burn through the heavy oppressive blanket of the lie of apathy that lies across the marshlands and keeps the people in a state of spiritual slumber. There was calling on Lord in repentance, the land was anointed, and mustard seeds were thrown. The tufts of muddy grass became a thin place, wild with the thick Presence of the Lord. We were encouraged to be encouragers, encouraging when some would rather be judgmental – to speak destiny and lift lives, for after all, the Lord knows all things.
At lunchtime they moved onto the 17th century Tilbury Fort, which former Thurrock resident Daniel Defoe described as “the key to the river… the key to the City…” There was once a Henrican blockhouse here, too. And just over the other side, moored up at Gravesend, was the Princess Pocahontas.
Here they prayed over the docks and for the Tilbury Seafarers’ Centre, venue of that first TGP gathering. Of course, many missionaries embarked from Tilbury talking the Gospel “from the Thames to the peoples of the world”, as the Thurrock borough motto says, perhaps following in the footsteps of St Cedd.
Also, near here, Queen Elizabeth I gave her famous speech to troops at the time England was under threat of invasion from the Armada – the timely storm that caused the Spanish fleet to disperse (and many of the ships to be wrecked) was seen as God’s protection, and it was said, “the wind blew and the enemy was scattered”. This ‘victory’ is also seen as a critical point in the development of what became the British Empire. Of course, the Empire was a mixture of good and bad, but because of it – just like the Roman Empire before it – it eventually allowed for the Gospel of Christ to be spread right around the globe. So this is an incredibly important moment in the history of the River Thames, adding significance to the geography and spirituality of the area. As Defoe said, it’s a ‘key’ place – Isaiah 22:22 (and Revelation 3:7) says:
I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
Finally, the TGP-ers moved on to Grays Beach. This was in part so the team could pray for Grays and for the Olympic Torch Relay that comes through the town on Friday 6 July. It was noted that on the very day of the TGP being at the beach, over at Mount Olympia in Greece, a flame was being kindled from the sun’s rays by priestesses of Zeus. This is the flame of the Olympic Torch, and after a week of being run around Greece, it will make its way to the UK to begin its 70-day journey around Great Britain. It is, of course, at the point of origin, pagan and ‘new age’ – there is a so-called hymn to Zeus sung at the Olympic opening ceremony. (Interestingly, the news later showed that the Torch actually blew out at the lighting ceremony and had to be re-lit!)
We remembered that Rachel Hickson (who spoke at the Transform Day in Thurrock last October) had happened to be in Beijing when she saw the Olympic Flame leaving that nation, and she prayed then that the Light of the Lord would go before it across the world and to the UK. Psalm 96:5 was declared:
For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
So the group prayed for the churches involved in countering the spirit of the Torch by shining the true and eternal Light of Jesus through service and action on 6 July and also during the period of the Games. The runners’ protection was prayed for. This was made all the more pertinent by having people among us whose boroughs form parts of the Olympic Park in East London. Wake up church, watchmen, gatekeepers!
Finally, the TGP’s ‘calling card’, Psalm 24, was declared in unison across the Thames:
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.
He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Saviour.
Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty—he is the King of glory.
- Top 3 photos taken at East Tilbury.
- Fourth photo taken at Tilbury Fort.
- Lower 4 photos taken at Grays Beach.