from Lucy Olofinjana
Unity programmes manager
Evangelical Alliance

article from Gather UK website

Gather logo“Do not despise the day of small beginnings”

That’s what Thurrock unity leader Tim Harrold has learnt from the decades-long journey of unity in the Essex borough.

“When we began meeting weekly to pray together in 2002, there were sometimes only two or three of us, but we kept going, and where there has been unity we’ve seen God command a blessing.”

Their weekly prayer gatherings now see an average of 15 come together to pray for their borough and for one another’s churches, and 500 people from across the borough receive regular email updates informing them what’s going on in the area.

“Years of praying together has given us an amazing foundation, and new Christian leaders who join the borough quickly feel welcome, realising we’re rooting for one another.

“It’s about friendship – not networking or even just building relationships – but seeing committed friendships grow.”

Transformation Thurrock, led by Tim, is a means by which Christians from all over the borough can share resources, work together on projects, express their faith through united prayer and united mission, and freely use a banner that ‘does what it says on the tin’ – transforms their borough.

There’s a sense that God is blessing their borough and they are seeing God’s kingdom come more and more in their place.

“We’ve been doing a lot more outreach in the last year or two, as we’ve understood more that we need to be reaching people where they are, creating opportunities for people to encounter God”, explains Tim.

“We’ve seen God work through signs, followed by preaching, rather than the other way round.”

People from across the churches have received training in supernatural evangelism, and since then groups have regularly been doing treasure hunting (praying and then going on to the streets with prophetic words for people) and street healing.

“We’ve set up a market stall on Grays High Street where people can take a picture card and we offer them words of encouragement and prayer, explaining that we’re Christians and there are no costs involved. We’ve also got involved in local community events like the Big Lunch in a local park.”

And they’re seeing the atmosphere gradually change, with regeneration beginning to happen in pockets of Grays High Street for example, where cross-denominational teams have been doing outreach for more than a year.

This year, on Saturday 14 May, more than 70 people gathered at the All Saints Centre in Grays for Thurrock Pentecost 2016. An umbrella of many colours was displayed at the front to represent all the different flavours and styles of Church around the borough.

Some 20 local church leaders and representatives of fellowships made a Declaration of Unity during the event. Denominations and expressions represented included Anglican, Baptist, Charismatic, Evangelical, Methodist, New Frontiers, Pentecostal, a 24-7 Prayer Boiler Room and a house church.

The Declaration was conceived and written by the Thurrock Leaders’ Prayer group, and spoke of their unity in purpose, doctrine and fellowship. It concluded with everyone speaking out these words:

Thur Pent 3a“Jesus is Lord!”
One Church, one Lord!
We stand together to declare that we are committed to the Church of God and to celebrate the unity that He has given us, and to seek continued and even greater unity between all the church communities represented in Thurrock.
We turn from and refuse suspicion, superiority and exclusivity – all things that block the flow of blessing across our borough, and we release the blessing for life evermore over Thurrock.
We thank Jesus that he is joining our hearts and hands together in even greater measure, and that we are seeing the kingdom of God coming in increasing fullness in Thurrock.

Tim said afterwards: “This has been a great event – significant, if not historic – for Thurrock. There was a wonderful sense of unity and of blessing upon that unity. I can just imagine what it must have been like for those first believers who waited together in one place for the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.”

When asked what advice he’d give to other areas developing their unity movement, Tim replied: “Go in the bond of peace and unity, and the Holy Spirit does the rest. And keep plugging away, because unity attracts unity, and where there is unity God commands the blessing.”

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