A number of people from the borough went to Westminster last Tuesday (21 June) to sit with a few hundred more in the historic surroundings of the Houses of Parliament.

PICT18782Thurrock was represented at the National Prayer Breakfast (NPB) by Stanford’s Community Evangelist Rob Groves; Thurrock Christian Fellowship’s Team Leader Russell Godward; Destiny Chapel pastor and Rock Thurrock team member Frank Gaisie (South Ockendon, left); and Transformation Thurrock and Rock Thurrock team member Tim Harrold. Also present were Phil and Lisa Anderson; Phil is part of the organising committee in parliament who make the NPB happen.

The NPB’s theme was “Raising Young People’s Aspirations”. Sharon Hodgson MP, Chair of the 2011 NPB and Shadow Minister for Children and Families, said in her introduction in the programme, “Over the course of today we will see and hear numerous examples of how Christian organisations have helped young people to realise their potential and change their lives for the better; I hope you find them as inspiring as I have”.

The morning began at 7.30am with the welcome by he Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons. Then grace was said by Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Speaker’s Chaplain. The breakfast followed. The main event programme began at 7.55am with an introduction by the aforementioned Sharon Hodgson MP. A video presentation followed entitled, “When I grow up, I want to be…”, featuring children from a school in Sunderland.

PICT18762Steve Webb MP, Minister of State for pensions, then prayed for children and young people; and Alastair Burt MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, read Joel 2:28-32 –

And afterwards, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.

SAM4447Gospel choir The Dream Collective sang a song called “Yes We Can” and Agu Irukwu, Senior Pastor at Jesus House, prayed for parliament and for political leaders. Then Baroness Sherlock of Durham read 1 Peter 5:5-11 –

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

SAM4446Another video was shown, this time of “Testimonies of Transformation”, filmed at Christian projects around the UK. Baroness Berridge of the Vale of Catmose followed this with prayer for those in need of fresh hope and aspiration.

The keynote address was provided by Andy Hawthorn, Chief Executive of the Message Trust, which is based in Manchester. Andy was a founder member of the World Wide Message Tribe, the Christian band which broke many barriers musically and were a schools’ work phenomenon back in the 90s. (LZ7, who are performing at Rock Thurrock The Event, are an off-spin of WWMT. See more info below.)

Andy’s message was truly inspiring. His main thrust was to bring the name of Jesus more upfront into the good work that Christians do around the nation. He said, “We do God very well in this country, but we don’t do Jesus. We’ve got to make Jesus the centre of everything we do”.

SAM4448He showed a chart which illustrated that in the early 1800s the state of the nation was very similar to what it is now, with the vast majority of young people disengaged with church. But the trend changed and during the following century many young people were reached through such things as the Sunday School Movement. However, in the twentieth century things swung back again to the situation we find ourselves in now. Andy announced that the trough has been reached, and that now the tide is beginning to turn! Young people are again beginning to engage with church – which, of course, is good news to us here in Thurrock as we seek to reverse this trend through the Rock Thurrock project.

Andy got a few rounds of enthusiastic applause during his talk, delivered without panache but full of passion. People were roused by Andy’s words, powerful, transformational and dangerous.

The entire ‘congregation’ of 650 were then led by The Dream Collective in an unaccompanied rendition of “How Great Thou Art”. This was so rousing that many sang with their arms in the air, and there was a sense of the Spirit hovering in that grand historic hall. The very hammer beams of ancient oak seemed to rejoice as heaven was opened over that austere place. It was both a solemn and joy-filled moment.

Some ‘politically correct’ closing remarks were made by the Rt Hon Baroness Hayman, Lord Speaker of the House of Lords, and then this part of the event closed with prayers of thanksgiving and commitment by Sharon Hodgson MP.

There were then a choice of three seminars to go to –

  • IMG0252“Agents of Aspiration”, featuring Dr Alastair Jones, ALOVE’s Youth Worker Development Manager for the Salvation Army; Mike Royal, National Director of the Lighthouse Group; Richard Davies MBE, founder and manager of OWN IT; and Paul Langley, Head of Marketing at Christian Aid.
  • “Hope and a Future”, featuring Julia Acott of CARE and founder of the Alternatives Trust in Newham.
  • “The Big Kingdom” (right) featuring Guy Brandon, researcher for the Jubilee Centre; Nick Spenser, Research Director at Theos, the public theology think tank; and John Kuhrt, Executive Director of Social Work for the West London Mission.

There was also a tour of the Palace of Westminster and a prayer and worship service in the historic Chapel of St Mary Undercroft.

PICT18822Afterwards, Tim and Frank met with Sally Rickard of the City Prayernet. She said that she’d been going to the NPBs for years and had never been to one like this. She was excited by the sense of breakthrough that both Andy Hawthorn’s message and the singing of “How Great Thou Art”.

Tim and Frank also met with Lisa Hutt (left, with Tim) from Warrington. Lisa has been praying for Rock Thurrock and felt led by the Lord to come down to London and attend the NPB. They ended up praying together for part of the afternoon in the chapel in Westminster Central Hall (below right – Tim with John Wesley).

Excerpt from the letter from The Prime Minister, the Rt Hon David Cameron MP, reproduced in the front of the NPB’s programme:

“The Government recognises that faith communities make – and have always made – a vital contribution to national life: guiding the moral outlook of many, inspiring great numbers of people to public service, and providing help to those in need. Across the country, people from different faiths are PICT18843working hard in countless churches and other places of worship, and in charities and community groups, to address problems in their local communities. This has not been sufficiently recognised by previous Governments. So often young people are at the centre of these efforts, and the National Prayer Breakfast will celebrate and encourage this. I send my best wishes, and my prayers, to all who take part.”

Andy Hawthorn is a British evangelist, author, and CEO of The Message Trust, a Christian mission organisation working in Manchester. Working in schools, local communities and prisons, The Message are in contact with around 100,000 young people each year. Over 15 years they have earned a reputation for being able to get through to the hardest-t-reach young people, with the aim of bringing hope, providing opportunities and releasing potential. Their work results in community transformation. In brief, The Message…

  • Runs 13 Eden community partnerships involving well over 100 volunteers living and working in tough urban contexts with a focus on young people.
  • Delivers around 2000 hours of youth work every month through over 300 separate activities, and provides a safe ‘off the street’ environment for 500 young people every week using two high-tech mobile youth centres.
  • Sends two bands and a theatre company to perform and take lessons across the region’s high schools, promoting self respect, good citizenship and the Christian message of hope.
  • Helps break the cycle of youth crime through innovative work in the region’s Young Offenders Institutions.
  • Trains and equips dozens of urban youth workers each year through the Genetik training programme.
  • Operates a £1m arts and music training complex in South Manchester, as a resource for local schools and colleges.

Pictures from top to bottom:

  • Frank and Big Ben (taken by Tim)
  • Rob after breakfast (taken by Tim)
  • Russell and Big Ben (taken by Rob)
  • Tim on the stairs overlooking the hall filled with breakfast tables (taken by Rob)
  • Rob and Big Ben (taken by Russell)
  • In one of the seminar rooms (taken discreetly by Tim)
  • Tim, Lisa and Westminster Abbey (taken by Frank)
  • Tim and JW (taken by Frank)
  • Front piece: Frank, Tim and Big Ben (taken by Frank!)
  • Below: Westminster Abbey through one of the arched windows in Westminster central Hall chapel (taken by Tim)