Retreat 1An unprecedented 20 representatives of local fellowships gathered at St Catherine’s in East Tilbury on Thursday 8 January for a day of prayer, networking and strategising.

Those who came included pastors, vicars, elders and others in church leadership. Some dropped in and out as they were able, while others stayed for the whole day (9am to 4.30pm). Some fasted for the duration, but this was by no means mandatory; if anything, the very act of attending the day was a kind of fast. These were*:

  • Sam Ajetunmobi (Pastor, New Covenant Church, Grays)
  • Colin Baker (Pastor, Grays Baptist Church)
  • David Bareham (Team Leader, Community Church)
  • Andy Blakey (MSC Leader, TCF Grays)
  • Celia Brockhurst (St Erkenwald’s, Barking, living in North Stifford)
  • Dennis Brockhurst (St Erkenwald’s, Barking, living in North Stifford)
  • Jimi Fawehinmi (New Covenant Church, Grays)
  • Chris Ford (Warden, St Catherine’s, East Tilbury)
  • Kim Ford (St Catherine’s, East Tilbury)
  • John Freeman (Leadership Team, TCF)
  • Frank Gaisie (Pastor, Destiny Chapel, South Ockendon)
  • Russell Godward (Team Leader, TCF)
  • Brenda Gutberlet (Minister, Grays/Horndon/Linford & Stanford Methodist Churches)
  • Tim Harrold (Transformation Thurrock) – facilitator
  • Andy Higgs (Rector, Stifford Parish)
  • Ashley Lovett (Pastor, Socketts Heath Baptist Church, Grays)
  • Niyi Olujobi (Pastor, RCCG House of Praise, Grays)
  • Paul Robinson (Vicar, St Catherine’s, East Tilbury) – host
  • Heather Sheldon (Territorial Envoy, Grays Salvation Army)
  • Maggie Watts (Grays Methodist Church)

First SessionRetreat 2
The day began with a welcome from Rev Paul Robinson and facilitator for the day, Tim Harrold. There was a time of thanksgiving and focus on Jesus, the King who unites us in union with and in him.

We then discussed and prayed around some of the themes raised by the Join The Dots event with Jonathan Oloyede in early November. These include the idea of a large cross-denominational event or festival around Pentecost in order to establish a large ‘altar’ of witness to and intention in the community.

It was agreed that the Cinnamon Faith Audit will help the local Body of Christ to assess its qualitative and quantitive value to the borough, although it was expressed that humility must be observed. The Audit will create fresh strands of unity across the fellowships as each become aware of what the other is doing, and be an opportunity to avoid needless duplication of activity.

These things can be seen as Thurrock being raised from seeing itself as the ‘least of the tribes’ to becoming a ‘mighty warrior’ or ‘mighty man of valour’ in the same way that Gideon’s life was transformed from one of low self-esteem to an acceptance of his true God-given identity. There was one particularly impassioned exhortation from a delegate for the church to stand up as one and be counted.

Scriptures mentioned in prayers at this time were:

Philippians 2:1-11
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Isaiah 41:17-20 (a word over Thurrock for nearly 20 years now)
The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.

2 Chronicles 7:14
… 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.

Song of Solomon 2:4
Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love.

Retreat 3Second Session
We considered the prophetic word for the UK that Heidi Baker gave at Catch The Fire conference in London in November 2014 (read the transcript here: Particular sections that were highlighted were:

  • Radical love – “This revival of radical love is going to come as we go… There’s going to be something that the people of other faiths are going to see in this nation as believers come together in radical love… there is going to be radical love manifested through the body of Christ… It’s like the other faiths and the other religions are going to take notice when the Christians come together in radical love across streams.”
  • Unity in the UK – “There is going to be a movement of unity within the UK that’s going to shake the world says the Lord… (There is) a longing in the heart of the Father for this move that He longs for and that He has destined this place for, that He has destined UK for.”
  • In education – “It’s going to flow through the universities, the colleges and universities… I see a great awakening that is touching the universities. There is going to be a fire and glory and love on the universities.”

Retreat 4The terrorist events unfolding in France were mentioned, and that John Wesley’s mission is considered as having prevented a revolution in England similar to that of the French in the late 1700s. We prayed about racial, cultural and religious integration in Thurrock, coming in the opposite spirit and blessing those some consider ‘our enemies’.

We prayed about the General Election and especially the forthcoming hustings taking place in Grays (probably on 22 April) and Corringham.

The question was asked: How can Christians be politically engaged, especially if they choose not to vote for ‘any of the above’? It was suggested that a forum be held in advance of the hustings to discuss relevant issues and how to ask questions about them.

After a brief break for liquid refreshments, Rev Paul Robinson led a poignant and relevant Celtic-style communion (left).

Third Session
Paul then spoke about the East Tilbury parish, which includes the Village, the Bata Estate (Muckingford), Linford, and West Tilbury. The history of the land was highlighted, with reference to the Neolithic ‘ritual landscape’, then the coming of the Roman road to the ford across the then-wider and shallower Thames. The Northumbrian missionary St Cedd was of course referred to, and the current commercially-expedient paranormal activities at Coalhouse Fort.

We prayed about all of this, as well as the sense of disconnectedness that exists between the Village on the fringe of the land and the Bata Estate where – apart from RCCG Garden of Fruitfulness who meet in school – there is no community-engaging Christian presence to talk of.

Retreat 5Fourth Session
Finally, a few things springing from Transformation Thurrock were raised and prayed through. These were:

  • the key that was found earlier in the week, its symbolism and significance (see the article This day in 2015 linked to the left of this article)
  • the proposal for three interchurch training days in treasure hunting, healing on the streets and spiritual healing, with the aim of utilising these at the Big Lunch in Grays Park at the end of July
  • the opportunity raised for evangelistic communication by the My Hope UK initiative
  • more ideas for Pentecost
  • the proposal to change Grays Leaders Prayer to Thurrock Leaders Prayer – it’s possible this may just be called Thurrock Prayer
  • the possibility of a regular panborough prayer gathering for all-comers

Thanks go to all who attended the Thurrock Church Retreat Day. Never have so many turned out for this event since its inception (as the Grays Leaders’ Prayer Fast Day) in January 2006, but this fact is an endorsement of the widening of the scope of the weekly prayer times (which began in 2002) from Retreat 6being centred around the Grays postal area to the whole of Thurrock – so in future we hope to hold events in places like Bulphan, Orsett, Horndon, Stanford, Corringham, Fobbing, the Tilburies, Chadwell, Purfleet, Aveley and South Ockendon. We will be identifying prospective venues in the very near future! Meanwhile, on 22 January, St Margaret’s in Stanford will become the first ever outside the Grays postal area to host the new Thurrock (Leaders) Prayer.

Many thanks also to Rev Paul Robinson for hosting the 2015 Thurrock Church Retreat Day, and to the church warden Chris Ford, and his wife Kim, for helping with the logistics. Also, many thanks to Sue Spiers who let us use her conservatory over the road from St Catherine’s for the second session while Paul led a memorial service in the church.

*Apologies to any of the attendees if your jobs are wrongly described.