4th January 2023
This fun and on-going story of how prayer, mission and justice interweave comes to us from Simon at Sheddocksley Baptist Church in Aberdeen.
In 2018 we began a church building renewal project, which pushed us out of our usual place of worship for a few weeks. At this time we were reminded (through a vision given to one of our elders) that God was inviting us to be more present in a specific local neighbourhood – Northfield – which is only a couple of miles away from us. “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood…..” John 1:14 (MSG) reminded us that we are called to be a people of prayerful presence in this area of stark social deprivation.
We approached the local community centre in Northfield, who were happy to rent us their boxing gym for three Sunday mornings in September of 2018. This began a journey for us of praying more intentionally for Northfield – the community centre, businesses, pubs and people. Over the next couple of years, we devoted ourselves to weekly prayer walking (in all weather!), asking Him to guide us and speak to us. A number of church members had incredible dreams and visions for the community throughout this time – including the night we saw a mighty angel standing above the community centre!
One ordinary evening, while prayer walking, a couple of our church elders felt prompted by the Spirit to lay their hands on the door of the community centre and ask God to ‘open the doors’ for us in terms of relationship and ground. They prayed in faith that night, unseen to all, and unaware of the outcomes of such bold prayers…
As we also began to serve weekly in the Northfield community centre foodbank in late 2020, God showed us the people of peace (Luke 10) who were to welcome and provide for us in that place. We grew in favour with the community centre trustees, and eventually asked them if we could meet in their centre weekly, which led to spending every single Sunday afternoon of 2021 praying and worshipping there – around 20 church members simply seeking God and asking for His guidance, week in, week out, all year.
One Sunday, as we were finishing up our afternoon gathering, we noticed the trustees of the centre were pretty stressed….”our fridge is broken” they said. Aware that the centre is a busy hub for toddler groups, youth groups and lots of other local activity, the loss of their only working fridge was clearly a disaster. Without thinking too much, two of our elders said quietly to one of the trustees, “God cares about your fridge. We’d be happy to pray for it”. Ambling down the community centre corridor to the kitchen, you can imagine our two elders feeling somewhat theologically awkward that they had offered to lay hands on an electrical appliance! So they began to pray while walking towards the kitchen with our centre trustee friend. On arrival in the kitchen, the centre staff demonstrated the non-working fridge, which had been broken and off for days. They had tried everything to fix it, but couldn’t. “Plug it in again, now we’ve prayed for it” came the statement of faith from our elders. They sheepishly plugged it in again, and it came on instantly! The shock and awe in the room was tangible. God cares about the details of our lives. The fridge has stayed powered on from that moment 18 months ago.
One of the centre trustees told us, “I’ll never forget that moment for the rest of my life”. When we pray and act in faith, God gets the glory and our person of peace gets to keep the memory of God’s goodness.
We believe God is calling us to enlarge the place of our tent in Northfield, and to stretch wide our curtains of generosity and hospitality (Isaiah 54). We paused our weekly Sunday gatherings in 2022, but have not paused our regular prayer walking or foodbank serving. Persevering in prayer has changed things, in ways we can only glimpse sometimes. Prayer really does pave the way for mission and justice to move into our neighbourhoods. In January 2023, we launch our new weekly outreach expression (The Shedd in Northfield), trusting that as we are obedient, He will enlarge our tent. Pray with us, for the Lord of the harvest to send workers – now is the time!
Simon Dennis is lead pastor at Sheddocksley, is married to Karen and together they enjoy the wildness of life with three boys and a dog. Simon also serves as a trustee for 24-7 Prayer Scotland. When not in the church office, prayer walking or cheering on one of his boys at a game, Simon can be found frequenting the best local coffee shops with a good book in hand.