New Zealand goes to prayer

New Zealand goes to prayer

A ‘call to reflect’ with Muslims puts faith in the public square

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet

Nothing calls for prayer as much as sudden disaster and death. So it happened today, exactly a week to the hour after the terror shootings of Muslims at prayer in Christchurch last Friday, that New Zealanders were called to prayer to reflect on this horrific event and on all that has happened since.

God willing, it is a unique occasion; we never want another national observance for the same reason. And yet, to the extent that we have acted in solidarity with a religious community, the nation has publicly acknowledged God, faith and prayer. There are not many things which do that for us.

At Hagley Park, a vast space next to the Al Noor Mosque where the gunman claimed most of his victims, thousands gathered with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, government officials and other dignitaries, surrounding the Muslim community gathered for their Friday devotions. Ms Ardern and a number of women, including TVNZ reporters, wore headscarves.

In a brief opening speech the Prime Minister said:

“According to Muslim faith, the prophet Mohammed, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam [peace be upon him], said the believers, in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When any part of the body suffers, the whole body feels pain. New Zealand mourns with you. We are one.”

At 1.30 the call to prayer rang out. There followed two minutes of silence, which the whole country had been invited to observe. Silence reigned, and continued in the crowd as Imam Gamal Fouda of the Al Noor Mosque alternately led his community in prayer, and addressed New Zealanders with messages of thanks, defiance in the face of xenophobia and terrorism, warning and hope.

He claimed the 50 dead as martyrs not only of Islam but “of this nation New Zealand,” who would even now be enjoying a high place in Paradise – something of great importance to Muslims. The victims’ blood, he said, had “watered seeds of hope” and new life for New Zealand and for humanity.

Thousands are likely to have watched these solemnities on television, and thousands more will be attending vigils this evening at mosques and parks throughout the country – gatherings which have been occurring all week to honour the dead and console the 48 injured, their families and community.

To these events Kiwis have brought the tribute of their own faiths and cultural diversity. Maori, as is normal on many public occasions, welcomed and led the official party to their allotted space for the Hagley Park ceremony. Maori gangs have been keen to offer protection at mosques. The haka, the warlike Maori welcome, is to be seen everywhere – notably among schoolboys.

An inner-city Auckland Catholic church opposite a mosque hosted the Friday prayer on the day of the attack, when the mosque was closed, and this morning a group of Catholics sang a Maori waiata (hymn) in honour of the Blessed Virgin as a tribute to their Muslim neighbours, who recognise Mary as the mother of Jesus. And this is only one example of the interfaith climate already existing in the country but intensified by the Christchurch attacks.

(Inevitably there was the odd protest. The leader of a Christian group that seems to appeal to marginalised people, especially men, thought things had gone too far with the Muslim prayer setting in Hagley Park. He seemed a bit confused about God as well.)

However, New Zealand is a very secular country; migrants are far more religious. The opening prayer for Parliament still addresses “God”, but recently was purged of “Jesus Christ” (and the Queen). The national anthem, God Defend New Zealand, is often sung only, or first (as today at Parliament grounds) in Maori, although it was composed in English. This may help those who have trouble addressing God, but is not much help to those who can barely get through one verse in Maori. The English, however, speaks of “Men of every creed and race” who “gather here before thy face…” — so appropriate today, except for the women who don’t like singing about “men”; but that is another story.

Maori, as the indigenous people, are the ones who usually carry the baton for public religious expression in this country. For practically any occasion of national importance, at least, they perform opening prayers (karakia) hymns or songs (waiata) and blessings (manaakitia). Anzac Day services for those fallen in war are the only events of national significance where Christian ministers officiate and lead prayers and hymns.

Jacinda Ardern was raised as a Mormon but gave it away. After taking up the premier’s role she identified herself as an agnostic. Yet she seemed perfectly at ease wearing a hijab and quoting the Prophet. In her initial response to Christchurch attacks she told the Muslims her “thoughts” were with them. Later she adopted the more adequate and familiar “thoughts and prayers”; having learned to pray as a child it could not have been all that difficult for her. And that would go for the majority of Kiwis.

The events of one week, even with all its fatalities and reminders of our helplessness in the face of death, will probably not make us more religious. It probably will not stop secularist fundamentalists wanting to drive voluntary religious instruction out of schools, or holding Christian (or Muslim, for that matter) opinions about moral issues of no account – if not “hate speech”.

But the response to the attack on the Muslim community has shown that we do respect people who happen to believe in God, practise their faith and pray. We have made room for them in the public square, even with the full sanction of the state. We should hang onto that example in the difficult debates that are waiting to be taken up again when all the dead of Christchurch attack are buried, and all the wounded restored to their families.


This article by Carolyn Moynihan was originally published on MercatorNet under a Creative Commons licence. The original article can be found here.

Tauranga – OneVoice: City-Wide Prayer and Worship Gathering

Tauranga – OneVoice: City-Wide Prayer and Worship Gathering

Unity and Prayer

For many years praying pastors have met on Thursday mornings with these scriptures in mind, John 17:20-23 “Father make us one……” and Isaiah 62:1-10 “…..for ‘Tauranga’s’ sake, we will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn…..”

So when Stephen Hanson shared the vision of ONEVOICE, there was immediate agreement and support.

James Muir

OneVoice

This initiative saw over four thousand believers from at least 22 churches come together from a number of denominations across our city. This included 5 well attended, Sunday night gatherings. There was a special theme for each night. The feedback through the course of the month, and since, was that a greater sense of unity was cultivated in our times together, and the desire expressed by many to continue to meet in 2018. One pastor said ‘we are growing up in love together’.

One Sunday night we had 11 invited guests representing the people of Tauranga in central government, local government, education, the police, and one of our local iwi. Pastors and leaders gathered around these men and women during the meeting and prayed for each of them. It was an incredible opportunity to bless and encourage these people. We received messages of thanks from a number of them the following week. The final Sunday evening saw dozens of spiritual fathers and mothers individually pray and bless many hundreds of people.

Each week throughout the whole month, we held 3-weekday worship and prayer meetings.

These were followed up with fellowship and teaching sessions. Some of the intercessors from different churches have continued to meet weekly to pray for the city. Others have been sharing the gospel and praying for people in the streets.

One of our goals was to prayer walk all the streets in Tauranga. We came close to covering the whole city, whole suburbs that have been covered, with a few areas across the city left.

We’re greatly encouraged by what is taking place in our city among the Body of Christ, and consider it a tremendous blessing and privilege to serve our city in this way.

Stephen and Rechelle Hanson

Click the fullscreen button on the video when watching the vertical formatted clip as parts of the image are automatically cropped otherwise.

Prayer Walk

One of our goals was to prayer walk all the streets in Tauranga. We came close to covering the whole city, whole suburbs that have been covered, with a few areas across the city left.

City by City exists to help encourage unity, prayer and transformation throughout New Zealand.

How good it is to see Christians in each town or city worshipping and praying together regularly.

How good it is to see Churches honouring one another, seeking to help meet the spiritual and physical needs of their locality together.

Colin & Grace Shaw

Prayer, Cities and Prayer Summits

Prayer, Cities and Prayer Summits

DrJoeAldrich

Dr. Joe Aldrich – Founder of Prayer Summit movement

What would it take to see a move of God initiated and sustained in a geographic area?” This is the question posed by Dr. Joe Aldrich who initiated the Prayer Summit movement. After meeting Joe and others I was trained by them to carry on this ministry, particularly in South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and have now been facilitating prayer summits over the last 20 years. What a great privilege it has been to have seen leaders from different traditions and denominations within the Body of Christ come together. In these times God has melted hearts, reconciled, and directed leaders as they commit to a worshipful, prayerful environment seeking God. Most often it is pastors who attend these summits but over recent years there has been a growing trend for other key ministry people and market place leaders to attend also. This has allowed for a better representation of leaders in the Body of Christ in one locality to pray together. Hence the term ‘leaders prayer summits’.

The key component to these summits is setting our hearts to worship Jesus – with sensitivity to the various worship traditions represented. As leaders stay focused on Jesus, humbly seeking His face, not His hand, (which means leaving aside our prayer requests for the meantime) there comes a greater awareness of God and a greater sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Times of worship can then lead to times of meditating on the Word of God together, often on those scriptures that highlight the greatness of God, who He is and what He has done for us. It may lead to praying for one another or praying for the city or some alone time. All as seems right at the time. As the summit progresses there comes a greater clarity as to the reality of where things are really at and how leaders might better go forward together as they seek to continue in unity and serve their communities.

In the last short while I have facilitated two of these summits as well as having been involved with other prayer gatherings. it is very encouraging to see the number of places where Christians are gathering regularly to worship and pray for their city or town. This coming together to pray and seek God in worship and prayer is a vital component to the wellbeing of the places where God has located us. We need to remember that only God can bring the changes we desire for our cities and towns.

How have you been impacted by prayer summits? I’d encourage you to include your thoughts in the comments so that others can be encouraged by your experiences.

Until next time, God bless.

Colin

2014 Day of Prayer

2014 Day of Prayer

Is it possible to have a one day prayer connection from north to south, east to west?

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

With modern technology the answer is ‘Yes’.

On Friday, November 7, a small group gathered in Wellington at Miramar Baptist Church, to Skype-pray with NZCN Regional Advocates and others across the nation, one region at a time.

Throughout the day, beginning in Whangarei at 9am and finishing in Invercargill at 4:30 pm, in half-hour time slots, the small group in Wellington heard 10 minute brief, perceived over-views, with the highlights and prayer needs of each place. This left about 15 minutes for those in Wellington to identify and pray regarding some of the needs mentioned with those who shared from each region. In this way those in Wellington were able to connect and pray with leaders from the 14 regions.

Overall we heard a common cry concerning drug abuse, loss of employment, earthquake strengthening issues, youth suicide, prayerlessness etc. But we also heard good reports. We heard of strong caring relational networks. We heard how Churches in many places are combining to celebrate Gospel beginnings in the nation and locally. We heard how Churches are working together to meet the needs of their locality, both spiritual and physical, along with a desire to honour and help civic leaders.

In an end of the day wrap-up, we in Wellington felt very privileged to have had a window into some of what God is doing across Aotearoa.

We thanked God for a blessed day – good Skype connections – wonderful fellowship in cyber-space.

Thank you Glyn Carpenter for your leadership. Thank you Phil Coates and the people of Miramar Baptist church for hosting us.

A final note: two of us had this scripture for their daily reading. It was very appropriate.

The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, “Let us continue to go and pray before the Lord and seek the Lord of hosts …

 

Mayor responds to Prayer breakfast criticism

Good on Redland (Queensland, Australia) Mayor for responding so graciously and wisely to a letter to the editor attacking her role in a Prayer breakfast.

 … my Christian values drive my passion for this City, my tolerance of different views and my desire to do what I can whilst I am caretaker of this City – to make it a better place than when this privileged role was bestowed on me. – Karen Williams, Mayor of Redland City

This is a fine example of how Christians – in New Zealand just as in Australia – can talk about their faith in the public domain, at the same time as highlighting the importance of faith in general.

Read more …  Letter: Mayor responds to Prayer breakfast criticism | Redland City Bulletin.