Wandsworth, in South West London, is a place of contrast. You can find leafy suburbs and rows of parked 4x4s, only a short distance from grimy high rises. Affluent commuters on their way to work in the city, pass teenage mothers wheeling their children to school, wondering how to make ends meet.
Faced with these contrasts, the Christians in Wandsworth turned to prayer to make a difference. In a place seemingly riddled with disunity, they decided to try and buck the trend.
For eight years, representatives of the central churches in Wandsworth have been meeting and praying together. This ‘Prayernet’ started with just four women from different denominations, it now encompasses triple that.
What started with meetings for prayer soon gave birth to dreams for action. In 2005 the borough hosted an ‘On the Move’ mission, which brought worship out onto the streets and held a free BBQ in central Wandsworth. The churches joined together and held this again in 2006 and 2007. In this year’s mission, over 1800 burgers were given out (some were even cooked by the Mayor!) Many people were contacted, and those totally unconnected with church still talk about the events on the streets.
In March 2007, All Saints, the oldest church in Wandsworth hosted a Civic Service. Focussing on praying about the issue of human trafficking, the borough marked 200 years since the abolition of the slave trade by praying for those still caught in slavery today.
On 07/07/07, over 30 Christians gathered in the town hall to pray prayers of blessings and repentance over London. This meeting seemed catalytic for the churches joining in unity, and marked an acceleration in answers to prayer, opportunities to pray for those in positions of responsibility, and the forging of new relationships.
After the positive impact of the first Civic Service, a second was planned, themed ‘Crime & Safety on the Streets’. This was in direct response to the rising tide of stabbings and street violence amongst youth across South West London. Together, representatives from the Council, Police, Community Support Officers, Schools and the churches worshipped and prayed for breakthroughs in this problem. The Street Pastors Initiative was also publicised, and looks likely to commence in Central Wandsworth
in March 2008. Links with the Mayor and other leaders were strengthened through this event, and it is planned to build on the success of this in the future.
Plans for the future are already underway, with the hope to use the ‘Redeeming our Communities’ model of regular, community-engaging prayer gatherings, bringing together those already working to see the transformation of Wandsworth, with the Christians who are praying and believing for it. Another Civic Service is pencilled in for March, themed around praying for youth and youth people in the borough.
Regular prayer walking has long been a feature of the Prayernet’s rhythm, covering schools, parks, churches and other key locations in Wandsworth. Much prayer has gone into the renewal of the ‘heart’ of Wandsworth – where the Town Hall, shopping area, banks and JobcentrePlus office are all based.
The centre of Wandsworth was once labelled one of the ‘greatest architectural disasters of the 1970s’. Featureless, monotonous concrete abounded; robed only in indistinguishable shades of grey. Today, however, this landscape is beginning to change, as the Christians pray for colour and creativity. During the recent BBQ, dance, flags and street painting increased this sense of vibrancy. Creative prayer and praise meetings have also encouraged people to interact with God using the arts.
A recent prayer walk focussed on one of the more challenging estates in the borough, where a faithful intercessor has been praying for her neighbours from her humble, ground-floor flat. God has blessed her prayers, and she told the story of how young people often gather in her home, listening to stories about faith and praying together.
At the heart of a lot of the activity in Wandsworth is the Boiler Room, based at the Salvation Army, but the passion for prayer pulses throughout the family of churches in the borough. Last year the churches joined together in a week of 24-7prayer, which deepened this sense of unity, and gave the opportunity to pray for Wandsworth, London and the Nation.
Attendance at the Trumpet Call events in Birmingham, as well as the ‘Nuts and Bolts’ conference this year, has galvanised the prayernet members to work harder with the church leaders, council and police, as well as to keep their eyes open for opportunities to reach out to the surrounding community.
Only God can truly redeem the community of Wandsworth, and the faithful prayers and actions of His people really do make a difference. Watch this space!