Many describe Haringey as a very divided place, with the railway line splitting the prosperous west from the poorer east. But for over 20 years the Christian community in Haringey has been working hard at building unity among the borough’s churches.
“Pray Haringey started in the mid-1990s with a revelation that we didn’t actually know each other”, local leader Andie Frost explains. “So a group of leaders got together and began praying for each other, for our congregations and for our borough. And it’s snowballed, developing into a strong vision to meet the needs of Haringey.”
At one prayer meeting for Haringey, the leaders realised that they didn’t know the state of the education system in their borough, so they invited the council’s chair of education to come and tell them more. “We discovered we had 185 languages in our schools, and that English was a second language for more than half of children. So we began to say ‘Lord, how do you want us to respond to this?’ and became more focused in our prayers.”
They’ve seen breakthrough in their evangelism efforts since Pray Haringey emerged. “We humbled ourselves and asked for forgiveness around racial and denominational divisions, and then the breakthrough came”, Andie explained. “The change was so clear, and it became far easier to evangelise.”
Doing things together has become much easier as local Christians gain a better understanding of the importance of unity, and as good relationships develop. One local church opens its doors as a homeless centre every day of the year, welcoming 60-70 people each night, and because other churches are aware of the project, lots of people give, help and get involved.
Andie is passionate about seeing young people in their borough understand the importance of unity and begin to live it out. “Our unity stuff seemed to be getting older, so we set up a week of mission where young people could live, pray, worship and work alongside each other.
“Suddenly you see the young people get it – and they’re going back into their schools and realising they have a community there that they need to transform together.”
Alexandra Palace, with its panoramic views of the north London borough, is a place where leaders regularly gather together to pray for their place, inspired as they overlook the area they live and minister in. Brendan Munro, a local church pastor for more than 26 years who was instrumental in founding the unity movement in the mid-1990s, tells the story of one prayer walk at the Palace. On this occasion he was confronted with an exhibition banner reading ‘Make a future memory’.
“God really spoke to me through that banner”, Brendan explains, “God was encouraging me that we need to think big; dreaming big dreams and praying big prayers. We may not see everything happen right now, but rather than losing steam, we need to keep going and lay the foundation for the next generation.”
And so we face a double challenge as we look forward with God’s vision. Like many London boroughs there is a constant through flow of people and so we need to be retelling the story and connecting new incoming church leaders and key people so they can bring new vision and energy and help shape the next steps. Alongside this we need to find ways to empower and release the rising generation so they can dream the big dreams and take up the baton of praying the big prayers too. Unity never stands still.
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