If you called in to the Prayer Garden in the corner of Dock Cafe over the Summer, you’ll have noticed (you couldn’t miss it!) an explosion of creativity and energy in every corner of the garden – prayers in different languages, different styles for different reasons and places. All the result of Abby’s hard work: she set up some new prayer stations at the beginning of the summer and then watched the garden grow… These are her reflections on the process:
Gardening takes time and patience. I know, I tried my hand at gardening last summer! It wasn’t a complete loss but neither was it a glorious success. What I learned through that experience was that gardening can also involve a bit of trial and error. If you’re going to go in for it, then you need to be willing to go through the errors and still put the effort in to try again next time.
Why, dear people of Dockland, am I spouting these somewhat clichéd thoughts on gardening? Because this summer, the experimentation was a bit different. This summer the gardening was a prayer garden.
I was well impressed when I saw freshly opened prayer garden at the Dock Café earlier this year! Since I live in Dublin now I’m not such a frequent visitor to the Dock as I might like to be. But every time I do make it back I notice all sorts of exciting new developments and improvements!
I could see how nicely the space had been prepared: just sectioned off enough from the rest of the café to give it a secluded feel without being intimidating, cushions, artwork, fabulous faux grass, plus some real live and growing plants, and oh so much delicious blank wall space! Those blank walls…they were just begging to be put to some creative use…
And that folks, is how ideas are born: blank walls and a little bit of free time on one’s hands! I asked Chris about using the space during July, since I’d be up in Belfast for an extended visit, and putting up resources for prayer that people could take advantage of any time they visited the garden.
Chris was open to the idea, in fact completely encouraging of it, and basically said ‘go for it!’
I gave it a bit of thought and prayer and felt that a two-fold theme might suit this first, ‘prayer theme’ venture for the Dock: ‘Praying for Belfast, Praying for the World’. July can be a difficult month for Belfast; it’s a time when the city can’t have enough prayer, really. But I also wanted to remind people of other issues in the world, other areas where people are facing danger and deprivation beyond what we are accustomed to in our ‘everydays’, and to encourage people to remember these places in prayer as well. For this I used resources from two organisations: Open Doors, a group that serves persecuted Christians and raises awareness, and International Justice Mission, a human rights organisation focusing on human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Both of these organisations provide both the facts and figures and real human stories, in short compelling resources to prompt people to pray.
A bit (but not much) furniture rearranging and the prayer garden was then ready for to make the most of those blank walls! There was Belfast wall, with a map of the city around which people were invited to add the names of groups and organisations doing good community work so that visitors could keep these in prayer during the summer months. Then there was the international wall, with a huge world map and a selection of new stories from conflict areas around the world. People were also invited to add their prayers to this map as well. Another section highlighted International Justice Mission’s work and a final section gave people the opportunity to write notes of encouragement to people in areas of persecution through Open Doors.
Remember how I said trial and error is an integral part of gardening? There are some things I would probably do differently. Mostly I was just amazed to see how the garden did ‘grow’ over the six weeks that the displays were up. People added some remarkably touching prayers to the walls and to the tree in the centre of the garden. The Belfast wall metamorphosed to take in the World Police and Fire Games as the prayer garden was used to hold a prayer meeting for volunteers each morning. A sampling of the prayers that grew in the garden can be seen in the photos.
So, over to you people of Dockland. What might you envision sowing and nurturing in this precious prayer garden? It is a lovely space. It is visited by people from all sorts of backgrounds. How might you invite them to take time, listen to what the Spirit of God is saying and pray those things that are on God’s heart? Any ideas? Suggest them to Chris, I bet he’ll tell you to ‘go for it!’