I was chatting about unity among churches with Hattie, one of the student workers in Bristol, a few months ago. Something that kept coming up in our conversation was a call to pray and gather students to cry out for campus. We wanted to know how we could explore this further.
The University of Bristol has shown a lot of openness in recent years to the idea of churches coming onto campus to share the gospel and pray for students. On one of the campus halls called North Village there is a Chapel, given in 1930 for students to explore Christian faith. There are stories of students gathering to pray in the Chapel, starting churches and seeing many come to faith over the last 100 years, but less so recently.
Hattie suggested we ask the University if we could use this Chapel to host a weekend of prayer for churches to come onto campus and pray for students and mission in the city. The University said yes.
On 21st - 22nd May, we had 10 churches in Bristol turn up in groups to pray together. We estimate over 40 people came to the Chapel to pray, not including students on campus who noticed the open doors and joined in. We prayed for mission, mental health, freshers and graduates, christians and non-christians, miracles, the Spirit to move and a generation of students to awaken to the Gospel. We did this because we know that prayer is powerful, it stirs us to mission.
One of the senses I had was that this prayer weekend would be catalytic in that it would spark new connections and new initiatives around student mission in the city. Already I’ve had a church leader ask to book a meeting to hear more about student mission and how they can be involved. The university has already asked us when we can run the next prayer weekend because they saw the value and benefit of this one. They’re even asking us to run different types of events around freshers to support new students. Another student worker asked if we could run a worship night in the Chapel in autumn. I know there’s so much more stirring beyond the conversations I’m involved in as well. Connections and new initiatives.
On top of all of that, I noticed the unity among the churches in Bristol. We saw 10 churches gather over a weekend to cry out for the student generation. John 17:22-3 says:
"I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
That is the hope of these events, that our unity would be a doorway into mission and the world would glimpse something of Jesus as a result. I know there will be many more stories to share off the back of this weekend.
So, what would it look like to engage with prayer? How can you gather churches in your city to pray? How can you step into greater unity?