It was practically a full house at the Salvation Army on Friday morning.
It wasn’t a funeral. It wasn’t a luncheon. It wasn’t even the iconic monthly Salvo Seniors Movie. This was the annual World Day of Prayer, a phenomenon that has been observed in 170 countries for over 100 years.
On the first Friday in March, in thousands of towns and villages across the world, people gather at 10am to pray for the world and one country in particular.
This year it was Suriname, a little nation in the top of South America with a population of half a million. It is a nation of many different ethnicities and cultures, but they all live in harmony. The major religion is Christianity and the people of Suriname wrote the service that was used in Tamworth and around the world. Different sections of the service were led by groups from the different churches.
Suriname is a fertile land, but it suffers from pollution and deforestation, so a major theme of the service concerned caring for the environment.
The congregation was encouraged to think of something they could do to protect the world’s environment, remembering that loving one’s neighbour includes the neighbour on another continent.
There is also much poverty in Suriname, which means that many parents have to choose between food and education for their children. So an offering was taken to enable the Bible Society to hold “Kids Fun Days” with games, food, Bibles and Christian education with particular reference to bullying, peer pressure and self worth.
Service leader Captain Rhonda Clutterbuck from Tamworth Salvation Army reflected afterwards: “What I love is that it brings us together as brothers and sisters and we can join in fellowship with people from the other churches.
“Sometimes we can get so busy in our own churches, but almost every church in town was represented and we could join with the rest of the world in a united voice of prayer to God.”
When the service was over, it seemed that nobody wanted to leave. There was a desire to stay and chat with new friends over a superb morning tea, provided by (you guessed it) all the churches.
The final hymn captured a lovely theme of a wave of prayer moving across the world:
“The sun that bids us rest is waking
our brethren ‘neath the western sky,
and hour by hour, fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.”
World Day of Prayer next year will be at the Seventh Day Adventist Church and will focus on Slovenia.