Prayer room: Lawrence Nyarko places a tobacco tie
Volunteer Lawrence Nyarko putting finishing touches on the Indigenous piece with a tobacco tie. Photo: The United Church of Canada

Communities of Faith Recognized in GC43 Prayer Room

Just outside the plenary space at the United Church’s 43rd General Council is a small prayer room for commissioners and guests to offer prayers for their communities, their families, and the work facing the church. During evening worship, the prayer team recognizes communities of faith in every new region, as well as prayer cards filled in by those on the plenary floor.

“We’re praying to support all commissioners that are doing the business of the church,” explains prayer room volunteer Lawrence Nyarko. “We pray for their families, for the ministries they’ve left to be here, and for their well-being.”

Commissioners have been working with heavy subject matter—from discussing the legacy of the Indian Residential School system and intergenerational trauma, to remembering significant milestones and celebrating where the United Church has moved.

“The best way of supporting decision-making is to support them in prayer,” says Chris Pullenayegem, Faith Formation program coordinator for the United Church. “Prayer is something tangible and supportive.”

The prayer room is also important because of the implications of this General Council’s decisions. During the first day of business, one commissioner recognized the work of Conference executive secretaries and that many Conference staff will be losing their positions with the closing of presbyteries and Conferences.

Communities of faith are represented by individual cards that cover boards representing the new regions to which they will belong. “We’ve already prayed for regions one through six,” said Nyarko, “and will be praying for the Indigenous communities of faith next.”

Surely, entering into these new regional relationships with blessings and prayers from GC43 commissioners will ensure that individual communities of faith and regional councils will operate in a good and loving way.

Pullenayegem and Nyarko encourage members of every United Church to continue this practice within their own communities of faith. “If you are being prayed for,” says Pullenayegem, “you like to pray for others. Pray changes us.”

“I like to pray for the members of my congregation,” says Nyarko. “Having names of communities, individuals, and families on cards calls them into the circle, and we pray for them.”

Connie denBok, another prayer team member, remarks, “We are teaching people how to pray differently.

“In The United Church of Canada, we’re accustomed to thinking every action we do has an institutional implication,” says denBok. “We are naming those people and communities of faith before God because we believe He will interact with them in a positive way.”

Nyarko observes that General Council is “not just a business thing. It’s physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, supporting faith formation for everybody.”

Handwriting the names of commissioners and of every community of faith in the United Church has given the prayer team a greater sense of community. As they pray for these names, they are drawing directly from God’s address book, and opening up the prayerful conversation.