by Jennifer Gold
Posted: Wednesday, June 21, 2006, 20:11 (BST)
A church in a Protestant area of Belfast is breaking through barriers with prayer walks into the neighbouring Catholics in a bid to heal old wounds and foster a lasting peace.
The members of one Belfast church have taken the bold step and crossed over the wall dividing their Protestant area of the city from the nearby Catholic neighbourhood in a bid to bring hearts and minds together in peace.
The New Life City Church's recent prayer walk around some of the streets on the main Falls Road has spurred hopes of finally healing old wounds with lasting reconciliation.
Pastor Jack McKee said: "This was such a challenge to us, for although we have done several prayer walks in 'Protestant' communities during times of internal conflict and feuding, we have never before done this in a 'Catholic' community."
The prayer walk proved to be a great success and an opportunity for the New Life members to meet with their Catholic neighbours on their own streets, reports Assist News Service.
In an e-mail report to ministry supporters, McKee says: "We did not know what to expect or how people would respond to us, but no sooner had we begun the walk when we got to talking with people on the streets about Jesus.
It was so amazing to see several open up to us as they both listened and talked. All of the responses were so positive that God was confirming to us that this is the way to go in the coming weeks and months."
Now the church as taken a leap of faith and sold its present church building and site in order to start up a new home that will allow it to reach out to both communities.
"We are now looking for a new home! The warehouse is still a possibility, but only a slim one as there has been some underhanded dealing taking place. Our steps and our belief has always been that if God wants us to have it, then it would be ours. So we accept whatever outcome, in the belief that God will open up the right door," he said.
Another prayer walk has been organised following the success of the first one, when members will once again cross over the dividing wall and take to the streets of Ballymurphy.
He said the church's mission is "to release the WHOLE CHURCH to reach the WHOLE COMMUNITY with the WHOLE GOSPEL".
At the weekend, the church has planned events for Catholic young people and children at a leisure centre on the Falls Road to be followed by a special 2-hour service including praise and worship, mime and dance, and a testimony from Mike DiSanza, a Cop for Christ from New York.
The 20ft high dividing wall that separates the Protestant and Catholic communities in Belfast from one another is designed to prevent them from harming each other and is the last remaining dividing wall still standing in post-modern Europe.
"Our prayer is that someday this wall will come down, but we understand that first of all we must dismantle the wall of hatred and bitterness that exists in the hearts and minds of our divided people."
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