#Vienna15 Roundup: Let us BeginJoanna Callender - 2 Nov 2015

I’d heard the hype, so I was excited.

I’d been to last year’s conference in Madrid and I had big expectations. But a little bit of me was scared too; of being disappointed, exhausted or simply not hearing God’s voice. However, when over 700 people started gathering together for the first time in a beautiful, modern Jugendkirche (Youth Church), I realised that this conference wasn’t simply for me to enjoy. 

And that was part of Vienna’s significance. The rallying cry, “Now let us begin”, was a celebration of everything that 24-7 Prayer has become over the past fifteen years. From humble beginnings in a small town in England to a truly worldwide movement of communities who are passionate and driven to find God’s presence, and start living radically for Him. 

In our meetings, we shared stories together to celebrate successes, to pray for challenges, to radically support one another in ventures being undertaken all over the globe. This wasn’t just a chance to catch up and say hello, but an opportunity to intentionally stand in unity together.

Together we realised that the past 15 years were a fine way to start, but that we’re really just beginning. 

From our knees...

Our time in Vienna wasn’t just defined by the sort of encounters with God that only happen a few times a year. Although these were present, there was also a realisation and recognition that as a movement, we can’t simply stay on our knees. And so came radical generosity, as we laid down items of clothing and comfort for refugees living in the city. In the middle of an international refugee crisis, this gathering seemed to be the place to recognise the needy. It was no coincidence that we gathered in the heart of Europe; and this meant we incorporated practical offerings as well as passionate prayer. 

It was a gathering that was authentic, not contrived, and focused on our core values; to prayer, of course, but to mission and to justice; fighting for a world that echoes more of God’s heart and prioritising the needs of those who are in need. There seemed to be a united recognition that if we’re going to live like Jesus did, even our gathering together needs to be focused on the people outside of our buildings. 

So, when we met together on Saturday evening for our huge celebration in St Stephen’s Cathedral in the heart of Vienna, the doors were open to all. And it was an utter joy to see different denominations being together in such a beautiful, significant building. As we worshipped, one body together, we recognised our differences but focused on what was the same; our passion for sharing God’s love with a broken and hurting world. We heard important voices: The Archbishop of Canterbury reminding us of the importance of prayer, and the dreams of Cardinal Schönborn as he joined in from Rome. It was an evening of celebration; we danced in this big ancient Cathedral and we worshipped with glad hearts. In the royal palace later we partied, and we recognised the magnificence of our King and Father God. 

Taking our place...

The end of our conference marked a new beginning; a sort of commissioning as we were sent back our to our respective places, to start new adventures and to reclaim our identities as members of a movement committed to prayer, mission and justice: “15 years later and the vision is still Jesus”; a statement that encouraged, challenged and inspired and went with as we left. 

In gathering,  I realised that I am a tiny part of a bigger picture, but that does not mean I am insignificant. “Let us begin” is a cry that incorporates everyone. It’s a challenge to us all to stop ignoring our part in God’s picture and to begin taking action. 

Because we have so much more to do and there are big steps we can take. So let us begin together, in our individual places, doing those very significant little things that God wants us to do. Let us begin to take our place in this exciting story.

The vision is still Jesus. 

 

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Joanna

Joanna Callender

Joanna is part of the 24-7 Prayer Comms team and spends her days editing the website, running social media and dreaming up new prayer ideas. Outside the office, Joanna loves reading cookbooks, practising her photography skills, and good chats over good coffee. 

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