Wednesday, 22 September 2010

European Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast - 40th Anniversary

Today in Strasbourg Members of the European Parliament will gather to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the prayer breakfast. This has met monthly in Strabourg and should not be confused with the annual event in Brussels.

As a former Chair I was invited but work commitments prevent me attending. However I sent this short message:


May God bless you all in Strasbourg as you comm orate 40 years of praying for the work of the European Parliament and the peoples and causes that it represents.
When I was elected in 1994 I was astonished that Fred Catherwood suggested that I led the prayer breakfast. I was so unprepared and out of my depth. When he explained that it was "ecumenical" my hair stood on end. That didn't fit my view of Protestant witness.
However I felt that God used that time to remind me that He is Lord and sometimes we find ourselves doing unexpected things. I think the 1994-1999 parliament was something of a transitional period for the prayer breakfast. The original founders had left and the new influx from the rest of our common European homeland were still to join. Sometimes simply maintaining a witness is all that the Lord requires. 
I would like to especially place on record my love and respect for Stephen  and Janina. Both gave me and my wife Claire a new insight into Catholicism that I found inspirational.
I absolutely loved our monthly gatherings in the salon blue. It was a time of calmness in a busy week.
Two meetings really stand out. I remember Alan McCartney giving a wonderful introduction to Psalm 121. Until then I had hardly read that piece. Alan opened up a new vision and sometimes I go to that passage and think of his inspiring witness.
It was also good to sit and pray with someone who would be a traditional political foe of my own party. Another of the fascinating aspects of the prayer breakfast.
The second occasion was the day after the election of  Mr Gil-Robles as the President of the Parliament. Much to the surprise of his new staff he insisted that his first appointment on his first full day in office was to join the prayer breakfast as usual. I remember the look of real humility on his face as we gathered round, laid hands on him, and prayed that the Lord would bless his Presidency.
I was really disappointed that I was unable to continue being part of the prayer breakfast and part of the Parliament. However I have been thrilled to hear that it is now going from strength to strength.
My prayer today is that we continue to ask for the revival that Europe so desperately needs. There are changes we need that no amount of legislation will ever achieve.
I give thanks for the man from Macedonia who asked the Apostle Paul to come and witness to us. Acts 16 shows that there was just a handful of believers but they had a certainty and a boldness. In our dark times we may feel alone and few but small numbers can still be a great witness.
Your witness continues to bless the Parliament and  blesses the people of Europe.

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