Prayer Centre History – Part 1: 1995-2005

words by Silas Crawley

This is the story of this Prayer Centre in Hope Chapel, narrated by Silas Crawley. Our dream is that this place will always be used as a place of Prayer & Worship.

The Prayer Centre at Hope Chapel
History, Part 1: 1995-2005

This is the story of this Prayer Centre here in Hope Chapel, narrated by Silas Crawley. Our dream is that this place will always be used as a place of Prayer and Worship to the Lord, and will be used by people of this City.

Part One: The Call to Build the Prayer Centre

June 1999
One day I was in my house enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend called Robyn (Boden) when she said: “In Bristol we could do with a Prayer Mountain, where believers go and put some hours in…standing in lots of gaps….and anyone could go in, whatever church they go to…or don’t go to”. She then drew a sketch of a building with loads of windows full of people praying in different styles.
Every now and then I have experienced occasions when someone says something and I immediately feel something stirring in my spirit, and this was one of those moments. So about a month later, with a group of 5 friends, we spent two days on the roof of number 49 Royal York Crescent, fasting and praying, whilst asking the Lord this question: “Lord, do you want us to build a Prayer Centre here in Bristol, and if so, where?” We believe that he also spoke to us about three other themes over those two days. These were Repentance, The Poor and Unity.

July 15/16th 1999-Katie’s word in relation to the Prayer Centre

During these two days a girl called Katie (Sobol), who used to be a member of Meeting Point the youth group at Christ Church Clifton, gave us a note with this scripture from Ezekiel 17:1-6:
“The word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, set forth an allegory and tell the house of Israel a parable. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: A great eagle with powerful wings, long feathers and full plumage of varied colours came to Lebanon. Taking hold of the top of a cedar, he broke off its topmost shoot and carried it away to a city of merchants, where he planted it in a city of traders. He took some of the seed of your land and put it in fertile soil. He planted it like a willow by abundant water, and it sprouted and became a low spreading vine. Its branches turned towards him, but its roots remained under it. So it became a vine and produced branches and put out leafy boughs.’”

Over the years I have taken notice of what Katie says because, ever since she was 15 years of age I have recognised that the Lord speaks to her through the scriptures. In the passage that she received what I noticed was that the bird plucked off the top branch of the cedar tree and planted it down by the water. Now I had just finished my job as youth worker at Christ Church, Clifton, and Annie and I were living in Royal York Crescent, but at that time we didn’t know what I was going to do next for a job. On searching my bible commentary I discovered that the word cedar meant royal. So because we were situated on the top of a hill I reckoned that the Lord was speaking to us through the scripture saying ‘Look, you are living on the top of the hill and you should look down by the water for the place which I have in mind to be the Prayer Centre. Reading on, the passage talks about a ‘city of merchants’ and Bristol is well known as a city of merchants. It all seemed a bit whacky, but then the Lord is often such fun! So I started to walk down by the water from Hotwells towards the city centre, looking on the waterfront for disused buildings which maybe we could use. Jonny Treloar, one of our group however had other ideas……………


Jonny’s story as recounted by him.

My part in the story was simply this: A friend of ours called Sue had at that time pointed out to me that “I was a spy who the Lord was sending into the promised land to see what the Lord was preparing for our community.” I had never really looked at Hope Chapel before, (in those days it was called the Hope Centre) but sometime between 15th and 25th July 1999 I went into the building with the sole purpose of asking for a place to pray. “As I walked into the office upstairs I got a funny look when I said I was looking for a place to pray. I was then told that this would not be a problem but that I would have to speak to the church and quickly because it was about to close”. I discovered that day that on 25th July the church which had worshipped in Hope Chapel for the previous 200 years was formally to be closed. So I decided to go to the final service on 25th July and there I met Barbara Bridges from the Congregational Federation.

Barbara’s story

In the summer of 1999 Barbara Bridges had just begun her job as Congregational Federation Support Worker for the South West. Her first phone call was from Hope Chapel, and it was the congregation asking her to close the church! So Barbara came down and met the last two remaining members of the church. She talked to them and to the people running the community centre in Hope and she said that if the church was to be closed down then there must be an occasion to mark it. Here she takes up the story:

“There were about eight of us at the final service. At the beginning we lit a candle representing the light of Christ which had been shining from this building for 200 years. That service also acknowledged the present, the sadness of the last two members, and the uncertainty of the future of this building. Was it going to be sold? We prayed about the possible future, and we blew out the candle praying that the light of Christ would not go out in this community.”

After the service Jonny went up to Barbara and said that a group of people in the community had a vision for a prayer centre and he suggested that this might be the right place. Barbara didn’t know what was to happen next, it sounded encouraging but little happened straight away, but she kept in touch. A few months later Jonny introduced Barbara to Silas, and she also kept in touch with the community association who had said this to her: “something strange is happening….there is something missing now. We hadn’t really appreciated the church whilst it was here but now it has gone we’ve noticed it”.

One day Silas phoned and with an idea. We want to do something different on Sunday mornings once a month….give people breakfast and have a Christian from the city, involved in social action, give a talk about their work.

Nothing churchy, but it will be church. And so it started in January 2000 under the banner of “Hope 2000”, and the rest is history. People turned up at that first meeting in January and they came again each month. They came to planning meetings, to prayer meetings and to the monthly gatherings. Silas then said to me, “I don’t know what to do now, there are so many people coming”. The church had started. Barbara describes her role as a midwife, ready to assist. The vision had been for a Prayer Centre but now a church had sprung up.

One of the features of the story behind this Prayer Centre is how from the very beginning God has continued to speak to people from all over the world about it. We begin with Bob Franklyn from New Zealand…….

Bob Franklyn’s story:

Bob Franklyn , was the head of the congregational church in New Zealand. Although he was unable to attend the official opening of the Prayer Centre in November 2003 he sent the following email which was read out at the opening celebration service attended by church leaders and members from all over this city:
Greetings to Silas and all the members of Hope Community Church in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is indeed a wonderful answer to prayer to find myself sitting here in New Zealand writing this message to you all in Bristol, UK. All honour and glory belongs to the Father for he has brought you all on a magnificent journey and I believe he has further for you to travel.

When I first visited Hope church it was in the process of being closed. Mrs Barbara bridges took me on a visit and when I walked into the building there was a coldness and an absence of the Spirit. Effectively the church was dead. As we drove away there was a challenge placed on my heart. My spirit had stirred but I didn’t know the plans God had in store for this church, tucked away up a back street. I then began to pray for what God had in store to well up and spill forth. No other time have I walked into a building before, or after, that has had such an effect upon me. Something was there but I wasn’t sure what it was.

As time went on I continued to hold Hope in my prayers, not really knowing why God had challenged me so. Imagine how I felt when Barbara told me the story of how the church was going through the closing stage when a small band of God’s people wanted to use it as a prayer centre. I continued my prayer for this seed in the hope that God would continue to water and nurture it. As Barbara kept the reports coming through about how God was working in the life of the church I was overjoyed and finally, being able to fellowship with you, when I was in the UK three years ago, and witness God’s amazing work, filled me with a feeling I cannot describe.

Later I was describing what had happened to Silvia Coombes from CWM and we coined together a term “resurrection churches” which means churches which have died to man and been brought back to life by God. It is only through the intervention of God, and the faithful intercession of prayer by his people, that we will see His churches fulfil His purposes.

I don’t know if the word that was left with you regarding the concert of prayer held in the largest stadium in Bristol has come to pass , but I believe that Hope Community Church will take a major role alongside other churches in Bristol and thereby claim that city for Christ.

It is great that the work on the church has been completed with the prayer room and I still remember seeing the original prayer shed upstairs on the balcony, which I thought was a fabulous idea. It is a great tribute to God for the prayers which have gone into the building of the Hope church. The warm friendliness of the fellowship that I enjoyed with you still lingers on and I look forward to an opportunity in the future to return to you and share in the love you all have for one another and Jesus.

Well, God bless you all, and may the name continue to say it all….Hope Community Church, bringing hope to all those around it. Enjoy the celebrations. Until we meet again. Bob

George Tuissime’s story

On 26th November 1999 Silas attended the dedication of the “chapel of the Prodigal Son” in HMP/YOI Ashfield, a Young Offenders prison, situated on the outskirts of Bristol in a village called Pucklechurch. At the end of the service there was a reception and Silas recalls the following events happening. “I was standing behind an man, waiting to get my refreshments when, sensing that he was about to burn his hand on the ultra thin plastic cup of coffee I offered to get him another cup. He thanked me and then said “and then I talk to YOU!” I looked at him somewhat surprised but he insisted, and beckoned me to follow him into a room just off the main chapel. There were three others sitting on chairs in that room and with a swish of his hand he said to them, “Away! Away! I talk to this man”, pointing at me. When they had gone he stared at me, with his amazingly beautiful African eyes, the whites of the eyes are so strong, and then he said to me, “24 hour prayer! Alleluia!” Then I thought to myself, I think this is a God moment, rather than just a weird moment. Then George continued and it all began to make more sense…….This is what he said to me: “You were leading the worship in the service, and as I watched you I sensed the Lord say to me “THAT MAN”.

As we huddled there he went on to explain how he and his wife had left Uganda a month before and flown to Scotland where his wife was starting a PhD in Glasgow. Before leaving he had put his church in some capable hands, and he had begun to book up a number of appointments across the UK because he was a gifted evangelist. However when he had arrived in Scotland the Lord had revealed to him in prayer that he was to cancel his diary appointments because the Lord wanted him to “spend time in prayer and intercession”. He had pleaded with the Lord that this was not his particular ministry but after a time of fasting and prayer he had received clear directions from the Lord:

“I am going to show you people in this country on whose heart I have put a passion to establish 24 hour Prayer Centres. When you see them I will say to you “That one”. Then he looked at me and flashed his big African grin. “You are the second one”. As I saw you leading worship in the service a few minutes ago the lord whispered to me… “THAT MAN”. The following year George turned up in Bristol again and asked to see Silas. “I have come to remind you of your call from the Lord”, he said. Tragically two years later George died from malaria at the age of 38).

Part 2: The Position of the Prayer Centre

Silas: The second part of our story is all about how God spoke to a number of people very specifically as to exactly where the Prayer Centre was to be positioned within Hope Chapel.

1995:Sheena’s vision.

In 1995 Sheena Tranter, a good friend of Silas and Annie received a vision from the Lord, and in that vision she saw a building, which was a church building, and she was standing outside it. As she looked at the building she saw a lot of people on the first floor with their hands raised up in worship before the Lord. One day in 2000 when walking down Hope Chapel Hill she saw the chapel and recognised it immediately as the building that she had seen in her vision 5 years earlier. So when we started to talk about the exact positioning of the Prayer Centre in the building she was very clear as to where it should be.

Early 2001:Annie’s diagram

The second part of the story was early in 2001 when Silas and Annie were praying about the project and Annie drew a sketch of the prayer centre on a piece of paper. The drawing had parts of the balcony in it and there was a glazed screen across one end of the balcony, the road end, and then in the room itself there was a semi-circle of chairs , facing outwards towards the big windows and the school. She said that it was about people praying behind the glazed screen and facing outwards as they prayed for the community.

March 4th /6th 2001:Annie Toombs visits Hope Chapel and Georgie (Cobb) has a dream:

About six weeks after Annie drew her sketch, a resident of the local community came to Hope for the first time. It was Sunday March 4th 2001. Two days later this same lady attended a church meeting at Silas and Annie’s flat. We had been talking about future plans for the church and right at the end of the meeting this lady spoke up. This is what she said:

“You don’t know me but I came to church on Sunday morning and I just want to share with you what has been on my mind ever since. On Sunday during the service I recall looking up to the balcony and I felt God say to me that that part of the building , in the balcony, should be set aside for prayer.” She then went on to describe a glass screen, and behind the screen there were people praying. The chairs were organised in a semi-circular way and the people were praying for the community.

Georgie’s Dream

Attending that same meeting at Silas and Annie’s flat was Georgie. She received the following dream on the night of Sunday 4th March 2001:

“I dreamt that I was sat at the back of a church meeting, being hosted by Annie, who was standing near the front but was not actually speaking. I heard a woman’s voice, and then I sensed the Lord say to me “Listen to Annie, it is important”. This confused me because although Annie (Crawley) was in the room she was not speaking. When I woke up I recalled the dream and remember thinking how odd it had been. Two days later, I went to the church meeting and it was at Silas and Annie’s flat. Lots of church items were on the agenda including the future development of the building itself. At one point a lady who I had not met before began to speak. She spoke about how she felt we were meant to install a glass screen in the balcony behind which should be a prayer room. Throughout the time that she was talking Annie Crawley was listening in silence. When this lady finished speaking Annie Crawley thanked her by name: “Thank you Annie, she said”. It was then that I realised that this Annie was the Annie in my dream, and that God had been telling me to listen to what she was saying, because it was important.

Part Three:The call to start the building work.

The Lord speaks in Kampala, Uganda

On 13th January 2002 Silas was flying out to a prayer conference in Uganda which goes under the name of AfriCamp. “During the flight I wrote in my bible that I felt the Lord was putting a building project on my heart and that it was to be completed very quickly. It was to be a ‘Nehemiah-like project’.

On 18th January, 5 days into the conference in Kampala, a man called Nicodemus, who Silas had never met before came up to him and said, “I believe the Lord pointed you out to me, and told me to say this to you: He has called you and placed something in your heart that you are to do when you return to your own country. I also believe the Lord has given me two scriptures for you to read, they are 1 Kings chapter 17, and 1 Kings chapter 18” . I was astounded and thought , “How do you know about this?” Two days later I approached an American delegate on the conference by the name of John with whom I had shared a coffee, and who had an amazing testimony which included seeing his own child raised from the dead. My thinking was, this guy has a lot of faith, I will ask him to pray about my situation. What I wanted to know was how long would it take to raise the money to build the Prayer Centre. I didn’t want to involve the church in a long drawn out fundraising campaign. Two days later he gave me the reply. “I believe the Lord says that you will have the money you need in 30 days!” he also said that two or three people would come into money during those thirty days and be able to give much more money to the project than they would normally be able to do.

February 2002-Further encouragement from Chicago Vineyard

On returning home I called the church leadership team together and told them about my time in Uganda. We agreed to spend a month seeking the Lord as a whole church as to the wisdom of the project, and whether to call the church to thirty days of giving. About two weeks later four members of the leadership team at Hope accompanied me to an afternoon session hosted by the Vineyard church in Bristol where the input was being given by a team from the Chicago Vineyard in the states. Steve Nicholson, the senior pastor was leading the session for church leadership teams in Bristol. At the end of the session he said “I would like to begin the prayer ministry time by praying for you lot over there”, pointing at the five of us from Hope! He asked us where we came from and then as he stood by us he said these words, “Wow, God has told you to do something big, and it seems really scary, but you are to do it”. Then almost immediately another member of his team, called Lightning, walked over and said this: “I believe you are to read the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, found in 1 Kings Chapter 18!!!”

Further confirmation arrives with Amy’s word.

The following Sunday in Hope we had a time during the service of specifically praying about the project. I was leading a group of 11 year olds and I said to them, “let’s ask God to talk to us about the building project”. As far as I knew these children didn’t know their bibles at all well. We listened to the Lord for a few minutes and then I asked them if they felt they had heard anything. One of them, called Amy said this to me “I think God is saying page 312, chapter 17. We looked up page 312 and there on the opposite side of the page was 1 Kings chapter 17, the story of the ravens feeding Elijah!! ……..The two scriptures that Nicodemus had told me to read in Uganda a month before had now been given to me by a nineteen year old American visiting from Chicago, and an eleven year old girl from here in Bristol.

March 2002:£1million in 30 days!

At this stage the story becomes a bit painful. When I had returned from Uganda I had been told by the architect (Gareth Webb) who we had appointed for the total building project that the overall cost would be £1million. So I thought, well if we are going to raise the money in 30 days and the cost is £1million, we must put out fliers, get on TV and the radio, and announce that the Lord has told us to do this mad project. I was absolutely convinced it was going to happen. It was a painful and humbling lesson. We did indeed raise a substantial amount of money in those thirty days in March 2002. In total we raised £160,000, the exact cost of the Prayer Centre and front foyer (phase one). Months later a friend asked me whether I had appreciated the significance of the scripture from 1 Kings 17, (Elijah being fed by the ravens)…….The Lord fed Elijah what he needed on a daily basis…….and I then recalled that my American friend John had said that the Lord would give us “what we needed” in 30 days…..he hadn’t said £1million!!

Part Four: The role of the musicians

This next part of the story is about what we believe the Lord showed us with regard to worship in the Prayer Centre. How do you actually build a 24 hour Prayer Centre we were asking. How do you sustain prayer for that long? The Lord then began to lead us to a passage in 1 Chronicles chapter 25. The context for this is where King David is making preparations for the building of the temple and he (David) appoints 288 people (24×12) to minister to the Lord in music and to prophecy. The passage also says that “young and old, inexperienced and experienced were trained in making music before the Lord” and that as this happens prophetic messages then flowed. This is not a well known scripture but at that time a fellow pastor in this city of Bristol, when preaching at Hope on a Sunday morning, used it as his text, and a team from South Africa (Creare) modelled it when they came to minister to us. This then resulted in 8 members of Hope travelling to Creare for training in Worship and the Arts.

Esther establishes a worship school in Hope

Esther was one of those to be trained at Creare. She established a worship school in Hope in 2003 and continues to train people to this day. The vision is quite simple: “To train young and old, inexperienced and experienced in making music before the Lord”. She teaches lessons during the week.