A dark blue banner hangs outside the entrance to the grand ballroom of the David Lawrence Convention Center. On the banner, in gold letters, are the words, "Enter in, the veil has been torn."
This is the invitation that greets General Conference 2004 participants to the room designed for personal meditation and reflection.
The General Conference prayer room is the product of many hours of planning, preparation and prayer by the Western Pennsylvania Conference prayer ministry team. It is meant to be a convenient, multisensory experience for all General Conference participants and to encourage praise in a variety of styles.
"If someone comes in with a concern, it doesn’t matter if it is a delegate, a bishop or a visitor; if someone comes and wants prayer, we will pray with them," said Jaye Beatty, co-chairperson of the Western Pennsylvania prayer ministry. "We have invited everyone, even the staff that works here, to come and enjoy this area of rest and refreshment."
More than 220 prayer delegates signed up before General Conference, some from as far away as Singapore, to promote unity and to pray continually for the participants throughout the duration of the conference. The prayer delegates not only assist in the prayer room but also offer themselves as support for the General Conference.
The prayer room is located on the third floor of the convention center. The prayer room includes:
- Seven different prayer stations designed to encourage meditation and take those in prayer on a personal passage through the Psalms.
- A prayer tent in the middle of the room, where prayer delegates are available to pray one on one and minister to specific prayer concerns.
- Daily concerts of prayer designed to encourage praise in music. Different local worship teams lead prayer and worship daily at 7:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
- An e-mail prayer request area.
- A "send-off" area to commission prayer delegates for prayer coverage.
Donna Zeigler, a member of Harmony-Zelienople Church in the Western Pennsylvania Conference, designed the seven prayer stations and the prayer tent. She designs living altars for her church.
"The designs for each station were Spirit-led," Zeigler said.
The designs are elaborate recreations of themes from Psalm verses. At one station, addressing brokenness, participants write on broken pieces of pottery the things that have broken their heart or God’s heart. They smash the shards with a hammer and place the pieces in a vase, symbolizing Jesus taking broken vessels and making them something beautiful.
Another station addresses forgiveness. Participants are encouraged to write on red paper those they are to forgive, nail the paper to a large wooden cross, take a nail as a reminder and look into a mirror to see the transformative power of forgiving. Other stations address repentance, adoration, communion, guidance, refreshment and unity.
Beatty says the prayer room is a needed service to General Conference and hopes all allow time to visit and pray. "General Conference is an intense time. Many very important decisions are made, and we could all use prayer, wisdom and help."
*Malloy is a United Methodist News Service correspondent and director of communications for the church’s Greater New Jersey Area.