city postive


Does your city have a face? Does it have a character, an accent, an identity?

Of course it does, it is a living organism. But how often we describe cities as faceless buildings, hostile neighbourhoods and soul- less constructs.

I want to resist this. I deeply want to resist this. And the reason is that if the city is faceless and hostile, then there is no problem about smashing it, defacing it or violating it, because nobody real is going to suffer and nobody much is going to care.

So, I’ve been writing prayers. Prayers that talk about the city as a living place, a place of flourishing and creativity, joy and festivity, challenge and choice. I have been playing with ideas of space and place, of dance and carnival and asking forgiveness for talking about the city as a ‘thing’. I have written prayers in praise of the city, prayers of confession for my own carelessness, intercessions for people that are overlooked or struggling, and blessings of  honest hope. I have used feminine language, inclusive language, gentle language as well as more traditional styles. I have tried to see God inherently involved in the urban, longing for the city’s life to be wholesome and just.

As I submitted my small collection of city prayers to Darton, Longman and Todd with a view to publication, Britain broke out in riots. We saw the destruction of buildings and neighbourhoods as latent anger caught fire. And over the subsequent weeks every news broadcast and newspaper headline had some sort of analysis, laid some kind of blame or pointed the finger at one group or another. I wonder, did anyone actually take the time to listen, to hear what it is like to grow up in a structure that makes a young person feel so powerless, faceless or overcome by structures that the only way to be heard is to destroy?

So, DLT set me a challenge! Could we publish a collection of prayers that talk about the city differently? Could I find people that could offer a gentler perspective, an honest engagement with the urban environment?  I share this challenge with you too!  I invite you to listen to your neighbourhood, look at it differently, find the places of flourishing and write a simple prayer. Some of these could be put into a collection, a gathering of different images, a positive response to living where you are …. I can’t promise to include all of them, but maybe the process of writing will transform how we see our cities and how we can live differently?

Pray as you write, and if you have something you would like to be considered in the DLT collection of prayers then send it to me by e-mail before teh end of November, saying which city you are praying for ...

In the meantime here’s a blessing for your place:

          May the blessing of simplicity
          Deliver this city from greed
          May the blessing of peacefulness
          Deliver this city from bloodshed
          May the blessing of honesty
          Deliver this city from corruption
          May the blessing of thankfulness
          Deliver this city from selfishness
          May the blessing of God
          Creator, Deliverer, Inspirer
          Fill this city with life, laughter and hopefulness


(The pictures are: the window of Barkers, the city centre weapon shop; a poster of hope designed by local children; some students from the college giving lessons in preparing healthy food ...)