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Thousands pack out Wembley Arena for prayer conference

by Donna Birrell

A new church has bucked the trend of numerical decline by selling out tickets to its recent prayer conference.

The 2023 Next Level Prayer Conference, run by the Harvesters International Christian Centre, took place at the OVO Arena, Wembley, on July 1st, to a packed crowd. Usually known for hosting events such as the 2012 Olympics, Queen, and The Rolling Stones, the arena opened its doors to over 10,000 worshippers.

The event was the brainchild of Pastor Bolaji Idowu, Lead Pastor of Harvesters International. The multi-faith church, founded in Lagos, Nigeria, hosted a dynamic and vibrant conference committed to fostering spiritual growth and transforming lives.

In a diverse and multi-religious world, Pastor Bolaji believes prayer is a universal language that transcends cultural and religious barriers. He said: "I'm delighted that so many people came to the Next Level Prayer conference. Regardless of our different paths of faith, we all seek assurance, direction, and solace in times of need, and so many people are going through difficult times.”

“Prayer offers that sanctuary, a spiritual embrace akin to a child seeking comfort in a parent's arms. It's a unifying force that can unite diverse communities by highlighting our shared humanity and need for spiritual nourishment.”

Pastor Bolarji told Premier he founded the church in 2003 after being called by God. He had trained as an accountant but decided to enter a life of ministry instead. Harvesters International Christian Centre is now a global church with locations across Nigeria, America, and the UK and has over 70,000 members who worship weekly. The church expanded its UK presence by opening a new church in Surrey Quays last month.

Last month, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke about how he saw the alarming drop in church congregations as a "personal failure". 

Speaking about the opening and the falling numbers of churchgoers, Pastor Bolaji said: "The popularity of the conference, which saw thousands of people coming together, is proof there is still a vibrant community looking for a place to come together in spirit and worship.

“The essence of Harvesters is to provide unity and a beacon of hope and direction in turbulent times. While it's true that church attendance may be declining, we see this as an opportunity rather than a deterrent. It signifies a need for a different approach that resonates with today's world. Our expansion to the UK is driven by our belief that the gospel's transformative message, presented in a way that addresses contemporary challenges and speaks to people's lived experiences, is more relevant than ever.”



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